Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Whether you’re in the big city, one of the many small towns, or up in the mountains, New York is an amazing place to be in the fall. The Adirondacks and the Catskills are essential places to visit during the autumn season, but you can also see lots of colorful leaves in New York City that create picturesque backdrops around the state’s scenic lakes.
For a little inspiration, here are some of the best places to visit for fall foliage in New York.
New York City is a special place to be during any time of the year, but October is definitely one of the most beautiful months to plan a visit. There are lots of trees with changing leaves around Central Park. This is an easy park to get to because it’s in the heart of the city. There are many iconic spots to snap photographs when you’re here in the fall, such as the Bethesda fountain and terrace, as well as Bow Bridge and the Belvedere Castle.
You can let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the scenery when you take a ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The railway can take you from Utica to Thendara or further on to Big Moose, with a stop near Old Forge, too. The railroad company has a lot of ride options to choose from, including a beer and wine train, family Halloween train, and pumpkin train. On the Halloween train, riders come in costume and travel between the Holland Patent Station and the Remsen Depot. The pumpkin train is a half-hour, round-trip ride that goes from Carter Station to Wally’s Pumpkin Patch, and kids receive one free pumpkin with their ride.
Letchworth State Park has been called the “Grand Canyon of the East” and is a scenic place to visit in New York. There are lower, middle, and upper waterfalls here that are between 70 to 107 feet tall. During the fall, there is colorful foliage around the nearly 600-foot-deep gorge. One of the best places to see the fall colors is Inspiration Point, which is aptly named because of the views here. During a trip to the state park, you can also arrange to go whitewater rafting on the Genesee River.
You’ll find some of the most epic fall views at the top of Whiteface Mountain, which is about 5,000 feet in elevation. There are lots of colorful trees down below the summit, and you can take a scenic drive to get up here. Starting at the Toll House, you can drive about five miles and climb around 2,000 feet to see the scenery up here. You can also see the fall foliage from the water by taking a cruise on Old Forge Lake.
New Yorkers love coming to Brooklyn Bridge Park in the fall to see the brightly colored leaves. There are many leaf-peeping opportunities at the park’s Main Street section, as well as at Picnic Grove, the Pier 1 pathways, and around the Pier 6 playgrounds. A pedestrian boardwalk down the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge provides colorful views from way up high.
Fall foliage in the Adirondacks always provides a memorable experience, especially around Giant Mountain. One hike that you can do in this area is the Roaring Brook Falls hike (3.6 miles one way) in Keene Valley. You’ll see the falls coming down from Giant Mountain and often some rock climbers as well. This is a great hike for both fall foliage and waterfalls. The mountain has an elevation of 4,627 feet, and there are three main routes to get up it. Other Giant Mountain hikes go along the Ridge Trail (3.2 miles one way) and the North Trail (7.4 miles one way).
Another great New York City location to see fall colors is Fort Tryon Park. Linden Terrace in the park is one of the highest points in Manhattan and offers panoramic views of the foliage and Hudson River. There are lots of different plants in this park, as well as an eight-mile path for walking, running, and biking. Other things to do around this 67-acre park are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Highbridge Park, Grand Central Terminal, and the New York Public Library.
Cayuga Lake is a great place to visit during the fall, especially if you take a drive along the 87-mile loop that is the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. Along the route, you’ll see gorges, fields, waterfalls, and small towns. Cayuga Lake is part of the Finger Lakes in New York and is about 40 miles long. On fall days, you can still get out on the lake to kayak, canoe, and fish. When you want to experience the fall foliage here, you can make the nearby town of Ithaca your home base and check out all the local museums and restaurants here.
A popular fall foliage route travels the Palisades Parkway to Bear Mountain State Park. The park is in Garrison, New York, and is home to the Perkins Memorial Tower at the top of the mountain. This is a place to see the fall foliage and the New York City skyline on a clear day. Bear Mountain State Park offers lake and river fishing, hiking, biking, and an outdoor ice skating rink that typically opens up in late October. There’s also a merry-go-round at the park with 42 hand-carved seats featuring native animals on them.
A unique way to see New York’s fall foliage is to climb the approximately 190 stairs to the top of the Saratoga Monument. When you get to the top of this 155-foot monument, you can see the Adirondack Mountains, Taconic Mountains, and Helderberg Mountains in all directions. At this time this was written, the actual monument was closed for repair work; however, Saratoga National Historical Park is still open and worth visiting. There’s a battlefield here to see, as well as a country plantation house to tour, woods to hike through, ranger-led programs to join, and lots of history lessons to learn.
With its dramatic mountain ridge, rugged terrain, numerous waterfalls, hardwood forests, and three lakes, Minnewaska State Park is a prime spot for foliage viewing. This park has 50 miles of footpaths and 35 miles of carriage roads to hike along and enjoy the scenery. Other activities that visitors do in the fall are rock climbing, bouldering, boating, biking, and horseback riding. There is the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground here that offers 24 drive-in spots and 26 walk-in spots. Camping is typically available here through mid-November.
Many people call Lake Placid their home base for fall foliage trips and take drives down the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. This is a scenic drive in New York that takes you to the top of Whiteface Mountain. The Lake Placid website offers a foliage report that tells prospective visitors whether the local leaves are just starting to turn, near peak at peak, or past peak. You can see the foliage from way up high on a gondola ride at Whiteface or go horseback riding at the equine center in Lake Placid. There are also lots of fall festivals to check out in this area, including the Annual Festival of Colors, Lake Placid Brewfest, Whiteface Mountain Oktoberfest, and Flaming Leaves Festival. You can also spend your days at the Lake Placid Farmers’ Market or paddling around the lake.
Lake George has been referred to as the Queen of the American Lakes and has breathtaking views around the lake during the fall. The best time to come here is early to late October to see the various types of trees here turn vibrant colors of red and orange. There are lots of opportunities for family fun on the lake, including fishing, canoeing, and getting out on a pontoon boat. The Adirondack Balloon Festival is a fall event to check out in this area. There are also opportunities for apple picking at Saratoga Apple, Inc. and other local orchards. The Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course typically stays open through early November for fall fun, and there are lots of campgrounds in the area to help you make a weekend trip out of your journey to Lake George.