New York

12 Best Spots to See Fall Foliage in the Catskills

by Holly Riddle
Updated September 29, 2022

fall colors in the catkills ny
Photo: Felix Lipov

The Catskill Mountains — the small range in southeastern New York known for its plentiful skiing, hiking and history — make for a convenient getaway for city dwellers craving some nature.

While every season in the Catskills brings its own charms, fall in this spot along the greater Appalachian Mountains is particularly picturesque.

As the dramatic mountainsides glow in shades of yellow, red and orange through much of September and October, the Catskills welcome travelers from the Big Apple and beyond with its convenience and picture-perfect spooky season aesthetic.

To find some of the best fall foliage in the region, try out these 12 spots.

1. Mount Utsayantha Fire Tower

catskills fall colors - Mount Utsayantha Fire Tower
Photo: Andy Arthur

Why you should go: Dramatic views with little effort

  • Nearest Town: Stamford
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

While hiking trails abound in the Catskills region, you don’t necessarily need to break out your hiking boots and backpack for a full day of hiking in order to enjoy some of the best of those hiking trails and the mountain foliage views they offer. Mount Utsayantha provides great views with little effort, after you climb a mere 600-ish feet over a trail that’s only 2.3 miles in total, out and back.

Much of the trail is along a dirt road and, beyond the foliage, interesting spots along the way include a burial marker for the indigenous Utsayantha, for whom the mountain was named, and a historic building that once acted as a souvenir shop for the mountain. Don’t want to hike? You can drive the gravel road to the summit.

Related Read: The Top 10 Best Hikes in Upstate New York

2. Hannacroix Creek Preserve

Why you should go: Family-friendly water features

  • Nearest Town: New Baltimore
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

If you’d rather hike (or bike) to water features than mountaintops, you might prefer a trip to Hannacroix Creek Preserve.

There are four trails on the more than 100-acre property and all are rated as easy and family-friendly, and all show off the area’s wonderful water features, including the dramatic waterfall that sits at the end of the Irving Trail.

3. Five State Lookout

catskills fall colors - five state lookout
Photo: Felix Lipov

Why you should go: Views of five states (what else?) with no walking required

  • Nearest Town: Windham
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

For some of the easiest fall foliage views you can find, simply drive along New York’s Route 23 until you reach the roadside Five State Lookout. The viewpoint offers a parking lot where you can take in the scenery, but, otherwise, there’s going to be no need for you to even get out of the car to enjoy this leaf-peeping locale.

If you plan your visit right and watch the weather, you’ll be treated to amazing views of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and, of course, the rest of New York. You’ll also be able to spot mountains among the Greens in Vermont and the Whites in New Hampshire, as well as the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

4. The Catskill Mountain House Site

 

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Why you should go: The outdoors with a touch of art and history

  • Nearest Town: Haines Falls
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

The Catskill Mountain House was built in the early 1800s and served as a famous hotel, welcoming presidents, celebrities, artists and other notable guests.

While the property was demolished in the 1960s, the site still welcomes visitors who want to take in the same views that those staying at the luxury hotel would have enjoyed nearly two centuries ago. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even spot some carvings where hotel guests left their names in the rocks. T

he property is easily accessible and part of the Hudson River School Art Trail.

5. Hunter Mountain

catskills fall colors - hunter mountain
Photo: James Casil

Why you should go: See the mountainside from the comfort of a ski lift

  • Nearest Town: Hunter
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

For more easy scenery, hop aboard a six-passenger chairlift at Hunter Mountain, a Vail ski resort in the northern Catskills. The chairlift rides show off views as far away as Vermont and Massachusetts and you can book chairlift rides online, ahead of your visit, for less than $20 per person.

Scenic ski lift rides take place through Oct. 16, on the weekends. While you’re at the resort, make sure to check out the Colors in the Catskills Fall Festival Series, which is free to attend and takes place over several weekends in the fall.

