Fall Drives 2009

The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, the nights are getting longer — it’s the ideal time to hit the road. Check out our local action-packed fall foliage routes



Foliage Drive #1: Taconic State Parkway

The parkway’s Columbia County stretch offers lush views, outdoor activities, and the picturesque village of Chatham

The northern Taconic State Parkway — specifically the 32-mile section through Columbia County — will prove a pleasant surprise to drivers whose only knowledge of the roadway is the oft-crowded branch south of Poughkeepsie. Bracketed by the Berkshires to the east, and the Hudson River and Catskills to the west, the parkway’s route was mapped out in the 1920s by a young Franklin Roosevelt. Purposely avoiding towns and villages — but incorporating state parks, abundant farmland, and a wide center median bursting with colorful foliage — the road seems custom-made for fall leaf-peeping. And with only about 10,000 cars (no trucks) traveling this stretch daily — compared to two-and-a-half times as many in Dutchess/Putnam counties — there’s rarely any traffic problems.

Even if you never leave your car, the views along this route are spectacular. Be sure to take advantage of the parkway’s two scenic overlooks, located near Gallatin and Ghent, which provide 360-degree views of the mountains and river in the distance. On a clear day, they offer some of the best vistas anywhere in the Valley.

You can also get a dose of culture from the Taconic Sculpture Park in Spencertown (see sidebar at right).

Opportunities for outdoor fun are just a parking lot away at Lake Taghkanic State Park, whose entrance is adjacent to the TSP in Ancram. With two beach areas, the park is often jammed with swimmers in summer; come fall, visitors can still enjoy eight miles of hiking and biking trails (lined with Appalachian oak and other colorful tree varieties); camping and picnicking areas; and paddle-boating and fishing on the 150-plus-acre lake. And be sure to keep an eye out for deer, rabbits, beaver — even coyotes — within the park’s confines.

A few miles east of the parkway on Route 23, you’ll find the newly opened Catamount Adventure Park. The name might lead you to think that you’ll be riding Ferris wheels and roller-coasters — not so. This adjunct to the popular ski area offers eight forest rope courses. Participants use rope “bridges,” cables, and zip lines to move among a series of platforms installed in the treetops; what better way to get a bird’s-eye view of the fall colors? On the way back to the parkway, stop for a snack at the Martindale Chief Diner, a 1958 stainless-steel landmark known for its giant neon sign.

End your Taconic tour in the village of Chatham, a quaint but lively spot with interesting architecture and good entertainment, shopping, and dining choices. Vestiges of the 19th century — including an 1872 pendulum clock tower, the 1887 Union Rail station (now a bank), and the well-preserved brick storefronts that line Main Street — give the village its Victorian flavor. But the area also has plenty to do. Catch a current movie (and check out the vintage marquee) for just $5 at the Crandell Theatre. The nearby Mac-Hadyn Theatre closes its season this month with Footloose; the Ghent Playhouse gets rolling on Oct. 9 with Mark Dunn’s comedy Belles. Browsers will want to check out the pewter flower-of-the-month bracelets at R.H. Van Alstyne Fine Jewelry, cute knit baby clothes at the Warm Ewe, and everything from refrigerator magnets to Le Creuset cookware at American Pie.

When hunger strikes, head to Blue Plate on Kinderhook Street. This American bistro uses vegetables grown at Chatham’s organic CSA farm, and cheese from Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. Owner Judy Grunberg keeps her customers happy with beef ribeye, grilled trout, and their “famous” meatloaf. (And happy they are — we’ve received several letters from Chatham locals that sing the praises of Blue Plate’s menu and service.)

Drivers looking to spend the night in the area should check out the Inn at Green River, just north of Hillsdale near the Massachusetts border. Innkeeper Deborah Bowen is renowned for creating a romantic atmosphere for her guests: Special room “add-ons” include fresh flowers and chocolates, or an in-room supper for late arrivals. And her sumptuous breakfasts (lemon-ricotta pancakes and fresh-baked scones are staples) have been lauded by writers in the New York Times and elsewhere.

