From the Adirondack high peaks to the drop off Niagara Falls, New York fall foliage is a vibrant wonder to behold, and there are such a wide variety of places to see it across the state.
Whether looking down on Central Park’s golden landscape from atop a skyscraper, river rafting through an autumnal canyon, or crunching tart empire apples under a scarlet maple tree there are many fantastic New York leaf peeper destinations.
Starting in September, local spotters create a weekly report on New York fall foliage letting travelers know just where the leaves are reaching peak color. From west to east, here are some of the best places to travel to see New York fall foliage.
Explore more of the state! Here are our favorite things to do in New York with kids.
Places to See New York Fall Foliage
On the shores of Chautauqua Lake is a nine-acre hotel resort, the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, occupying the site of a historic Celoron amusement park. The hills around the lake are filled with the rich autumn hues of gold, orange, and red reflected in the clear water.
Sit outside at the hotel’s Carousel Bar to relax and watch the sunset light the view. A short drive from the hotel is Panama Rocks, a private scenic park filled with hiking opportunities between 60-foot-tall rock formations. The towering rocks and deep crevices are alight with fall foliage above and trails covered with crunching leaves underfoot.
Twenty miles southeast of Buffalo is the village of East Aurora, NY. This hamlet is home of the Roycroft Campus, a National Historic Landmark that started the Arts & Crafts Movement in America.
The Roycroft Inn was completed in the early 1900’s and serves as an excellent home base to explore the campus. The warm, rustic Arts & Crafts color palette blends perfectly with the autumnal colors of the trees surrounding the Roycroft Inn and Campus.
To take in more East Aurora fall foliage, head five minutes down the road to Knox Farm State Park, a 600+ acre reserve with a 100-acre wood crisscrossed with trails to gaze at the reds, browns, and yellow leaves.
Of course, Niagara Falls is one of the top tourist sites in the country, but few people explore the miles of hiking and biking trails around the gorge. These are particularly scenic with colorful fall foliage along the trails.
Head to the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center, the starting point for all gorge treks, for a variety of trails ranging from easy (the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook and Upper Great Gorge hikes) to moderate (Devil’s Hole Rapids and Giant Rock) to challenging (Whirlpool Rapids).
Further downriver from the falls is Whirlpool State Park with its large, swirling counterclockwise pool. This area is glorious in fall with its whirlpool and rapids vistas. A stone staircase leads to Devil’s Hole State Park with an overlook of class V white water rapids below.
Check out our complete guide to visiting Niagara Falls with kids.
Letchworth State Park
Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is a scenic area where the Genesee River heads north and drops over multiple waterfalls. The river carved a deep gorge with 600-foot walls made of layered shale mixed with limestone and sandstone.
The park follows the river approximately 17 miles from the southern Portageville entrance to the northern Mt. Morris entrance, and Letchworth’s scenic Park Rd. takes at least 30 minutes to drive depending on stops to gawk at the leaves.
Letchworth’s three waterfalls are clustered near the southern entrance to the park with Inspiration Point midway between the Middle and Lower Falls. In 2021 the Autism Nature Trail (A.N.T.) opened, a first-of-its-kind, fully accessible one mile loop with eight different sensory stations through the forest. The A.N.T. is designed for those on the autism spectrum but welcomes everyone to explore and is a great way to immerse the family in the fall scene.
There are no less than 19 waterfalls found in this compact two-mile stretch of Watkins Glen State Park. The best way to view the park’s features is hiking the stunning Gorge Trail winding past and above the water features before culminating with a “backside of water” view of the 50-foot-tall Cavern Cascade.
In the fall the emerald greens shift to the orange, yellow, and gold tinge of the season, and colorful leaves cover rock ledges along the stream. Only half mile from Watkins Glen State Park is Seneca Lake, another spot to take in the fall color of the hills contrasted with the blue water of this Finger Lake.
“Ithaca is gorges!” Particularly in fall. This college town at the base of Cayuga Lake is surrounded by waterfalls.
For the biggest plunge, head to Taughannock Falls State Park home of the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River (33 feet taller than Niagara Falls). In autumn, the falls overlook frames the cascade in orange and yellow.
There are plenty of other forest trails and waterfalls to check out around Ithaca including Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca Falls, Triphammer Falls, and more, each alive with the color of the season.
The town of Clayton, in New York’s 1000 Island Region, is known for its waterfront views along the St. Lawrence Seaway. However, it also provides a unique vantage point for fall foliage.
Looking for a scenic leaf peeping drive? Head to Tibbetts Point, where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence, following the scenic byway along the river. At Tibbets Point you’ll find another historic lighthouse along with an adjacent foghorn building.
Nestled in the foothills of the Northern Catskill Mountains of New York, the village of Cooperstown offers some of the earliest and most spectacular fall foliage displays.
Unique leaf-peeping opportunities in and around the area known as “America’s Most Perfect Village” include riding through the Susquehanna River Valley with Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad, rowing a boat on Glimmerglass Lake, and taking in the gorgeous views while playing a round of golf at Leatherstocking Golf Course.
The best – and most relaxing – way to see the leaves is by sitting in a rocking chair on the veranda of the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel on the southern shore of Lake Otsego (aka, Glimmerglass).
The site of two Olympic Winter Games (1932 & 1980), Lake Placid offers one of the best places to see fall foliage in New York. This city in the Adirondack highlands has plenty of active ways to take in the changing fall colors whether observing them from up high or whooshing past them at high rates of speed.
