Sugar maple is the official tree of New York, and it's one of the reasons why the state looks so beautiful during the fall season. In addition to sugar maples that offer a rich palette varying from green to orange and red, there is northern red oak, red maple, and sycamore adding bright red notes. Birch, oak, hickory, and tulip trees contribute with lovely yellow and bronze tones. From Long Island to Upstate New York, there are dozens of spectacular locations for leaf peeping. The best time to enjoy the changing seasons in New York State is October. On higher elevations, like the Adirondack Mountains, the peak comes in early October. The Catskills region experiences a peak of color in mid-October. While lower areas like Central New York and New York City are at their best for leaf peeping in late October.
Long Island is a perfect destination for a leaf peeping weekend. Head to its easternmost point, Montauk Point Lighthouse, to see a scenic landscape with the oldest lighthouse in the state. Another must-see stop is Planting Fields Arboretum, a huge park with woodland paths, lush gardens, and various marked plants. The park boasts golden larch, maples, and dogwoods that look most beautiful in late October.
Where to stay There are many hotels on Long Island, ranging from luxurious to budget. Some of them are located right on the beaches. Montauk has a few lodging options as well. Prices for accommodation usually drop in October.
Upstate New York, and particularly Hudson Valley, offers an incredibly scenic foliage experience. You can start with the famous Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie and then move north towards Dutchess County. River Road in Rhinebeck, Poets' Walk Park, the campus of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, and Tivoli Bays are some of the most scenic spots in the area. Take a ride on Route 9, Route 78, and Route 199 to enjoy the rural area dotted with farms and picturesque small towns.
Where to stay Hudson Valley has many charming boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, or farm lodging to choose from. Check the area around Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, or Tivoli.
The Catskill Mountains are most beautiful in the fall. Take a ski lift up Hunter Mountain to see the area from above. Or you can hike to Hunter summit at elevation 4,040 ft (1,231 m). This 8-mi (12-km) hike ends with the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower and views stretching all the way to Massachusetts and Connecticut. There are dozens of other short trails in the area on moderate elevations. One of the season's favorites is a ride on Catskill Mountain Railroad. Others opt for one of the easiest hikes—Kaaterskill Falls. With some 260 ft (79 m), it is the highest cascading waterfall in New York that looks best when surrounded with golden foliage in mid-October.
Where to stay North/South Lake Campground is a great area to spend the night with access to all major trails. Kingston is the largest city near the Catskills and it offers a wide choice of hotels. There are also lodging options near Hunter and Windham mountains.
The spectacular Adirondack Mountains is the number one hiking destination in New York with dozens of lakes, waterfalls, and high peaks. The 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks, including Mount Marcy, are perfectly suited for fall foliage viewing from above. If you are not ready for a long hike, take Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride to go up The Whiteface Mountain for spectacular 360-degree views. Another option is Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which offers a spectacular foliage train ride every fall. Fall colors reflect beautifully in Adirondack Lakes. Lake George offers scenic foliage cruises and kayak rentals. Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, which form the so-called Tri-Lakes region, are also famous for foliage landscapes and scenic hiking trails.
Where to stay Lake George and Lake Placid have waterfront lodging ranging from luxurious hotels to budget inns. Adirondack Wilderness also has many campsites including beautiful island camping on the Saranac.
The Saratoga Springs area, close to the state's capital Albany, also offers a few scenic foliage routes. John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville offers the panorama of the lowlands and 12 miles (20 km) of beautiful trails, including the Indian Ladder Trail. Another option is the historical Saratoga Monument that opens views of the Adirondack and Helderberg Mountains.
Where to stay Saratoga Springs has several large hotel chains, historical boutique hotels, and old-fashioned inns to choose from.
The Finger Lakes area is another spectacular fall destination. You can choose between Canandaigua, Seneca, or Cayuga lakes for the unforgettable leaf peeping experience. All lakes offer postcard views with beautiful foliage reflections. Use the chairlifts at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort near Rochester for special panoramic views. From there, take a drive to the greater Niagara area for more breathtaking views. The Finger Lakes fall foliage season lasts from late September through mid-October, with the peak time in early and mid-October.
Where to stay Choose a waterfront boutique hotel or bed and breakfast on one of the lakes to enjoy non-stop fall foliage beauty all day long.
When planning your getaway to a New York destination in fall, examine the fall foliage map to pick the most convenient place to stay. Make sure to check the local fall foliage report, as the timing of peak fall foliage changes from year to year.