Foliage 'Faves' in New York City
September 26, 2012

Foliage "Faves" in New York City

It’s the first full week of fall and with daytime temperatures forecasted to be in the mid-70s for the near future, time is nigh to see if last year’s cords, jackets, and sweaters still fit (invariably they don’t) and to start planning foliage trips.

Much as a getaway to the Catskills, Adirondacks, or beyond would be wonderful, if the kids’ school-year sports—and homework!— now have you staying closer to home on weekends, rest assured: there is no need to stray farther than the five boroughs to take in the multicolored splendor of the season. Owing to the drier-than-average summer and current cool nights, we should be surrounded by spectacularly bright leaf colors in just a couple of weeks and stretching into early November.

Following is a roundup of our top leaf-peeping picks, in alphabetical order by borough. Downloadable park maps are available on the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation website.

Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park

If you like to take in your foliage by trekking along deep-woods paths, then start planning a trip to Van Cortlandt Park. Covering nearly 1,500 acres, it has terrain that ranges from the moderately challenging Cass Gallagher trail in the rocky ridges of the park’s northern hinterlands, to the soft trails that follow the banks of Tibbets Brook in the tract’s central area. You can also view trees from the vantage of a horse’s back, at the Riverdale Equestrian Center. Billboard maps near the park entrances outline all the routes you can take.

Brooklyn: Fort Greene Park

Brooklyn’s first park—Fort Greene—is loaded with American history, not to mention 57 different species of trees. As the name suggests, Fort Greene was once a military fortress, built in 1776 on a high peak that gave the Continental Army a view of the surrounding land and rivers. As for the trees, the top-ten list, listed in order from most (15.2 percent) to least (3.2 percent) abundant, includes: Gingko, London plane, Horse-Chestnut, Norway maple, Pin oak, Austrian pine, Black cherry, Elm, Honey locust, and Chinese scholar tree. Many of these are documented on a tree map inside the Information Center and described on markers near the species themselves. At the entrance near Willoughby Avenue, a map outlines routes of various distances that you can take around the hilly park. Combining these two maps you can decide on a route that covers the distance you’d like to walk, featuring the trees that interest you the most.

Manhattan: Fort Tryon Park

In our view, Fort Tryon Park ranks as one of the most serene and soothing outdoor spaces in Manhattan. We have never encountered organized events that draw masses to walk or run for a cause; nor, in fact, have we ever been passed by a jogger out for some vigorous exercise. Fort Tryon is a place for walking, strolling, stopping, and gazing. It is thoughtfully landscaped to be beautiful and colorful all year long, but it is particularly spectacular in autumn. It sits high on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River, and beyond that, the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey. It is no accident that Fort Tryon gives visitors the most dramatic foliage views in the city: John D. Rockefeller Jr., who donated the park to New York City in 1935, also established the Palisades in part to preserve the stunning vista from across the river. 

Queens: Forest Park

A list of the top foliage sites in the city would have to include a park named Forest. It is appropriately so called for its incredible wilderness, including more than 400 acres of continuous oak forest. Like Van Cortlandt Park, Forest Park is a great place to get in deep with the trees, with a network of forested hiking, mountain-biking, and horseback-riding trails. The paths are also blazed with colored paint on tree trunks. Even better just inside the entrance at Forest Park Drive and Metropolitan Avenue, there is a billboard for those not used to hiking explaining how to follow blazed trails.

Staten Island: Moses Mountain

Moses Mountain is part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, a territory that, while added recently, is one of the largest areas of developed New York City parkland. Moses Mountain offers two great ways to see the foliage: a wooded hike that brings you up close and personal with the trees, and a stunning mountaintop view that allows you to take in the multicolored carpet from above. A popular destination within the 2,600-acre Staten Island Greenbelt, Moses Mountain is steady and easy 45-minute climb (timing it with kids aged 6 and 9) up a peak that reaches 260 feet. Throughout the trek and at the summit, you’ll have to remind yourself that was once a mound of debris that resulted from the construction of the Staten Island Expressway.

Ask Us!

Got questions about trip planning while keeping your kids happy when you get outside this fall? Ask away in this discussion thread and we'll answer!

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