New York has some of the best fall hikes in the country. The northeast is known for it’s incredible fall leaves and near NYC is no excuse. There are some incredible fall hikes within an hour of downtown NYC. Just because you’re in the city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy New York’s incredible fall leaves.
This post contains some of the most beautiful fall hikes close to New York City. So lace up those hiking shoes and get ready to see some amazing fall colors near NYC.
****Note: This post may include affiliate links to products I recommend. I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) from purchases from these links. But no worries, I only include links to products that we have tried or truly recommend!
*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
The Best Fall Hikes Near New York City
Harriman State Park – Elk Pen Loop
Elk Pen Loop is one of my favorite Harriman State Park hikes, especially in the fall. The beauty of starting from the Elk Pen trailhead is that if you want to go on a longer or shorter version of the trail, there are a lot of different intersecting trails.
The Elk Pen Loop is 7.5 miles and goes through some of Harriman State Park’s best areas. It also goes through forests and fields, beside a lake (that is very reflective in the morning), and “the lemon squeezer.” The lemon squeezer is part of the trail that weaves through two large boulders and you have to “squeeze” through.
Due to the changing sceneries, you will encounter all different fall colors on trees and bushes. Many of the bushes in Harriman State Park (and the Hudson Valley) turn bright red in the fall. The trees turn all shades of yellow, red, and orange.
Hiking and parking at Harriman State Park (at the Elk Pen Trailhead) is free as of September 2023.
If interested in other hikes at Harriman State Park, check out my Harriman State Park blog post.
Location of Elk Pen Loop Trailhead: Google Maps
Schunnemunk State Park -Schunnemunk Mountain Trail via Western Ridge Trail Loop
Schunnemunk State Park is not far from Harriman State Park (location of previous hike). It is lesser known, but just as beautiful, although on the smaller side. Schunnemunk Mountain is the main destination in the park, and I recommend getting there by hiking the Western Ridge Trail Loop. The trail is 7.4 miles round trip.
The hike begins at the main parking lot at the bottom of the hill. You will see railroad viaduct from the parking lot. After ascending the hill, the remainder of the trail takes you along a ridge with various viewpoints. It is very rocky with the typical gray rocks of the Shawangunk Mountain Range in the area. I like this trail because of all of the viewpoints and various flora. There are pine trees, but also many deciduous trees that would look especially nice and colorful in the fall.
Parking and hiking in Schunnemunk State Park is free as of September 2023.
Location of Schunnemunk Mountain Trailhead: Google Maps
Storm King State Park – Storm King Mountain via Storm King Trail
Storm King State Park is on the western side of the Hudson River and close to the WestPoint Military Academy. Due to the proximity to the Hudson River, there are great views of the river valley along with many opportunities to see fall leaves. The road to the trailhead itself shows gorgeous colorful views in the fall.
There are various loops and routes to Storm King Mountain, but the most popular is Storm King Mountain via Storm King Trail. The trail is around 2.4 miles round trip. It goes through forests that turn bright yellow and orange in the fall. Storm King Mountain has a viewpoint of Hudson River and surrounding valley. This is a great fall hike that is not too difficult and family friendly.
Parking and hiking in Storm King State Park is free as of September 2023.
Location of Storm King Mountain Trailhead: Google Maps
Bear Mountain State Park – Hessian Lake Loop
Bear Mountain is one of the quintessential state parks near NYC. There are a lot of popular hikes in Bear Mountain State Park, by Hessian Lake Loop showcases beautiful fall colors and also is the most accessible. Unlike other hikes on this list, Hessian Lake trail is paved and one of the shortest.
The trail is 1.4 miles long and loops around the lake, starting and ending both at the Bear Mountain Lodge. Around the eastern side of the lake, there are picnic shelters and benches, while on the western side there are not any benches or shelters. While walking around the lake, you can get views of the colorful Bear Mountain and also Anthony’s Nose on the adjacent side.
Bear Mountain State Park is a great place to bring a picnic or a thermos of hot chocolate and relax at the lakeside while admiring the fall colors all around.
The park costs $10 to enter. If you plan on visiting many state parks throughout the year (or already do), I recommend getting the NY Empire Pass Card which gives entry to all state parks and beaches in New York.
Note: As of September 2023, most of Bear Mountain State Park is closed due to flooding in Summer 2023, but the Hessian Lake Loop IS open.
Location of Bear Mountain State Park Hessian Lake Trailhead: Google Maps
Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve — Anthony’s Nose via Camp Smith Trail
A classic Hudson Valley hike is a hike to Anthony’s Nose. It is really popular all year, but especially in the fall, but it is very nice. There are viewpoints throughout the hike that look over the Hudson River. The final viewpoint (Anthony’s Nose), gives a wide view of the Hudson River and the famous Bear Mountain Bridge.
In the fall, the hills surrounding the Hudson River and the forest the hike goes through, turns beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow.
