HomeTravelThe best spots for apple picking and fall foliage outside NYC
The best spots for apple picking and fall foliage outside NYC
October 9, 2020
Even in the midst of the pandemic, New Yorkers are falling for fall — and trying to get outside as much as possible while the gorgeous weather lasts. Unfortunately, that’s led to crowding at popular day-trip destinations for autumnal activities.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park are just some popular nearby getaways for hiking and leaf-looking that have been overrun with visitors. Bear Mountain alone has received a number of crowd-related complaints in reviews posted on AllTrails, an online portal for guides and maps, and last weekend, even the overfill parking lots were completely full.
“Uncomfortably crowded given COVID-19, but most people were respectful with mask-wearing,” posted one commenter of Bear Mountain, while another said, “It is a nice short hike, but super crowded. Hence the 3 stars.”
Thankfully, these aren’t the only destinations for fall fun. Outside of the city, there are plenty of lesser-known, if not off-the-beaten-path, spots where folks can still celebrate the season. Some take reservations; most offer plenty of space for safe social distancing.
Taste wine and pick pumpkins
It’s not just Long Island’s North Fork where you can visit wineries — Connecticut also has its own stock. And in Shelton, roughly 90 minutes by car from Manhattan, Jones Family Farms blends it with fall flair. The Jones Winery has a spread of whites and reds, plus dessert wines, with indoor and outdoor table service available by reservation only. A $20 deposit secures a spot for no greater than three people inside and six outside. The 400-acre grounds have more than just sips. Visitors can also reserve a time to head to the pumpkin fields, where they can pick their own, for $5 per person on weekdays and $10 per head on weekends. That fee also lets visitors take on-site hikes, including one that goes past the vineyards and Christmas tree plantations. “We’re glad that people are able to find us as an opportunity to get out and re-experience nature,” said facilities and hospitality manager Tom Harbinson. Among the requirements, facial coverings must be worn at all times.
Check out the fall foliage
For leaf-peeping, head to Stamford, Conn., where fall colors have just begun revealing themselves. The Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens, located north of downtown and surrounded by forest, has foliage views “everywhere you look” on its 93 acres, said its CEO Jane von Trapp. Adding to the appeal are a number of trails that lead past champion trees, wetlands and even gardens, such as the Sensory Garden where even roses still bloom. “It’s spectacular right now,” von Trapp added. For peak foliage, visit in the next week or two. “Our parking lot might be full, but you would not know where those people are,” she said. The grounds are free and open to the public year round, from dawn until dusk. No reservations are needed, but visitors must stay distant from others and have masks.
Go apple picking
About 130 miles away from Manhattan, Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, NY, is a bit of a trek. But once you arrive by car, you can drive to any point of the 200-acre farm to pick your crop — including the orchard’s 100-plus varieties of apples. Tasty right now: Fuji and Golden Delicious; and Pink Lady is nearing peak ($1 per pound). The grounds also include pick-your-own pumpkins (40 cents per pound) and winter squash (60 cents per pound). “There’s plenty of room to space out,” said Jake Samascott, a part-owner of the family-run orchard, later adding, “it’s pretty easy to keep your distance,” even when it gets busy on weekends. (Among the rules: Whenever social distancing isn’t possible, masks must be worn.) Meanwhile, Fishkill Farms — a premiere destination for apple-picking 65 miles north of the Big Apple — has implemented a reservation system ($45 for a weekend group of up to five people). Weekends can get packed, so owner Josh Morgenthau recommends visiting on a weekday ($40 for up to five people) after calling to confirm there are apples to harvest. “On the weekdays, even when it’s very busy … you have the farm to yourself,” he said. Masks must be worn when distancing isn’t possible.
“People say it reminds them of Vermont,” said Karen Collins of Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill — located inside an apple-red barn from the 1850s — of which she’s the sixth-generation owner. “It’s just a really low-key family farm.” Located in Chester, NJ, roughly an hour’s drive from Midtown, locals head here for popular cider donuts and maple-bacon cider donuts (from $5.50 for a half-dozen). On weekends, visitors can even munch on Nathan’s hot dogs boiled in the farm’s apple cider (from $3.50). “They get nice and tender with a little sweetness,” she said. Also on weekends: cider-pressing demonstrations. And the grounds include a corn maze, which doesn’t require reservations, but masks must be worn and social distancing practiced. It’s open from Thursdays to Sundays, with Saturdays and Sundays receiving the bulk of traffic. “Thursdays and Fridays would be the time to come if it’s a beautiful day,” Colllins said.
Take a hike
Just 3 miles up and across the Hudson River from Bear Mountain, Manitou Point Preserve — a 126-acre spread in Garrison, NY — has 4 miles of hiking trails. One of them runs right alongside the Hudson’s shoreline, showing wide views of the river and tree-dotted terrain. As opposed to a mountain climb, the terrain here is easy. “It’s a great place to explore the majestic Hudson Highlands without expending a lot of energy,” said Seth McKee, land conservation director of the environmental organization Scenic Hudson, which helped establish this preserve in the 1990s. The land is privately owned, but the trails remain open to the public through an easement and a permanent conservation restriction held by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. (Be sure to keep a close eye on trail signs and avoid any area marked as private.) Free to access and open year round, from morning to night, the preserve also includes the Manitou Marsh, which is a nursery for striped bass, and Copper Mine Brook, which has several cascades.