Autumn is, without a doubt, one of the best times of year to explore Ulster County. The region is filled to the brim with fall activities and unique leaf-peeping locations with jaw-dropping colors to enjoy via scenic driving routes, mountain overlooks, riverboat rides and more.
Shawangunk Scenic Byway From Kerhonkson to New Paltz
The Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway is an 88-mile loop between with a section between Kerhonkson and New Paltz. The byway encircles the northern Shawangunk Mountains and travels through the Rondout and Wallkill valleys, taking you along country roads in the towns of New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk (Wallkill), Wawarsing (Ellenville), Rochester (Kerhonkson/Accord), Marbletown (High Falls/Stone Ridge), and Rosendale.
This drive offers views of rustic farmlands and mountain vistas, and ascends into the Shawangunk Mountains, which rise more than 2,000 feet above sea level. Beginning in Kerhonskon, where Route 44/55 meets Route 209, there is a 10.4 mile stretch of mountain road, with sharp turns and switchbacks. Drivers will pass two back-to-back overlooks, each with views of the Roundout Valley and the Catskill Mountains.
The nearby Minnewaska State Park offers the chance to walk, cycle, rock climb and hike to a waterfall. Another idyllic gem, Mohonk Preserve near New Paltz, features more than 7,000 sprawling acres of natural areas and hundreds of trails, providing access to some of the best views in all of Ulster County.
Rip Van Winkle Hudson River Cruise
Revel in the views of Hudson Valley foliage with a leisurely trip down the Hudson River. Cruises are a delightful excursion for the whole family and include guided tours, where you’ll see and learn about some of the region’s most notable landmarks — regional estates, picturesque lighthouses, quaint villages and scenic preservation sites, from Rhinecliff to Esopus and everywhere in between. The riverboat boards in Kingston, only a 15-minute drive from Ulster. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.hudsonrivercruises.com or call 1-800-979-3370.
State Road 214 From Phoenicia to Tannersville
Experience a full day’s worth of fall foliage as you make your way through the breathtaking Catskill Mountains with a route that offers plentiful opportunities to stop and explore landmarks along the way. From Ulster, take State Road 28 across the Catskills. From there, drive up State Road 214 until you reach Tannersville. For twice the enjoyment, make it a round trip by taking State Road 23A past the scenic North/South Lake Campground before heading south on Route 32.
Kingston to the Ashokan Reservoir
From NYS Thruway Exit 19: Take Route 28 West approximately 23 miles to Boiceville. Turn left onto Route 28A for breathtaking views of one of New York City’s largest water supplies. Route 28A will take you around the entire reservoir and back to Route 28 just outside of Kingston. Head back to Kingston to have a terrific lunch or to visit some historic sites such as the the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
Ashokan Reservoir to Stone Ridge/High Falls/Rosendale/New Paltz
At the junction of Route 28A and Route 213 turn onto Route 213/County Route 4 (Atwood Road). Stay on Route 213/CR4 for a very pretty drive into the charming town of Stone Ridge. Where Route 213 intersects Route 209 turn right onto Route 209 South. At the intersection of Route 209 and Route 213 turn left onto Route 213 East into High Falls (a magnificently quaint, tiny New England type town). In High Falls, turn right onto Mohonk Road (County Route 6A). Follow CR 6A over the Shawangunk Ridge past Mohonk Mountain House. Stay on CR 6A until it intersects with Springtown Road (CR 7). Bear right onto Springtown Road to Route 299. Turn left onto Route 299 to go into New Paltz, where visitors can return to the New York State Thruway.
Falling Water Preserve
This dog-friendly preserve situated in Glasco encompasses several miles of trails featuring magnificent views and an abundance of natural areas to explore including streams, forests, and waterfalls. A portion of the trail also runs along the Hudson River, making it a local favorite for fishing and leaf-peeping during the fall months.
New Paltz to Highmount
Start your day in New Paltz heading west on Route 299. Turn right onto Route 44/55 following it past the Mohonk Preserve Visitors Center, where you can enjoy free indoor and outdoor exhibits or explore 70 miles of carriage roads and trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
After you travel through the 5-mile-per-hour hairpin turn, find the first overlook on your left for breathtaking views. Continue westward on Route 44/55 to Minnewaska State Park. Listed as Best Park by Hudson Valley Magazine, this Preserve offers sights of the impressive Gunks. With 35 miles of carriage roads and 25 miles of foot paths, it’s a favorite among rocking climbing enthusiasts and attracts hikers, sightseers, and horseback riders. You will also find four pristine sky lakes and several waterfalls.
The next two overlooks offer views of the Catskill Mountains. Continue to the intersection of Route 209 and turn right onto Route 209 North. You’ll soon arrive at the home of the 200-year-old family-owned and family-friendly Kelder’s Farm (5755 Route 209, Kerhonkson). Meet Chomsky, the biggest garden gnome you’ll probably ever see. This pick-your-own farm also has a farm market with local goodies, friendly farm animals, corn and meadow mazes, unique edible mini-golf, picnic area and playground, and amazing views.
Continue north on Route 209 through the hamlet of Accord, make a right turn onto Lucas Turnpike (County Route 1). Rondout Creek meanders alongside farms and pastures along the way. At the light, turn right onto Route 213 into the delightful hamlet of High Falls. The D&H Canal Museum at 23 Mohonk Road (Route 213); antique, gift, and flower shops; and restaurants are all within walking distance of one another, with apple orchards and the High Falls waterfalls nearby.
Head west on Route 213 for 1 mile to Route 209. Turn right at the light and enter the charming hamlet of Stone Ridge. From Route 209, turn left onto Route 213 (County Route 4) for a very pretty drive. Continue on Route 213 to Olive Bridge. Turn left onto Route 28A, then right onto Reservoir Road (Route 42) which leads to a bridge with spectacular views of the Ashokan Reservoir. You can park nearby and take a walk. Or, from Route 213, turn left on Route 28A and continue around the western portion of the reservoir past West Shokan and to Boiceville, where you’ll reach Route 28.
Turn left onto Route 28. Follow Route 28 through Mt. Tremper, past Phoenicia, and on to Highmount. Turn left onto Gallic Curci Road, following signs for Belleayre Mountain. Take a left after the first parking lot onto Belleayre's upper access road. The lifts might not be running, but the views from the deck of the lodge are amazing. Hopefully you brought a picnic.
Head home via Route 28. If time permits, follow Levon Helm Boulevard (NY-375N) to Mill Hill Road, where you turn left to head to Woodstock's Village Green.
U.S. Highway 9W
Take U.S. Highway 9W south and you’ll witness fantastic views of the Hudson River winding through Ulster County. On the way you’ll discover the picturesque towns of Malden, Saugerties, Glasco, Highland, and more.