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Where to see fall foliage near NYC in 2023: Maps and tips to help you find the best leaf peeping spots

CBS New York talks to experts about our fall foliage forecast
CBS New York talks to experts about our fall foliage forecast 02:23

With fall now upon us, many are looking for maps for fall foliage for New York and beyond, so they can find out when and where to enjoy the beautiful change in leaves that occurs annually. 

While locations in New England, such as Vermont, are well known for being the best places to view the fall foliage, brilliant colors can be viewed right in our area as well. From the Catskills to Central Park, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Metro-North Railroad announced Friday it will be running additional "leaf-peeping" trains along its Hudson Line for those looking to escape the city and enjoy the Hudson Valley.

CBS New York's Vanessa Murdock recently spoke with some local experts about what this season has in store for our area.  

What causes fall foliage color changes anyway?

The arrival of autumn brings about longer and cooler nights. These changes send a signal to the leaves in trees to stop producing chlorophyll, the compound that makes them green. The loss of chlorophyll leads to the unveiling of carotenoids and anthocyanins that are always present in the leaves, just masked by the chlorophyll. Carotenoids are what makes carrots orange, and anthocyanins are what makes blueberries blue.   


The perfect conditions to have trees ablaze in color are sun-filled warm days and cool, calm nights. A sunny day with highs in the mid to upper 60s followed by a night with lows in the 40s, or even upper 30s, is exactly ideal. Yet achieving this perfect blend of temperatures isn't easy, with weather patterns varying from year to year. 

Geographic location plays a big role in determining when the leaves will fall. For example, trees in rural and suburban locales, such as Orange County, will be exposed to colder nights than the city and immediate coastal sections. A phenomenon, known as the Urban Heat Island Effect, is what keeps cities warmer than the surrounding suburbs, especially at night, and in some cases up to 20 degrees warmer. This is due to all the buildings and concrete trapping the heat of the day and preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere at night. For coastal areas, the influence of the ocean, which takes a while to cool down from the heat of summer, moderates temperatures for the nearby land, thus preventing them from dropping too low at night. 

In turn, our inland suburban and rural counties will see their trees peak in color earlier than the city and coastal sections. Typically, the upper Hudson Valley and northwestern New Jersey peak in early to mid October. The lower Hudson Valley plus central and western New Jersey tend to see peak color in mid to late October, while the city, Long Island, and coastal areas of New Jersey and Connecticut have to wait until late October and early November for their  display of dazzling hues. Sometimes, trees in the city won't change color until mid to late November. 


Another major factor governing the display of fall colors are the prevailing weather patterns during the main growing season and early fall. A summer that is defined by lots of heat and dryness will deliver a lackluster array of color. On the other hand, a summer that is on the cooler and wetter side usually ushers in a brilliant, vibrant display, with redder reds and yellower yellows. The excess moisture acts as a catalyst to really bring out the true colors embedded within the leaves. However, a summer that turns from dry to wet, or even just a wet fall, will mitigate the effects of the initial dryness, and lead to a show-stopping display. If the fall is dominated by warm, humid, or windy conditions, that will make for a disappointing color show. 

Some leaf-peeping tips

Different species of trees produce different fall colors, as well as change colors at different times. The red maple tree produces spectacular red foliage later in fall. In contrast, the ash tree turns yellow much earlier. When going on leaf peeping expeditions, knowing what types of species grow where you're headed is helpful to maximize the experience. Other useful tidbits while searching where to view the leaves are: 

  • Higher elevations leaves turn sooner and drop earlier
  • Lower elevations leaves turn later and drop later
  • Trees that surround bodies of water, like lakes and ponds, will typically change colors before trees that are further away from the water. 

This year's colors


As far as this year goes, we had a dry start to the summer, subsequently followed by lots of wetness from mid July through September. Most of the region is running well above average in rainfall. This will likely set the stage for an abundance of fantastic fall color once cooler temperatures set in as we progress through October. So, expect lots of radiance. Last year we saw a similar pattern in which the summer was very dry, followed by a very wet fall. The outcome was an amazing arrangement of autumnal pigments. In fact, the best in many years. 


If you just can't wait to see those fall colors, Vermont is the place to go now. Otherwise, wait a little longer, and take advantage of what our region has to offer. Maybe start one weekend in our northern suburbs and then gradually work your way down to our coastal spots as the season wears on, ensuring you get to see color every weekend. Some great leaf peeping locations include Harriman State Park, Round Valley Reservoir, and Holmdel Park. 

In recent years, the seasonal change of colors has been occurring later and later. Last year was no exception. This may be our new normal, but eventually the colors do show up. Better late than never!

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