Taconic Highlights:

Ghent Playhouse
The theater is housed in the former Ghent Town Hall, which was built over 100 years ago.
Ghent; 518-392-6264

Taconic Sculpture Park
Artist Ray Kanwit’s 19-foot-high cement head of a woman is a can’t-miss-it sight for drivers on the northbound side of the parkway, and one of more than 40 stone and concrete creations at the park (which offers tours daily by appointment).
Spencertown; 518-392-5757

The Inn at Green River
This circa 1830 farmhouse B&B has seven guest rooms — some with fireplaces, whirlpools, and deep-soaking tubs — that are decorated with paintings, sculptures, and antiques.
Hillsdale; 518-325-7248

Lake Taghkanic State Park
Ancram; 518-851-3631 or www.nysparks.state.ny.us

Catamount Adventure Park
Hillsdale; 518-325-3200 or www.catamounttrees.com

Martindale Chief Diner
Craryville; 518-851-2525

Crandell Theatre
Chatham; 518-392-3331 or http://crandelltheatre.com

Mac-Hadyn Theatre
Chatham; 518-392-9292 or www.machaydntheatre.org

R.H. Van Alstyne Fine Jewelry
Chatham; 518-392-7718 or http://vanalstynejewelry.com

Warm Ewe
Chatham; 518-392-2929 or www.warmewe.com

American Pie
Chatham; 518-392-6632

Blue Plate Restaurant
Chatham; 518-392-7711 or www.chathamblueplate.net

 

Foliage Drive #2: Route 6

Cross Orange County and hike its trails, experience its history, and navigate its twisting highways

Seeking an Orange County trip to get your fall foliage fix? The portion of Route 6 between Bear Mountain and Port Jervis has all the elements of a perfect autumn setting: sunset-colored treetops, quiet farms preparing for harvest, a couple of caramel-colored deer grazing by the highway, and small lakes lined with local wildflowers. Discover a new place to bring the family, a new way to spend a romantic weekend for two, or a slow, relaxing way to unwind.

One can’t help but be captivated by the natural beauty surrounding the Bear Mountain Inn during a Hudson Valley autumn. Tour one of its nature trails — some of which are included in the Appalachian National Scenic Trail route — or rent a boat on Hessian Lake and enjoy the serene scenery. Make reservations for Sunday brunch at the Overlook Lodge (across the lake from the inn) and indulge in its lavish buffet.

Highland Mills and Central Valley, two neighboring Orange County towns, offer delicious options for dinner. Taste traditional German dishes, such as knockwurst and sauerkraut, or beef goulash, at Highland Mills’ Black Forest Mill (look for the “fat chef” sign outside). At Gasho Hibachi Steakhouse in Central Valley, sample the samurai steak and mahi mahi with homemade sauce as entertaining chefs perform culinary tricks at your table. Don’t forget to visit the koi pond outside.

For a quick bite on the go, check out local favorite Jay’s Deli in Highland Mills. Grab some fresh coffee and a simple bacon, egg, and cheese bagel in the morning — just watch out for those Sunday crowds — or a cold-cut sandwich in the afternoon. You’ll quickly learn why residents love it.

The remains of charcoal pits and mines from the late 1800s — remnants of the town’s once-thriving iron industry — are still visible throughout history-rich Monroe. The town is also home to Museum Village, a family-oriented historic site where visitors can walk around a general store that dates back to 1875, see a replica of a 19th-century schoolhouse, try their hand at candle-making, and view the skeleton of a mastadon, a one-time Hudson Valley native. From Oct. 23-25, the legends of famed New York author Washington Irving are brought to life at the Village’s Halloween-themed event. Bring the kids for fun activities such as hayrides, a haunted house, games, and fall treats.

Sugar Loaf, that artsy little section of Chester, is right off Route 6. Once a sacred burial ground for Minisink Native Americans (before colonial settlers took over in the 1730s), it has been known as an arts-and-crafts village for the past 250 years. Surrounded by apple orchards and shadowed by Sugar Loaf Mountain, this picturesque setting is home to roughly 50 cafes, restaurants, and shops where local artisans make and sell art, jewelry, clothing, and more. Check out their farmers market every Saturday through November — all goods are from local farms, and you’ll find some outstanding salsas here.

