Escape with these Autumn Road Trips
“You need to pull over, I need a photo.” My husband will tell you these words come out of my mouth continuously pretty much anytime we’re on a road trip, but I can’t help myself. I love beautiful vistas. Add the brilliant golds, oranges, reds and buttercup yellows of autumn road trips into the mix and we’re lucky to get five miles without stopping.
While my road trips can often be extensive, the travel restrictions during COVID led me to discoveries closer to home. Living in New York City where the roads aren’t so scenic, we began venturing across the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge to find fresh air, nature and scenic vistas sans the traffic. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take long for the views to change from graffiti to bucolic scenes of the river, trees and rocky outcrops. It begins on the Palisades Parkway and continues from there.
The Palisades Parkway: Close to NYC but Worlds Away
Spanning nearly 42 miles from New Jersey’s side of the George Washington Bridge north to Bear Mountain Bridge, the Palisades Parkway changes the perception of New York immediately. Rising with the elevation, this drive hugs the Hudson River. Arch stone bridges, forests dressed in autumn splendor, and traffic much more polite than any you’ll find on the city streets emerge. Since the city looks so peaceful and beautiful from the outside, be sure to stop at the overlooks for gorgeous vantage points of the skyline.
At the northern end of the Palisades, spend a little time exploring Bear Mountain State Park. Rising from the west bank of the Hudson River, these rugged mountains beckon to city folk eager to get outside and explore. Hiking trails, picnic groves and a large playing field for sports are among the highlights. Take a spin on the Bear Mountain State Park Merry-Go-Round featuring hand-painted scenes of the park and 42 hand-carved seats of animals native to the area including black bear, wild turkey, Canadian geese and more. Want to make a weekend of it? Check in to the historic Bear Mountain Inn. Opened in 1915, this historic property exudes a rustic-luxe vibe.
Drive along the Delaware River & into the Catskills
Carved into rock, New York Route 97 winds hundreds of feet above the Delaware River curving in harmony with the waterway below providing beautiful views of the Catskills. Arriving in Hancock, continue the exploration by following the East Branch of the Delaware River traveling through charming towns, villages and hamlets along NY 30 as you wind your way through the Catskills.
Historically known for the bluestone quarrying, logging and farming industries, sites on the route highlight the region’s past. In Delaware County, the route laces through 61 miles of picturesque hills, valleys and historical sites. Covered bridges, galleries, local family-owned restaurants, and numerous attractions along the way provide plenty of entertainment. For recreational enthusiasts, the Catskills region offers plenty of options including hiking, kayaking and fly-fishing.
Further north in the Catskills, venture to Route 23A between Hunter and Palenville. Just 12 miles in length, this granddaddy of Catskill Mountain roads zigzags around hairpin turns as it navigates narrow passages. You’ll pass through the painted town of Tannersville. Be sure to stop in for lunch at Maggie’s Krooked Café and Juice Bar—a local favorite. This area boasts one of the tallest waterfalls in the state, Kaaterskill Falls. It’s definitely worth a hike.
Follow the Hudson and Find the Mountains
One of the easiest road trips from New York City carries explorers through the fertile Hudson Valley. Views of mountains, farmland, and lakes along Route 9 make the city a distant memory. Following the Hudson River, charming towns display art galleries. Farms open for apple picking. And, the Storm King Sculpture Park showcases the best in outdoor art.
At Poughkeepsie, the pedestrian bridge “Walkway over the Hudson” and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail offer an opportunity to stretch your legs while enjoying views of the Hudson River and nearby forests. History buffs should add the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to the itinerary.
Crossing over the Hudson, the trip continues along Route 9W to New Paltz. This quirky village is home to quaint boutiques, fantastic farm-to-table restaurants, and a lively music scene. Here you’ll pick up the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway. Divided into four sections, you really can’t go wrong on this beauty. My favorite route travels across the Wallkill River Bridge in the village of New Paltz heading toward the mountain range on Route 299 before making a right on Route 44/55. As the road ascends with the elevation, the views get better and better. You’ll eventually reach the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Rich with trails of several varieties, this park has become our go-to hiking destination.
Park the car, pick a trail and enjoy the views! Nearby, the Mohonk Mountain House resort—a National Historic Landmark–continues to welcome guests as it has since the mid-1800s.
This is Only the Beginning
The landscapes of the state of New York yield as much diversity as the people riding the subways in New York City! There’s so much to explore! And so many photos for me to take. Uncovering all the beauty autumn road trips yield is going to take a while. Stay tuned!