Article by Elisa Shaw, landscape and nature photographer in New York.
Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Favorites
Just 3 hrs west of Boston or 2 hrs north of NYC, lies New York’s Hudson Valley, perhaps one of the finest places in New York to see fall foliage while visiting historic mansions, taking an easy hike or just find a relaxing spot to stop and have a picnic.
Minnewaska State Park
We’ll start our journey on the west side of the Hudson River in Ulster county. The first stop is Minnewaska State Park on Rte 44/55, in Kerhonkson, NY. Located in the Shawangunk Mountain range, the park features numerous waterfalls, three crystal clear lakes, hardwood forests, sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, as well as miles of carriage roads and footpaths where you can bike, hike or walk. My personal favorite is the Awosting falls carriage road which is an easy walk to Awosting Falls. Best foliage dates span from Oct 5th to Oct 20th.
30 minutes north of Minnewaska on Rt 28A in the town of Ashokan, is the Ashokan Reservoir.
Built in the early 1900’s to supply NYC with water, the reservoir is surrounded by the Catskill Mts and offers paved walking roads, spectacular views and many visitors will often get a chance to see some of the many eagles that call the reservoir home. Best foliage dates generally run from Oct 5th to Oct 15th.
A scenic 25 minute drive from the Ashokan will bring you to the town of Woodstock, NY. Well known for it’s heydays in the 1960’s, the town has retained its casual hippie vibe and offers plenty to see and do. Once you get done eating and shopping in Woodstock, turn on to Rock City Road right in the center of town (Rock city road will turn into Meads Mountain Road) and head up towards Overlook mountain. If you’re up for a bit of a hike, park at the designated parking area and take the well-worn trail to the fire tower on top of Overlook Mt.
The views span nearly 50 miles in all directions. For those who opt for a leisurely stroll, try a stop at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra , a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Woodstock, New York,. The grounds are open to the public, they offer some easy walking trails, beautiful scenery and a meditative aesthetic. Best bet for peak foliage is Oct 2nd to Oct 15th.
Hyde Park, NY
Crossing over the Hudson River to Dutchess county and again starting from the south, our first stop is the historic town of Hyde Park, NY. Hyde Park is home to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt home, the FDR Presidential Library, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Vallkill, FDR’s Top Cottage, and the Vanderbilt mansion.
The FDR home, Library and the Vanderbilt estate all overlook the Hudson River with views towards the mountains making for beautiful foliage views. Each estate (Including Vallkill) are open to the public and offer walking trails with plenty of places to park and stretch your legs.
The Vanderbilt estate also boasts several waterfalls, a stunning formal garden and plenty of places to picnic down by the river. (If you still haven’t had your fill of how the other half lived), head north on Rt 9 about 5 miles to the estate of Ruth and Odgen Mills, now known as Mills Norrie State Park. Another mansion overlooking the Hudson awaits there as well as plenty of river access with views of the Esopus lighthouse and walking trails ) Best foliage dates for Hyde Park are Oct 5th to Oct 20th.
Red Hook, NY
Continuing north out of Hyde Park , first on Rt 9 then onto Rt 9G, is the town of Red Hook, NY, the home of Bard College and Montgomery Place. If you’re looking for a place to stop and take a scenic leisurely stroll, Poet’s walk is the place to do it.
The description from Scenic Hudson says it all “In 1849 members of the Astor and Delano families, who lived on adjacent estates, commissioned German-born landscape architect Hans Jacob Ehlers to make improvements on these grounds. The classic wooded vistas, sunlit fields and thick forest were the main focus of Ehlers’ vision for the property. He fashioned a series of “outdoor rooms,” using stands of foliage and stone walls to break up the landscape, which includes rolling meadows, forests, and a ravine. Ehlers also created a shaded, streamside path, dubbed Poets’ Walk in honor of Washington Irving and other literary figures who reputedly strolled here. Peak foliage generally runs from Oct 10th to Oct 20th.
Olana State Historic Site
17 miles North of Poet’s Walk is the final stop on our journey, Olana State Historic Site. Olana was the home of Frederic Edwin Church, one of the major figures in the Hudson River School of landscape painting. The centerpiece of Olana is an eclectic villa composed of many styles, which overlooks parkland and a working farm designed by the artist. It offers sweeping Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views, a beautiful lake you can picnic beside and plenty of places to stop and take in the foliage views. Foliage here generally peaks from Oct 10th to Oct 20th.
These are only a few stops in the Hudson Valley. If you visit, there are plenty of wineries, apple orchards and great small towns to visit while you are in the area to make your travels enjoyable.
Written by New York Photographer, Elisa Shaw. Her images can be seen on her website http://elisajohnsonshaw.smugmug.com/