The 5 Best Spots for Leaf Peeping in New York: Peak Dates, Top Driving Routes, and More

Written by Opal
Published: October 15, 2022
© Francois Roux/Shutterstock.com
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In New York, autumn is undoubtedly the most picturesque season. Late spring and summer see the state’s spectacular landscape’s deep and light greens explode with vibrant and rich red, orange, and yellow hues. You can easily relieve stress by combining this natural setting with crisp, reviving winds. Taking a journey to see New York’s vibrant fall leaves up close is the greatest way to see Mother Nature’s wonderful autumn offerings. 

When it comes to leaf peeping, it’s best to carefully organize your vacation because New York has so many beautiful spots to see. Fortunately, there are numerous stunning drives that will bring you through the state’s most breathtaking fall landscapes. 

A journey across New York state in the fall won’t let you down, whether you’re wanting to view the breathtaking scenery from the top of the Adirondack or Catskill mountains or you’re looking to cruise along the Hudson or Genesee River to witness spectacular gorges, blazing forests, and thunderous waterfalls.

Plan the perfect time to go foliage watching before you leave. Travel in early October to see the mountains, such as the Adirondack and Bear, that have the most colorful foliage. A late-month vacation will allow you to view New York City at its most bright, so go out a little later in the season to appreciate the greatest colors the Catskills have to offer. 

Uncertain of where to begin your journey? With our list of the five best spots to observe fall foliage in New York, you may pick your new favorite place!

Fort Tryon Park

Linden Terrace at Fort Tryon Park is among the best places in NYC to view the changing leaves. One of Manhattan’s highest peaks, it provides magnificent views of the Hudson River and the brilliant fall foliage that is bursting all over the New Jersey Palisades located across the river. 

The New York Fall foliage is best viewed in Fort Tryon Park. This location is a little unique compared to many of the others because it is a beautiful park. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. laid out both sloping and descending elms around the three acres of well-tended park.

The park is unique in that it has a wide variety of plants that you won’t find anywhere else. Some of them even bloom in the winter, which is a welcome departure from the typical other tourist hotspots. 

The park’s eight-mile-long walkway is yet another fantastic feature. Therefore, you are free to stroll, run, or even bike around the area as you please. It is simple to get to, and you can expect breathtaking vistas.

Whenever you’re in the vicinity, stop by the Cloisters. A portion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses it. It is a wonderful site to spend some time in since it contains more than 5000 pieces of medieval art. If you really don’t feel like going all the way uptown, you might visit any of NYC’s top parks for stunning views of the fall leaves.

fort tyron park
One of Manhattan’s highest peaks, Fort Tyron Park provides magnificent views of the Hudson River and brilliant fall foliage.

©Belikova Oksana/Shutterstock.com

Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow

From New York City, it’s simple to get to these nearby TaSH towns. Washington Irving’s classic Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman made Sleepy Hollow renowned, but it’s also a great place to go leaf-watching. The Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground, built in 1685, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and Tarrytown’s famous Lyndhurst Mansion are the best places to see fall foliage. 

The Palisades and the trees near the Hudson River are magnificently seen from the palace. Visit Rockefeller State Park Preserve in adjacent Pleasantville for even more color, where oak, maple, and beech trees are responsible for the park’s well-known hues. Nearby William Rockefeller’s historic Gilded Age estate, Rockwood Hall, offers panoramas of the Hudson River and Palisade Cliffs, where eye-catching greenery can be seen. 

ADA accessibility, tennis, water sports, and the renowned Goosefeather restaurant are just a few of the contemporary amenities available at Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson. Alternatively, guests can stay at Tarrytown’s Westchester Marriott for contemporary American restaurants, amenities, and accommodations.

sleepy hollow
Known for Washington Irving’s classic tale The Headless Horseman, Sleepy Hollow is also an excellent place to go leaf-peeping.

©Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock.com

Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway

Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is unquestionably one of the best spots to view New York’s autumn colors because it is so close to Lake Placid. This is due to the fact that it is one of the most beautiful drives in New York and that it leads to Whiteface Mountain, a mountain that rises to a height of more than 5,000 feet and is the fifth-highest peak in the state. 

However, since the route is shut down after October 14th, you’ll only have a very tiny window of time to take in the seemingly endless kaleidoscope of fall colors from the summit that reach all the way out to Canada and neighboring Vermont on a sunny day.

Therefore, aim to schedule your trip during the first week of October, any time before 6:00 pm, for the best fall foliage splendor. Additionally, this is one of the more expensive picturesque drives in New York. 

Expect to shell out $20 for a single vehicle and driver, $20 for each extra passenger, $10 for each subsequent passenger from the third up to the eighth, and $20 for a single motorcycle and driver. 

After you’ve surrendered that hard-earned cash, you can now begin at the toll booth and go five miles while ascending more than 2,000 feet up, pausing at several magnificent lookout points.

Before or after climbing the top, you may also enjoy a relaxing stroll around Lake Stevens to soak in more of the area’s amazing fall colors. Be very careful as you descend as many individuals have completely destroyed their brakes while returning down this winding road.

Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway
Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in New York State, especially in autumn.

©Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock.com

Phoenicia

There’s a good chance that you’ve either heard of or visited this city before. However, there is one unique pastime here that is unavailable in the Catskills or, for that matter, in New York City: You may rent a rail bike from Rail Explorers for a stunning trip down the Esopus Creek on the former Ulster and Delaware Railroad. 

There are many beautiful autumn trees on the way, too. You can even combine the ride with a gourmet supper on the Grand Bellevue food train for a memorable leaf-peeping excursion. Make use of the nearby trails for jogging, biking, or hiking: Overlook Mountain, Giant Ledge, and Kaaterskill Falls are all fantastic outdoor destinations. 

The Graham & Co. Hotel, Scribner’s Catskills Lodge, and the boutique hotel Urban Cowboy Lodge are all excellent choices for places to stay because of their cool city ambiance and distinctive clawfoot tubs in each room.

Phoenicia
Rent a railbike and enjoy the stunning autumn views in Phoenicia.

©Jose F. Donneys/Shutterstock.com

Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

The Yonkers Conservancy preserves the historic gardens that were created by renowned NYC attorney and horticulturist Samuel Untermyer, exhibiting horticulture and superb landscape design. For New Yorkers on a budget searching for a day excursion, this free location is great. 

The trees beneath the Persian Pool, which change to various shades of yellow and red, are the greatest place in the Gardens to observe shifting colors. The distance from New York City is one hour and fifty minutes by vehicle and twenty to thirty-five minutes by train.

From Grand Central Station or the Harlem 125th Street station, board a Metro-North train. Drive north on I-87 and FDR Drive. Make time for the Hudson River Museum and its Planetarium, science collection, art, and history as you’ll need to travel further for entertainment. 

Don’t skip a walkthrough of the historic Glenview estate built in 1877 that was featured in HBO’s The Gilded Age. Yonkers is home to several chain hotels, but for upmarket accommodations and experiences, including salsa evenings and open-mic comedy, treat yourself and book a room at the Royal Regency Hotel.

Untermyer Gardens
Created by renowned NYC attorney and horticulturist Samuel Untermyer, the Untermyer Gardens feature classical architecture and superb autumn views.

©Brian Logan Photography/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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