Ready to take in the Hudson Valley's most breathtaking season in all its glory? The leaves already have started to turn, and as long as the weather's pleasant, now's the time to capture the valley as nature paints it in all its hues of red, orange and gold.
From cruises to bus trips to a train ride, there are several ways to take a fall foliage tour in the region.
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SCENIC TRAIN RIDES
One of the best options for leaf peepers is to do it the easy, inexpensive way -- ride the vintage coaches of the Catskill Mountain Railroad.
The railroad, which was built in 1870 to get people from the Hudson River to the Catskill resorts, bills itself as Ulster County's only scenic train and combines the charms of a nature trip with a journey into the past.
"You're in a scenic area in the Catskills that's trying to make a comeback," said Peter Fluchere, a station master for the railroad. It's "a lot different from Amtrak and Metro-North."
The railroad, which shortened its tour to a five-mile trip last year after it suffered damage from Hurricane Irene, takes passengers on fall foliage trips until Oct. 28. Round trips depart hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The train makes a 40-minute run along the Hudson River from Mount Tremper to a spot near Boiceville and back.
"You may spot bald eagles, great blue herons, hawks, deer and other wildlife along its banks," the railroad website says.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children 4 to 11; kids under 4 ride free with a paid adult fare. Riders can buy tickets in Mount Tremper half an hour before departure.
Information: Catskill Mountain Railroad Co., 5408 Route 28, Mount Tremper; 845-688-7400; catskillmtrailroad.com.
HUDSON RIVER CRUISES
For those who prefer the water, there are several cruises operating leaf-peeping trips in the Hudson Valley.
Hudson Highlands Cruises in Cornwall-on-Hudson runs fall foliage tours on the Commander boat departing from Haverstraw. The two-hour cruises, offered on three consecutive Sundays -- Oct. 14, 21 and 28 -- can carry about 100 people, said Hudson Highlands Cruises owner Cathy Krom. They leave the Haverstraw Marina at 1:30 p.m. and head north past the Stony Point Lighthouse, Verplanck, Tomkins Cove and Peekskill, then turn at the Bear Mountain Bridge to return to Haverstraw Marina at 3:30 p.m.
The cost is $25 for adults, $20 for seniors 62 or older and $15 for children 5-12. A minimum of 20 reservations is needed for a cruise to operate.
Information: Hudson Highlands Cruises Inc. departing from Haverstraw Marina, 616 Beach Rd. A, West Haverstraw; 845-534-7245; www.commanderboat.com.
Hudson River Cruises, one of the oldest tours in the region, has been in service for 32 years, according to owner Sandy Henne. Narrated tours on the Rip Van Winkle run from Kingston's Rondout Landing to Hyde Park and back, offering a look at foliage, historic mansions and lighthouses, among other attractions.
The cruises offer "a scenic and breathtaking view of the New York Hudson River waterfront," the website says. "It's a close-up look at the natural beauty, history and recreational role this mighty river has played in the development of the Hudson River Valley and New York State."
The two-hour tours run from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets cost $21 for adults, $19 for seniors 65 and older and $13 for children 4-11; kids under 4 ride free.
In addition to the Hudson Valley cruises, there's also the New York Water Taxi's Fall Foliage cruise, which leaves from New York City and sails by several historic sites and landmarks, including Grant's Tomb, The Little Red Lighthouse, Bear Mountain Bridge, Sleepy Hollow and the George Washington Bridge.
The nearly six-hour cruise features a selection of sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts. A cash bar is also available.
The cruise departs Sundays -- Oct. 21, 28 and Nov. 4 -- from two locations, leaving about 12:30 p.m. from South Street Seaport and returning there at 6:15 p.m., and leaving about 1 p.m. from Pier 84 at West 44th Street and returning there at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $65 per person.
Information: 212-742-1969; www.nywatertaxi.com/tours/fall-foliage.
Other cruises include:
-Trinity Cruise Company in Peekskill, whose "Evening Star" vessel departs from the Riverfront Green Park in Peekskill at 11 a.m. and returns at 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Information: 914-589-7773; trinitycruises.com.
-Hudson River Adventures' "Pride of the Hudson," which departs from Newburgh Landing, offers a look at the ruins of a 19th-century castle on Bannerman's Island on special narrated history tours. Information: 800-979-3370; prideofthehudson.com.
-River Rose Cruises offers rides on the "River Rose," a New Orleans-style paddle-wheeler. There are sunset and moonlight cruises as well as afternoon sightseeing cruises, evening dance parties and dinner cruises, all departing from the Newburgh waterfront. Information: 800-979-3370; www.riverrosecruises.com.
BUS TRIPS FROM NYC
OnBoard Tours runs fall foliage bus tours from Oct. 15 to Nov. 18 from New York City. The tour departs daily at 10:30 a.m. from Seventh Avenue between 50th and 51st streets in Manhattan, goes over the George Washington Bridge and up the Palisades along the Hudson River, and returns after about 4½ hours.
"[The tour] was extremely popular last year," said OnBoard spokeswoman Erica O'Grady, who also mentioned that the dates are still tentative depending on the foliage.
Riders take a break at the Lookout Inn, the highest point along the Palisades, where there's a refreshment stand and views across Westchester County to Long Island Sound. Sites include the Bear Mountain Bridge, the site of the Battle of Fort Montgomery and West Point.
Each bus seats about 35 people, and a trip cannot begin unless at least 10-12 seats have been booked. The cost is $65 per ticket, except for infants, who can ride on a parent's lap for free.
Information: 212-852-4821; www.onboardnewyorktours.com/fall-foliage-tours-hudson-valley.
In the end, fall foliage trips are all about being at the right place at the right time. Near-peak foliage arrives in the Catskills region by the first week of October, according to the state tourism website. For up-to-date fall foliage reports, go to the state's fall foliage website: fallgetaways.iloveny.com/LANDING_FOLIAGE_REPORT.html
If you're driving, biking or hiking, the best scenic vistas in the Hudson Valley region, according to the state tourism website, are:
-DeLaVergne Hill, off Route 44 East in Amenia
-The top lookout of Perkins Memorial Drive in Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain
-Clermont State Historic Site, off Route 9G in Germantown
-Elks-Brox Park Overlook, off Route 97 near Hawk's Nest in Port Jervis
-Minnewaska State Park, on Route 44/55 in New Paltz
-Sky Top Tower at Lake Mohonk, off Route 299 near New Paltz
-Trophy Point, on Route 9W at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
-Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site on Route 9 in Hyde Park
-West Point Overlook, on Route 9W between Highland Falls and Cornwall
-Sam's Point Dwarf Pine Ridge Preserve in Ellenville