The Best Fall Hikes in New York
Fall is the best season to hike in New York. This blog will show you some of the best fall hikes near New York City for some awesome foliage.
Fall is an amazing time to hike in New York/ New Jersey, with the cooler/ dry weather and the leaves changing color. It’s also a nice get away on the weekend from the loud and busy New York City. There are a ton of hikes in upstate New York/ New Jersey that you can choose from. In this blog I will go over 9 really popular fall hikes near New York City that you cannot miss.
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Distance: 3.7 mile loop
Time: 3-5 hours
Elevation Gain: 1500ft
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Breakneck Ridge is perhaps one of the most popular fall hikes from New York City. It is only about an hour away from Manhattan and can be reached easily by car or train. Since a lot of people don’t drive in NYC, the first hike that comes to mind is Breakneck Ridge.
Breakneck Ridge is a relatively short hike but it can be difficult because part of the hike requires scrambling and there are some steep climbs. This hike is not family friendly or dog friendly due to this reason.
There are 3 variations of the Breakneck Ridge hike: a 2 hour short loop, a 3 hour loop, and a 4 hour hike to Cold Spring. Depending on your physical ability and how much time you have, you can decide which loop you want to do. All three hiking options will require scrambling and I highly recommend doing the scrambling part first if you do the loop trail.
There are good views of foliage, the Hudson River and the surrounding mountains once you reach the top. Make sure to follow the trail markers on the way down. We actually got kind of lost on the hike and ended up hiking one of the side trails and spent 6 hours instead of the 3-4 hours that we thought it would take.
To get to Breakneck Ridge by train: take Metro North Hudson Line (green) from Grand Central to Breakneck Ridge station. The trailhead is right across from the train station. Make sure you time the hike correctly so you don’t miss the train coming back to NYC.
Gertrude’s Nose Loop/ Millbrook Mountain
Distance: 7-8 mile loop (but can be shorter)
Time: 4-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1300ft
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Gertrude’s Nose Loop is one of the hikes that I’ve done twice during foliage season in New York. I would say it is probably one of the nicest foliage hike near New York City because of the spectacular rock formation and the white cliffs.
Gertrude’s Nose is located about two hours drive from New York City, near New Paltz. In fact a lot of the hikes mentioned on this blog are located around the same area.
Gertrude’s Nose hike features a lake and beautiful views of the Millbrook Mountain. You don’t need to do the entire loop to enjoy the photograph opportunity on the cliffs; in fact both times I went I did the hike half way and went back down the same way (instead of doing the loop).
There are some rock scrambling and steep incline during the hike. Since the trail goes through dense woods, make sure to go when it’s sunny and dry otherwise the trail may be muddy and slippery. Also make sure to be careful when walking along the cliffs as there have been accidents there (the last time I went there were rangers monitoring the cliff area to make sure people stay away from the edge).
Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Time: 1-2 hours
Elevation Gain: 700ft
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Anthony’s Nose is a popular fall hike near New York City since it’s only one hour away by car. The hike is short but steep with an awesome view of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge. It is right across the river from Bear Mountain so you can visit both places in one day.
There is no parking lot at Anthony’s Nose, but you can go early and park on the shoulder of Route 9D. If you want to take the train to Anthony’s Nose, you can take the Metro North to Peekskill or Manitou (or even Garrison Station) and get an Uber to the trailhead. Although I don’t know how easy it is to find a Uber back to the train station.
Anthony’s Nose starts off quite steep and rocky, gaining most of the elevation in the first 0.6 miles of the hike. The 2nd half of the hike is not too bad and the view is gorgeous from top. Therefore it is an extremely popular hike on the weekends, so make sure you go early.
Distance: 4 miles loop
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation Gain: 1300ft
Right across the river from Anthony’s Nose is the famous Bear Mountain. Similar to Anthony’s Nose, Bear Mountain is about an hour drive from New York City or you can take the train to Peekskill and get a Uber to Bear Mountain Inn. There is a huge parking lot at Bear Mountain Inn which makes driving there very convenient.
Bear Mountain is popular with families as there is a nice lake and there are shops in Bear Mountain Inn. You can also enjoy a nice hike up Bear Mountain with the view of Hudson River and even an outline of New York City on a super clear day.
The Bear Mountain Hike is a 4 mile loop starting at Bear Mountain Inn. There is a lot of rock scrambling on this trail so it’s not easy for young children. On top of the summit you will find Perkins Memorial Tower and a view of the Hudson river.
Since it’s a loop, you can hike Bear Mountain either way. The best way is to hike up the Major Welch trail for 1.5 miles first (red circle trail marker), reach Perkins Memorial Tower on top then come down the stairs on the Appalachian Trail (white trail marker). This way you avoid having to scramble down. Or you can take the Appalachian trail up and down on the stairs and avoid scrambling altogether.
