17 best spots to see fall foliage in NYC

The beautiful yet fleeting season of fall has officially begun in New York City. While a trip to the Catskill or Adirondack Mountains makes for a fun-filled weekend, New Yorkers don’t need to venture beyond the city limits to enjoy the colorful fall foliage. Typically, peak foliage in the city occurs in late October to early November and lasts only a few days. To ensure you don’t miss a leaf gazer this year, the city’s Parks Department released a “Autumn Leaves Tracker‘ indicating when peak hues are reached for several tree species. Find ahead of time some of the best parks and gardens in the five boroughs to take in the beauty of the season.

As part of its Fall for NYC initiative, NYC Parks hosts several Urban Park Ranger-led events and tours focused on fall foliage in public parks, including a Fall Festival at Rockaway’s Bayswater Park, a Fall Foliage Walk through Central Park, and a bike ride through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

“NYC Parks are the best places to experience fall in New York City and see the changing leaves, like yellow ginkgoes and red oak trees,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “From celebrating fall in Rockaway to biking through Van Cortlandt Park, we invite you to join us this fall and #FallforNYC!”

Brooklyn

Photo of Rhododendrites on Wikimedia

The Green Wood Cemetery
While Green-Wood Cemetry is charming year-round, the 478-acre historic landmark really shines in the fall. Across its hills, valleys, and glacial ponds, Green-Wood features a diverse collection of trees and living specimens, including fall’s all-stars: sugar maple, Japanese maple, oak, and gingko trees. The cemetery also has one of the largest collections of statues and mausoleums from the 19th and 20th centuries, making it the perfect place to visit around Halloween.

Photo by King of Hearts on Wikimedia

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
A vibrant array of reds, yellows and oranges can be seen at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from October through late November. Seasonal must-sees include the Katsura tree near Oak Circle, which is one of the oldest trees in the garden, scarlet oaks along Cherry Esplanade, black tupelos in the Water Garden, and the 100-foot-tall sweetgum tree next to the upper gate . The garden recommends going to the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden when fall foliage is at its peak for beautiful views of several different maple species, including Japanese and cut maples.


Copyright: NYC Parks

Owl’s Head Park
Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge is known for its sloping hills and views of New York Harbor. It’s also a great place to enjoy the changing colors of fall with nearly 30 acres and a variety of trees. According to NYC Parks, some of the most colorful trees to see in the park in the fall include oaks, maples, beeches, and tulip poplars.

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Photo © 6sqft

scenic park
Experienced leaf scouts know that Prospect Park is one of the best places in town to enjoy the fall foliage as it transforms from an oasis of green to an oasis of orange and gold. While the park’s entire 500 acres can be enjoyed at any time of the year, fall puts on a show at the peninsula, the Gorge (Brooklyn’s only forest), the Lullwater and its bridge, and Lookout Hill, one of the borough’s highest points, which forms part of the Sweeping invites treetop views.

bronx


Photo by Jessica Sheridan on Flickr

New York Botanical Garden
Always making an effort for fall festivals, the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden offers everything from pumpkin parades and pumpkin carving challenges to spooky after-dark adventures and skeleton walks, all with its beautiful 250 acres as a backdrop. When the city’s fall foliage is at its peak, head to NYBG’s 50-acre Thain Family Forest, the largest uncut expanse of New York’s native forest landscape. The old growth forest is home to trees that are largely untouched and predate the American Revolution.


Copyright: NYC Parks

Pelham Bay Park
Covering more than 2,770 acres in the northeastern Bronx, Pelham Bay Park is New York City’s largest park. While there are so many attractions and interesting places to visit in the park, NYC Parks suggests hiking the Kazimiroff Trail in the fall, which runs through Hunter Island, a nature reserve with “tall oaks, Norway spruces, and white pines.” Pelham Bay Park’s Sensory Garden, recently renovated in 2020, features a playground surrounded by foliage and flowers that aims to engage all five senses.


Photo by Steven Pisano on Flickr

Van Cortlandt Park
Stretching from the Northwest Bronx into Westchester County, Van Cortlandt Park is the city’s third largest park and one of the most natural. Across its 1,000 acres, the park’s oak, hickory, sugar maple and sweetgum trees will briefly exhibit russet and yellow foliage this fall. The best way to see all of the park’s foliage offerings is to hike the John Muir Trail, a two-mile hike through Northeast Forest, Croton Woods, and Northwest Forest, according to NYC Parks. This year, the Urban Park Rangers are hosting a fall foliage bike ride through Van Cortlandt Park.

