Welcome to Leaf Immersion Season. Every trip’s a treat for locals and frequenters: You find yourself developing a fondness for certain trees and watching in awe as they change. While you’re taking part in the many activities we mention in this issue, the glories of Mother Earth’s show surround you.
Late September and early October are prime times for foliage-peeping, and you don’t want to miss the show.
Take some time to slow down and enjoy. It’s the perfect time of year for good walks—not too hot or too cold. Streams and waterfalls are often rushing and spectacular. The critters are purposefully lively, foraging for storables. Being underneath that colorful canopy is unlike anything else—breathe deep: There’s a rich smell to the autumn forest that doesn’t happen any other time.
Delve in and do some purpose-driven leaf peeping with your particularly precious peeps—and let the fur-kids get in on the fun. (You will, of course, pick up and pack out their droppings.) Find a picture-perfect panorama. Bring a picnic, or stop in at a fur-friendly spot with outdoor dining after.
Here’s some destination inspiration for you.
EXPLORE THE GUNKS along the 70 miles of carriage roads and trails at the MOHONK PRESERVE, accessible from any of five trailheads. Kids under 15 (and dogs!) hike for free, and you can download a digital trail map to your phone. mohonkpreserve.org
OLANA STATE HISTORIC SITE in Hudson offers an entirely different take on lives lived elegantly long ago, and a fresh set of stunning views of the colorful Cats and the Valley. You can take in the six-mile Hudson River Skywalk across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, which leads visitors to the Thomas Cole Estate if they persevere. Here, too, your fur family is welcome on-leash. olana.org
Take a picnic to the marvelous gardens of the VANDERBILT MANSION National Historic Site, and/or visit FDR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE in Hyde Park and walk the Top Cottage Trail. There’s a reason old-timey millionaires chose these views, and pets are welcome on the grounds. (The Roosevelt site even declares them Bark Rangers.) nps.gov/vama nps.gov/hofr
POETS’ WALK in Red Hook leads through a progression of “outdoor rooms” set off by stone walls and tree lines. It was originally designed to delight the wealthy, and thankfully has remained substantially unchanged since 1850. These are the Catskills views that supposedly inspired the tale of Rip Van Winkle. scenichudson.org/explore-the-valley/scenic-hudson-parks/poets-walk-park
NORTH-SOUTH LAKE, open for campers and day guests through Oct. 23, is set on a stunning chunk of the Catskill Forest Preserve and laced with hiking trails, including an easy one to the site of the Catskill Mountain House that leads to panoramic views. You can head onto the mirror-like lake and take it all in from your rental boat. Fur friends are welcome, although not on the beach. dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24487.html
WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON State Historic Park puts you right in the middle of it all. Park in Highland or Poughkeepsie and wander across the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge; it’s ADA compliant and has a sturdy, chest-high safety rail. There are great places to grab a bite to eat on either end, and you can extend your exploration along the Rail Trail as far as you like. walkway.org
Hike any of the many trails of the CATSKILL FOREST PRESERVE. Start the day at the Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center in Mt. Tremper, where they’ll have great trail suggestions to suit your group’s ambitions and abilities. The drive out Route 28 is impossibly gorgeous in itself. catskillsvisitorcenter.org
TAKE A SKYRIDE. The pup will have to sit this one out, but the vistas are too compelling to leave it off the list. Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain both run their skilifts for skyrides into the fall season, and there’s no better way to feel delightfully above it all. You can make it up to your fur-pal with a jaunt along the pet-friendly, nearby Kaaterskill Falls trails amid still other lush views. windhammountain.com huntermtn.com