7 Crispy Fall Hikes To Do in Upstate New York

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With crunching leaves underfoot, a colorful canopy of foliage overhead, and a crisp breeze to flush your cheeks, fall is arguably the most magical time of year to hit the trail in Upstate New York. From the rolling forests of the Finger Lakes to the wild woodlands of the Adirondacks, the changing shades of autumn transform the roadsides and hilltops into a frenzy of color.

Prepare your eyes—and your camera—for a visual feast of pumpkin oranges, cranberry reds, and pecan browns. Ready to hit the trail? Here’s our top pick of fall hikes in Upstate New York.

Courses: Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, Finger Lakes, Western New York
Cuisine: Outdoor Adventurers, Leaf-Peepers, Pet Travellers, Instagrammers, Photographers


#1 Bear Mountain

Forested mountains hug the western bank of the Hudson River in the Bear Mountain State Park, affording a smorgasbord of autumnal views. For the classic view, set out on foot along the Bear Mountain Bridge, or lace up your hiking shoes and head up to the summit of Bear Mountain. The 3.9-mile Bear Mountain Loop Trail serves up lake and mountain views – it’s also a hugely popular section of the Appalachian Trail, with some challenging sections and scrambles.

Feeling lazy? The drive along the Palisades Parkway is a frenzy of fall photo ops, and you don’t even have to leave the passenger seat.

Nutritional info: Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage peaks around mid-October
Tastiest Trail: Bear Mountain Loop Trail
Find out more:


#2 Watkins Glen State Park

Layer-cake cliffs and cascading waterfalls draw the crowds to Watkins Glen State Park, and this Finger Lakes must-do is even more enchanting through fall. The 1.5 mile (one-way) Gorge Trail is home to the park’s signature viewpoints, passing 19 waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Leafy woodlands envelop the trail, and Rainbow Falls, which already looks like it’s been lifted from a fairy-tale, is resplendent with its crimson coat of fallen leaves.

Bring a raincoat and shoes with a good grip for hiking at this park – the gorge can get slippy in places, and with so many waterfalls, there’s a good chance of getting wet. The Gorge Trail closes for the season towards the end of October, so plan your trip earlier in the season.

Nutritional info:
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage peaks around mid-October
Tastiest Trail: Gorge Trail
Find out more:


#3 Mount Severance

The forested wilderness of the Adirondacks is leaf-peeper’s nirvana, and the best views are from the mountaintops. Thankfully, you don’t have to go scaling the High Peaks to enjoy a summit view – instead, set out to the top of Mount Severance, just north of Schroon Lake. The 2.4-mile round-trip hike climbs up to a height of 1,693 feet and dishes up Michelin-star views over Schroon Lake, Paradox, and the surrounding mountains. With wooded hills stretching to the horizon, this autumnal panorama is one to be savored. Pack a picnic and gaze out over the vast carpet of reds, yellows, and oranges, dotted with glittering lakes.

Nutritional info
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage starts early, often in late September, but typically
peaks in early to mid-October.
Tastiest Trail: Mount Severance Trail
Find out more:


#4 Letchworth State Park

A cornucopia of natural wonders awaits at Letchworth State Park in the western reaches of the Finger Lakes. Craggy 600-foot cliffs tower overhead, waterfalls thunder through rocky canyons, and forests cling to the steep gorges. The “Grand Canyon of the East” puts on its most vibrant coat in the fall, and the view from Inspiration Point – one of the park’s most popular lookouts – is a veritable kaleidoscope of color.

For spectacular views, the Gorge Trail (Trail #1) can’t be beaten. The 14-mile out and back trail runs along the western rim of the gorge, from Upper Falls to the Saint Helena Overlook, passing viewpoints including Inspiration Point, Wolf Creek, and the Tea Table.

Nutritional info
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage peaks around mid-October
Tastiest Trail: Gorge Trail
Find out more:


#5 Castle Rock

At a mere 770 feet, Castle Rock might cower in the face of the Adirondacks High Peaks, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in Instagram-worthy views. The 2.7-mile there-and-back trail can get muddy after rainfall, so come equipped, but it’s an easy-to-moderate trek up to
the summit lookout.

The reward for your efforts is a glittering view over Blue Mountain Lake, framed by rolling forests. Celebrate the season by packing a flask of coffee and some pumpkin spice muffins to enjoy at the summit.

Nutritional info
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage starts early, sometimes in late September, but typically
peaks in early to mid-October.
Tastiest Trail: Castle Rock Trail
Find out more:


#6 Allegany State Park

A little more than an hour’s drive from Buffalo, Allegany State Park is one of the largest in New York State, with almost 65,000 acres of national forest and more than 80 miles of hiking trails. Autumnal scenery is plentiful as you follow densely wooded tracks through the tangled forests, crunch through piles of russet leaves, and gaze out over tree-cloaked valleys and shimmering lakes.

With so many trails to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start, but the 2.7-mile Blacksnake Mountain Loop comes up trumps for variety, lined with beech, maple, white ash, and birch trees that create an ever-changing canopy of color.

Nutritional info
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage peaks from mid- to late-October
Tastiest Trail: Blacksnake Mountain Loop
Find out more:


#7 Taughannock Falls

Perched on the southwest shore of Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls State Park is known for its namesake waterfall, a 215-foot cascade tumbling from sandstone cliffs. This short hike (around 1.5 miles round-trip) is ideal for all levels, following an easy, gently sloping trail to the base of the falls.

For a more energetic hike, chain together the North Rim (about 1.5 miles one-way) and South Rim (about 1.2 miles one-way) trails for a full loop around the gorge and a bird’s eye view over the falls. Fall is a particularly scenic time to visit, when the park’s maple forests are a riot of scarlet reds and flaming oranges.

Nutritional info
Most Scrumptious Views: fall foliage peaks around mid-October
Tastiest Trail: Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail
Find out more:


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Tips & variations

  • Dress the part: Fall weather is ideal for hiking, but it can be chilly in the morning and evening hours, and showers are possible. Dress in easy-to-remove layers, pack a light raincoat and something warm just in case, and wear sturdy, all-weather sneakers or hiking boots.

  • Plan ahead: Advance planning is essential for any hiking trip. Be sure that you have a map of your route (cell phone service might be patchy, so it’s best to download or print out any maps or trail guides that you need), calculate the time you need (and always leave extra time, just in case), let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to get back, and pack essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and a basic first-aid kit.

  • Pay your way: Most NY state parks charge an entrance fee per vehicle – typically between $6-$10 per day. Regular hikers might want to invest in an annual Empire Pass.

  • Bring your camera: This is one hike where you don’t want to forget your camera – make sure your smartphone is fully charged or pack extra batteries or lens for your DSLR.

  • Hike smart: Do your research before heading out and follow official advice if you come across bears or other wildlife. Hike only on marked trails, leave no trace, and don’t hike after dark (Tip: be sure to check the sunset times before planning your trip, especially as the days get shorter).

  • Consider other options: Hiking isn’t the only way to admire Upstate’s fall foliage. Alternative options include a train ride (the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and Catskill Mountain Railroad are our picks), a boat cruise (Lake George is a popular spot), a scenic drive, or even a hot air balloon ride (head to Lake George or Letchworth State Park).


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