For breathtaking views of fall foliage, hiking in Upstate New York can’t be beat. Offering limitless options for difficulty, length, and terrain, there’s no better place to immerse yourself in the crisp autumn air and the trees’ stunning array of reds, golds, oranges, and yellows.
But—as New Englanders well know—autumn doesn’t last long! The foliage will last almost to the end of October, but the colors typically hit their peak within the first two weeks of the month. So take advantage of the season while you can, and enjoy the foliage on one of our favorite Upstate New York trails.
Before You Go…
- Pick a dry day. If you know your trail contains some rock scrambling, avoid going on rainy days when the ledges will be slippery.
- Wear supportive shoes. Parts of these trails may be muddy, rocky, or uneven, so choose a shoe with good tread.
- Dress in light layers. The weather can change quickly, especially at this time of the year.
- Bring along a comfortable seat. Once you reach those breathtaking views, you’ll want to stop and catch your breath! A portable stool can feel like a real luxury without weighing you down. Case in point: At only 1.3 lbs, the PackSeat™ can be taken just about anywhere.
A Family-Friendly Foliage Hike: Roaring Brook Falls
Hikers of all skill levels will appreciate this short trail in Keene Valley, where an impressive 300′ waterfall is paired with the beautiful foliage the Adirondacks are known for.
From the trailhead, the trail splits into two almost immediately. Stick to the right for a short (0.2-mile) trek to the lower falls. The trail is wide and mostly flat, making it appropriate even for very young leaf-peepers. You won’t be able to see the entire waterfall, but the lower falls still offer amazing scenery.
For families with older kids who can handle a steep climb, bear left at the fork for a longer (0.5-mile) trail leading to the waterfall’s summit, where you’ll be rewarded with truly majestic views.
Tip: Parking at the trailhead is limited, and spaces fill up quickly on the weekends.
A Steep Ascent With Panoramic River Views: Breakneck Ridge
While some would argue that the Hudson Valley doesn’t quite count as part of Upstate NY, this Cold Spring trail is a great one to check out in mid-October, when the foliage is just hitting its peak here.
The hike begins with an intense and strenuous ascent up the white trail. Enjoy the incredible views at the top, then continue on through wooded valleys. Follow the red trail to complete a loop back to the trailhead in about two hours.
Tip: Because this trail has its own train station, with stops made here only on weekends and holidays, it’s one of the most popular trails in the country! For a quieter experience, avoid the crowds and go on a weekday.
A Challenging Climb: Whiteface Mountain
One of the best places to take in the foliage? Atop New York’s fifth-highest peak, Whiteface Mountain! While a difficult trek that’s best suited to experienced hikers, it pays off with spectacular views of both New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Vermont’s Green Mountains.
The trail is typically accessed from the reservoir in Wilmington, and will take you steeply up to the top of Marble Mountain before continuing on an even more demanding climb to the Whiteface summit. From the trailhead to your return, you’ll hike about 11 miles with an elevation gain of 3,618′.
Tip: Start early, and bring lots of extra water. This hike will usually take 7-10 hours.