The Anthony Dobbins Stagecoach Inn is an adorable bed-and-breakfast in Goshen, located near the town’s Main Street. Framed by tall trees, this well-known inn has been host to travelers for over 100 years. There are four rooms, plus one larger executive suite, and each has its own story. The popular William Penn room, for example, is so named because its four-poster canopy bed once belonged to the statesman. Goshen Historic Track and the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame are both nearby, just down the road from shops and restaurants.

The last stop before Pennsylvania is for careful drivers who aren’t afraid of heights: Be sure to check out Port Jervis’ “Hawk’s Nest,” a narrow, winding road on the side of a mountain on nearby Route 97. With only a stone wall separating the paved-over dirt path from a steep drop (looking out the window, you’ll see the tops of trees), this drive, although not for the faint of heart, should provide some astonishing autumn leaf-peeping views.

Route 6 Highlights:

Bear Mountain Inn & Overlook Lodge
Located in the state park, the Bear Mountain Inn features a rustic décor and outdoor activities. The Overlook Lodge, also on the property, offers modern accommodations and stunning views.
Bear Mountain; 845-786-2731

Black Forest Mill Highland Mills; 845-928-9895

Gasho Hibachi Steakhouse
Central Valley; 845-928-9277 or www.gasho.com

Jay’s Deli Highland Mills; 845-928-2803

Museum Village
Monroe; 845-782-8247 or www.museumvillage.org

Sugar Loaf www.sugarloafnychamber.com

Anthony Dobbins Stagecoach Inn
Goshen; 845-294-5526 or www.dobbinsinn.com

Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame
Goshen; 845-294-6330 or www.harnessmuseum.com

 

Foliage Drive #3: Route 22

This country road transports visitors to the quaint, rustic Dutchess County of yesteryear

At 337 miles, Route 22 is the longest north-south corridor, and the third-longest road, in the Empire State. Yet despite the byway’s tremendous length, fate has left this former cow path largely untouched by development’s homogenizing hand. And while any stretch of Route 22 is likely to wow passing leaf peepers, the Dutchess County portion is especially packed with the shops, restaurants, and historic sites you’d expect from a classic Valley drive.

Our trip on Route 22 begins, of all places, in a village on Route 44. Millbrook is only a few miles off our decided path, though, and besides — any town that can attract residents as wide-ranging as Timothy Leary and Mary Tyler Moore is too good to leave off the itinerary. Start your day at the shops on Franklin Avenue, the village’s main thoroughfare, and Front Street. There, you’ll find a handful of gift boutiques and antique stores — including the Millbrook Antiques Mall, which houses more than 40 dealers under one roof — as well as Slammin’ Salmon, a fish market; Merritt Bookstore, a knowledgeable indie dealer; and the blue-collar Reardon Briggs Hardware. Next, unwind from shopping with food or quiet reflection. The French bistro Café Les Baux offers the former, and with flair: Entrées such as les moules frites will leave you swearing to friends you dined in Paris. The 150-acre Innisfree Garden, located off Tyrell Road, offers the latter: The Chinese-style tea garden’s glacier lake, waterfalls, and many plants and floors combine to create an environment ideal for Zenning out.

As you traverse the ten miles of Route 44 that separate Millbrook from Route 22, be sure to keep an eye out for a wayward monkey or emu: The nearby Trevor Zoo, smack in the middle of rural Dutchess County, is home to more than 180 animals from five continents. Operated by the private, prestigious Millbrook School, Trevor is the only zoo in the country located on a high school campus. Its impressive animal collection includes a python, panda, tarantula, wallaby, and coral reef aquarium.

After that walk on the wild side, you come upon Route 22 in the town of Amenia. One great way to take in the arresting autumn scenery here — and since Amenia is Latin for “pleasing to the eye,” you know it’s breathtaking — is to walk, run, or bike the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, an abandoned rail line-turned-pedestrian pathway. The Amenia station leads 2.5 miles south to Wassaic (where you can spot goldenrod blooms), or, if you’re feeling ambitious, north to Coleman or even Millerton. If you’re hungry once you’re back in town, head over to Serevan. Chef Serge Madikians, an Armenian who grew up in Iran, takes full advantage of his unorthodox heritage, offering eclectic dishes such as rack of lamb with herbed labne and Medjool dates and katafi-crusted halibut with Israeli pickles. If you’re not ready to leave Amenia quite yet, check into the Hilltop House Bed & Breakfast on Depot Hill Road. The B&B has a gazebo porch, a white picket fence, and five airy rooms available for rent. Stay on a weekend, and you’ll be treated to a breakfast of omelette casserole, blue corn pancakes, or innkeeper Lou Cesa’s specialty, homemade granola.

