Leaf Peeping at Its Best

A Brief Guide to Western and Central New York Foliage

You can also view the article & more travel bits at AAA

Fall is here, and so is a beautiful skyline of amber and yellow trees. Part of the beauty of living in Upstate New York is that we are surrounded by countless places where leaf peepers (people who travel to enjoy the sight of leaves changing colors) can enjoy the picturesque fall foliage

From the Erie Canal to the Finger Lakes region, there is no shortage of beautiful destinations New Yorkers can visit for short day trips or overnight stays. Enjoy this brief guide to just a few picturesque destinations in the Upstate New York region where leaf peepers can take in the breathtaking views of nature at its finest.

ROCHESTER AREA 

Parks: Letchworth State Park, Mendon Ponds, Ellison Park, Durand Eastman 

Special visual treat: Finger Lakes region (Canandaigua, Keuka and Honeoye, to name a few areas) 

The Rochester region includes many beautiful local parks that allow nature lovers to explore their backyard. Also, take a short drive to Ontario County and you’ll find Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, which offers fall sky rides from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12. The 15- to 20-minute ride through the Bristol summit provides visitors the opportunity to experience the colorful foliage transition before snow and skiers hit the slopes. 

After a picturesque ride up to the summit, you disembark and have the option to take a moment and enjoy the incredible view from up top, then hike down via trails, or ride back down in the chairlift and witness the breathtaking views of Bristol. 

For another special treat, visit the Finger Lakes region for grand views surrounding the lakes.

BUFFALO AREA 

Parks: Allegany State Park, Knox Farm State Park, Devil’s Hole, Chestnut Ridge Park 

Special visual treat: Niagara Falls State Park 

Buffalo’s proximity to Niagara Falls – and its branching Niagara River, creeks and lakes – make it a prime spot for many state parks with scenic waterways and trails. A visit to Niagara Falls State Park’s Goat Island is worth it! On the U.S. side of the Falls, Goat Island offers views of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian border and the American and Bridal Veil Falls. There are walking paths on the island where you can view the changing trees on the island. For even more landscapes, travel north of the Falls and you’ll find Devil’s Hole State Park. Though the name may be frightening, its views are peaceful. You can view the Devil’s Hole Rapids or take a walk on one of the park’s many trails along with the water and scenic outlooks.

SYRACUSE AREA 

Parks: Highland Forest, Great Lakes State Park, Chittenango Falls State Park, Clark Reservation State Park 

Special visual treat: Boat tour along Skaneateles – learn more at Midlakesnavigation.com.

Like Rochester, Syracuse is close to the Finger Lakes and has several local and state parks where peepers can take in the changing colors up close. All of the state parks offer beautiful hiking trails. Green Lakes State Park offers nearly 2,000 acres for leaf peepers to enjoy while Highland Forest, an Onondaga County park, offers countless trails, mountain biking and horseback rides. 

However, for a special treat, visit Skaneateles Lake, where you can take a cruise on the calm waters. Boat tours like Mid-Lakes Navigation offer guided sightseeing tours of the lake.

WANT TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP? 

Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention the Adirondacks! To the north of Syracuse, the Adirondack region stretches an impressive 6 million acres. From Saranac Lake to Lake Placid to the Canadian border, there are boundless destinations in the region. 

You can enjoy leaf peeping on scenic drives or while cycling, kayaking or hiking through the breathtaking region. Want a more adventurous way to enjoy fall? Hot air balloon rides are available in the Lake George region. Feel safer with your feet on the ground? You can take the Adirondack Railroad! Visit the station in Utica or Thendara to start your journey through the region’s beautiful forest and waterways. 

When Should You Go Leaf Peeping?

The peak time for fall foliage in Upstate New York, when the leaves will be their most vibrant, is typically the last two weeks of September into the first week of October.