Our Favorite Fall Hikes in the Catskills
Upstate New York offers some of the best fall foliage in the world. Warm days, cool nights, and just the right amount of rain creates a forest filled with electric yellows and oranges, deep scarlet maples, and plentiful wild apples.
In the Catskills, geography and meteorology variations by region result in different microclimates throughout the park, which means "peak foliage" (the best time to see foliage) hits each region of the park at a different time.
We carefully plan our calendar so that our hikes follow the peak foliage as it moves to different parts of the Catskills, ensuring that we can experience the best of autumn on all of our fall hikes. Keep reading for a tour of where we go to hike throughout the fall and why.
Located in the far northern Catskills, this is one of the first places that peak foliage hits. As the leaves start to change, the valley becomes abundant with red maples while higher elevation sees stunning yellows, plus our hikes take us through the spruce-fir ecosystem looking down on all the colors below.
Balsam Lake Mountain
If you want to see all the incredible foliage of the Catskills, but don't feel like you're ready to take on a big summit, this is a perfect first Catskill hike. Great for families and new hikers, Balsam Lake Mountain offers a gentle ascent to the summit which has a fire tower with stunning 360 degree views of the Catskills for miles.
Friend of the Devil
There's a reason we hike the Devil's Path over Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day weekend every year—the air is crisp, the nights are cool and cozy around the campfire, and every peak offers stunning views of the autumn foliage. We hike on-trail or off-trail depending on the year, over three days, so there's not need to rush and we can enjoy every viewpoint along the way.
Eastern Devil's Path: Twin, Sugarloaf, and Indian Head
As the foliage heads east, we head to the eastern Devil's Path, where steep elevation changes means we'll see a diverse range of foliage through different ecosystems along the trail. These peaks make for great day hikes with challenging trails and great pay-off at the viewpoints.
As fall progresses, our adventures shift to the Central/Southern Catskills, and many steps back into the past. A truly epic day hike or overnight, the Burroughs Range is almost all Wilderness with a capital W. That means forests that have never been developed or settled. Imagine peak foliage. Now imagine peak foliage with birch trees that are hundreds of years old...
Giant Ledge & Panther
If there's a mountain in the Catskills better known for foliage than Panther, we've never heard of it (and we've heard of all of them!). The views all along Giant Ledge and up to Panther are breath-taking, hitting a variety of different elevations, each with a different perspective over the central Catskills. As these trails have become more popular, we no longer offer trips to Giant Ledge and Panther, so if you plan to hike these peaks in the heart of foliage season, make sure you arrive very early to ensure you get a parking spot.
Late Fall in Minnewaska
In late October and November, fall foliage heads south to the Hudson Valley where colors change in a completely different way than the Catskills. In Minnewaska State Park the blackberry and huckleberry bushes turn a deep crimson, which creates a stunning scene against the stark white Shawanagunk conglomerate rock and deep green pitch pine. We always stop at a local Farmer's market on the way home to pick up fresh apples and other local goods.