Scenic drives through the Orange County countryside
Visitors come from all over the world come to see the spectacular fall colors in the Hudson Valley. The region is one of five in the world that can boast the eye-popping transformation of the trees starting in mid-September. Building to a riot of red, orange, copper and gold by Columbus Day weekend here in Orange County, any road will provide a sensational display, but this route takes full advantage of our scenic country roads.
Start by taking Interstate 84 West from Middletown. The road takes you through low lying wetlands to the top of the mountain after Exit Two where a pull off has ample parking. The entire valley opens up with a view of three states from your perch, beautifully described with interpretive signage.
Get off at Exit One and drive through the river city of Port Jervis. Follow the signs for the Scenic Byway and right outside the city take the right hand turn into Elks-Brox Park. Sitting on a rock outcropping high above the city, there’s a wide view of the valley and the meeting of the Neversink and Delaware Rivers. You can also see the pull off you left twenty minutes ago!
Travel down the switchbacks from the park and take a right onto Route 97. This is the start of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway. A short drive will take you to Hawk’s Nest, the serpentine stretch of road that hugs the mountain as the Delaware River flows below. Fun to drive, this route has been filmed in many car commercials.
Returning to Port Jervis, take Route 6 as it wends its way over the mountain and into valleys covered with the gorgeous colors of fall.
Winding Hills Park
For a spectacular display, head over Route 211 taking a left at Route 17K in Montgomery. Winding Hills Park is a short distance from this charming village. Bring a picnic and surround yourself with the crisp air and autumnal splendor as you walk around the lake.
Follow 17K all the way to the Hudson River at Newburgh for a great selection of restaurants and three very different river cruises. Boats leave from Newburgh Landing to take you on narrated cruises that double the effect of fall with the blazing leaves reflected in the Hudson River.
Storm King Art Center
From Newburgh, take Route 32 South to Cornwall, taking a right turn before the bridge onto Orrs Mills Road (Route 20) for a trip to the country’s largest sculpture park. Autumn leaves are a dramatic backdrop to the huge works on the 500 acres of Storm King Art Center. The park-like setting contains a wide variety of trees producing a veritable rainbow of colors to set off the muscle-y sculptures carefully placed within the scenery.
Drive south of Cornwall on Route 9W and take a left into Highland Falls where the oldest military academy presides commandingly over the Hudson River. West Point has tours that leave daily from the Visitor Center taking you to the high points of the United States Military Academy and breathtaking views of the Hudson River.
Taking Route 9W again a few miles south, turn into the grounds of Fort Montgomery. The ruins of this Revolutionary War site are beautifully interpreted and it’s easy to see from the elevation over the Hudson why the fort was placed here. Don’t miss the long footbridge that crosses the creek for a great view of the Bear Mountain Bridge and surrounding fall foliage.
Seven Lakes Drive
From 9W follow signs to Route 6 and at the second traffic circle take a right onto Seven Lakes Drive for a gorgeous drive through both Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks. The road wends its way through pristine forest filled with colorful trees mirrored in all seven lakes. The road ends in Tuxedo (yes, this is where the formal men’s jacket received its name) within easy access to the New York State Thruway and Route 17.
The complete loop is a little over 100 miles. To fully experience the sites along the way, allow 2 or 3 days to complete it. Boat cruises require reservations, and if you’re stopping at one of the attractions, check the web site for days and hours it is open.
For more suggestions of things to do or places to stay, call Orange County Tourism at 845-615-3860 between 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.
Elks-Brox Park, Port Jervis. 845-858-4014
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, Port Jervis. 845-511-8372, www.upperdelawarescenicbyway.org
Winding Hills Park, Montgomery. 845-457-4918, www.orangecountynyparks.com
Storm King Art Center, Mountainville. 845-534-3115, www.stormkingartcenter.org
United States Military Academy at West Point, 845-446-4724, www.westpointtours.com
Fort Montgomery, Fort Montgomery. 845-786-2701, www.palisadesparksconservancy.org
Seven Lakes Drive, Bear Mountain. 845-786-2701, www.palisadesparksconservancy.org