Foliage Hikes in the Hudson Valley
Four fabulous places to enjoy fresh air, tranquility, and mother nature's fall fanfare
Good morning! Today is Wednesday, November 3, and you are reading today’s section of Examiner+, a digital newsmagazine serving Westchester, Putnam, and the surrounding Hudson Valley.
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There are few things l like more in the fall than experiencing the stunning foliage around the Hudson Valley. I start looking at the NYS foliage map in early September, in case I happen to be traveling to the “real” upstate NY region. My hometown of Dobbs Ferry was always late to deliver, going to college in the Southern Tier, always an early showstopper. Solidly embedded here in the Northern Westchester area now, I can watch the leaves change daily from my office window or while waiting for the school bus. But probably the best way to appreciate the change of seasons is on a hike, or walk, through our state and local parks. They are all on my don’t-miss list! I feel so fortunate to live in this naturally diverse and beautiful state where the parks are treasured. Follow along for some detours along the way before the snow flies!
Storm King State Park
Cornwall on Hudson
A mountain road through Storm King State Park (Getty)
I discovered Storm King State Park by accident, while exploring around Breakneck Ridge and became curious about the imposing mountain across the Hudson River. This Park is largely undeveloped, has trails for all levels of ability and views of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains that practically glow during the height of foliage season. There are unlimited breathtaking photo opportunities and new trails to explore. You can bring your dog on a leash and be sure to use the bathroom before you go to the park because there aren’t any there, nor any other amenities and parking can be limited. If you are feeling ambitious after your visit, check out Storm King Art Center, an incredible destination itself, on Museum Road.
Hudson Highlands State Park
The view from Hudson Highlands State Park (Adam Moss)
Hudson Highlands State Park helps those who are unclear define what and where the “Highlands” actually are. Stretching from the Peekskill area up to Mount Beacon, this state park has great leaf-peeping hikes, and trails for every ability. There are multiple opportunities to experience the park in addition to hiking. There is seasonal boating, fishing, and birding, and access to Bannerman Island. As with each park, there is a multitude of photo opportunities and unlimited leaf-peeping potential. A seasoned leaf presser told me that this park has the best varieties of leaves due to the variety of habitats and unique plant and tree species. An interesting and challenging diversion within the park is a hike up Mount Beacon, the former Dutchess County ski area, with numerous abandoned vestiges of its interesting history including the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, Casino, Beaconcrest Hotel, and more.
Wonder Lake State Park
Wonder Lake State Park is a very manageable set of moderate hiking trails for all abilities, and the foliage around the lake is particularly robust this year. This Park has a robust history attached to it that every local should enjoy (check out A.L. Cushman and “Skip” Montgomery for the full story). This is a great park to bring the kids to as the trails are a fairly easy loop to navigate, not crowded, dogs are allowed on leashes, and the laid-back vibe allows for plenty of time to explore the seasonal flora and fauna with ease.
Blue Mountain Reservation
This. This was my childhood hiking and sporting destination, and it still doesn’t disappoint. There is hiking for all abilities, with more challenging trails up to Mt. Spitzenberg and Blue Mountain. The fall foliage, which was stellar when I was a child, has filled in and is even more robust and colorful. This is the southernmost park, so the seasonal changes arrive here last on this list. Blue Mountain has many unique amenities, not the least of which are the shooting sports, including archery, which is a great family activity located in the Sportsmen’s Center. The Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway is also accessible from Blue Mountain.
Born and raised in Westchester, Nancy Sorbella's lifestyle stories have been featured in several local and regional publications where she has also been a style and community columnist. She is the resident wordsmith for the Arthritis Foundation of NY and the Community Engagement Director by day, spending her free time exploring and experiencing the Hudson Valley. Follow Nancy for more of her adventures on Instagram @DetoursColumnist, Twitter @jsorbella, or on Facebook at Nancy Niskin Sorbella.
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