New York State Needs Volunteer Leaf Peepers

These are the fall foliage hot spots prospective applicants (and avid leaf lovers) should scope out.

New York State Needs Volunteer Leaf Peepers

Calling all leaf lovers: This is your mission should you choose to accept it.

Photo by Shutterstock

September is here, which means that fall is on its way (squeee). The leaves are already starting to turn in some parts of the country, according to the recently released 2020 fall foliage prediction map. And we’d be lying if we said we weren’t pretty excited about it.

For those who are ready to get some serious leaf peeping on (raises hand), New York State is looking for some help with the matter (puts on serious face). Volunteers can now apply to become an official I Love NY Leaf Peeper and join a statewide team of volunteers that help visitors find the best foliage in and around the state.

OK, it sounds fun, but there are some pretty serious commitments, too. Volunteers are required to submit a detailed report each week describing their observations of the foliage in the area they are reporting on, including their best guess as to what kind of foliage conditions can be expected for the upcoming weekend.

The report should include the location, the percentage of leaves expected to change by the coming weekend, the expected colors visitors will see, the overall brilliance of the leaves, and the stage of the season (for example, whether the leaves haven’t changed yet, are just starting to change, are near peak, peaking, or are past peak).

Volunteers have to submit their report by Monday or Tuesday each week, which will allow I Love NY, the state’s official tourism marketing entity, to compile and publish a report every Wednesday for the upcoming weekend so that prospective visitors to the different regions of the state will know what to expect.


I Love NY has been issuing fall foliage reports for more than 35 years, but this year the marketing organization launched a campaign to find more foliage spotters and increase the coverage areas, to provide better data for the weekly reports. Those weekly reports at I Love NY’s Fall Foliage site will help inform your plans for weekend leafing adventures. The first 2020 report will be issued on Wednesday, September 9, and subsequent reports will be issued every Wednesday through the first or second week of November.

Volunteers and leaf lovers alike can tag @iloveny in their fall foliage photos and use the hashtag #NYLovesFall for a chance to have their photos featured by I Love NY. So even those who don’t become official spotters can join in by sharing their photos and insights on Instagram.

New York’s best fall foliage destinations

In Watkins Glen State Park, dramatic leaves are accentuated by even more dramatic waterfalls.

In Watkins Glen State Park, dramatic leaves are accentuated by even more dramatic waterfalls.

Photo by Shutterstock

Whether you become an official leaf peeper or decide to keep a lower leaf peeping profile, I Love NY filled us in on some of the best places for spotting gorgeous autumn leaves in New York. These were among the viewing spots recommended.

Whiteface Mountain

Located in Wilmington near Lake Placid (also great for leaf peeping) in the Adirondacks, this 4,872-foot summit offers a breathtaking vantage point from which to observe the fall foliage of the surrounding trees.

Gore Mountain

This is another choice Adirondacks viewing option in North Creek, about 75 miles south of Whiteface. Scenic skyrides on this ski resort’s chairlifts are available during the weekends until October 11 (face coverings are required).

Belleayre Mountain

Get up above the trees at Belleayre.

Get up above the trees at Belleayre.

Photo by Shutterstock

This Catskills skiing destination offers scenic gondola rides on weekends through October 11 (face coverings are required). The gondola will get you up to elevation of 3,365 feet from which you will have great views of the Catskills Forest Preserve in all its colorful glory.

Trophy Point

Head to this scenic overlook at West Point for stunning autumn views of the Hudson River Valley. The lookout, a little less than a two-hour drive from New York City, is located near the charming Hudson River towns of Cold Spring and Beacon.

Hill Cumorah

This historic hill (also known as “Mormon hill” as it’s said that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, discovered a set of golden plates here that were translated into the Book of Mormon) is located in Rochester and offers sweeping views of New York’s rolling countryside. As of September 3, the visitor center remained temporarily closed.

Watkins Glen State Park

Located on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region, this park features striking waterfalls and rapids that carve through a spectacular gorge, bringing added awe and drama to the surrounding changing leaves.

Rainbow Bridge

It doesn’t get more dramatic than this vantage point over the Niagara River gorge that crosses the U.S.-Canada border and from which you can see the 3,000-foot-high Niagara Falls as well as the surrounding leafy trees.

Thousand Islands International Bridge

The views and fall colors are bound to impress on this unique border crossing.

The views and fall colors are bound to impress on this unique border crossing.

Photo by Shutterstock

Located at Collins Landing in Jefferson County, this expanse also connects New York and Canada. From the 4,500-foot suspension over the St. Lawrence River, you can get a bird’s-eye view of the islands and the St. Lawrence Seaway and the lush surrounding scenery.

For the fall 2020 season, I Love NY asks spotters and travelers alike to follow all public health and safety guidelines, including wearing a face mask and maintaining appropriate social-distancing measures. For more information on New York’s response to COVID-19, including the most up-to-date travel restrictions, please visit the state’s coronavirus travel advisory page. As of September 2, travelers coming from 33 states and territories must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into New York (or potentially face massive fines).

>> Next: The Best National Parks for Phenomenal Fall Foliage

Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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