In October there are nearly unlimited foliage activities for the whole family in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. You can “pick your own apples”, walk the many rail trails or hike the forest trails, drive on scenic byways, do the wine trails, ride the Catskill Mt Railroad foliage train up the historic Rt 28 corridor, or just relax on the porch of a B&B or historic mountain house and passively watch the season change before your eyes. Whatever your level of activity, group dynamics or personal interests, the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain region of New York State has you covered.
First things first – visit the New York Fall Foliage Report website to see where and when the fall colors peak in your favorite section of the state. Then decide how you want to experience it. Here’s a quick rundown of things to see and do, with websites, so you’ll know what to expect when you get there.
Walks, hikes and drives: West Point’s Trophy Point is a scenic overlook of the Hudson River Valley, and ideal for combining military history with the vistas from this strategic position in the Hudson Highlands. You can get there from the south via Palisades Parkway through Bear Mountain State Park and take the Seven Lakes Drive for many glorious vistas.
The Frying Pan, a paved loop with a long handle along one of the dikes of the Ashokan Reservoir just off Rt 28 in West Hurley, reveals rolling mountains of patchwork color reflected on the surface of this century-old source of NYC water. You may even spot the resident eagles soaring over this handicap accessible and very popular walk.
Continuing farther west on Rt 28 will deliver you to the new Catskill Interpretive Center where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the region through interpretive displays and local hiking trails. Operated under the auspices of the Catskill Center (located further up Rt 28 in Arkville) they are also sponsoring a “Lark in the Park” week-long collection of dozens of events scheduled throughout the Catskill Park, from Saturday, October 3rd through Monday, October 12th. You’re sure to hit some peak foliage and have a great Catskill Mountain experience at the same time.
The longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, Walkway over the Hudson, is a 212 feet tall, 1.28 mile long expanse of ever-changing vistas of the mid-Hudson Valley and surrounding mountains. A short train ride from Manhattan to Poughkeepsie will allow spectacular views of the Palisades north on the comfortable Amtrac or Metro North lines. Some trains even allow bicycles! You can see the walkway from the Poughkeepsie station. It’s just a short walk (or bike ride) north along the new riverfront park to take the new elevator up to the walkway. Railtrails on either shore offer miles more activity, that is, if you can tear yourself away from the magnificent views up and down the Hudson River.
Two popular Hudson Valley hikes involve fire towers, so you know you’ll get an elevated and expansive panoramic view from each that is great any time of year, but spectacular in the fall. Overlook Mountain rising above Woodstock, New York, is an aerobic 2.3 mile hike along an old carriage road past the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House to the restored fire tower. From there you’ll look out over the entire Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains. For a gentler hike and a more specific but most impressive view, cross the Hudson River to Rhinebeck and take the Ferncliff trail to the Ferncliff Fire Tower. Two Hudson River lighthouses separated by the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge command the near views, with the full length of the Catskill Mountain escarpment, the “Wall of Manitou”, behind them dominating the Western view. (pictured above) The most dramatic views are of the long early morning shadows on the Dutchess County fields and sunset over the Catskills, but the view is beautiful any time of day.
While you are in Dutchess County, a visit to their tourism website will reward you with a wealth of trail and park information. My favorite is the Haunted History Trail, where you can pair a fascination with the paranormal and some real live (and not so live) Hudson Valley history.
Looking to pick your own apples this fall? New York apples are the best, with local orchards giving birth to the artisanal hard cider craze. Both sides of the Hudson River offer a wide range of possibilities for apple picking and cider tasting. Visit the New York Apple Country website to see their interactive map and search for locations by city or zip code within a 10 to 100 mile radius. For broader information, including corn and pumpkin mazes, festivals, and pick your own everything, look at the Pick Your Own website and use the many links and search function to locate events geared to your interests and needs. They even offer canning techniques and recipes!
Where ever you go in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains this season, you’re sure to find warm, friendly people, lovely accommodations and incredible cuisine to make your foliage visit one you’ll remember for years. Be sure to bring your camera!