Manhattan


Photo: Central Park Conservancy

central park
A more obvious choice for this list, but a necessary one, is Central Park, a magical place in the fall. The famous park’s 18,000 trees are transformed into a mosaic of yellow, orange and red that spans the different landscapes. Some Central Park Conservancy recommended sites include North Woods, Conservatory Garden, The Pool, North Meadow, The Reservoir, The Ramble, The Mall, and The Pond and Hallett Nature Sanctuary. From black cherry and scarlet oak to American elm and hickory, Central Park’s trees are a must during the peak fall season. View the full fall foliage map of the conservancy here. This year, the city’s Urban Park Rangers are hosting fall foliage walks on October 23 and November 20, taking participants through Central Park North’s Forever Wild Preserve.

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Photo by Allison Meier on Flickr

Franklin D. Roosevelt Park of the Four Freedoms
Spend an autumn afternoon at FDR’s Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, a four-acre park that honors the four essential freedoms set out in a 1941 speech by President Roosevelt. Located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, the memorial is made of 7,700 tons of granite and has 120 Little Leaf Lime trees that turn from green to golden orange in the fall.

Photo by Shannon McGee on Flickr

Highbridge Park
Highbridge Park, named for the city’s oldest standing bridge, is a 130-acre urban oasis in Washington Heights with natural and introduced forests supporting a variety of trees such as northern red oak, hickory, sweetgum, tulip trees, and native black cherry, sassafras, and Hackberry trees, among others. For the best view of the fall foliage, take the trail that runs above Harlem River Drive and past the historic bridge and water tower.

Photo of Eden, Janine and Jim on Flickr

Inwood Hill Park
Home to Manhattan’s last natural forest, Inwood Park is a great place to enjoy the fall scenery. With several steep hills, caves, and rock formations, as well as Manhattan’s last natural salt marsh, the park’s prehistoric roots are showcased to the full. In the fall, NYC Parks recommends a walk along the park’s blue trail, which takes hikers through forest filled with variegated oak and hickory trees and to Overlook Meadow, which offers beautiful panoramic views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.


Photo by missvancamp on Flickr

The Met Monastery
Here’s a unique way to enjoy the fall foliage in New York. Located in Washington Heights’ picturesque Fort Tryon Park, the Met Cloisters is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to medieval art and architecture. The museum is surrounded by gardens where medieval species and plants from Romanesque and Gothic monasteries can be seen.

Queens


Photo by Dan DeLuca on Flickr

Alley Pond Park
Located east of Flushing and below Little Neck Bay, Alley Pond Park is a vast park that includes 635 acres of meadows, ponds, woods and marshes. Queens Park has several hiking trails that are worth walking to get an up-close look at the many coniferous oaks, white pines, black cherries, American beeches and sweetgum trees. For the best leaf-watching opportunities, visit Oakland Lake, a 15,000-year-old spring-fed glacial cirque pond surrounded by oak trees. And if you take the Tulip Tree Trail, you’ll see the park’s famous Alley Pond Giant, a 40-meter tall tulip tree estimated to be 350 to 450 years old.

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Copyright: NYC Parks

forest park
Located in Central Queens, Forest Park is home to the borough’s largest contiguous oak forest, making it a great option for a fall foliage walk. Notable trees to see in fall include northern red oak, scarlet oak, tulip poplar, shagbark hickory, white oak, and wild black cherry, according to NYC Parks. Urban Park Rangers are hosting two fall events this year, City of Forest Day: Forest Park Super Hike, to celebrate the park’s history and its flora and fauna, and Autumn Nature Art, a kid-friendly event featuring leaf and twig art is made, fruits and acorns.


Photo by Terry Ballard on Flickr

Pillowa Park
Covering 235 acres in Flushing, Pillowa Park features a historic grove established in 1839 that includes over 100 trees from around the world. Located at the north end of the park near scenic Pillowa Lake, Pillowa Grove is a must-see in the fall when the leaves of katsura, oak, Japanese maple, weeping beech, willow, and Manchurian linden change. In the fall, leaf scouts can also see the bald cypress, an evergreen that changes color throughout the season, morphing from green to fiery orange.

Staten Island


Copyright: NYC Parks

Clove Lakes Park
Located in the West Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, this 193-acre park is known for its natural landscape of hills, lakes, ponds and the borough’s tallest living thing: a 300-year-old tulip tree. Clove Lakes Park, including all three of the park’s lakes, has no shortage of trails and trails to enjoy the vibrancy of fall. Here you will see tulip trees, red oaks, sweetgum trees and black cherries.

Courtesy of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens
Another must-see on Staten Island in the fall or any time of year is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, a sprawling 83-acre campus that includes a public park, botanical gardens, and an arts center. This year, Snug Harbor is hosting a Fall Foliage Walk through the lush garden, beginning at the Visitor Info Booth on Chapel Road, passing through the Pond Garden and ending at the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden.

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fall foliage, nyc parks

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