Constitution Marsh & Indian Brook Falls
Distance: 1.3 mile roundtrip
Time: 1-2 hours
Elevation Gain: <500 ft
Constitution Marsh and Indian Brook Falls are two separate trails near the town of Cold Spring.
Constitution Marsh is a tidal marsh served as vital natural habitat in the Hudson River Estuary. The hike to the boardwalk at Constitution Marsh is super short and family friendly. I personally did the hike in the winter but it’s also a good hike in the fall without snow.
After visiting Constitution Marsh, you can walk to the Indian Brook Falls. You will need to walk along the Indian Brook Road towards the large bridge. After the bridge you should be able to see the trail on the right side of the road going downhill towards the stream. Follow the path down and you will eventually reach the waterfall.
Little Stony Point
Distance: 1 mile loop
Time: 1-2 hours
Elevation Gain: <100 ft
If you are looking for a family friendly and easy hiking trail, look no further than Little Stony Point. Located near the town of Beacon, Little Stony Point is not as famous as the nearby “big” hikes such as Breakneck Ridge and Bull Hill. However, Little Stony Point is a relaxing walk featuring a beach and some nice views that you should check out if you have kids or just simply are looking for something easy.
Bonticou Crag Trail
Distance: 2.3 mile loop
Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 500 ft
Bonticou Crag Trail is a popular fall hiking trail located near New Paltz, about 2 hours drive from New York City. The trail starts at Spring Farm in the Mohonk Preserve and you will need to pay a fee to enter and hike here. Since it is one of the most popular fall hikes near New York, make sure to arrive early on the weekends to ensure a parking space.
Bonticou Crag Trail is not for the faint of heart as it has a very steep section that requires a 20-30 minute of scrambling up large rocks. You will have to leave behind hiking poles or tripods in order to scramble up this section. Be care with this section as a fall could cause some serious injury. Due to the difficulty of this rock scramble, this hike is not family or dog friendly (unless you carry the dog in a backpack).
There is an alternative route that you can take to get on top (it’s the route that people to come down) if you really don’t want to scramble.
Once you scramble up the rocks, there is really nice view on top. You can continue the trail to Table Rocks, which has a view of Catskill Mountain (if you hike to Table Rocks, the entire hike will become 5.4 miles instead of 2.3 miles). Remember to be careful when hiking on the cliff as there has been fatalities at Table Rocks. I personally did not find Table Rocks too amazing, so feel free to skip if you don’t have enough time.
Labyrinth and the Lemon Squeeze
Distance: 4 mile loop
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation Gain: 1800 ft
If you like rock scrambling, then another fall hike near New York City you would enjoy is the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze trail at Mohonk Mountain House.
The Labyrinth and the Lemon Squeeze hike feature a lake in the beginning (near the hotel). After you pass the lake you will start the rock scramble. There are some narrow scramble and ladder that you need to climb in order to get to the top, so don’t bring too big of a backpack if you don’t want to get stuck.
The scrambling part is about 3 miles. If you don’t want to scramble (which is the fun part), you can take the easy way up and just stroll up the mountain. I saw some families and older people just walking up the path and avoided scrambling altogether.
Storm King Mountain
Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 900 ft
Storm King Mountain is another super popular fall hike near New York City. The hike is a loop hike that involves a bit of scrambling but with a lot of view points along the way as well as a rewarding view on top. Similar to the other hikes, you will have a fantastic view of Hudson River as well as the surrounding mountains.
Since the Storm King Mountain hike is a loop, you can start in either direction. I would always suggest doing the scrambling on the way up instead of down, so you should hike the Storm King Mountain trail in a clockwise fashion.
On this hike you will actually be hiking up two mountains: the Butter Hill first followed by Storm King Mountain. The hike to Butter Hill is quite steep but the view is rewarding. Make sure to closely watch the trail markers on this hike as the trails can be quite confusing.
There is parking at the trailhead on 9W but since it’s a popular foliage hike, you should arrive early on the weekend. Once you are done with the hike, you can also visit Storm King Art Center nearby.
What to bring to hikes near New York City
- Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses: Although most of the hikes are in the dense woods, once you are on top the hikes are all very exposed.
- Gloves: Depending on when you hike, you may need gloves to protect your hands. Most of the hikes near New York City are rocky and requires scrambling, so make sure you are prepared especially on a colder day.
- Offline Map: for some of the hikes it may be worth to download an offline map since you probably won’t have reception. I would also download all of the hiking instructions (by taking screenshot) in case you cannot access those instructions later.
Hiking is always a fun activity to do in New York. There are a lot more hikes that are great for foliage watching during the fall season that are not mentioned above. Regardless of which hike you do, make sure to never leave any trash behind and be respectful of rules if it’s on private property. In addition, many of the hikes don’t allow dogs or drones, so be sure to research before you go. [no_toc]
Other New York City resources:
I have written a lot of other blogs on New York City. If you are in the city for the first time, be sure to check out the following blogs:
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