FeaturesTop FeaturesTop Stories

Scenic Drives For Optimal Leaf Peeping

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

As the weather turns crisp and leaves begin turning, it is a perfect time to take a fall drive to enjoy the color. 

Along the way, take the time to stop at a farm stand, pumpkin patch or cidery to pick up some produce, freshly made doughnuts and new fall décor for your home.

Route 89 South in Seneca Falls begins at Cayuga Lake State Park (bring along young grandchildren to enjoy the playground). Hugging Cayuga Lake to Ithaca for 38 miles, the route passes by numerous wineries on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. Northwest of Ithaca, stop at Taughannock Falls State Park for gorgeous waterfalls. Just south of Ithaca, explore Robert H. Treman State Park for Instagram-worthy snaps of waterfalls and foliage.

Route 38A South from Auburn winds alongside Owasco Lake. The 16-mile drive spans between Emerson Park in Auburn and Fillmore Glen State Park in Moravia, both picturesque venues for a walk. Bring along a picnic on a sunny autumn day to enjoy the weather.

Route 14 South from Lyons to Watkins Glen meanders by golden farm fields and small villages, skirts Seneca Lake and family-owned wineries and ends at Watkins Glen State Park. The Windmill Farm and Craft Market in Penn Yan is a bit of a sidetrack on Route 14A, but worth a jaunt for anyone who enjoys artisan crafts, as the market includes dozens of indoor and outdoor vendors on Saturdays. Hike the Glen to discover its 12 waterfalls and terrific scenery. Then take Route 414 north to view more scenery on the other side of the lake.

Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway in Wilmington offers unparalleled views of Lake Placid—along with distant views of Canada and Vermont—from the summit of Whiteface Mountain at almost 5,000 feet. The paved road rises more than 2,300 feet in five miles from the Toll House to the summit. Tickets for two to drive (driver and passenger) to the top is $40. While at Whiteface, consider a gondola ride, cliffside coaster or zipline to further enjoy the season.

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail, spanning shoreline of the Saint Lawrence River and Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls, includes numerous spectacular views of fall foliage and sparkling water. Choose any portion of the Seaway Trail for a day’s drive, or plan to make a long weekend of it with a stay at B&Bs along the route and dining at the charming farm restaurants and mom-and-pop cafes dotting the trail. www.discoverupstateny.com/visit-regions/seaway-trail

In Old Forge, take Route 28 east to Blue Mountain Lake, which winds through Little Moose Mountain Wilderness, Sargent Pond Wild Forest, Pigeon Lake Wilderness, and Moose River Plains to enjoy fantastic views of waterways paired with foliage.

The drive between Keene and Lake Placid has a few turns, but it is worth the drive. Start in Keene on Route 73 and drive west on Route 73/Cascade Road. Take the first right onto Route 9 North and then a slight left onto Springfield Road/County Highway 83. Take the next left onto Fox Farm Road/County Highway 63. In nearly a mile, turn left onto Olympic Trail/Route 86 and enjoy the views for the next 10 miles as you cruise into Lake Placid.

I Love NY, the state’s tourism website, offers a fall foliage report map so you can time your drive for optimal leaf peeping. Visit www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report.