New England is famous for its fall foliage. And yet New York State offers its own kaleidoscope of colors that attract leaf peepers from around the world. The streets of New York City up to the serene landscapes of upstate New York offer opportunities to enjoy New York fall foliage. So, why not embark on a journey to witness nature’s spectacular display of reds, oranges, and yellows? Let’s explore some of the top spots to see fall foliage from NYC, in and around the Big Apple.
Ready to discover the best fall foliage near NYC? Let’s get into it:
- Explore the breathtaking fall foliage of NYC’s iconic Central Park and other hidden gems across all five boroughs.
- Take a scenic drive or train ride through Upstate New York or Connecticut for stunning autumn views.
- Plan your trip to NY during peak season & plan accordingly for the two week color cycle!
Top Spots in New York City
Stroll through the city that never sleeps to enjoy a surround of dazzling fall foliage. That’s the beauty of New York City in autumn. It’s an urban jungle that still offers an enchanting experience for nature lovers.
You just need to know where to look.
So, whether you’re a local or a visitor, grab your camera and prepare to be captivated by the breathtaking fall foliage right in the heart of the city. Read on for some unmissable locations in each borough.
Central Park’s Autumn Wonders
Central Park, nearly 850-acres of green oasis in the midst of Manhattan, is a sight to behold during the fall season. Iconic spots like:
- Gapstow Bridge
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
- Bow Bridge
- The Ramble
- Belvedere Castle
Are awash in vibrant colors. They’re a stunning contrast to the concrete jungle surrounding this most famous of the NYC parks.
The North Woods, in the park’s northwest corner, are an especially serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. As you meander through the winding trails, a canopy of red maple, sugar maple, and other deciduous trees will envelope you. It’s such a peaceful environment that it’s easy to forget you’re in one of the world’s busiest cities. For the best fall foliage, plan your visit for the first or second week of October.
More Manhattan Spots
If you’re seeking a unique park experience, Fort Tryon Park is a must-visit. This hidden gem is way up in Upper Manhattan, across the river from the Bronx. It offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, the New Jersey Palisades, and the Manhattan skyline. Spanning 67 acres, the park is home to a variety of trees, which put on a vibrant display of colors in the fall. The park also houses the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here, you can immerse yourself in medieval European art and architecture. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy the autumn foliage while soaking in a bit of culture and history.
Brooklyn’s Fall Foliage Gems
Brooklyn as a borough is better known for its diverse neighborhoods and vibrant culture. This massive metropolis offers several locations for viewing stunning autumn foliage.
A must-visit spot is Prospect Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Calvert Vaux. The park is home to a variety of trees such as camperdown elm, black cherries, sassafras, turkey oak, and ginkgo. Your leaf-peeping adventure can start at the Peninsula, where you’ll be greeted by bright red horse chestnut trees. From there, move on to the lakeside views and the 150-acre woodland Ravine.
Another spot to explore is Green-Wood Cemetery. This national historic landmark is not only a peaceful escape but also a place to explore its 500,000 headstones, Victorian mausoleums, and Gothic Arch. All these are nestled among vibrant fall colors. Join a twilight tour to learn about the cemetery’s history and get a peek at the catacombs.
Queens’ Colorful Canopies
Queens, the largest of the boroughs, offers numerous New York City parks with stunning autumn leaves.
Alley Pond Park is home to pin oaks, black cherries, red oaks, sweetgum, red maple, and tulip trees. The best spot for leaf-peeping is near 223rd Street and Cloverdale Boulevard. The park’s Tulip Tree Trail offers a colorful display, as well.
Cunningham Park can be found in the southeast preserve of Francis Lewis Boulevard and Union Turnpike. It houses several tree species like oaks, hickories, and honey locusts.
Forest Park contains an impressive selection of trees, including:
- Northern red oak
- Scarlet oak
- Tulip poplar
- Shagbark hickory
- White oak
- Wild black cherry
To fully appreciate the forest, take the yellow, blue, and orange trails, and don’t forget to visit the Pine Grove, where some evergreen trees are over 100 years old.
