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Get Out and Enjoy New York's Colorful Foliage on Foot

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2021-10-12 19:13:00

With the leaves changing, fall is the perfect time to get out and explore the tons of trails that Upstate New York has to offer. Whether you’re looking to stay close to home or make an excursion to another part of the state, here are some excellent options for getting out into nature on foot to enjoy the changing leaves up close.

The Adirondacks are famous for their hiking opportunities, and for good reason; some of the prettiest peaks in the country can be found here. There are hundreds of them that you can climb, ranging from short slopes to the mighty mountains, and there are dozens of hiking challenges to choose from to earn a patch for your efforts. Become a Saranac Lake 6er, a Lake Placid 9er, or complete the Tupper Lake Triad; try the 4-3-2-1 Challenge near Indian Lake or the Chester Challenge, near the smaller Adirondack town of Chester.

There’s also a Fire Tower Challenge and a Waterfall Challenge, with locations throughout the Adirondacks. You certainly don’t need to do them all this fall, but a hike through the changing leaves on a crisp day is a delightful start to a tradition you can pick back up next summer.

Of course, you don’t have to climb a mountain to enjoy the great outdoors. Did you know that Upstate New York is home to the longest multi-use trail in the country? The 750-mile Empire State Trail, completed last year, is a non-motorized trail suitable for both cyclists and those who prefer to travel on foot. The trial spans from Albany to Buffalo, and from New York City up to the Canadian border. Compiled from existing trails linked together with new trail segments, it encompasses the Erie Canalway Trail, the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail, and traverses the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region, Central New York, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes.

Speaking of the Finger Lakes, you’ll want to check out the trail systems in this region as well. The 580-mile Finger Lakes Trail extends throughout the region, with nearly 30 other small trails that branch out into the Chautauqua-Allegheny and Western New York regions to create a trail network of nearly 1,000 miles (a map can be found on the Finger lakes Trail organization’s website). Also in the area is the popular Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, a seven-mile trek connecting the town of Penn Yan, on the northern shores of Keuka Lake, to Dresden, a village on nearby Seneca Lake. The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail has been named one of the 25 best hiking trails in the Northeast.

To the north and west of the Finger Lakes, explore dozens of nature preserves and wildlife areas along the Great Lakes-Seaway Trail, the 580-mile route that runs along the shoes of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and part of Lake Erie, from northern New York to western Pennsylvania. Two great stops? The Sterling Nature Center, in the quiet town of Sterling in Cayuga County, is a 1,400-acre preserve on the shores of Lake Ontario with ten miles of hiking trails through woodlands, wetlands, fields, and shoreline, is a spot you won’t want to miss.

Further north, check out the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland Area, home an extensive network of geologically unique sand dunes, wetlands and marshes, comprising the only ecosystem of its kind in New York state and throughout much of the northeastern U.S. Trails in this area wind throughout the 3,461-acre Lakeview Marsh Wildlife Management Area; the 526-acre Black Pond area; 500-acre Southwick Beach; and 1,195-acre Deer Creek Wildlife Management Area, as well as the smaller Sandy Island Beach State Park and Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area, all of which are accessible to the public.

The largest, most extensive freshwater sand dune formations in New York State can be found here, amongst a network of beaches, wetlands, woodlands, bays, creeks and ponds. There are hiking and nature trails to explore, and boardwalks that cover much of the dunescape to protect the fragile ecosystem also provide a welcome break from muddy treks if the weather isn’t so hot.

This is only a tiny sampling of the hiking and nature trails that New York has to explore—it would take a whole book to cover them all—but be assured that no matter where you want to hit the trail this fall, there is a perfect place waiting for you somewhere in Upstate New York. Pack a camera and wear your warm clothes and you’ll be out enjoying the fall foliage like never before in no time at all.

Adirondack panorama fall photo credit Idawriter
Waterfall Foliage photo credit Andy Arthur
Fall foliage photo credit Andy Arthur
Trail with foliage photo credit Dariusz Dembinski
Fall along the waterfront photo credit Tony Webster

posted at: 2021-10-12 19:13:00, last updated: 2021-10-17 05:42:24

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