As the weather turns cooler and football finally starts, the stunning New York fall foliage season gets underway. So if you are not into the giants of the gridiron or if you have a weekday off at some point and you want to find out what natural beauty the state has to offer, these are some of the best hikes in New York for seeing the orange, red and golden leaves. We have compiled this list for you with regional diversity and a wide range of difficulty in mind.
Enjoy these fall hikes and don’t forget to hydrate. Happy leaf peeping!
This easy to moderate hike does run a little over 8 miles round trip, but the elevation change is minimal and actually flows down at first. The best views are mostly at the beginning and end of the hike, but a foliage nut will be able to get into plenty of leaf-peeping along the route. Stunning fall hikes don’t get much easier than Palenville Overlook.
Traveling from West Kill Mountain to Buck Ridge by foot is an intense 6.5 miles. The terrain rises more than 1700 feet, so this hike is best suited for fit and competent backpackers. Those with the experience and gumption to give it a go will get to see a natural waterfall and some truly stunning vistas.
When To Hike: The Catskills can offer peak foliage from early to mid-October, so you have some more weekends available to hike Buck Ridge and the Palenville Overlook.
For experienced hikers, Pharaoh Mountain is your best bet for a challenging trail and beautiful foliage views. There are two approaches, both one-way and both with elevation changes of around 1,500 feet. So, like we said, not for the strolling, weekend hiker. The Crane Pond approach runs about 4.2 miles, while the Pharaoh Lake hike goes about 5.8 miles. With its elevation change difficulty, Pharaoh Mountain ranks as one of the top fall foliage hikes in the entire region. Just make sure you are up to taking on the challenge!
The Cowhorn Junction trail near Cranberry Lake runs about 2 miles so it qualifies as a relatively easy hike compared to most places in the Adirondacks. Many of the trails in the Cranberry Lake area and the northwest region of the Adirondacks are detailed at CranberryLake50.org, which promotes hiking in the northwest Adirondacks. They tend to rate much higher in difficulty than Cowhorn Junction, which makes the Junction an excellent beginner’s stab at experiencing the tranquility and beauty of New York’s largest mountain range.
When To Hike: Foliage peaks right around early October in the Adirondack area, so plan your trip for the first two weekends.
North Hudson Valley
Appropriate for very experienced outdoors enthusiast, the Breakneck Ridge Trail is a 9.6 mile loop that should take about 6 hours to complete. But the reward for all that effort is stunning vistas of fall foliage with the Hudson River sneaking into your perspective at different points.
When To Hike: For beautiful foliage in Greene County, the best time to go is early to mid-October. Looking for something to do when you head up to the area? Check out Hunter Mountain’s Oktoberfest weekends.
The easiest hike on this list, the Walkway over the Hudson may provide the most accessible majestic views. A mile-long former railroad bridge, this pedestrian paradise spans the Hudson River at a height of about 212 feet over the historic waterway. You can see wondrous foliage views on both sides of the river, while taking a flat stroll with plenty of nice, friendly locals and tourists to keep you company. The 120-year-old structure sees about 750,000 people cross it each year.
When To Hike: Again, mid-October to right up until Thanksgiving is a great time to see the foliage in Poughkeepsie and if you go in early November, you can hit the Culinary Institute of America for a tour, a great meal prepared by students and some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving feast.
East End of Long Island
While you may automatically think of summer nights filled with glitzy, celebrity-dotted parties when you picture the Hamptons, the natural beauty of the East End of Long Island is no slouch when it comes to fall foliage hikes. Foliage spots like the Quogue Wildlife Refuge may not be the first spot you think of, but patrolling the 300-acre grounds can bring wonderful views of the red, gold and orange leaves, as well as some quality wildlife sightings.
Mid Long Island
As you make your way down to the beach at Caumsett, this jaunt over a former Gold Coast estate will not fill you with anxiety-inducing elevation changes. Paved roads, some nice historical buildings and acres of fall foliage will give you a nice afternoon, instead of a compass-requiring orienteering trek. As Long Island fall foliage hikes go, this is a great one to embark on with a young family.
When To Hike: The best time for hiking on Long Island is the final week of October and the first week of November to get the full effect of color on the trees.
Like Caumsett, the Nyquist-Harcourt park is another slightly suburban, non-hardcore hike that will nonetheless offer up great leaf peeping while keeping your thighs and calves from burning like more strenuous climbing escapades. More than 140 species of birds have been observed flying around the lands of the preserve, so bird-watchers and leaf-peepers can each have a field day.
When To Hike: The leaves around New Paltz should hit their peak right around early to mid-October.