Nights are getting longer and days are getting cooler – meaning many leaves across the state will start to change color. And in some parts of New York, they’ve already begun. For many New Yorkers, the time is ripe to start thinking about fall foliage. Whether you’re clinging to summer or welcoming pumpkin spice with open arms, here’s a guide to finding some of the best views.
Experts predict this year’s fall foliage season will be fast and furious, with many leaves turning bright colors quickly and earlier in the season compared to last year. They expect peak views in mid-October in many parts of the state.
In other words: you might want to hurry!
One handy resource is the New York Fall Foliage report published by the New York State Division of Tourism office. The interactive map, published by a team of 85 volunteer foliage fans, will be updated weekly with information about where leaves are changing throughout the state.
Last year, the leaf viewing season started in the Adirondacks and the Catskills – two mountainous regions known for their vibrant views – during the first half of September, peaking in mid-October.
But, as the Department of Parks and Recreation reminds residents, you “don't need to head upstate” to see fall’s changing colors.
For folks who’d prefer to stay closer to home, New York City’s trees reach peak color closer to mid-November, and the office provides online guides to finding some of the best fall foliage in all five boroughs.
Some recommendations for scenic spots include Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island; Kissena Park in Queens; Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn; Van Cortlandt Lake in the Bronx; and the Pond at Central Park.
The office also offers a list of hiking trails with scenic views, including recommendations for beginners, in Staten Island, Inwood, and other neighborhoods across the city. It also features a guide to fall festivals — many of them free of charge — for residents of all ages.
In New Jersey, the state’s tourism office provides tips to spotting fall foliage, which typically peaks during the last two weeks of October.
Connecticut residents can also find foliage information in the week-by-week guide, which contains tips and driving routes compiled by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the state’s tourism office. Hot spots for viewing leaves include the Litchfield Hills region, and Macedonia State Park in Kent County.
The timing of peak fall foliage depends on a variety of factors throughout the year, such as moisture, light exposure, and temperature. Extreme weather, such as the high heat and drought experienced over the summer, means that leaves are likely to drop earlier.
There's nothing like New York in the fall.
Agroforestry educator Tracey Testo noted that in the Catskills, where she resides, leaves on some ridge tops are already changing color – and some started in late August, which is unusually early.
It’s a way the trees are “demonstrating their resilience” after the summer’s intense weather, she explained. “They’re basically saying, ‘it’s been a really hard year, we’re going to take a little break.”
She advised anyone excited about fall foliage to make plans before mid-October because she predicts this year’s season will be “over in an instant.” But, she said, the timing will ultimately depend on temperatures and rainfall between now and then.
Another tip? Check the drought map from the US Department of Agriculture, added Testo. The areas hit hardest by drought conditions are likely to change first.
Jim Sagle, the foliage expert for Yankee magazine, agreed that this is likely to be a short-lived season. For New Yorkers willing to venture into New England, he said the “pick of the region” will be the northern Adirondacks or the northern Green Mountains.
“Those are the places to go this year,” said Sagle, a meteorologist who has been covering fall foliage for over a decade.
New York’s Bear Mountain, about an hour’s drive from the city, is also “stunning,” he said.
And he offered good news for New Yorkers who don’t want to leave home.
“The amazing thing is just how late in the season Central Park holds onto its fall colors.”