Fall Foliage Fix – Hudson Valley, NY and Northern NJ

My name is Kevin, and I’m a leaf peeper. Is it a problem? Maybe, but I’m more of a functional leaf peeper. Every fall though, I fall off the wagon and go back to the same old habits. I can be found driving aimlessly around rural areas, stopping to gaze at the red, orange, and yellow splashes along the way. Symptoms include feverishly taking photos of trees, aggressively seeking out farmers markets, gorging on apple cider donuts to the point of stomach distention, and standing confused along the side of the road, wondering what to do with the gourds I just bought.

Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah NJ

Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah NJ

Like the leaf junkie I am, I went on a bender through New York’s Hudson Valley and northeastern New Jersey this weekend. Along the way, I injected into my memory some breathtakingly colorful views, falling into a haze of satisfaction and temporary contentment. My enabler was my own curiosity and a steady stream of Instagram likes.

Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah, NJ

On Friday evening, I got my first shot glass of foliage at Ramapo Valley County Reservation, about a 40-minute drive from Manhattan. I grew up about 10 minutes away from this park and have been visiting since I was a kid.

Ramapo Valley County Reservation (lower lake)

Ramapo Valley County Reservation (lower lake)

From the parking lot, walk along the path across the Ramapo River and you’ll arrive at a small lake (or a big pond). In the fall, the lakefront and backdrop is really beautiful.
If you have the time, I recommend walking up the pathway past the first lake to Macmillan Resevoir, which is surrounded by an amphitheater of orange, yellow, green, and red. You can hike along the shoreline of the entire reservoir, but I recommend taking the path on the east side. There are rock outcroppings that dip right into the lake. Climb up a bit and you can sit and enjoy the lake and the mountain scenery.

Fall foliage, MacMillan resevoir

Fall foliage, MacMillan resevoir

Ramapo Valley County Reservation

Ramapo Valley County Reservation

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Ulster County, NY

Located on the Shawagunk Mountain ridge about 75 miles from New York City, Minnewaska State Park Preserve has a lot to offer nature lovers. Its beautiful scenery, three “sky lakes”, (fed only by rain water), waterfalls, streams, ice caves, and dense hardwood forests make for tons of opportunities to explore. I spent about 3 hours there with my Mom this weekend and feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface in finding my way around this park.

Minnewaska State Park, New York

Me and Ollie

Getting there: The parking lot is about a 20-minute drive from New Paltz. I parked in the parking lot at lat/long 41.734536, -74.244301, which I believe is called Peter’s Kill parking lot. Parking fee per car is $10 as of October 2015. Get there before 10am on a busy weekend day if you want to ensure parking. When we left at 2pm. There was a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot.



My mom and Ollie

Lower Awostig Carriage Road in Minnewaska

Lower Awostig Carriage Road

What to see if you have an afternoon: There are about 20 different hiking trails so I don’t pretend to know much at all about this park, but I went primarily to see Awosting Falls, an impressive 65 foot waterfall about a 5 minute walk from the parking lot. The trail from the parking lot brings you down the steep hill to the base of the waterfall. There’s a big pool down there, where you’ll see people taking pictures and admiring the natural beauty.

A waterfall called Awostig Falls in Minnewaska State Park

Awostig Falls

Although the first thing I wanted to see was the falls, we initially went down the wrong hiking trail before realizing that we were going the wrong way. It turned out that we were on a 2.7-mile long trail to Lake Awosting. At about 2 miles in, seeing no sign of the Lake, we turned around. There was no cell service (thanks AT&T) so we couldn’t figure out how much farther it was to the lake. We didn’t want to spend another hour figuring it out. It wasn’t a total bust; we got to see some beautiful scenery along the way, got a lot of exercise, and saw a beautiful stream at the intersection of Mossy Glen and Blueberry Run hiking trails. See picture below.

Minnewaska State Park, Moss Glen Trail

Minnewaska State Park, Moss Glen Trail

Farm Stands in Ulster County, NY

Jenkins – Lueken Orchard (69 Yankee Folly Rd, New Paltz, NY 12561)

Jenkins-Leukarch orchard and farm market

This one is on Rt 299 right on the way to Minnewaska State Park outside of New Paltz. We stopped on a whim, drawn in by the line of pumpkins out front. There’s a small orchard on the side of the building, across the street, but it seemed to be closed the afternoon we were there. I thought their apple selection was their biggest asset, but there were tons of winter squash, potatos, yams, and of course, pumpkins. I thought their prices were very fair too, even cheaper than the grocery store. Their cider donuts were outstanding.

Tantillo’s Farm (730 NY-208, Gardiner, NY, 12525)

I found Tantillo’s on Yelp. Out front were pumpkins, apples, a big sign for “honey”. All the elements of a good farm market in the fall. Go for the cider donuts, which were served warm and covered in cinnamon and sugar. The produce selection was pretty good, from huge eggplants, winter squash, gourds, and a big variet of hot peppers. There’s also a small selection of honeys and maple syrup.

Wright’s Farm (699 NY-208, Gardiner, NY, 12525)

Wright's Farm Market Gardiner NY showing pumpkins

Wright’s Farm Market Gardiner NY

Wright’s is right down the street from Tantillos. Man, this place was crowded on a nice Saturday afternoon, but I didn’t mind. I was just another tourist clogging the aisles so I didn’t have a right to complain anyway. There’s also an orchard behind the store where you can pick your own apples and pears. In the store, the selection of fruits and vegetables was outstanding. Locally made jams, syrups and honey jars decked the shelves too. I thought the items were a bit overpriced compared to the first two place. There were so many dogs inside, which was surprising because some farm market owners don’t allow pets. Ollie spent a lot of time sniffing around the floors and finding all sorts of god-knows-what treats. We had a bowl of chili and a cup of chicken poblano soup and ate it outside on the patio nearby bright orange oak trees lining driveway.

Fruit pies at Wright's farmers market Gardiner NY New York

Fruit pies at Wright’s

All in all, a great trip. Got to visit my family and see some nice fall scenery. Here’s a map of the places I cite in the blog post:

Kevin is based in Washington, DC and writes about his travel adventures in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the world. Through entertaining writing and eye-catching photography, he aims to provide readers with useful information as they plan their next trips.

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