Here’s the annual NYCOTC guide to the best NYC parks in each borough for multi-colored magic, including white oak trees whose leaves turn purple, and maples whose reds, oranges and yellow epitomize fall color.
Great places to start are Central Park’s Literary Walk and around the Bow Bridge, and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park’s Pond.
Find the borough-by-borough listing on the NYC Parks Dept. website.
You can also take a hike with NYC’s Urban Park Rangers, who lead guided tours year-round in parks in all five borouughs.
The parks, and the guided hikes, are FREE.
Also check the I Love NY state map of where to find the best fall foilage, updated weekly.
Manhattan – Inwood Hill Park
Trees to see: oak, hickory, Tulip poplars
Suggested routes: There’s no wrong place to go leaf-peeping in Inwood Hill Park, at the northern tip of Manhattan (where NYCOTC Editor Evelyn Kanter grew up). One recommended route is along the blue trail, a marked trail that picks up at the Gaelic Field in the northern side of the park and leads up to the Overlook, which will give you a gorgeous view of the Hudson River and the Palisades.
- Riverside Park, especially the Promenade between 79th and 95th Streets, and Cherry Walk, between 97th and 125th Streets.
- Central Park, just about anywhere. Check the park’s own autumn guide to Sugar maples, Black Tupelo and more of the 20,000 trees dotting what is arguably the best and most famous urban park on the planet.
Brooklyn – Fort Greene Park
Trees to see: Massive London plane trees, oaks, elms, gingkos, osage orange trees
Suggested routes: The park is small enough that you can meander through the whole thing. Just don’t forget to climb to its apex and check out the view from the hill.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1, with several small, winding forest-like trails, and photo-perfect skyline views of Lower Manhattan.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden, especially the Native Floral Garden and the Japanese Hill and Garden.
Bronx – Van Cortlandt Park
Trees to see: oaks, hickorys
Suggested routes: Van Cortlandt is filled with nature trails that pass through gorgeous native hardwoods, including the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, the Putnam Trail, the Muir Trail, and the John Kieran Trail.
- Wave Hill, with knock-out views across the Hudson River to the Palisades, and a regular schedule of family-friendly events.
Queens – Alley Pond Park
Trees to see: Pin oaks, white pine, black cherries, black oak, flowering dogwood, black locust, American beech, red oaks, sweetgum, red maple, tulip trees
Suggested routes: Choose between several of the park’s official walking paths, although the most popular are the green trail and the white trail. The green trail is especially tree-filled, surrounded by tulip trees and some sassafrass. Those that venture down the white trail will get to see the Queens Giant.
Don’t miss: Alley Pond Park is home to the Queens Giant, the which at 133 feet high is the tallest tree in New York City and possibly the oldest living thing in the metropolitan area.
Staten Island – Greenbelt
Trees to see: oak, hickory, beech, maple, sweetgum, and tulip trees
Suggested routes: This natural treasure in the heart of Staten Island has some 35 miles of walking trails along the crest of the Serpentine Ridge and through one of the last undisturbed forests in New York City. You’ll see a wide variety of native trees, as well as a rare species of fern, glacial ponds, and a 16-acre lake. Keep your eyes peeled for any animals and birds making their home in the forest.
Other great spots for fall foilage are the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, and Cherry Walk along the Hudson River.
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What’s your favorite NYC spot for fall foilage?
photos courtesy NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation
This fall foilage article was published originally in 2014 and updated annually