Autumn means cool, crisp air and the annual explosion of color on the landscapes of Upstate New York as the leaves change from verdant to vibrant with reds, oranges and yellows replacing the green of summer. Short drives within a few hours of Utica will yield some amazing panoramas of color thanks to Mother Nature. Here are my top 5 roads to drive to find the fall colors of leaves changing.

  • 5

    New York Route 421


    Route 421 is a short 5-mile long highway in extreme southwestern St. Lawrence County in the Adirondack Park. It begins at Route 30 and dead ends at Horseshoe Lake, making it one of the most remote roads in the state highway system. Along the short 5 mile run you'll see some picturesque scenery of Tupper Lake and its feeder streams.

    Route 421 near Veterans' Mountain Camp
  • 4

    New York Route 97

    Hancock to Port Jervis

    Route 97 skits the Delaware River from Hancock to Port Jervis and provides a scenic drive anytime but no time is better than fall when the leaves of the Delaware Valley put on their show. The 2-lane road is usually a quiet drive though the small villages along the way and the only traffic you're likely to deal with is on the southern end of the highway near Port Jervis. Bonus Tip: If you're looking to add leaf peeping away from the car, hop the railroad to New York City. Port Jervis is the western-most stop on the 95 mile commuter line to Hoboken.

    The Delaware River from Route 97
  • 3

    New York Route 408

    Mount Morris to Nunda

    Visit Letchworth State Park

    Route 408 runs parallel to Letchworth State Park in Livingston County south of Rochester. The park and its long gorge are more reminiscent of a scene in the western United States rather than New York as it's called the Grand Canyon of the East.

    Letchworth State Park
  • 2

    New York Route 86

    Paul Smiths to Lake Placid

    Route 86 passes through the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. At its western end at Route 30 the highway passes through the heavily wooded Franklin County town of Brighton before the woods break to unveil the tallest and most majestic of the Adirondacks in Essex County. Route 86 passes through the largest village in the park, Saranac Lake, as well as Lake Placid, well known for twice hosting the Winter Olympics.

    Route 86 in Paul Smiths
  • 1

    New York Route 17

    Binghamton to Woodbury

    The portion of Route 17 south and east of Binghamton is known as the Quickway. The fall colors on this road provide a beautiful backdrop when traveling past the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. Route 17 passes south of the Catskills before connecting to the New York State Thruway at Woodbury north of New York City.

    Route 17 in Deposit