The Bronx’s Brilliant Leaves
The Bronx boasts several picturesque spots for enjoying the autumn colors.
The Bronx River Greenway is a haven for a variety of trees. London planes, oaks, sassafras, red maples, tulip poplars, sycamores, and beech trees all thrive here. They provide a vibrant display of fall foliage along the river.
Pelham Bay Park, the largest public park in New York City, is home to a variety of trees, including:
- Sweet gums
- Norway spruces
- White pines
Be sure to explore the Kazimiroff Trail, which runs through Hunter Island, for a picturesque walk through the park’s stunning fall foliage. Be sure to pop over to City Island, NY, while you’re here.
Finally, Van Cortlandt Park offers an array of trees to admire, including oaks, hickory, sugar maple, sweetgum, and tulip trees.
Staten Island Strolls
Staten Island is often overlooked by tourists, but it offers scenic locations to appreciate autumn colors.
The Greenbelt Nature Center is a nature preserve with over 35 miles of woodland walking trails. These trails are the perfect setting for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike. Paulo’s Peak is a must-see spot for a breathtaking view of the fall foliage.
Clove Lakes Park is home to a diverse range of trees, including tulip trees, red oaks, sassafras, sweetgum, black birch, and black cherries. While exploring the park, make sure to marvel at the tallest living thing in Clove Lakes Park – a majestic tulip tree.
Long Island’s Autumn Adventures
A brief drive away from New York City, Long Island presents numerous spots to admire the captivating autumn leaves. Some of the beautiful gardens at Planting Fields Arboretum, a 400-acre state park in Nassau County, include:
- Italian Garden
- Cloister Garden and Circular Pool
- Children’s Play House
- Sensory Garden
All of these gardens are surrounded by vibrant fall colors, making them perfect for a visit during the season.
Sunken Meadow State Park is a must-visit spot on the North Shore of Long Island. This state park offers a variety of outdoor activities. Here, you can enjoy the fall foliage while:
- Horseback riding
Shelter Island’s Mashomack Preserve is a sight to behold. With over 2,000 acres of habitat and more than 10 miles of shoreline, it offers a truly breathtaking fall foliage experience.
Hudson Valley Escapes
The Hudson River Valley, a short commute north from New York City, boasts some of the state’s most stunning autumn foliage displays.
Cold Spring, New York, is a quaint village. On the east bank of the Hudson River, it’s known for its historic architecture and charming local shops. Head to one of the hiking trails through the Hudson Highlands for sweeping views, especially the Breakneck Ridge hike. The stunning natural beauty around Cold Spring, NY, make it an ideal spot for leaf peepers in the autumn season.
Another spot is Bear Mountain State Park. Situated on the west bank of the river near the Bear Mountain Bridge, it is a favorite among hikers and nature enthusiasts for its fall colors. The park has more than just hiking trails. It also offers biking, boating, picnicking, swimming, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice skating.
Storm King Art Center is another gem in the Hudson Valley. This open-air museum displays large-scale sculptures and installations amidst a backdrop of beautiful fall foliage.
And for a unique view of the Hudson River Valley’s bright fall colors, visit the Walkway Over the Hudson. As the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, it offers a perspective like no other from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Highland, New York.
Upstate New York Getaways
Upstate New York is a scenic destination, known for its quaint small towns and breathtaking autumn landscapes. Lake Placid, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, has attracted visitors for centuries for its fall colors. It’s an ideal spot for leaf peeping, hiking, and savoring the crisp autumn air.
Cooperstown, a charming village famous for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, also boasts striking fall foliage. Its colorful surroundings provide a serene setting for a relaxing weekend getaway.
That said, the Adirondack Mountains are a trove of outdoor activities. With the breathtaking fall foliage that blankets the region each autumn, they offer endless opportunities for hiking and biking.
