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New York Hudson Valley and Catskills Fall Foliage and Colors Tours

Things to do / Travel Guide

Hudson Valley and Catskills, New York Fall Foliage Tours

Click for Fall, 2010 foliage report and map, updated every three days.

The Catkills and Hudson Valley region is an ideal destination for New York City-area “leaf-peepers.” The region is relatively compact and within a two-hour drive of much of the New York Metropolitan area. The Catkills and Hudson Valley thrives during the fall in morethan one way. Besides the foliage, there are harvest festivals and cultural events for travelers to enjoy.

While the leaves do not wait to change colors even for busy New Yorkers, one of the advantages of this region is that the peak leaf-peeping season lasts for about six weeks, from the middle of September through the end of October. First signs of fall are in the higher elevation around the Catskill Mountains, a bit later in the Shawungunks, and still later in the Hudson Valley.

New York Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Tours and Train Rides

In general, the east side of the Hudson River is more popular for foliage viewing due to the historic mansions, quaint towns, and views of the cliffs across the river. There are some noteworthy hiking options on the west side, however.

By car, boat, train, bike, foot, or biplane - mix and match for a full day or weekend of viewing what some consider one of the most scenic areas in the Northeast:
  • View the Hudson Valley fall foliage from above in a vintage 1929 open-cockpit biplane! Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome features weekend flights for up to four people at a time. Costs are approximately $50 per person and reservations are advised.
  • Hudson River day cruises leave from multiple ports, including Newburgh, Cornwall-on-Hudson, Kingston, and Hudson. The tours vary in length from an hour and a half to full day sightseeing trips, some with peaceful stops along the way. Prices range from $15 to $30.
  • The Hudson Line of the MTA Metro-North Railroad extends 74 miles north of Grand Central Terminal in New York City to Poughkeepsie. The route follows the Hudson River and offers a moving view of the foliage. The trains run every 30 - 60 minutes. Go off-peak for lower fares (approximately $25 round trip) and to avoid commuters talking on their cell phones. Sit on the left side of the train. The ride can be combined with visits to nearby attractions.
  • Hike the trails of Harriman State Park and adjacent Bear Mountain State Park. A highlight is the hike up Turkey Hill for views of the colors produced by oak, birch, beech, and maple trees. Longer hikes are to the top of Bear Mountain or on the Long Path. Hikers will be rewarded by views of the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding hills. In the distance, that is not a mirage - it's the skyscrapers of Manhattan (on a very clear day). Expect weekend crowds.
  • For a taste of Vermont, hike the Taconic Mountains (Taconic State Park), a small range that extends from the Massachussets, Connecticut and New York State border up into southern Vermont.
  • Bike the quiet country roads, through farmlands and historic towns. Distances are not great, and Rhinebeck is a good starting point.
  • Enjoy the fall foliage views from the homes and gardens of Jay Gould, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts, and others. The mansions can generally be found upon forested grounds, with great river views; often they themselves are historic attractions worth visiting. Especially recommended for the fall are - Lyndhurst, Kykuit (means “lookout” in Dutch), Boscobel, Vanderbuilt Mansion, Wilderstein, Annandale-on-Hudson and Clermont. There are public nature trails near many of the mansions.
  • Picturesque towns with nice views of the Hudson and good fall foliage viewing opportunities include Cold Springs, Kinderhook, Copake Falls, Germantown and Piermont.

Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Routes

The main routes connecting the main fall foliage viewing areas are U.S. Highway 9 on the east side of the Hudson River and U.S. Highway 9-West on the west side. Further inland, the Taconic State Parkway was designed with nature in mind. The whole route from East Chatham south to Hawthorne is surrounded by trees. The following short scenic drives are close by to U.S. Highway 9 and U.S. Highway 9-West:
  • Perkins Memorial Drive in Bear Mountain State Park
  • Storm King Highway (State Road 218) from West Point to Cornwall-on-Hudson
  • River Road (Country Road 103) from Rhinebeck to Annandale-on-Hudson

Shawungunk and Catskill Fall Foliage Tours and Views

The typical Catskill visitor may be zipping along on the Quickway (State Road 17) on the way to the “mountains” and what is left of the resorts. While there is no doubt that fall brings plenty of color to these parts, the real show is further north, deeper into the Catskills and to the southeast, in the Shawangunk Mountains. The forests are typically oak and hickory with some hemlock, beech, and sugar and red maple.

