The weather’s getting cool, and leaf peeping is heating up! Grab your hoodie and get in the car; autumn’s allure demands a road trip.
It’s sad to see summer go, but getting to watch the trees burst into beautiful fiery shades of yellow and orange is easily the best part of autumn in the Sullivan County Catskills. Our acres of rolling hills and lush forests seem tailor-made for leaf peeping. Even better, our winding roads that weave through our state forests and quaint downtowns reveal a new breathtaking vista at every turn and every peak.
Leaf the planning to us; we’ve compiled this list of the three loveliest scenic drives Sullivan County has to offer.
1) The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
Also known as Route 97, this drive is a perennial favorite on lists like these, and was recently ranked third out of 20 “Best Scenic Autumn Drives” in a USA Today Ten Best Reader’s Choice poll. The 70-mile route follows the Delaware River from its southern gateway in Orange County, in the city of Port Jervis, to its terminus in the Village of Hancock. Within the first few miles of this drive, Route 97 enters the Town of Deerpark, and travels along a stretch known as the Hawk’s Nest. This winding, cliff-side section – which has been featured in car commercials – is famous for its scenic overlooks of the Delaware River Valley and named for the raptors that nest there. Route 97 is lined with small towns and villages like Callicoon, Narrowsburg, and others that feature breweries, shops, museums, and art galleries. There’s even an internationally renowned Buddhist site, the Kadampa Meditation Center, in Glen Spey. Local restaurants are abound, many opting for locally sourced ingredients. The Byway is popular among motorcyclists for its elevation changes and relatively low traffic. This drive is not to be missed from late September through mid-October!
2) The Quickway (aka Route 17)
If you’re coming from points south, Route 17 really begins to come into its leaf peeping own at Bloomingburg, N.Y., right as you enter Sullivan County. Its multiple lanes and wide shoulders make travel quick and easy, giving you the comfort to enjoy the expansive views on either side. The route passes every major tourist attraction in the county, including Monticello Casino & Raceway and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (both just a short hike off the main road). You’ll also criss-cross the meandering, sparkling rivers that earned Roscoe its own nickname of Trout Town, U.S.A. Make a stop in the artsy hamlet of Livingston Manor, or pull off for a detour along the wooded shores of Yankee and Masten Lakes. This upstate drive is a must for leaf peepers, and one you’ll want to take the time to savor, despite its nickname!
3) Route 52
This 108-plus miles of highway reaches all the way from Sullivan across the Hudson River, beginning at the scenic and historic Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge. Route 52 takes drivers and riders through some of the Catskill’s loveliest and most peepable spots. Small towns and villages abound, including Narrowsburg, Cochecton Center, Jeffersonville, Youngsville, and others. There are acres of farmland along the route, making for some gorgeous landscapes with fall foliage climbing above the tended fields. You’ll also enjoy great waterfront driving, including stretches along Lake Huntington, Kenoza Lake, and Loch Sheldrake, not to mention the rivers and creeks that sidle up alongside the road, and intermittently pass underneath. Keep an eye out for the cool bridges characteristic of this path, including the Stone Arch Bridge Historic Park. You’ll eventually head down the mountains into Ellenville in Ulster County, where the view from the other side of Ellenville – just a short four more miles along Route 52 – is spectacular!
Check it out, but come back to Sullivan County when you’re done! Enjoy your drive, and we’ll see you on the road.
Wondering where peak leaf peeping is happening along these routes? Make sure to check our Fall Foliage Report – updated weekly.