Scenic Drives and Byways
If you prefer to enjoy the autumn leaves while you drive, New York has numerous scenic drives and routes. These routes showcase the state’s vibrant autumn hues. Some popular ones include:
- The Palisades Interstate Parkway. This route runs alongside the Hudson River from New York City to Bear Mountain State Park. It offers stunning views of the Hudson Valley and its brilliant fall foliage.
- The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. This route takes you through the Catskill Mountains, with breathtaking views of the changing leaves.
- The Adirondack Northway. This route stretches from Albany to the Canadian border. It showcases the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains in the fall.
These routes provide a perfect opportunity to enjoy the beauty of New York’s autumn foliage. For even more options, be sure to read our guide to Connecticut fall foliage driving routes.
The Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway offers:
- An 87-mile loop drive
- A picturesque journey through the heart of the Finger Lakes region
- Rolling hills, vineyards, and quaint villages
- A backdrop of vibrant fall colors
Finally, hit up the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. This route follows the historic Erie Canal path. As it meanders through the charming towns and countryside of upstate New York, it offers a unique view of the fall foliage.
Train Rides Through Autumn Landscapes
If you’re looking for a unique and relaxing way to experience autumn colors, why not take a scenic fall foliage train ride?
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, for instance, takes you on a 9-hour journey through upstate New York’s stunning fall foliage. You’ll get to enjoy breathtaking views of the Adirondack Mountains and the surrounding region.
Or head to Connecticut, where the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat in the town of Essex, CT, offers a different experience entirely. Each autumn, the Connecticut River Valley region is blanketed in the most gorgeous Connecticut fall foliage. And this leisurely journey will take you through the picturesque New England countryside. It’s a great excuse to enjoy an overnight stay at one of the most charming Connecticut coast bed and breakfasts, too.
Regardless of which you choose, either of these train rides provide a stress-free and memorable way to appreciate the beauty of the fall foliage season.
Tips for Leaf Peeping
To make the most of your leaf-peeping adventure, it’s important to time your trip with the peak fall foliage season. In New York, the fall colors peak at different times across various regions. The Adirondacks and other northern areas usually reach their peak in early October. Meanwhile, the Catskills and southern regions hit their peak in mid-October.
Keep in mind that the color cycle in any given area usually lasts around two weeks. Therefore, you should plan your trip to align with this cycle. This way, you’ll get to experience the full range of stunning autumn hues.
New York State is a trove of breathtaking fall foliage. From the bustling streets of New York City to the tranquil landscapes of upstate New York, it offers a multitude of experiences. You can choose to explore on foot, take a scenic drive, or even embark on a picturesque train ride. Each option presents a unique leaf-peeping adventure in the Empire State. So, put on your favorite sweater, grab a warm drink, and set out to witness the gorgeous colors that adorn New York each autumn.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is New York’s popular fall foliage destination?
The Catskills is a well-loved destination for viewing fall foliage in New York. Here, the hills come alive with bright red, orange, and golden yellow shades. Plus, it’s a convenient trip from New York City!
When can you see fall foliage in NYC?
In NYC, the peak of the fall foliage season usually occurs in the last ten days of October. The lower Hudson Valley and central/western New Jersey experience their peak color from mid to late October. On the other hand, the city, Long Island, and coastal areas showcase their peak color from late October through early November. Generally, October is the ideal month for leaf-peeping.
What is the best time to see fall colors in upstate New York?
Generally, the ideal time to witness fall colors in Upstate New York is from the last week of September through mid-October. This year, the colors are expected to peak around the end of the first week of October. During this season, birch, oak, hickory, and tulip trees will display beautiful yellow and bronze tones.
Where is the peak foliage in NY?
In New York, peak foliage varies across different regions. Long Island, New York City, and parts of the Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley are just reaching their peak. The Adirondack Mountains reach their peak in early October. The Catskills region follows, peaking in mid-October. Lastly, lower areas like Central New York showcase their peak foliage in late October.