Though the timing of the progression from the green trees of summer to the magnificent red and orange hues of autumn changes a bit every year, the magical transformation that takes place during fall foliage season in Westchester is unmistakable. Running along the shores of the Hudson River and set in the foothills of the Hudson Highlands, Westchester’s towns come alive with leaf peepers and fall seekers during the months of September and October.
With so many lovely parks and the some of the best spots for hiking and cycling, Westchester and the Hudson Valley provide countless stunning backdrops to enjoy the autumn leaves and scenery. Not sure where to get the best view? We’ve got that covered. Read on for nine of our favorite fall foliage spots in and around Westchester.
Kingsland Point Park - Tarrytown
Jutting out into the Hudson River just aside the Tappan Zee Bridge, leaf peepers can take in the nearly New England vistas of the Palisades and Hook Mountain across the river, Westchester’s gorgeous shoreline north and south of the point and, on a clear day, the silhouette of New York City in the distance. Walk along Scenic Hudson’s Riverwalk and take a tour of the historic Tarrytown Lighthouse. Time your visit for sunset and watch as the brilliant oranges and reds glow as the sun goes down behind the hills of Rockland County. More into leaves than the kids are? No worries: There is also a playground along the waterfront to keep them occupied.
Bear Mountain Bridge - Peekskill/Bear Mountain
If your family has little or no fear of heights, a walk across the Bear Mountain Bridge during fall foliage is an absolute necessity—in fact, on early fall mornings, there are often more pedestrians along the walkway than there are cars on the road. From this vantage point, viewers can look north toward the peaks of the Hudson Highlands and south to the towns of Peekskill and Cortlandt. Pull-off parking is available at the base of the bridge on Route 6 for a quick walk or, for a slightly longer walk, drive over and park in Bear Mountain State Park.
Scenic Overlook on Route 6
Not too keen on walking over the actual bridge? We suggest the scenic overlook on the way to the bridge. Heading north on Route 6/202 towards the bridge from Peekskill—a section often referred to as the "Goat Trail"—motorists will pass an overlook pull-off, complete with informational placards, on the left-hand side just at the point of a rather sharp curve. There is space here for at least 10 carefully parked cars and, often, a hot dog truck and an ice cream truck. The view from this spot looks over Bear Mountain, Doodletown and the marshlands below and is a beautiful observation spot on a clear day.
The view from the "Goat Trail" overlook is amazing and worth the quick stop. Image credit: Lisa Johnston of MommyPoppins.com.
Perkins Memorial Tower - Bear Mountain State Park
This is a spot that kind of straddles the car/hiking line for me, because there are really two ways to get there. The first is to drive up Perkins Memorial Drive to the 40-foot-tall stone look-out tower and then climb the steps to the observation windows at the top. For more intrepid peepers, there is a moderate-to-strenuous hike that leads from a lower point in Bear Mountain Park to the top of the tower. For an in-between adventure, or for little legs, drive up to the tower and then follow the Bear Mountain Summit Loop hike to additional vantage points.
Croton Gorge Park - Croton Dam
The walkway above Croton Dam is another spot to check out fall foliage that lands somewhere between a drive and a hike. Open dawn to dusk, Croton Gorge Park is a beautiful spot to catch leaves as they turn from green to red. Children (and adults!) are wowed by the huge waterfall cascading down the gorge. To get to the walkway above the dam, walk to the playground and pick up the trail that leads up the hill and across a few switchbacks (a 5-minute walk without kids, 10 to 15 with them, depending on how many sticks they stop to pick up) to a stone bridge that takes you right above the spillway. The beginning of the bridge feels just like walking on the road—once you get to the spillway, this is not a walk for those with a fear of heights. If you’re not sure how intrepid you’re feeling, stick to the right-hand side of the bridge. It overlooks the reservoir instead of the falls.
The walkway across Croton Dam is stunning—and a little unnerving! Image credit: William Doyle via Flickr
Eagle Hill - Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Hike to the top of Eagle Hill in Rockefeller State Park Preserve and you are guaranteed a beautiful view in any season—but during fall foliage the beauty is really magnified. An easy “first hike” for young children, the way up is a very gently graded gravel path that circles the hill several times before arriving at the top and doubling back down on itself. Hikers gain elevation without really noticing it, and before long find themselves looking out over the Hudson River and the towns of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow below. This hike is about a mile long and can be accessed from parking areas and trails.
Anthony’s Nose - Multiple entrance points
For a panoramic view of the Bear Mountain Bridge, the Hudson Highlands and southern portions of the Hudson River, tackle the 2.5-mile round-trip hike from Route 9D to the tip of Anthony’s Nose. In the first half mile of the hike you’ll gain a lot of ground going up what looks like a rough set of steps carved into the side of the mountain. After this, the path flattens out and follows an old gravel road to the tip of nose directly above the Bear Mountain Bridge. This is a popular trail in the fall and is good trail for elementary-age kids.
Mount Beacon - Beacon
Located in Dutchess County, adventurous hikers can find Mount Beacon. Once the site of an inclined railway and a mountain-top dance hall, this autumn hiking destination offers once of the most spectacular viewpoints in all of the Hudson Valley. The hike is short in distance, but strenuous in elevation and goes pretty much straight uphill gaining 1,500 feet of elevation in just about a mile. Hikers who are feeling extra adventurous can continue on from this point to the Mount Beacon Fire Tower, which reopened in 2013. Those who dare to climb the 60-foot metal tower are rewarded with a view spanning more than 75 miles in every direction.
On The Water
Trinity Cruises - Peekskill
You don’t need your own personal yacht to get your family out on the Hudson and enjoy the colors of fall from an aquatic vantage point. We’ve taken two tours with Trinity Cruises out of the Riverfront Green in Peekskill and couldn’t be more pleased with the tours. Their weekend sight-seeing cruises last 3 hours and take passengers as far upland as Constitution Marsh in Cold Spring while the evening sunset cruises last 90 minutes and travel up under the Bear Mountain Bridge. Children aboard the shop are given coloring books about the Hudson River and the helpful crew are happy to answer their questions about the boat, scenery and landmarks. If you’re looking for a “grownups only” foliage experience, check out their evening wine tasting tours. Trinity Cruises run tours through October.
Top image: The Bear Mountain Bridge is certainly worth the trek over. Image credit: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr.
This originally posted in 2014 and has been updated for 2016.