There are two different routes to Anthony’s Nose and I would recommend starting via the Camp Smith Trail. This is the less popular option (and I am not really sure why). If you look on AllTrails or other trail sites, you will see the other route being more popular, but trust me when I say that the Camp Smith Trail is the better way to go.
Getting to Anthony’s Nose via the Camp Smith Trail will give you a less steep ascent, with more viewpoints, and also the parking situation is much better at the Camp Smith Trailhead. The trail is 2.2 miles round trip.
As of September 2023, hiking in the Hudson Highlands State Park is free and parking at the Camp Smith Trailhead is free.
Location of Camp Smith Trailhead: Google Maps
Mount Beacon Fire Tower – South Beacon Mountain via Casino Trail
Beacon Fire Tower gives one of the greatest views of the Hudson River in the whole Hudson Valley. The trail is steep, but gives incredible views of the Hudson Highlands. From the top of the fire tower, you can see miles and miles of colorful fall leaves, making the hills look more like a patchwork quilt than a forest.
The hike also goes through a forest that will be colors of orange and yellow in the fall. As with most trails in the area, there a few different ways to go, but if you’re looking for the most straightforward way, I recommend taking the Casino Trail.
The trail starts from the parking Beacon Mountain Parking lot and is around 3.7 miles round trip. The trail is pretty steep, but follows a wide path (more like a forest road) until you get to the top of the hill where there used to be a incline railway and there is a nice viewpoint. From this point on the trail is relatively flat and you will continue on until you reach fire tower.
Go to the top of the fire tower to get the best views. There will be a lot of people, especially in the fall, but it is worth it despite the crowds.
Parking in the Mount Beacon Fire Tower parking lot is free as of September 2023.
If you’re interested in more information about Beacon Mountain and other possible hiking routes, check out my blog post on Hiking Mount Beacon. Also if interested in more things to do near the hike in the town of Beacon, check out my Beacon Blog Post (it is such a cute town and one of my favorites in the Hudson Valley!!).
Location of Mount Beacon Trailhead: Google Maps
Tips for Fall Hiking Near NYC
Bring the 10 Essentials on Every Hike
Regardless of your hiking experience (or lack thereof), you should have the 10 essentials with you on every hike. It is impossible to predict what will happen on a hike and it is important to be prepared in the case that something happens to you or those around you.
The 10 essentials include water, snacks, map, sunscreen, rain gear such as a rain jacket or rain backpack cover, first aid kit, head lamp, repair kit such as knife and tape, fire starter such as matches, and emergency shelter such as emergency blanket.
Don’t be scared by the rain
In New York, some autumns can be really cold and wet, while others (especially in more recent years) have been warm and sunny. Don’t let the rain stop you from hiking in the fall. I have found that the fall leaves look the best and most colorful in the wet, foggy weather. Plus, when its rainy, trails are much less crowded, giving you a private experience with the beautiful fall leaves.
Remember that it will get dark earlier in the afternoon
As the fall progresses, it gets darker and darker earlier in the day. Especially if hiking in late October or in November, it will start to get much darker in the late afternoon. Especially if you decide to do a longer fall hike or start later in the day, be aware of sunset time and always have a light source with you (more than just your phone flashlight as those tend to die quicker than you think).
Use a map when hiking, especially since leaves can easily cover the trail
The fall leaves are incredible, but as their name suggests, they do fall and cover the forest floor which is equally beautiful. The leaves can easily cover the trail and on lesser travelled trails it can sometimes be tricky to see where the trail is actually going. It is important to pay attention to trail markers (which are pretty frequent in the Harriman and Hudson Highlands areas), but have a map with you. We like using the AllTrails app which uses GPS to see where we are in relation to the trail on the map.
Arrive to the trailhead early
If you want to find easy parking at any of the fall hiking trails listed in this post, it is essential that you arrive early in the day. Many of the popular parking areas fill up by 9 AM and have a limited amount of space. Out of all the trails mentioned here, Bear Mountain State Park has the most parking, but the Anthony’s Nose Trail has a very small parking area. The parking situation is worse in the fall since it is one of the most popular times of year for hiking in the Hudson Valley.
Wear bright colors, preferably blaze orange
Fall means beautiful colorful leaves on all the trees, but it also means hunting season. Most of the parks mentioned in this post allow hunting of different animals throughout the fall. We have been hiking and have encountered hunters multiple times in a few of these parks (although not on the mentioned trails). Hunters will avoid popular areas, but just in case there are any hunters near a trail you are hiking, I recommend wearing bright colors such as blaze orange or bright blue so that hunters can see you and not hunt while you are around.
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Overall, this is my guide to fall hiking near NYC. I hope that this post helps you plan an amazing trip out of the city to see fall leaves. Let me know if you have any comments or questions below in the comment section!
Thanks for reading!