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Fall Foliage: Leaf Peeping Close to Home

There is plenty to see and do in the region

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

The Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park in New York
The Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park in New York

While many people laud the New England states for their fall foliage color, Western New York and the Finger Lakes boast numerous tours, trips and drives that offer plenty of leaf peeping opportunities—along with the homegrown attractions that make this region unique.

Consider taking a wine trail tour to experience both gorgeous color and the best vino the region offers without getting behind the wheel. 

• Ride the Colonial Belle (www.colonialbelle.com) in Pittsford to view the leaves from the Erie Canal. The tour’s 16-mile tour winds through canal towns and offers food onboard.

Quality Transportation Services (https://qualitytran.com) in Victor and Geneva, books local wine trail tours in luxury vehicles. In addition to enjoying the ride from site to site, the wineries’ tasting rooms and outdoor spaces provide with picturesque vistas.

• Train rides through the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum (www.rgvrrm.org) also offer a way to experience the foliage without driving. Bring along the grandchildren to pick out their own pumpkins during the October train rides.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area south of Honeoye Lake in Stillwater (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/164/details.aspx) offers more than 22 miles of trails. However, simply viewing the foliage from Overlook Road offers an eyeful.

Ontario County Park’s Jump Off Trail offers incredible views among the park’s 400 acres of open spaces and forest. The site is ADA-accessible. The foliage views on County Road 33/West Hollow Road are worth the drive alone.

• The 518-mile Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway starts in the north with views of Alexandria Bay down to the state border. Or drive the Amish Trail that spans Cattaraugus to Cherry Creek on Route 353.

Drive Route 14 South, starting in Geneva. Glimpse Seneca Lake among the trees as you head towards Watkins Glen. The park offers stunning views of foliage, numerous waterfalls and Glen Creek.

• On Route 21 South, skirt Canandaigua Lake as you drive towards Naples. Its Grimes Glen Park offers a mile-long walk to view its two waterfalls.

• In and around Rochester, visit Mount Hope Cemetery (which includes the resting places of Nathaniel Rochester, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass), Mendon Ponds Park (part of  the National Registry of Natural Landmarks), Highland Park, Webster Arboretum at Kent Park (bring along the grandchildren to enjoy the playground) and Durand Eastman Park.

• Experience Letchworth State Park (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/79/details.aspx), often called the “Grand Canyon of the East.” View foliage along its 66 miles of hiking trails accented by granite walls and sparkling waterfalls.

Consider packing a picnic lunch and making a day of your leaf peeping adventure. Or plan to visit any of the many locally owned eateries along the way. Bring along cash to patronize a farm stand or farm market. Visit the small shops that sell items you cannot find anywhere else. Or stop in a museum to explore.

For any of the guided/hosted tours, reservations are recommended. Ask about any COVID-19 requirements or precautions.

Photo: Colonial Belle, based in Pittsford, navigating part of the Erie Canal.