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Fall is definitely a special time to photograph, and the Hudson Valley has lots to offer. You can spend days exploring state parks and private preserves, miles of river shorelines, creeks, waterfalls, and lakes, most within 90 minutes from NYC. The air is crisp, the flying insects are all gone, and the cooler temps often create fog and other atmospheric conditions during the early morning hours.

While I’ve shared my favorite locations to photograph the foliage in the Hudson Valley before, I wanted to update this list with new parks and locations. This should keep any photographer or nature lover busy for quite a while. I’ve also listed them geographically from one side of the valley to the other, starting closest to NYC.

Nyack State Park

A river side trail amongst high cliffs, this park is great during the sunrise as it’s located on the west side of the river. Good color variety and cliff faces add nice background texture and details. You can also hike up to the cliff tops for a magnificent view of the Hudson. Lots of easy hiking and with the right conditions, the hours will fly by. Hook Mountain State Park is also nearby and has plenty of photographic potential.

  • Directions: Google maps – I usually park at the main entrance at the northern end of N. Broadway, then follow the long shoreline path north.
  • Best Times: sunrise

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Harriman State Park

A great location only 45 miles north of NYC with lots of variety and color variation. With numerous lakes, trails, creeks, and waterfalls, there is something here for everyone. Favorites include Silvermine Lake, Lake Tiorati, and if you don’t mind a very long but enjoyable hike, Island Pond. This area also tends to change color very late in the season, and I’ve often visited at the end of October or early November with good results.

  • Directions: Google maps – Drive on Seven Lakes Drive to access most of the best locations.
  • Best Times: sunrise or sunset, any overcast or rainy day.
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Small lake in Harriman State Park

Little Stony Point

Sitting right on the Hudson River with a beach and one of the best views of the dramatic mountains in this area, Little Stony Point is worth a visit in the fall. Both sunrise and sunset can work here, and it all depends on which side of the river has the best color. Try to plan your visit during low tide for more variety and space to move around on the beach. Find a small trail that leads onto the rocky summit in the middle of the park, and you’ll have a nice birds eye view of the river from south to north.

  • Directions: Google maps – park off of Rt 9D, then follow the bridge over the Metro North Tracks all the way to the river. Alternatively, look for a trail marker on the left about a 1/4 from the bridge to a trail with sweeping views of the valley.
  • Best Times: sunrise or sunset

Franny Reese State Park

Just across the river from the city of Poughkeepsie, this beautiful park offers lots of trails, old ruins, and views of the Hudson . Best time to visit is sunrise for nice morning backlight. Combine this with a visit to neighboring “Walkway Over the Hudson” for a nice combination of open views and forest scenes. [Website]((http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/frannyreese)

  • Directions: Google maps – From the parking lot at Haviland Rd, take the steps down and then under the Mid-Hudson Bridge to the main trailhead.
  • Trail Map
  • Best Times: sunrise or overcast/rainy day.
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Yellow trail at Franny Reese St Park

Walkway Over the Hudson

While not technically a “park”, this converted railroad bridge over the Hudson offers dramatic views of the river for miles north and south, the city of Poughkeepsie, the Poughkeepsie Bridge, and beautiful open views of the sky during sunrise and sunset. The west side of the river provides the best opportunities for rich forest color in the fall. Website

  • Directions: Google maps – Can be accessed from the east or west side of the Hudson, but enter from the west side (Haviland Rd) if planning a side hike into Franny Reeese State Park.
  • Best Times: sunrise or sunset
View from the Walkway, Hudson Valley

Walkway Over the Hudson

Minnewaska State Park / Mohonk Preserve

Another great area with lots of varying terrain, lakes, waterfalls, and the best hiking trails in the region. I especially love Lake Awosting, and the view from Castle Point is one of the best anywhere. You can find these location on the Minnewaska Park map, but they will require some hiking, so allow lots of extra time. I usually prefer overcast or somewhat rainy days when you can shoot all day without worrying about harsh sunlight. The Peters Kill Trail is a must do hike, with streams and scenic lookouts of the whole region.

