The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Long Island

Around the Bend in Fall at Southard's Pond, Babylon, Long Island
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, tourists from around the country flock to New York and surrounding areas for great autumn events and to see the Northeast leaves change from green to yellow, orange, and red, creating a beautiful array of colors perfect for a quick hike or drive.

The fall foliage season starts in late September and ends in late December. Leaves typically begin changing colors in early October, and the best time to see the most fall foliage is in mid-to-late October, and early November—a short window to catch the colors at their brightest before winter chills set in and the leaves are gone.

If you're heading to New York City between late October and early November, there are plenty of beautiful places to see fall foliage within a few hours, especially on Long Island, about 50 miles east of New York City.

Whether you want to hike through forest trails or drive over scenic byways, these destinations are sure to please the senses this autumn. Stay up to date with the Fall Foliage Report, which informs the public on how much of a color change there is on Long Island and other regions of New York state.

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park

The best way to see a wide variety of fall foliage is to visit one of Long Island's many arboretums and botanic gardens, which often feature trees and plants you won't find elsewhere on the island, giving you a great opportunity to see some uniquely colored foliage.

With over 400 acres of formal gardens, trails, and historic buildings—including a Tudor-style mansion—Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park blazes with brightly colored trees in the fall. This former Gold Coast of Long Island estate in Oyster Bay also hosts concerts in the summer and early fall.

LIU Post Community Arboretum

This college campus in Brookville, a village within Oyster Bay, boasts more than 4,000 trees—125 of which are in the 40-acre community arboretum and some of which are highly rare trees—so there's plenty to see in the fall when the leaves start changing colors.

Each tree is labeled with information on the name and species, so you'll know which lovely leaves you're looking at as you walk along a self-guided, wheelchair-accessible trail around the main campus buildings. The arboretum is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk and is completely free of charge.

When in Oyster Bay, you may also want to check out Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the 23-room Victorian mansion where U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt made his "Summer White House." Also don't miss the Oyster Bay Oyster Festival in late October, a free event on the waterfront. Enjoy unique oyster, clam, and other seafood creations, as well as an oyster eating and shucking contest, pirate shows, arts and crafts, and more family fun at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.

Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park

This 691-acre state park offers riverfront views of the fall foliage from along the Connetquot River in Great River, a community within the town of Islip. Most trees are labeled for visitors' educational purposes. The Long Island park's goal is to encouraging serenity, so no pets nor recreational activities such as swimming, sports, games, or bicycle riding are allowed.

However, Heckscher State Park in Islip next to the Arboretum allows picnicking, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing, and other recreational activities, and offers large fields for soccer, cricket, lacrosse, and other field sports. Like Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park's centerpiece is a large Tudor-style mansion, which was built in the 1920s. Depending on the season, tours of the mansion are available.

Sands Point Preserve Conservancy

Viewing fall foliage from afar is breathtaking, but you can also check out the many gardens and nature trails on Long Island to see some places in Nassau and Suffolk that feature hikes under canopies of yellow, orange, and red leaves to truly immerse yourself in the autumnal sights. Open all year during the daytime, Sands Point Preserve Conservancy in Port Washington features several Gold Coast mansions including Hempstead House and Falaise, which both have guided tours.

In addition, the more than 200-acre former estate has six marked trails that lead you through lush woods, fields, and to a beach on the Long Island Sound; along the way, take in memorable sights of lovely autumn leaves from the red maples, Norway maples, oak trees, and more.

While you are in Port Washington, take a waterfront tour by foot. You can include seeing the town dock and some local restaurants, relaxing under trees in Sunset Park, getting inspired by the shops and eateries at Inspiration Wharf, and catching some views of Manhasset Bay. 

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve

With almost 550 acres of a Nissequogue River watershed in Smithtown, a town in Long Island's North Shore, this pristine refuge offers a stunning view of autumn's colorful magic on its marked trails and beyond. If you're bringing the kids along, make sure to visit the Nature Museum/visitor center for natural history exhibits, and if you're into birdwatching, there are lots of opportunities in this outdoor venue. The serene preserve does not allow bikes, pets, or picnics.

As long as you are in Smithtown, take a guided tour of Blydenburgh Park historic district, on the register of historic places for its eight structures from the 18th century, including a mill complex and the Blydenburgh Farmhouse, all part of Blydenburgh County Park

Driving Route 25A

While hiking forest trails and wandering through lush botanical gardens may appeal to some, you can also witness the beautiful scenery of Long Island by taking the scenic routes crisscrossing the island instead of the major highways. Try a drive down Northern Boulevard, which is also known as Route 25A, known as NY 25A. You'll pass by areas including Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington, and other scenic places.

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