Must-See Leaf Peeping Destinations

By Eva Potter

It happens every year just around the edges … that slow creep of orange, red and yellow that outlines the leaves on our densely treescaped hillsides. While it’s technically still summer, fall is in the air … and in the falling leaves.

Why do leaves change color? As daylight decreases in September, the trees “know” it’s time to “get ready” for winter. Explained simply, the chemical chlorophyll that keeps leaves green breaks down, revealing brilliant yellow and orange hues that were actually hidden all summer. The reds and purples you see come from anthocyanins, which are produced toward the end of summer.

This region has no shortage of trees showing off their splendor atop rolling hills and plunging valleys … and it’s already begun.

Don’t know where to go for the best peek?

Try any of these locations and you’re sure to be dazzled by the beauty of the Enchanted Mountains.

Holiday Valley/Sky High Adventure Park/Double Black Diamond Golf: Whether you like to watch from the ground, climb right through the colorful trees, hit a few balls, experience some epic singletrack or enjoy a leisurely chairlift ride, you’ll find gorgeous fall color around every corner.

HoliMont: The resort’s hiking and mountain biking trails offer some of the highest views in the area, some overlooking the bustling village of Ellicottville. www.

Nannen Arboretum: Stroll the paved and stone paths of the 8-acre arboretum located at 28 Parkside Dr. in the village, featuring more than 250 species of trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs. It’s a peaceful, magical place any time of year.

Griffis Sculpture Park: Check out the oldest sculpture park in the United States and see towering statues, metal praying mantis and mushrooms, colorful abstract creations, a castle tower and maze located in color-flecked fields, woods and even in a pond. The 250 gigantic sculptures are located along trails on the beautiful, 400-acre site in East Otto.

Allegany State Park: The largest state park in New York state covers more than 65,000 acres including lakes, hiking/biking trails, and special features like the Stone Tower, which makes a great outlook for leaf watchers. Climb to the top for spectacular views in all directions. In the Red House area of the park, you’ll find a paved bike path, which leads to the opposite side of the Administration Building. It will lead you up the hill with commanding views of Red House Lake, the beach, the Administration Building and surrounding hills awash in color. Search Allegany State Park on Facebook.

Rock City Park: An attraction since 1890, take a ride up to the park for a spectacular view high above the treetops. Look down and you’ll see the city of Olean nestled in the valley below. It’s a panoramic view like no other.

Zoar Valley: Spectacular scenery with brilliant flashes of color await you. Grab a picnic lunch, your fishing gear and hiking shoes and explore the terrain with its impressive gorge, daunting cliffs, flowing waterfalls and dense forests. or

Amish Trail: Escape to a more peaceful part of the county and drive the back roads, over hills, past Amish farmsteads and appreciate the colorful scenery along the way. It’s a special trip back in time to a simpler way of life.

Kinzua Sky Walk: For a truly unique experience, head to Kinzua Bridge State Park in Mt. Jewett, Pa., to stroll along the Kinzua Sky Walk, the remnants of the Kinzua Viaduct, once the highest and longest viaduct in the world that partially collapsed due to tornado force winds in 2002. Views stretch for miles across a deep valley.

Want to keep track of the changing landscape? Visit any time.