Make sure to appreciate the view of the Taconics on your drive from Amenia to Wingdale, the next destination. That’s the home of the Webatuck Craft Village. Although the outlet is not as busy as it once was, there’s still an art gallery open during the week, and a gift shop, selling knickknacks such as beaded jewelry and glass vases, open on weekends.

Our next and final stop, about six miles down the road from Wingdale, is Pawling. Stop by McKinney & Doyle — located just off Route 22 on Charles Coleman Boulevard, it’s part restaurant, part bakery — and grab a scone or cobbler fresh from the oven. Or, if you plan on rolling into town before 3 p.m. on a weekend, make reservations for their can’t-miss brunch, highlighted by the strawberry cream cheese pancakes. Finally, why not end your drive through this storied region with a history tour? First stop is the John Kane House, an 18th-century, Federal-style building, right off Route 22 on East Main Street. A staying place for George Washington’s officers during the Revolutionary War, the house is one of the few surviving examples of pre-1750 vernacular architecture in the county. Down the road, in the Quaker Hill section of Pawling, is the Oblong Meeting House, which served as a hospital for those same troops. The main purpose of its long life, however, was as a gathering place for a local contigent of Quakers.

Route 22 Highlights:

Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Constructed on Penn Central’s former Upper Harlem railroad line, this walking and biking trail stretches from Wassaic to Millerton and provides plenty of opportunities to spot rare plant and animal life.
518-789-9591

Hilltop House Bed & Breakfast
This classic inn offers all of the amenities you’d expect from a tried-and-true B&B: charming décor, delicious breakfasts, and tons of nooks where you can read or chat the day away.
Amenia; 845-373-7743

Café Les Baux
Millbrook; 845-677-8166
or www.cafelesbaux.com

Trevor Zoo
Millbrook; 845-677-3704
or www.trevorzoo.org

Innisfree Garden
Millbrook; 845-677-8000
or www.innisfreegarden.org

Serevan
Ameni; 845-373-9800
or www.serevan.com

Webatuck Crafts Village
Wingdale; 845-832-3746
or www.huntcountryfurniture.com

McKinney & Doyle
Pawling; 845-855-3707
or www.mckinneyanddoyle.com

Oblong Meeting House
Pawling; www.pawling-history.org

John Kane House
Pawling; www.pawling-history.org

 

Foliage Drive #4: Route 23A

The great outdoors in all its glory

Thirty-five majestic Catskill High Peaks are a sight to behold at any time of the year. But in fall, well, the foliage does for this spectacular region what restoring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel did for the Vatican. And a cruise down Route 23A, which cuts east-west for 35 miles across Greene County, is surely one of the most scenic byways in the state, allowing you to glance at seven of the stately peaks. Your ooh-ing and aah-ing also is enhanced by the fun of driving on this two-lane road, which is both twisty (some hairpin turns will make you slow down to 15 m.p.h.) and hilly, and offers a glimpse of the famous Kaaterskill Falls, New York’s highest two-tiered waterfall. And should you want to get into the great outdoors, first-rate opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, and camping abound.

Pick up the road at Route 9W just outside the village of Catskill. Heading west five miles uphill, you’ll find yourself in the sleepy hamlet of Palenville, once dubbed the “First Art Colony in America” because Frederic Church and Thomas Cole set up shop there during the heydey of the Hudson River School movement. But the real excitement is what the artists most loved to capture on their canvases — Kaaterskill Falls, just outside of town, in the Catskill State Park. It is well worth pulling over into one of the two parking lots and taking the Kaaterskill Falls Trail, which rises steeply over fairly tough terrain, for almost half a mile to the falls, which total 260 spectacular feet. (But be warned: Watch for traffic when you get out of your car, and wear appropriate shoes.) If the weather is still warm enough, there are several opportunities to dabble in spectacular swimming holes in the Kaaterskill Creek on the way up.

