Leaf-peeping season is upon us, Hudson Valley. The shades of green we cherished throughout the summer have made room for a vibrant array of orange and gold. With summer days in the rearview mirror, locals and visitors alike forage for new ways to observe the annual change. A short time frame and a booked schedule can make the opportunity difficult to plan, but we’ve done some of the work for you and compiled the best ways to get your fill of Mother Nature’s artwork.
the shawangunk loop
Your day begins as soon as you pass the Village of New Paltz (NYS Thruway exit 18). When you continue down Route 299, the Ridge will act as a beacon toward your day’s adventure. Past the sunflower fields and farmers market, make a turn onto Route 44/55 and drive up the mountain. (Be mindful of the terrain and turns!)
Get your cameras ready—as you ascend, you’re amidst the best photo opportunities. Be sure to keep an eye out for the occasional rock-climbing group along the ridge. Keep your eyes to the horizon and you’ll witness what the hype is really about when you catch a glimpse of the season’s foliage covering the valley. If you’re looking for a more educational journey, stop in at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center to learn about what types of critters and plants inhabit the area. You can also explore on foot by hiking the Preserve—tickets are available for purchase for $12.
While winding through the mountain on Route 44/55, you’ll come up on Peter’s Kill on your right (a trail here offers moderate to difficult climbing) and Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your left. With $10 or an Empire Pass, you can enjoy an easy-to-moderate, dog-friendly hiking trail.
The further you go on the trail, the better the view. The trail is a great spot for bird watching, as well. Once you continue down the mountain, be sure to stop for lunch or apple picking at one of the many farms in the area. Continuing north on 209 and then east on 213 will bring you to the Rosendale Trestle where you can stroll above the changing leaves and rushing waters.
Begin your journey near Historic Kingston off of exit 19 from the NYS Thruway, heading toward Pine Hill on Route 28 west, and you’ll find yourself readying to venture an intersection with Route 28A on your left; there, you’ll find a 20-mile loop that follows the shoreline of the Ashokan Reservoir. The peaks surrounding the reservoir provide a gorgeous foliage-covered backdrop, and the winding road takes you through protected lands and rural communities. When 28A merges back to 28, stay northbound to enjoy the pleasant scenery along the Esopus Creek. For a break from the car and a scenic hiking adventure, go past Big Indian towards Highmount, where hikers of all skill levels can enjoy Belleayre Mountain. For a scenic waterfall stop, you’ll want to turn off Route 28 at Phoenicia and follow Route 214 toward Tannersville. Make a right at the intersection of Route 23A, and down the road you’ll come across a parking lot and trailhead that leads to Kaaterskill Falls. The views are stunning, but be wary of where the trail ends.
Want someone else to do the navigating? Hop aboard the Catskill Mountain Railroad and witness startling vistas and river valleys on their Catskill Fall Flyer and Pumpkin Express tours
down by the river
Route 9 in Dutchess County follows the Hudson River along its eastern coast and offers several stops and walkways for viewing wide expanses of fall foliage.
Try something relaxing at your own pace like the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. Offering a panoramic experience of both the Hudson River and the Valley, visitors can enjoy this installment of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail network for free, and can even follow an interactive map for further exploration of the area.
Further up Route 9, stop for a walk across the White Bridge at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, and feel like royalty amidst the Gatsby-eqsue gardens and guided paths. Or wander up to Red Hook to see what inspired the greats at Poets’ Walk. The two-mile trail is open until the end of October, leaving just enough time to see the changing of the leaves.
Hudson River Cruises, located in Kingston, offers themed cruises and narrated two-hour journeys specifically devoted to sightseeing on the river. Come aboard the Rip Van Winkle and enjoy views of historic lighthouses, mansions, and other landmarks.