The elevations are not great, but the views are from the following points are, and they are easily accessible:
  • At the site of the Catskill Mountain House, there is almost no trace of what was once described as “America's Grandest Hotel” by Roland Van Zant. But you will be rewarded with one of the best views of foliage in the Catskills. Just east of Haines Falls on State Road 23A, access is from the North and South Lakes Campground. The site can also be reached by hiking the Escarpment Trail. North and South Lakes are surrounded by colorful fall foliage as well.
  • The summit of Hunter Mountain can be reached, a hike taking most of the day, with extensive foliage vistas along the way. A weekend option is the 11-minute Skyride chairlift to the top.
  • Stop at Point Lookout Mountain Inn for a view of five states, including the White Mountains in New Hampshire, 180 miles away.
  • In the Shawangunk Mountains, stop in for lunch and a stroll along the lake at Mohonk Mountain House, or hike the adjacent preserve. The best fall foliage views are on the Labyrinth Trail to the summit of Skylight Mountain. There is a relatively high fee for access to the hiking trails.
  • Sam's Point, the highest in the Shawangunks at 2,255 feet, offers panoramic views.
  • Nature-provided fall foliage can be enjoyed from the shores of man-made Ashokan Reservoir, as well as on a two-three hour hike to the summit of Wittenberg Mountain.
  • The historic and scenic Delaware & Ulster Railroad covers the dozen miles from Arkville to Roxbury and back in one hour and forty five minutes, for around $10 per person.

Shawungunk and Catskill Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

The fall foliage attractions are very close to the main scenic drives in the area. State Road 23 from Cairo to Windham and State Road 23A from Palenville to Hunter, both climb into the northern Catskills from the east side. Further south, State Road 28 crosses the Catskills from Kingston to Arkville. For views of the fall foliage around Ashokan Reservoir, and for an especially scenic route, take a detour on State Road 28A.

Connecting these roads, and providing for some especially scenic loops, are State Road 296 from Brooksburg to Hunter, and State Road 214 from Tannersville to Phoenicia.

Country Road 47 and Country Road 42 provide a scenic 60-mile loop south of State Road 28. Start on Country Road 47 in Big Indian, join up with Country Road 42 in Sundown, and end the loop in West Shokan. Finding your way from Country Road 47 to Country Road 42 can be tricky - from Country Road 47 follow Country Road 157, Country Road 19, State Road 55, State Road 55A, Country Road 153, Country Road 46, and Peekamoose Road to Country Road 42; or just ask for directions.

U.S. Highway 44 crosses the Shawungunk Mountains between Bentons Corner and Kerhonkson.

Fall Foliage Spots in Woodstock, Cooperstown, New Paltz, Catskills and Hudson Valley

Sort By: Rating | Name
Ashokan Reservoir
Bear Mountain State Park
Catskill Mountain House site
Clermont, NY
Cold Springs, NY
Copake Falls, NY
CR42 (Sundown - West Shokan)
CR47 (Big Indian - Claryville)
Delaware & Ulster Railroad
Germantown, NY
Hudson River day cruises
Kinderhook, NY
Lyndhurst, NY
Mohonk Mountain House and Preserve
Montgomery Place
North and South Lakes
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Piermont, NY
Point Lookout Mountain Inn
River Road (CR103; Rhinebeck - Annandale-on-Hudson )
Sam's Point
Shawangunk Mountains
SR214 (Tannersvile - Phoenicia)
SR23 (Cairo - Windham)
SR23A (Palenville - Hunter)
SR28 (Kingston - Arkville)
SR28A (Stony Hollow - Boiceville)
SR296 (Brooksburg - Hunter)
Storm King Highway (SR218; West Point - Cornwall-on-Hudson)
Taconic State Park
Taconic State Parkway (East Chatham - Hawthorne)
US44 (Bentons Corner - Kerhonkson)
US9 (Irvington - Rhinebeck)
US9W (Palisades - Catskill)
Vanderbuilt Mansion
Wilderstein, NY