Once back on the road, you’ll climb steeply into beautiful Kaaterskill Clove and the town of Haines Falls, which once was home to an Ulster and Delaware train station. You can stop at the Mountain Top Historical Society to learn more about the town’s railroading past. Back on 23A, look for a right onto North Lake Road to access the extensive and very popular state-run North-South Lake Campground — with expansive views of five states on a clear day. There are more than 200 camping sites, but you can also get a day pass through October for eight dollars and hike or swim at one of the two pretty beaches. There are also dozens of trails to pick up here, including one that leads to the site of the famous Catskill Mountain House (a 19th-century hotel visited by three presidents, it burned down in 1963), and the challenging 23-mile Escarpment Trail with its ever-changing scenery and heady mix of pine and fir trees.

If you continue on, you’ll soon find yourself in Tannersville. The stately homes will tip you off that you’re there, but the main giveaway is the handful of multicolored buildings — we’re talking orange-and-blue pinstripes here — that scream out at you from throughout the three-block downtown area (conceived as part of the 2003 Tannersville Paint Project). The epicenter of the town has long been Maggie’s Krooked Cafe & Juice Bar, a funky little eatery famous for its pancakes, baked goods, healthy sandwiches, and of course, that crooked floor. While in town, it is certainly worth a visit to the Mountain Top Arboretum; admission is free and you can wander around the trees and shrubs of this 21-acre preserve, which is bursting with color, as native holly, mountain ash, and dawn redwoods do their autumn thing among the perennial green.

By the time you roll into the village of Hunter, it will seem positively urban — what with its movie theater, art galleries, antique shops, and sandwich hubs. Of course, the main attraction remains Hunter Mountain — that mega ski-resort with the hard-partying reputation. But now, before the white stuff falls, is the ideal time to take the Hunter Mountain SkyRide (otherwise known as the A-Lift). In 20 minutes (round-trip), the lift whisks you to the summit (3,200 feet), where you can fix your sights on three mountain ranges (Berkshires, Green, and Catskills) and contemplate whether you’ll tackle the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower — at sixty feet, the highest in the state. Going down? Either clamber back aboard the ride, hike down, or ride your mountain bike. The Skyride is open through October 11.

Heading west out of town, Route 23A parallels the brown trout-stuffed Schoharie Creek, and you’ll notice several public fishing spots. If you choose this route, you’ll eventually leave the Catskill Park and hook up with Route 23 right outside of Prattsville. Once there, you’ll want to drive by Pratt’s Rock, a series of stone carvings all about the life of local legend Zadock Pratt, a tanner and New York Congressman (you can also check out the Zadock Pratt Museum.) Alternately, from Hunter, you can opt to take 296 North to the charming town of Windham, 10 miles away. While dinner at the highly-touted Bistro Brie & Bordeaux will have you feeling trés chic (try the signature cassoulet), a night at the luxurious Catskill Maison B&B, right on the main drag, will be the perfect place to discuss your leaf-peeping adventures. Don’t be fooled by the B&B’s rather plain exterior; the rooms are spacious and sumptuous (and each named after a different wine), and the inventive and locally-inspired breakfasts will help you face another day of fun in the great outdoors.

Route 23A Highlights:

Mountain Top Arboretum
On Oct. 3 at 11 a.m., join the arboretum’s executive direction for a stroll through the grounds.
Tannersville; 518-589-3903

Hunter Mountain Skyride
The skyride — at more than one mile long — is the longest chairlift in the Catskills. Check out the fall foliage for $8.00.
Hunter; 1-800-HUNTERMTN

Kaaterskill Falls
Catskill Park;
www.catskillpark.com

The Mountain Top
Historical Society
Catskill Park; www.mths.org

Maggie’s Krooked Cafe
& Juice Bar
Tannersville; 518-589-6101
or www.krookedcafe.com

Zadock Pratt Museum
Prattsville; 518-299-3395

Bistro Brie & Bordeaux
Windham; 518-734-4911
or www.bistrobrieandbordeaux.com

Catskill Maison Bed & Breakfast
Windham; 518-734-3232
or www.catskillmaison.com

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