Summer may not officially end until September 22, but it’s already beginning to feel like fall and in just a few weeks, the leaves will begin to change. If you want to spot the glorious auburn and golden hues before they ghost from the trees, you’ve gotta have a plan. To find out the best vantage points for watching the leaves turn, and when to keep our eyes peeled this year, we consulted with the folks at Empire State Development’s I Love New York. Here are some of their picks for where and when to spy the fall foliage this year within a few hours from New York City — Hudson River Valley, Long Island and the Catskills. Be sure to check Iloveny.com on Wednesdays beginning September 13 through the end of the season for the most up-to-date fall foliage reports.
Average peak foliage: First and second weeks of October
A two-to-three hour drive north brings you to the region, where you’ll find plenty of places to hike out to high lookout points. In Hunter, NY, hike a steep two miles up to Kaaterskill Falls, the tallest two-tier waterfall in New York state, for leaf-rich views of the Hudson Valley. For a slightly longer trek, hike five miles up to Sam’s Point Preserve, located off Route 52 in Cragsmoor, NY, a national landmark and also the highest point in the Shawagunk Mountains.
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Hudson River Valley
Peak: Third and fourth weeks of October
A little more than an hour drive or train trip on the Metro North, Perkins Memorial Drive at the top of Bear Mountain is the spot for autumnal views of Harriman State Park. Make a day of it: On weekends from September 23 through November 5, take an Oktoberfest-themed Circle Line cruise up the Hudson River to Bear Mountain. In Poughkeepsie, take a stroll across the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, and peep the foliage along the Hudson River.
Peak: First or second week of November
Montauk is lovely — and actually affordable — in the off-season. If you make the trek out to The End, ascend the Montauk Point Lighthouse for oceanside foliage views. In Port Washington, trudge around Sands Point Preserve, 216 acres of forest and nature trails on the Guggenheim Estate, culminating in steep cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound.
Peak: Second or third week of November
Last but not least, you can do some quality late-in-the-game leaf peeping in New York City proper. The Empire State Building and One World Observatory offer high vantage points from which to take in the radiant colors of fall foliage, within the city and all the way out to Hudson River Valley. In Central Park, Belvedere Castle is the spot to soak in a colorburst from the park’s maples, oaks and elms.