Start off at the Olympic Jumping Complex, home of the iconic ski jump towers, where you can hop in an 8-person gondola, followed by a glass elevator ride, to get to the top of the hill. Take in the mosaic of color of the Adirondack High Peaks and entire Lake Placid region below.
For a thrill, head to Mt. Van Hoevenberg for bobsledding or ride down the cliffside coaster. Either of these high-speed attractions blur the fall colors together as you whisk down the hill.
Finally, take the scenic drive-up Whiteface Mountain via the Veterans’ Memorial Highway. The 5-mile route rises 2,300 feet where you can take a short hike to the 4,600-foot+ summit for spectacular views of mountains and lakes below.
Take a walk on the wild side at Tupper Lake’s Wild Center. This natural history museum in the Adirondacks offers a unique attraction known as the Wild Walk – a 30-foot-high boardwalk trail through the treetops.
You will be surrounded among the fall foliage as you hike along bridges into the forest canopy. Along the way you can stop and rest in a giant bird’s nest or take a tumble across a rope spider’s web. The Wild Center’s Wild Walk is one of the best ways to take in New York’s fall foliage and is also fully ADA accessible.
Blue Mountain Lake
Blue Mountain Lake is a small town along the shores of its namesake lake in the Adirondacks. It’s also home to the Adirondack Experience Museum.
What makes this a fantastic destination for fall foliage is the proximity to trailheads. Just up the road from the museum is the Blue Mountain fire tower climb. Give yourself plenty of time for this nearly 5-mile round trip hike as it gains nearly 1600 feet in elevation, but at the summit the views from the fire tower are spectacular.
A less challenging trail goes to the Castle Rock viewpoint. This is a nearly 3-mile, roundtrip loop into the Adirondack foliage. In addition to the stunning leaves, there is an abundance of birds and wildlife as you climb 660 feet.
Saratoga Springs is a region rich in history dating back to the Revolutionary War and known for its flowing mineral springs.
Congress Park is centered right in town and is a fantastic spot for leaf peeping as well as sampling the mineral waters. One mile from Congress Park is the more expansive Saratoga Spa State Park with multiple ways to experience the fall foliage.
There are a variety of loops for scenic drives, hiking and biking trails, as well as quiet spots to contemplate the scenery. Twenty minutes east of the state park is the Saratoga Monument, a National Park Service site commemorating the Revolutionary War battle near the Hudson River. This park has multiple areas, all with spectacular fall foliage and views of the Hudson River Valley.
The town of Hunter has great outdoor adventures perfect for observing fall foliage such as hiking to Kaaterskill Falls as well as one of the highest, fastest, and longest zipline canopy tours in North America at Hunter Mountain.
Also, near Hunter is the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, site of 1969’s iconic Woodstock festival. Bethel Woods continues to offer tours of the site, festival field, Bindy Bazaar Trails, and monument offering visitors even more peace and love during the fall season.
Hudson Highlands State Park is an 8,000 acre preserve with over 70 miles of hiking trails on both sides of the Hudson River.
One of the most popular trails is Breakneck Ridge on the Hudson’s eastern bank. The Breakneck Ridge trail offers a spectacular (if challenging) climb during the fall. The three-mile loop starts off with rock scrambling, but rewards climbers with scenic Hudson River views all along the way. The payoff for the climb is the western view of Storm King Mountain in all its fall glory.
Tarrytown is possibly the best place to go in New York in fall because of Sleepy Hollow, the town immortalized in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The village of Sleepy Hollow sits on the banks of Hudson River, and is ablaze with bright, orange fall foliage of maple trees.
In addition to the bright fall leaves, thousands of hand carved pumpkins light up the night at Sleepy Hollow’s Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. There are also plenty of historic sites to take in the autumn scenery such as Washington Irving’s Sunnyside homestead, Rockefeller’s Kykuit estate, and the Colonial Era Philipsburg Manor that dates back to 1750 all surrounded by woods, glowing trees, and spooky season decorations.
New York City
Does it get any more iconic than strolling through New York City’s Central Park in the fall? This nearly 850-acre park is filled with trees, gardens, and rolling hills all bursting with color in the fall.
Head to the Mall and Literary Walk for a canopy of yellow created by the boughs of American elm trees. This leafy path leads directly to the photogenic Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. Gaze at the trees surrounding the water at the Loeb Boathouse and continue deeper into the Ramble for the densest population of fall color in Central Park.
Long Island, known as a summertime beach destination, is also stunning in the fall. Shelter Island is home to the Mashomack Preserve, a 2000+ acre habitat with over 10 miles of shoreline known as the “jewel of the Peconic Bay.”
Hiking among the mature oak woodlands is a perfect way to enjoy fall foliage and migrating bird species including osprey, red tail hawks, shorebirds, and waterfowl. The Pridwin Hotel & Cottages is nestled among the trees on Crescent Beach.
Families can stroll among Frasier, Black Cherry, Red & White Oak, and Hickory trees showing their best colors all while enjoying Peconic Bay breezes.
Dave Parfitt is a freelance travel writer interested in illuminating transformative family travel, multi-generational travel, inclusive and accessible travel, under-the-radar destinations, and immersive, authentic experiences. Dave’s work has appeared in FamilyVacationist, USAToday Travel, Lonely Planet, AAA, US News & World Report, and TravelAge West, to name a few. An academic with a PhD in neuroscience, Dave also works at a four-year college in Western New York when not in a theme park, national park, or on a cruise or road trip with his family.