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Colorful New York: A fall foliage road trip

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I am not sure when I started to dislike fall, but I think it must have been during my years in England. Fall, or autumn as the Brits say, always seemed to define itself through rain and foggy days, and while those misty London mornings could be romanticized initially, the novelty wore off quickly, replaced by the melancholy over yet another rainy day.fall leaf bear mountainOnce I packed up my London apartment and started traveling, I started chasing the sun and skipping spring, winter and autumn completely. Until I happened to be in the U.S. in October a couple of years later, amazed by how colorful and sunny this season was in the Midwest. It was my first time experiencing pumpkin patches, corn mazes and pumpkin spiced treats. Suddenly, autumn felt wonderful, and not dreary at all. Instead of rainy days and grey skies, I was enchanted by blue skies and autumn leaves in vibrant colors.Dani with leaves 2015When I was told that those colors weren’t even the most colorful ones in this country, but that the trees in the New England states on the East Coast had even more vivid fall colors in October, I put a New England road trip on my travel wish list right away.bear mountain fall leavesI was hoping to finally fulfill this dream last year, but you might remember that I ran out of time when I came back to New York for a few weeks in October and ended up going only on a day trip to the scenic Seven Lakes region in Upstate New York.bear mountain lake new york autumnSo this year I was determined to finally head up to Vermont. Spoiler alert: I still didn’t make it there! However, I managed to go on an upstate road trip for several days, instead of just a rushed one day out-of-town getaway. And yes, I could’ve made it all the way up to New Hampshire and Vermont, but I wanted to set some time aside to enjoy the scenery, go on hikes and unleash my inner child in the leaves (which I did), picking up farm-fresh apples and stopping in random little towns along the way, instead of spending all too much time in the car.tannersville new york pumpkinsSpeaking of the car: I gave the new Silvercar app a try, which is quite different from your usual car rental experience. I’ve rented cars in Manhattan before, and it’s usually neither cheap nor pleasant, especially if you plan to go away over a weekend. Tiny rental offices in Manhattan, long lines, and often mediocre customer service, given the amount of customers car rental clerks have to deal with here on a daily basis.dani silvercarWhat makes Silvercar different from other car rental companies? First of all, the entire Silvercar fleet is made up by silver Audi A4s. You always know exactly which car you get. Secondly, as I mentioned above, it’s an entirely app-based experience, which makes sense in today’s world where I do pretty much everything on my smartphone – be it renting apartments via the AirBnb app or hotels through the Booking.com app, deciding which restaurant to eat it with the help of Tripadvisor and Yelp, or navigating directions with GoogleMaps.bear mountain daniWhen you’ve made your booking, you’ll receive a text message confirming your booking and on the day of your reservation you’ll get a text from Silvercar asking you to send a text when you’re about ten minutes away from the rental location, giving the valet a heads-up to get the car out of the garage for you. I opened the car by scanning a QR code on the windshield, and after a short introduction to the functionalities and perks of the car, including how to connect to the in-car wifi and Bluetooth and how to use the navigation system (all of which are included in the price), we were ready to go. The whole process didn’t take longer than five minutes and not having to wait in line at a rental office felt great.new york fall foliage road tripIf you’d like to give Silvercar a try – they are currently operating out of ten cities in the U.S., and their New York location is based in Midtown Manhattan, close to the Lincoln Tunnel and West Side Highway, conveniently located to get you out of town quickly. Day rates prices fluctuate from $79-99 for a weekday and $129 for a weekend rental, which is in line with every other car rental companies in Manhattan. But none of the others can guarantee you an Audi A4 and the premium valet experience at that price! So instead of getting an average car for this rate, why not try Silvercar and get a fabulous car and a select experience instead?fall road tripShortly after crossing the George Washington Bridge and leaving Manhattan, we found ourselves surrounded by brilliant fall colors along the Palisades Parkway, which would bring us to our first destination: Bear Mountain State Park, about 50 miles north of New York City. We wanted to attempt climbing up to the peak of the mountain, from where I knew we’d have fantastic views over the Hudson River and when the weather was good you could see four states from the top of Perkins Memorial Tower atop of the mountain: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.bear mountain viewThe hike, which took about three hours in total, was steep at times, but the panoramic vistas were definitely worth the climb.Bear Mountain leavesMy plan was to stay in cozy cottages or B&Bs throughout the trip, which is why I spent hours researching places on AirBnB. I am recommending some of my favorite finds at the end of this post.bear mountain views daniWe crossed the river and continued on east of the Hudson River because we wanted to stop in Poughkeepsie the next day, where we wanted to cross the Hudson once again – but this time, on foot. The Walkway Over The Hudson, which is at 1.28 miles the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, seemed like the perfect place to take in the fall foliage from. At 212 feet above the river’s surface, it isn’t for the faint at heart but I kept my fear of heights under control by staying away from the rails.poughkeepsie autumn colors new yorkI loved how beautiful the yellow leaves on the trees on the path leading up to the bridge looked, forming a natural ‘tree tunnel’. The walk over the bridge and back takes about an hour, depending how often you stop to take pictures.poughkeepsie autumn colors hudson river walkwayAfter that, we headed further north into the Catskill Mountains west of the Hudson River. For the drive I chose route 32, which passed through the towns of New Paltz, Kingston and Woodstock – and it ended up being unbelievably scenic at this time of year. We couldn’t help but stop in several of the towns to check out some antiques shops and galleries along the main roads. new york fall foliage road tripSeeing these charming towns all dressed up for autumn, with pumpkins decorating entrances of houses and window sills, stacks of hay, fall flowers and restaurant menus denouncing seasonal specials, filled me with so much joy.

