The Camping: Speaking of Route 17, you don’t have to travel on the major highway very far to see some superior autumn sights. The Hudson Valley is the epitome of fall beauty, thanks to places like Harriman State Park. It’s the second largest in the NYS park system, and home to 200 miles of hiking trails and a whopping 31 lakes. But it gets better: Camping at Harriman’s lean-to sites is completely free. There are nine such sites, each with a three-sided stone cabin and two fireplaces inside to keep you warm on chilly fall nights. There are no reservations to make, but the lean-tos are first come, first served, and communal. If you’re not into that, there are rustic cabins available to reserve at the Sebago Cabins camp, or “pioneer style” (meaning, you pitch a tent and that’s it) at Lake Tiorati, Cedar Pond Camp, or Tiorati Plateau. Once you’re settled, set off hiking along the Appalachian Trail, and see the Manhattan skyline from a good 40 miles away.
The Drive: About an hour, to an hour and 20, outside of NYC
The Route: Once outside the city and into NJ, you’ll follow NY-17, a historical route (and the longest state route in New York) straight through the center of the State Park, including charming villages like Tuxedo, Harriman, and Sloatsburg.