From the end of September through the middle of October, the Hudson Valley is an autumn lover’s feast. Anywhere you go, you’re surrounded by the reds, golds, and oranges of the year’s grand finale Mother Nature’s dramatic costume change.
It’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope from day to day, a blaze of glory against bright blue sky, a luminous wonder against rainclouds. Get out and immerse yourself—the photos and memories will warm your soul till spring returns. The absolute peak of color at any given spot lasts about four days, hitting the Adirondacks a couple of weeks before rolling down into the lower valley. You can get the latest foliage report by calling 1-800-225-5697.
Leaf peeping is ideal socially distant fun; there’s plenty of space out there for all of us to be considerate, even as we share the beauty. And, please, for all our sakes, remember to Leave No Trace. Here, for your peeping planning, are a cornucopia of splendid options for fulfilling your foliage fantasies:
Route 28 west of Kingston (take Thruway Exit 19) is like driving into a giant Hudson River School painting any time of year. West of Woodstock, the road narrows to two lanes, crossing and recrossing the Esopus, offering places to pull over, gaze, and stretch. sceniccatskills.com
Route 44/55 west of Gardiner takes you over the Shawangunk Ridge, with scenic overlooks offering spectacular views of the Hudson Valley to the east, the Rondout Valley and Catskills to the west.
Once you’re out in the countryside, you can head in almost any direction—it’s hard to go wrong here. Some of our favorites:
Route 52 west of Pine Bush is the beatiful southern crossing of the Gunks, with panoramic viewsheds on both sides. mtnscenicbyway.org
Route 44 east of Poughkeepsie takes you deep into rolling farms and forests. In fact, the folks at Dutchess County Tourism have compiled a wonderful list of self-guided scenic drive possibilities, sure to be stunning when seasoned with leaves. dutchesstourism.com/PDF/2005-Brochures/tour4.pdf
Rail Trails offer mostly-flat, laid-back rides with gorgeous backdrops. From the 13-mile William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail in the east to the O&W in the Rondout Valley, they’re great places for a family ride. Don’t forget the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which will take you from Gardiner on up through New Paltz to Rosendale and beyond with a spectacular Shawangunk Ridge view.
The O&W Rail Trail: theoandwrailtrail.org
Dutchess Rail Trail: dutchessny.gov/Departments/Parks/Dutchess-Rail-Trail.htm
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail: wallkillvalleylt.org/wvrt
Carriage roads and trails at Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park take you deep into the enchantment of the Shawangunks. With about 80 miles of bike riding available, you never know what the next bend may reveal.
Mohonk Preserve: 845-255-0919 or visit mohonkpreserve.org/visit/activities/bike.html
Minnewaska State Park: Call 845-255-0752 or visit parks.ny.gov/parks/127
Kayaking or canoeing puts you right in the center of those shimmering, colorful reflections. Here are some destinations where you can book your water wings:
Hudson Paddles in Hudson: hudsonpaddles.com
Mountain Valley Guides, with various locations along the Hudson River: mountainvalleyguides.com
Hudson River Expeditions in Cold Spring and Peekskill:hudsonriverexpeditions.com
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz has canoes available for their overnight guests:mohonk.com
Did you know that the best hang-gliding updrafts east of the Mississippi are right in Ellenville? The folks at Mountain Wings are expert trainers who can turn you on to the wonders of personal aviation. 77 Hang Glider Road, Ellenville. 845-647- 3377. mtnwings.com.
Ooh and aah at the Hudson Valley’s fall finery from a vintage 1929 open-cockpit four-passenger biplane at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Open through October 17. Weekend air shows from 2 to 4pm. Museum open daily, 10am to 5pm. 9 Norton Road, Red Hook. 845-752-3200. oldrhinebeck.org.
At the Vanderbilt Garden State Historic Site, gardens are beautifully maintained by volunteers and open year-round for your enjoyment, with gorgeous views of the river and the mountains beyond. 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park. 845-229- 9115. nps.gov/vama/planyourvisit/index.htm.
The arboretum at Montgomery Place is part of a glorious 434-acre estate and National Historic Landmark amid stunning Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views. Take colorful woodland walks to the falls of the Sawkill, then picnic by a 19th-century arboretum. River Road, Annandale-on-Hudson. 845-758-6338. bard.edu/montgomeryplace.
North/South Lake at Haines Falls is the biggest and most popular state campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve, and offers superb hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, and boating right smack in the middle of our annual blaze of arboreal glory. 518-357-2289. dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24487.html.
Mohonk Preserve in Gardiner has, to the joy of climbers all over the world, developed social distancing safety protocols for some of the best climbing anywhere on this big blue planet, with over 1,000 routes of all sorts, hundreds of bouldering problems, and one of the finest vertical rescue teams in the Northeast. And we hear the view is stunning from up there. Call 845-255-0919 or visitmohonkpreserve.orgoralpineendeavors.com.
Rail Explorers Catskills Division offers an 8-mile round trip by state-of-the-art rail bike, along the historic Ulster & Delaware Railroad, beside the shimmering Esopus Creek. Check out their Golden Hour option for two-and-a-half hours that’ll change your life, especially in foliage season. Call 1-877-833-8588, or visit railexplorers.net/tours/catskills-ny.
Rail trails and carriage roads, of course, make for excellent strolling as well as biking. Then there is the Roosevelt Farm Lane Trail, part of the 30-mile Hyde Park Trail System, steeped as much in history as in glorious living color. This was the connector from the big house to Eleanor’s cottage at Val-Kill; you’ll be walking in the footsteps of giants. scenichudson.org/explore-the-valley/scenic-hudson-parks/roosevelt-farm-lane.
The Walkway Ov er The Hudson is another easy, yet utterly spectacular, pathway with a view. You can walk, jog, bike, roller skate, in-line skate, dog-walk on leashes six feet or less, and bird watch. There are two entrances to the park, one on each side of the Hudson: Dutchess County’s east side at 61 Parker Avenue, Poughkeepsie; Ulster County’s west side at 87 Haviland Road, Highland. Call 845-834-2867 or visit walkway.org.
Black Creek Preserve in Esopus and stroll under a canopy of colorful foliage on three separate nature trails that wind around vernal pools. Find the park at Winding Brook Road off of Route 9W. scenichudson.org/explore-the-valley/scenic-hudson-parks/black-creek-preserve
Poet’s Walk Park in Rhinebeck, in the heart of the National Historic Landmark District, offers inspirational views along two miles of trails through quiet woodlands amidst rolling fields, dotted with rustic cedar pavilions for resting and taking it all in. River Road, Rhinebeck. scenichudson.org/explore-the-valley/scenic-hudson-parks/poets-walk-park