We stopped on the side of the road to pick up some farm-fresh apples, but we could’ve easily filled the car with just about everything the farmers were offering: homemade jams, pumpkins in all shapes and sizes, apple cider and fresh honey.tannersville new yorkThe next morning, I woke up just in time to witness a spectacular fiery red autumn sunrise, the air wonderfully crisp, the kind of day that is perfect for a hike through the woods and is waiting to be finished with a mug of hot apple cider by the fireplace. new york fall foliage road trip sunriseWe had made our way all the way into the Catskills Mountains, but the further north we went, the barer the trees had become – here, the leaves had already fallen from the branches, leaving the ground covered in brown and red leaves.kaaterskill falls new york autumn leavesThat wasn’t a bad thing though – on our hike to the Kaaterskill Waterfalls the leaves felt like a soft carpet on the ground, causing a crackling sound in the otherwise silent forest as our feet touched them. I could have spent many more days hiking in the Catskills – a list of trails I had found online made me wish I had time for some of the longer hikes in these mountains.New York Kaaterskill FallsBut luckily the Catskills are en route to Vermont’s scenic Green Mountain Byway, which I hope I’ll finally make it to next year. new york fall foliage road trip barn

Practical information

The State Of New York publishes a fall foliage report for all regions, which helps you to find out the perfect time to go. Find out more about Silvercar here, or download the app for iOS here / for Android here. Towns along the way worth stopping in: Rhinebeck, Catskill, Tannersville, Woodstock and New Paltz.bear mountain hudson river viewsPlaces to stay near Bear Mountain:  

Check out this place in Warwick (about half an hour from Bear Mountain), this one in Garrison (about 15 minutes away) and this cottage in Beacon (about 30 minutes away).

Places to stay in Woodstock:  

I love this cottage, this cozy cabin, this well-priced studio, and this cabin just outside of town.

Places to stay in Catskill:  

There are plenty of rentals here because Catskill is lovely – check out this apartment right in the center of town, this dreamy cottage, this wooden cabin, and this gorgeous creekside farmhouse.

If you’re not using AirBnB yet, you can get $20 off your first booking by signing up through this link. bear mountain new york hike

Have you done a fall foliage road trip? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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12 Comments

  1. Beautiful photos, Dani. It looks like you had a great time. I’ve missed tree fall foliage for the last few years but get to watch it in Alaska (but it is on the tundra). Thanks for sharing your finds.

    1. Thanks, Tricia – the trip was everything I’d hoped for! I have yet to visit Alaska but I’d love to travel there – and I’ll hit you up for recommendations as soon as it finds its way in my itinerary 🙂

  2. I LOVE FALL ROAD TRIP!! We did one over (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend this year. We rented a cottage right by Conesus Lake in Upstate New York, near Finger Lakes Region. It’s a beautiful place and the colours were stunning. Even then, I was told that this wasn’t the peak yet.

    Like you, we also stopped by a couple of State Parks (Watkins Glen and Letchworth), both of which have scenic vistas and great hiking trails!

    1. Pauline- who knew I’d enjoy chilly weather so much!? 😉 So funny that you also road tripped in Upstate New York!! Heading over to your site now to check our your Autumn Road Trip post 🙂

  3. Fall is my favourite season in North America and I have been lucky enough to experience a couple of them in Canada and the US including a 16 day New England Road trip in 2012. I miss the apple cider donuts

    1. Katie – Apple Cider Donuts?! How have I not found any yet?! I had my first hot apple cider last week thought – loved it! And a 15-day New England fall road trip?? I am so jealous!! Did you write about it on your blog? I gotta go check and see if there are photos 🙂

      1. I think it was Vermont where I had the apple cider donuts. I LOVE hot apple cider too – one of my favourite drinks. I didn’t do a post solely on the road trip but did one on Fall in North America, about my time on Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park in Maine, Small town Massachusetts, Boston and Martha’s Vineyard so a few different ones 🙂

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