6. The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway

catskills fall colors - scenic byway
Photo: Colin D. Young

Why you should go: Go on a mini-road trip through the Catskills

  • Nearest Town: Olive
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

Go on a fall road trip through the Catskills over a day or two, exploring the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Crisscrossing through the central Catskills, the byway passes through four towns: Olive, Shandaken, Middletown and Andes, and you can download an audio guide to listen to as you drive, to learn more about the area’s history, peoples and places.

The same folks who put together the audio guide offer lots of suggestions for what to do and see during your road trip, including suggestions for scenic side trips and themed itineraries.

7. Upper Delaware Scenic Byway

catskills fall colors - delaware valley
Photo: Brian Logan

Why you should go: Near-endless ways to play

  • Nearest Town: Port Jervis
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway is another good road trip pick if you want to explore more of New York State by car this fall. The byway is extremely close to New York City and features lots to do and see along the way, beyond just taking in the foliage and other scenery.

Use the byway’s interactive map to plan your perfect itinerary around natural attractions, museums, historical sites, shopping and more. However you like to travel and whatever kind of traveler you are, chances are good you can find a way to enjoy yourself along this route.

8. The Catskill Mountain Railroad

Why you should go: Fall views from an open-air train carriage

  • Nearest Town: Kingston
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

The Catskill Mountain Railroad is your way to see the fall views of the mountains without even driving. All you have to do is sit back and watch the scenery roll by.

Through September and October, the railroad offers foliage-specific train rides, with open-air cars (covered with sun shades), so you can see the Catskills in full, vibrant, fall color. Each ride is about eight miles and over an hour long and, if you book one of the extra-special pumpkin express trains, you’ll get to take a pumpkin home, too.

9. Mountain Top Arboretum

catskills fall colors - Mountain Top Arboretum
Photo: Mountain Top Arboretum

Why you should go: Nature, tamed

  • Nearest Town: Tannersville
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

If you prefer your nature to be a little more contained and a little more landscaped, pay a visit to the Mountain Top Arboretum.

Sitting at 2,400 feet in the Catskills and dedicated to Northeastern native plants, the arboretum features an educational center and four main areas. The West Meadow features a rain garden, bird cove, labyrinth and more. The Woodland Walk is a lovely stroll filled with Northern Catskills hardwoods and wildflowers. The East Meadow offers viewing of pines and hedgerows. Last but not least is the Spruce Glen, with a transitional forest and bog.

10. Huckleberry Point Trail

 

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Why you should go: A scenic, short(ish) hike

  • Nearest town: Elka Park
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

If you’re looking for a hike that’ll take a few hours but that’s a little more challenging than just a walk through the woods, consider this moderately-rated hike that comes with views aplenty.

The popular hiking trail shows you the Catskills on one side and the Hudson River on the other. Have fun with the short rock scrambles, but keep an eye out for the bears that are reportedly attracted to the mountain’s huckleberry bushes.

11. Palenville Overlook & Sleepy Hollow Loop

catskills fall colors - Palenville Overlook
Photo: Andy Arthur

Why you should go: A day hike for the more experienced hikers

  • Nearest Town: Palenville
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

For something that’s a bit more time-intensive and difficult, try this 12.4-mile loop hike that features nearly 3,000 feet in elevation, but lots of views for your efforts.

If you visit during the week, you’ll be treated to quiet trails and a lot of breathing room, but the hike is a popular one during busier times, even with the steepness and occasional challenges.

12. Ashokan Rail Trail

Why you should go: 12 miles of views

  • Nearest Town: West Hurley
  • Peak Foliage: Early to Mid-October

If you never travel anywhere without your trusty bike, the Ashokan Rail Trail might be the best spot for you to get in your Catskills leaf peeping.

The 11.5-mile reservoir trail is accessible via three trailheads, and offers a well-maintained spot to take out your bike or, if biking’s not your thing, to hike, walk the dog or go for a run. And if you miss this Catskills highlight during your fall visit, you can come back in the winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

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