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Fun and Foliage in Western New York

Fall is in the air! Here are the best counties in western New York for the adventurous leaf-peeper.

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Fall views in Letchworth State Park.

The leaves are about to start changing, and fall is in the air! Leaf-peepers everywhere, rejoice! While fall is beautiful across the northeast, sometimes you want an autumn getaway. There’s no better place to see fall foliage than in the forests, trails and waterways of western New York. If you’re looking for leaves, here are some of our favorite places to find them.

Cattaraugus County

Located in the uplands of western New York, Cattaraugus County is also known as the “Enchanted Mountains.” This rolling landscape, sculpted by long-ago glaciers, is the perfect fall escape. In Cattaraugus County alone, you’ll find Allegany State Park, the Amish Trail, Holiday Valley, Rock City Park, Sculpture Park, Seneca-Allegany Resort & Casino and more.

Biking is a great way to experience the magnificent foliage of Cattaraugus County – home to a plethora of bike trails! The places to bike in this county include paved trails, converted railways and mountain biking routes. There’s something for everybody.

Try the Allegany River Trail, which consists of over 6 miles of paved trail that runs alongside the Allegany River. It’s a fantastic place to see fall foliage, alongside the rush of the river and the reflection of the leaves in the water.

If you want a more rugged ride, visit Holiday Valley’s Mountain Biking Trail, which winds in a 5-mile loop. You could also hit up the well-maintained mountain biking track at Golden Hill State Forest. Biking is one of the best ways to experience fall foliage – you’re going faster than you would be on foot, but you’re still going slow enough to take in all your beautiful surroundings.

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Biking not your thing? That’s OK. There are even more opportunities for hiking in Cattaraugus County.

Try the trails at Rock City Park, which actually began as a prehistoric ocean floor. Now it sits about 2,300 feet above sea level. The times, they are a-changing. Instead of seaweed, Rock City Park now boasts beautiful fall foliage. Come explore the world’s largest expanse of quartz conglomerate. The changing colors of the trees make a perfect complement to the amazing natural rock formations.

Of course, one of the best places to see autumn in action is Allegany State Park. The park sits within the Allegheny Highlands forests area and consists of two parts: The Red House area and the Quaker Run area. In total, it encompasses 101 square miles. There you’ll find 18 hiking trails from which to choose, which vary in length and intensity. On the Black Snake Mountain trail you’ll find a marker that shows where the borders of New York and Pennsylvania meet. The park is full of hills, valleys, fields, lakes and forests. Feel like staying overnight? There are plenty of campsites where you can rest your head.

Cattaraugus County also offers opportunities for boating, kayaking, rafting and fishing on the Allegheny River, which winds through towns, cities and hilly woodlands.

Foliage borders the Erie Canal.

Orleans County

Another great place for fall foliage in western New York is Orleans County, which is sandwiched between Buffalo and the Finger Lakes region. Orleans County is on the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and it includes stops on both the Niagara Wine Trail and the Finger Lakes Wine Trail.

If boating is the way you want to leaf-peep in Orleans County, you can explore the Oak Orchard River and the historic Erie Canal. The Oak Orchard River and adjoining Marsh Creek is replete with beautiful, lush foliage in a natural setting. If you’re into angling, Oak Orchard River is a great spot for fishing.

If you set sail on the Erie Canal, you’ll be able to experience fall foliage as well as a healthy dose of history. The canal was a feat of engineering and the first (completely water-based) transportation system between the Eastern Seaboard and the western interior of the United States. Now, however, it’s mostly used for recreational sailing and watercraft. The calm, reflective waters of the canal make it the perfect place to view fall foliage.

The Erie Canal also offers a huge bike trail. The Erie Canalway stretches all along the Erie Canal (all the way from Buffalo to Albany). Whether you hop on for a quick ride or try to go as far as you can, it’s a magnificent way to experience the canal in fall.

Wyoming County

We would be remiss if we left Wyoming County off the list. Wyoming County is home to Letchworth State Park, also known as the Grand Canyon of the East. A lot of places call themselves the “Grand Canyon” of something, but Letchworth State Park isn’t kidding around. The park spans over 14,000 acres, and there’s something new to see around every corner. The Genesee River cuts through the expanse, framed on both banks by the towering Genesee Gorge walls (which stand at about 600 feet).

Letchworth State Park is the darling of local hikers, artists and photographers alike – they can’t get enough of the park in autumn, when all the trees along the gorge light up in orange, yellow and red tones. It’s gorge-ous.

Sure, you could hike through Letchworth State Park to enjoy the foliage. You could explore its caverns, its hidden waterfalls and winding trails. Or you could step it up a notch and go on a hot air balloon ride. That’s right, Letchworth offers hot air balloon trips over the park, so you can see the magnificent fall foliage from above.

If you do decide to stay closer to the ground, try the Gorge Trail, which is 7 miles long and hits most of the can’t-miss observation spots. You’ll also get to see most of the big waterfalls as they tumble down into the roaring Genesee.

Any one of these places would make for a great visit. There are trees all over the world, it’s true. But nobody does fall foliage quite like western New York.

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