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Peters Kill Trail, Mohonk Preserve

The Mohonk Presere is a favorite, and I lead workshops there every year. Highlights during the fall include Banticou Crag and Spring Valley Road, Duck Pond, Undercliff and Overcliff Rd. Find all of these on the Mohonk Presvere Map available at the visitors center.

  • Directions Google maps
  • Best Times: sunrise or sunset, any cloudy or rainy day, really anytime!
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Clove Valley, Mohonk Preserve

Black Creek Preserve

You can read all about this park on the Scenic Hudson website, but it is a “must visit” place for me every fall. It has a wonderful “forest” feel while being right on the edge of the Hudson. Varying terrain, small rocky beaches during low tide, and nice hiking provide everything needed for a good photo shoot. Sunrise is definitely best combined with low tide.

  • Directions Google maps – from the parking area follow the trails to the Pitch Pine overlook for great views of the Hudson
  • Trail map
  • Best Times: sunrise or overcast/rainy day.
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Blue trail at the Black Creek Preserve

Mills Norrie State Park

One of my favorite parks in all of the Hudson Valley. Hudson River shoreline, great kayaking, views of the Esopus lighthouse, Catskill Mountains, and miles of forested trails with a nice combination of deciduous and evergreen trees, there is always color here regardless of the season. I usually park at the Staatsburg Mansion, and follow the trails south along the river – never disappointed.

  • Directions Google maps – From the Staatsburg Mansion, look for the Blue and White trails which lead along the river south to Mills Norrie State Park. Great views of the Esopus Lighthouse from here as well.
  • Best Times: sunrise or sunset.

Falling Waters Preserve

A newly created Scenic Hudson park, it offers lots of opportunities right on shores of the Hudson River. I like to visit during low tide to use foreground boulders and rocks as strong compositional elements, and the colors can be dramatic during peak season. There are also some really nice creeks flowing into the river that make for nice forest images. I can get lost creatively in these types of settings for hours on end. This park feels really remote, and you’ll love the tranquility and solitude – plus the sound of the water is hypnotizing.

  • Directions Google maps – both Red and white trails have lots to offer…explore both!
  • Trail map
  • Best Times: sunrise and sunset
Swirling Color, Hudson Valley

Falling Waters Preserve

Olana Historic Site

Home of famed painter Frederic Church, I never miss an autumn season without visiting Olana. Nice trails, a picturesque lake, and fantastic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Plus the persian style home of Church is architecturally spectacular and you can learn about the Hudson River school or painters while you’re there. I’m actually leading a workshop there this fall – learn more here.

North South Lake / Kaaterskill Falls

Classic location in the Hudson Valley, which has inspired artists for generations. While not as close to NYC as the other locations, and off of the Hudson River, it is well worth a visit if you want a whole day outing. The hike in to Kaaterskill Falls is relatively short and easy, and is one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the region. From North South Lake you can access the Escarpment Trail where many painters drew inspiration for their work during the 1900’s.

  • Directions Google maps
  • Best Times: overcast or rainy day for falls, sunrise or sunset for North/South Lake
Kaaterskill Creek Falls

Kaaterskill Creek Falls

I hope this provides some inspiration and good starting points for you to explore and photograph in the Hudson Valley. Don’t forget the many historic parks and estates that you can visit as well, including the Vanderbilt Mansion and Clermont State Park and Historic Site which provide great views of the Hudson as well as classic architecture. The most important thing to remember is to just get out with a clear mind and enjoy any setting where nature always provides inspiration.

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Franny Reese State Park

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Bulls Head, Hudson Highlands St Park.

Any feedback or questions – leave your comments below.

RR Jr

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This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. I am familiar with many of the locations you have described in this blog. However, I know that some of the spots (such as Minnewaska State Park) open well after sunrise. How do you get around the hours of operation issue?

    1. Hi Neal – yes Minnewaska is a state park so access before sunrise is not possible. I wait for a rainy or overcast day, especially in the fall when colors are most saturated when leaves are wet. You can spend all day photographing the waterfalls, streams, and trees.

      RR

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