Fall is an incredible season in Hudson Valley and the Catskills. Cool and comfortable, the hardwood forests of Catskill and Shawangunk ranges explode in shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Fall foliage tours are most popular on foot or by car, but nothing quite beats a bird’s-eye view. Skydiving in the Hudson River Valley is the best around, and what better time to attempt a jump than during the leaf-peeping season? Contact Skydive the Ranch in the Mid-Hudson for your aerial adventures.

For something a little more sedate but no less breathtaking, read on for the best fall foliage hikes and drives in Hudson Valley and the Catskills.

On Foot

Catskills Hike

One of the most difficult but rewarding fall hikes is a triple-summit over the Catskill High Peaks of Thomas Cole, Black Dome, and Blackhead peaks. Windham or Hunter make equidistant launching points for the day. You’ll need two vehicles to complete this one-way hike. Park the pickup vehicle at the eastern end of Big Hollow Road, off Maplecrest Road/County Route 40 in the town of Jewett. Then drive to the eastern end of Barnum Road, also off Maplecrest Road/County Route 40, to begin the hike (6.1 miles one-way) on an old logging road. A mixed hardwood forest of oak, maple, and beech trees puts on the initial display.

Shawangunks Hike

Fall colors are all the more striking against a pair of sparkling lakes in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. For a moderate day hike on a network of carriage trails, park at the Wildmere lot off Route 44 and follow the red trail markers as you pass Lake Minnewaska. Pick up the Castle Point Carriageway (blue markers) on the west side of the lake. Enjoy the views of Gertrude’s Nose from the trailside gazebo. After the hike, drive to High Falls for a casual dinner at The Eggs Nest.

By Car

Taconic State Parkway

This tree-lined road offers changing scenery around every bend, with occasional vistas across the surrounding valley. The stretch from Route 55 north to Chatham is beautiful in the fall and takes about an hour to drive. Along the way, Clinton Vineyards and Millbrook Vineyards & Winery make easy side trips.

Route 9W

Hugging the river’s western shoreline, Route 9W passes through long stretches of hardwood forest between Newburgh and Coxsackie. Begin the day’s drive at the Bear Mountain Bridge and make your way north, stopping for lunch and antiques shopping in Saugerties. Allow about three hours of driving time to reach downtown Albany.

Begin the day’s drive at the Bear Mountain Bridge and make your way north, stopping for lunch and antiques shopping in Saugerties.

Begin the day’s drive at the Bear Mountain Bridge and make your way north, stopping for lunch and antiques shopping in Saugerties. Photo © Songquan Deng /123rf.

Route 23/23A

This is a good route for an early-season tour, as the elevation means color will peak a bit sooner than lower in the valley. Begin the drive in the village of Catskill, after grabbing a cup of coffee at Retriever Roasters on Main Street. Follow Route 9W south to pick up Route 23A west. At Palenville, you’ll begin to climb. Look for a trailhead on the right for Kaaterskill Falls if you want to hike; otherwise, continue the winding road uphill to Tannersville, where you can tour the Mountain Top Arboretum. Grab lunch at Hunter Village or wait until Windham; then complete the loop by following Route 23 down the mountain and back to the village of Catskill. Total distance is about 80 miles.

Route 44

Pick up Route 44 from the Taconic State Parkway heading east and follow it through Millbrook, taking the Millbrook Vineyards & Winery detour if time permits. Browse the boutiques in Millbrook, or continue east through Amenia to Millerton. In Millerton, park near the Harney & Sons tea company and walk part of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Afterward, warm up with a cup of tea at the Harney & Sons Tea Tasting Room. Total driving time will be about an hour from the Taconic State Parkway to the state line. Retrace your steps at day’s end to have dinner at Millbrook’s Café Les Baux.

Hawk’s Nest

This drive begins in western Orange County, near the Delaware River. Exit I-84 at Port Jervis and pick up Route 97 north. It’s about a two-hour scenic drive along the Delaware, past Minisink Battleground and Narrowsburg to Hancock, where you’ll pick up Route 17 heading back east and south. Stop for lunch in Narrowsburg at Lander’s River Café overlooking the river. When you reach Roscoe and Livingston Manor on Route 17, consider a visit to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum on your way through Livingston Manor, then finish the day with dinner at Ianine’s inside the DeBruce Country Inn along the Willowemoc Creek.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Hudson Valley & the Catskills.