The 5 Best Boutique Hotels in Upstate New York for Fall Foliage Viewing
The only thing better than leaf peeping are these deluxe cabins and suites that serve as a perfect base for exploring nature's charms
When it comes to scenic Upstate New York, there is something to look forward to during each of the four seasons. Yet Autumn is arguably the most stunning time to visit. Why? From mid-September until early November each year, the region’s lush covering of trees transforms into a patchwork of rich, warm colors: red, orange, yellow and brown.
Travelers journey from near and far to experience this spectacular fall display — to connect with nature, shop for antiques, visit locally-owned wineries and cideries, and, perhaps most importantly, leaf peep. For the unindoctrinated, the act of leaf peeping is any travel where the entire itinerary revolves around seeing the fall leaves as they shift in color, and Upstate New York is easily one of the best destinations in the country for doing just that.
“There’s a reason why people travel to visit Upstate New York in the fall: It’s absolutely breathtaking,” says David Harmatz, managing partner of the newly opened Hotel Lilien. “Every weekend, the leaves change ever so slightly, creating a totally new landscape. Plus, the weather couldn’t be more perfect: warm during the day and crisp in the mornings and evenings. The only downside is that it’s fleeting so you definitely want to get up there before the leaves fall.”
Over the past few years, the region has only become more popular, especially with locals driving up from New York City and its surrounding areas. Part of that bump has to do with the pandemic and how it affected the way we travel, as antsy New Yorkers were forced to seek out nearby experiences that would allow them to easily escape the city without getting on an airplane.
Since then, boutique properties big and small have been cropping up all over Upstate, creating even more of a reason to make the trip. Ranging from luxe, individual cabin stays to the restoration of grand, historic homes and beyond, these properties are opening up the region for a whole new suite of prime fall travel experiences that emphasize a connection to nature.
“Hotel Lilien hosts a nature walk right off our property on weekends. In the fall, we love sending guests to Scribner Hollow Farm for locally-grown seasonal produce, apple cider donuts at Story Farms, or a bit further out to Boehm Farm for apple picking.”
As Harmatz alludes to, each property has its own host of unique, local activities: from noteworthy trails and drives to must-visit farms, restaurants and bars. So, to help you plan your next Upstate trip, we’ve rounded up the five best boutique hotels for fall foliage viewing.
One of the most talked about hotels in Upstate right now, it’s also potentially one of the best for leaf peeping — sitting on 50 acres of cliffside that overlooks thousands of trees. Whether you’re spending time by the dual-sided zinc fireplace in the cafe looking out at the view or relaxing in one of their 24 private cabins, the hotel’s minimalist design emphasizes the property’s stunning surroundings with ample windows and natural wood. A “landscape” hotel, there are tons of nearby hiking trails, and Hudson is a quick twenty minute drive away for when you’re ready to rejoin civilization.
The newly opened Hotel Lilien is situated between the village of Tannersville and Hunter Mountain, in a thoughtfully restored historic building turned 18-room boutique hotel and cocktail bar. The rooms are all uniquely furnished in a warm, minimalist style, some with private entries off the back deck. Surrounded by tall trees and only a 6-minute drive from the sprawling Mountain Top Arboretum, Hotel Lilien is the perfect place to immerse yourself in fall colors. For an even more stunning view, stop at Kaaterskill Falls with a camera in hand — one of New Yorks tallest cascading waterfalls.
Lake Placid, NY
A boutique retreat in the heart of the Adirondacks, Lake Placid became the second Eastwind property (they also have one in Wyndham) when it opened at the beginning of August. Located in what was once a 1950s motor inn, Eastwind’s luxury cabins dot 2.8 acres of land along the Chubb River. Leaf peeping here doesn’t even necessarily need to include a hike, and can be done whilst sitting by the outdoor communal fire pit with a book in hand from their vintage library. Their rooms, suites, and cabins all enjoy views of the tree-filled landscape, and for a real leaf peeping adventure there’s nearby High Falls Gorge — a privately owned nature park with trails that bypass four waterfalls, all at the foot of Whiteface Mountain.
A true nature escape, this luxe new property by Auberge sits on 140-acres by the Shawangunk River. From their completely open-air lobby meant to feel more like the living room of a home, to the 65 free-standing accommodations dotting the property, Wildflower Farms is an obvious choice for prime fall leaf peeping. Their cabins, cottages and suites are totally wrapped in natural materials, like wood-clad ceilings and re-worked canvas on the walls, and feature cozy window seats for viewing the foliage with a coffee in hand. Besides hiking opportunities nearby, there are also forested footpaths all over the property, and chances to take classes in foraging, organic vegetable farming and more.
New Paltz, NY
Nestled in the Hudson Valley and situated on a private glacial lake with views of the Catskill Mountains, you’ll find this Victorian castle resort. Bonus, it’s only a two-hour drive from the city. Owned and operated by the Smiley Family since its founding back in 1869, New Yorkers have been escaping to Mohonk Mountain House for generations. Besides its farm-to-table fare, the hotel is known for providing ample recreational opportunities, including outdoor adventures that are included in your stay, from guided nature tours to rock scrambling and forest bathing by the lake. After a long day of hiking and leaf peeping, wood burning fireplaces can be found in most rooms for cozying up.
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