Best Bets for Local Leaf Peeping

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Linda Lowen, author of “100 Things to Do in Syracuse Before You Die.” To enjoy fall foliage, she likes the stretch of U.S. Route 20 between Auburn and Bouckville.

As the temperature dips overnight and the sunlight mellows, plan to take a leaf peeping trip. But don’t plan concretely. 

Avid leaf peepers have observed trees transform in 24 hours from barely tinted to peak. Or windy and rainy weather can obliterate a colorful tree’s leaves in mere hours. Microclimates, such at Watkins Glen, can make timing a leaf peeping trip tricky and higher elevation may mean cooler weather and sooner transformations.

Linda Lowen, author of “100 Things to Do in Syracuse Before You Die,” has crisscrossed the region while researching for her book. She likes the stretch of U.S. Route 20 between Auburn and Bouckville.

“It’s just under 60 miles and a little over an hour’s drive, but you could make a full day of it stopping in the towns along the way which include Auburn, lakeside Skaneateles (worth it for lunch and shopping), LaFayette (Apple Valley—pick some apples!) then on to Cazenovia (another lakeside village but smaller with more great restaurants) and then through Nelson and Morrisville on to Bouckville, which is a legendary village known for its numerous antique stores.”

Although Lowen likes driving south from Syracuse on Route 81, for leaf peeping, she prefers the slower pace of Route 281 from Tully to Route 13 in Homer and then on down Route 13 to Ithaca.

“The Route 13 corridor connects two college towns, Cortland and Ithaca, and both have a lot to offer,” Lowen said. “But don’t overlook Homer itself, particularly the quaint downtown village area, which is small-town living at its most charming.”

In the Western Finger Lakes, she likes looping around Keuka Lake, which offers “gorgeous lake views, sweeping hillsides and plenty of fall colors and of course wineries.”

She added that Hammondsport offers some good dining options.

“It’s definitely a town that knows how to feed visitors well,” Lowen said.

Sandy Roe, a well-traveled local photographer, enjoys many CNY venues for autumnal photography.

“I often just go driving around, looking for something that catches my eye,” Roe said.

Her favorite spots include Webster’s Pond and Strathmore – Onondaga Park.

“They’re close to home and have a beautiful view of the city,” she said.

In Oakwood Cemetery, visitors can enjoy both great old trees and historic headstones and structures.

Hikers would enjoy Charlie Major Trail. Roe said that the flat topography accented by waterfalls, streams, and the ruins of old mills and a distillery make it a favorite.

“Carpenters Falls has a new viewing platform,” Roe added. “It’s nice ride along Skaneateles Lake. At Cazenovia Gorge Trail, there’s the rail trail, waterfalls, streams, and ruins.”

She also likes the overlook at Clark Reservation, the view of Skaneateles Lake from Ripley Hill, and the Cazenovia Art Park.

“They have art installations along the trail and a nice view of Cazenovia Lake,” she said.

Green Lakes, Thornden Park, and Onondaga Lake also make her list.

“We are blessed to have the Adirondacks close enough for a day trip,” Roe said.