By Mary Casey-Sturk
Crisp air, clear skies and trees awash with color greet you as you travel through the Hudson River Valley of New York in the autumn. Reds, oranges, yellows and even purple leaves dance across the hills for a few magical weeks each fall.
Hudson River School artists, including Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, shared the beauty of the Catskill, Adirondack and White Mountains and the surrounding area in countless landscape paintings and artists continue to clamor to this area today to capture the magnificence of the transition.
With some 40-50 million visitors annually, it’s no wonder this destination is popular for its fall foliage and festivals. The Valley starts at Manhattan and continues all the way to Albany.
Susan Hawvermale, director of Hudson Valley Tourism, shares her tip for a short drive in the region: “Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman to Bear Mountain State Park is about 18 miles long, passing through pristine forest and also those seven lakes. It ends at the Bear Mountain Inn, a 1915 Adirondack-style lodge recently restored to its rustic glamour. The inn has three farm-to-table restaurants and is on the Appalachian Trail. It overlooks Hessian Lake where there are paddle boats.” Hawvermale adds, “Within walking distance there is a gorgeous indoor carousel with carved native animals to ride on, and a delightful walking zoo with
spectacular views of the Hudson River. You can also drive up to Perkins Tower where a walk to the top will give you expansive views and from which you can see four states and the New York City skyline.”
That panorama continues at Clermont State Historic Site, home of the Livingston family who witnessed centuries of seasons here. Sitting on the Hudson River with terrific views of the Catskill Mountains, this estate allows you to explore gardens and wooded paths, and catch a glimpse of wildlife and fauna while enjoying the fall foliage. Feeling adventurous? Take a ride on the Hunter Mountain Skyride. The longest and highest in the Catskill region, it provides breathtaking views from 3,200 feet above sea level.
Still feeling adventurous? Try Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. This is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world at just over a mile long. At the center of the span you can take in the glorious fall leafage at 212 feet above the Hudson River. The Catskill Mountains are alive with color and there is also the option of guided Hudson River cruises on the Rip Van Winkle out of Kingston. With these colorful trees as your backdrop, you’ll learn all about this region from ground level.
Perkins Memorial Tower in Bear Mountain State Park offers up views of the Ramapo Mountains and the countryside. Cross the Bear Mountain Bridge, and pull over into the Bear Mountain Lookout. The drive is amazing, and the climax is the spectacular view that takes in the Revolutionary War site of Fort Montgomery as well as the Hudson Highlands.
Relax a while and let the natural beauty of the region in autumn wash over you. Ignore your cell phone and listen to the birds singing, perhaps mentally reminding them that they might need to head south soon.
Heading back to the river, you can visit the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River. The Lighthouse Lawn at Stony Point Battlefield offers amazing, unobstructed views up and down the Hudson where you can often spot a bald eagle gliding by.
Even with all of these options, there is still more do.
Hawvermale shares, “Hudson Valley Tourism has a brand new Wine and Craft Beverage map that just came out. It’s also online. We’ve always been known for wine—we have the oldest winery in the United States here: Brotherhood Winery, established in 1839, Washingtonville—but there has been a veritable explosion of distilleries, breweries, and cideries. And they are really good.”
Options include Clermont Vineyards and Winery, where you can sip wines made in the Portuguese way from grapes grown on the property with views of the Catskill Mountains; Hudson Valley Distilleries, where you can enjoy a cocktail in the grove and a tour; and Sloop Brewing Company, where you can try the Red C-a red Indian Pale Ale made from caramel hops.
Other places to visit:
The Village of Nyack: this Victorian town is packed with charming shops and restaurants. Here you can find off-Broadway performances, galleries, antiques and commanding views of the Hudson River.
United States Military Academy at West Point: the oldest military academy in the country. Guided tours are available daily from the Visitor Center and you can walk in the steps of great military leaders and learn about cadet life over the past 200-plus years.
Kaaterskill Falls: captured on canvas by Hudson River School painters, it will capture your heart as you take in the view of the two-tiered waterfall, the highest in New York state at 260 feet.
Check in advance for optimum leaf viewing dates (generally mid-September through the third week of October) and festival schedules, then pack your camera and enjoy the splendor of the season!
For more information, visit: www.travelhudsonvalley.com