Here’s where to enjoy fall foliage in the Catskills, one of New York’s most scenic and accessible leaf-peeping regions.
It’s football time. It’s flannel season. And across New York State, life’s about to get a whole lot more dazzling with my favorite part of fall: fall foliage!
I fell in love with the idea of true Northeast foliage during the one year I lived in Boston. I’d heard epic tales of yellows, reds and even purples (!!) dotting the tree lines. But, as luck would have it, the same hurricane that sent my dad and brother home early from my move in weekend (thanks, Irene) also hindered that season’s foliage. Meaning the fam missed a move-in weekend near Fenway AND I missed my fall colors.
When I moved back east, this time to NYC, I was bound and determined to peep the heck out of those Northeast leaves.
And peep I did (and continue to do).
I scoured the Catskills for top places to view fall foliage, and was not disappointed. After two years “leaf peeping,” here are five of my favorite spots to view fall foliage in the Catskills.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike: Challenge Level – Easy
There’s nothing like Kaaterskill Falls — arguably the Catskills’ most beautiful waterfall — in autumn. The hike to the Falls is well marked and about 45 minutes one way. Once you reach the Falls, you have a number of ways to view: straight on, from the side, or super close up (depending on your daredevil tendencies).
Note, there are caution signs surrounding dangerous, slippery areas; heed those warnings. I’ve read about several fatal injuries from hikers not following the rules.
Also, for you dog lovers, my small pup Harry did this hike! It’s super dog friendly and relatively easy. Wear sturdy shoes and bring towels for the car ride home as it can get pretty muddy.
(Read more about the Kaaterskill Falls trail here.)
Windham Path Stroll: Challenge Level – Very Easy
If you’re looking for an easier stroll — or the option of quickly snapping your foliage photos without the commitment of a climb — hit up Windham Path. This circuitous trail system in the Northern Catskills region has a covered bridge, beautiful views and is almost entirely flat. The parking lot is roomy and convenient, too.
(Read more about Windham Path here.)
North South Lake Stroll: Challenge Level – Very Easy
Foliage by itself is pretty remarkable, but red and yellow leaves reflecting off the water? Simply magical. The North South Lake path takes you around the lake (who woulda thunk it), and has gorgeous landscape scenes for those photos. This path is very dog friendly, and we even saw an adventure dog playing fetch in the lake!
Bonus — North South Lake is also really close to Kaaterskill Falls, so you can fit two foliage adventures into one day!
(To stroll along the lake, park near the camping ground — 874 N Lake Rd, Haines Falls, NY 12436. The lakes are pretty large, so don’t expect to get around both on one casual stroll!)
Panther Mountain Climb: Challenge Level – Hard
Panther Mountain is part of the Catskills 3,500 range (the region has 35 mountains above 3,500 feet), and summiting is far from easy. It’s steep, requires a bit of scrambling on the ascent and descent, and will undoubtedly leave you sore the next day. With my post-hike hobble, I was living proof. But the pain is totally worth it, because Panther’s lookout points (of which there are many!) are some of the most breathtaking — particularly come fall.
If you’re looking for an extra challenge on your quest to find fall foliage in the Catskills, you can tack Giant’s Ledge — a peak along the same trail as Panther — to your hike. We did both in one day and left fascinated by fall beauty … and painfully sore from not truly preparing. (My friend and I tend to wing it…)
(For more on hiking Panther Mountain and Giant’s Ledge, click here.)
Benmarl Winery: Challenge Level – It’s a winery, people
In the Catskills, you don’t HAVE to work for your fall foliage views — you can drink them in, too. Benmarl Winery just outside the Catskills sits atop a hillside with views overlooking the Hudson River and the surrounding nature. We were lucky enough to visit during peak foliage, and were welcomed with delicious wine, hot homemade soup, a friendly dog and some of the Hudson Valley’s most incredible fall scenery. You can hit up Benmarl on its own or as a reward for a trail well hiked, but either way, hit it up — especially during fall!
Now, this is just a start to the Catskills most amazing fall foliage viewing destinations, and I’m always on the lookout for more. If you know of some prime spots I’m missing, please share in the comments below!
(Disclaimer, while I talk about Northeast leaves, stunning foliage happens all over the place — including my home state of Ohio!)
Want more Catskills fun? Check out my guide to a perfect 36-hour fall getaway in the Catskills!