The Best Spots & Shots in Upstate New York

Often times, if you search for pictures of New York – you’ll find that most of them are somewhere in the Big City. There is actually quite a lot more in New York that often is overshadowed by the Big Apple down south. Upstate New York is a haven for the outdoor enthusiast – complete with waterfalls, mountains, valleys, gorges, caves and more – its nothing short of a natural playground. And – for the photographer – these scenes come together for some of the most epic pictures you can take on the eastern seaboard (or perhaps the entire country).

Remember – if you are taking pictures in nature for the use on your social media profiles – remember the principles of Leave no Trace:

  • Leave it as you found it
  • Take nothing out, other than what you brought in
  • Do not tag specific locations (‘Geotagging’) on public social media profiles
  • Do not break any posted rules
  • Respect the wildlife
  • Be safe and prepared

If you are new to the outdoors and/or photography, you should consider booking a guided hike with Roulette Travel – we will help you get to some of the epic views shown below, as well as get you a ton of pictures throughout the experience – perfect for your insta (or Tinder profile). Browse the different photos and settings below, and fill out a contact form if you would like any additional information or guidance!

Waterfalls

Kaaterskill Falls a 260 foot dual-cascading waterfall in the Catskills State Park

New York is often referred to as the ‘Waterfall State’ – but many think that is just because of Niagara Falls. There are actually more than 2,000 waterfalls across the state (NYS DEC Estimate) – and many are perfect for exploring in any season of the year. Ranging from small tumbling cascades to 150+ feet tall (with some multiple-cascading falls over 250 feet) – there is a waterfall for everyone, with a wide variety of photo opportunities throughout the four seasons.

And, there is something for everyone depending on your level of fitness and comfort with being out in nature – some falls offer a viewing area just steps from the road, while others require a fairly significant hike to get the best views. If you are new to hiking, consider taking a guided hike the first time you would like to venture to one of the waterfalls off of the beaten path. If you’re bringing a tripod,

If you’re looking for one that’s an easier walking tour, rather than a hike – don’t worry – there are some great options for you as well. If you’re lugging a lot of camera gear, you may want to consider these spots as its much easier access. Remember though, with easy access, you’ll also face the higher likelihood of crowds, as well as possible difficulties with parking. Shoot for weekdays, early mornings, or off season times to get the spots to yourself. Some waterfalls that are easily accessible with a short walk include Watkins Glen, High Falls Gorge, Cohoes Falls, Mine Kill Falls, the Ausable Chasm, or Upper Letchworth Falls.

Mountain Summits

View from the top of Crane Mountain in the Adirondacks

If you’re as adventurous as you are savvy with a camera, there are few spots that can rival a shot from the summit of a mountain. With mountains ranging in height from just over 1,000 feet above sea level, to just over a mile high (Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks towers over the rest of the state at 5,344 feet above sea level). There are some that you can even access via roadways if you or someone in your group isn’t capable of a longer hike.

With 35 summits above 3,500′ elevation in the Catskills Park and 42 taller than 4,600 in the Adirondacks, there’s no shortage of mountains to hike and climb. And that doesn’t even count the smaller mountains below those heights, which often give you views that are even better than some of the more popular summits. Keep in mind that the weather in the mountains can vary quite often, and that a summit will always be colder than the temperatures at the bottom of the mountain. In Spring and Fall particularly, weather can be deceptive as the base might feel warm while the summit still has several feet of snow. Hikers have needed rescue many times due to this issue, so check multiple weather sources and be prepared for the worst weather. If you are looking to summit your first mountain, consider hiring a guide or going with someone who has a bit of experience. Your camera gear will quickly become heavy, so consider just bringing your phone camera.

Scenic Walkways, Ladders and Staircases

the skyway to the summit of Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks

Photographers often seek out unique walkways, staircases and paths for the subject of photos – and New York has no shortage of these. Whether you’re looking for a walkway through the clouds (see above), a footbridge through waterfalls, a ladder up a mountain or a natural staircase – New York has something for you. I’ve taken a number of these shots over the years, and they always turn out pretty cool – perfect for the picture that combines the beauty of nature with the efforts of humans.

Another interesting photo opportunity found in the Adirondack park are the wooden ladders that assist with making it to the top of some of the mountains. These ladders give off mystical vibes that can add a nice touch to your portfolio. While getting to them requires a decent hike, its worth it – because you’ll be on your way to a summit afterwards. Below, you’ll find some of the favorites I have comes across while hiking in New York.

Scenic Drives, Roadways and Bridges

If you’re into driving and like to get scenic road shots along a road trip, there’s no shortage of opportunities in Upstate New York. There’s a certain freedom and sense of adventure felt on the road, and that can translate to epic pictures – especially for the car buff who loves to feature their car as the subject of photos.

A view above route 23A, a scenic byway through the Catskill State Park

Some popular scenic roadways to satisfy the street photographer in you:

  • NYS Thruway – Albany to Montreal – a beautiful 150+ mile drive cutting through the Adirondacks State Park
  • Route 23A – the Catskills Scenic Byway – running from 35 miles from Catskill to Prattesville, through the Kaaterskill Clove valley. Features mountain views, waterfalls, scenic towns and ski moutains
  • Feura Bush Road – a curvy, fast paced backroad in Delmar, NY where high powered sports cars are often seen in early spring
  • NYS Route 73 – a 28 mile stretch connecting the thruway to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. A winding road with access points to many hikes and scenic pull offs

When shooting along roadways, always be mindful of your safety and the safety of others. You should have at least one other person to watch for traffic, as you will be focusing your attention on your camera. If you do fly a drone to get some epic shots such as the ones seen above, be sure to not fly directly over the roadway.

Caves, Crevasses and Caverns

If you’re looking for an underground shot – New York’s got you covered. There’s a few different options, depending on if you are up for hiking to the caves, or would rather drive to an underground system of expansive caves and caverns.

Howe Caverns (photo from albany.org)

Caves uniquely stay the same temperature year round – around 52 degrees – and so, it will likely feel far warmer than the air outside. If you’re up to go underground, head over to Howe Caverns and start your adventure with a descent to 156 feet below the Earth’s surface. Or, you can take a quick tour into the Secret Caverns near Howes’ Cave. This cave system gives you the opportunity for some claustrophobia inducing shots, as well as an underground waterfall.

inside a crack on the Roulette Travel Caves and Cracks Adventure

You can also venture a bit off of the beaten path and look for caves and crevasses created by falling and splitting rock in the mountains. The Catskill State Park, with its sedimentary rock layers that often break off, is a prime spot to hunting for these intriguing rock formations. While some are plenty wide to walk through, others require some crawling or wiggling – if you’re not sure what you’re heading into, consider hiring a guide for your first time.

Historic Towns

If you are in search of photos speaking to the history and culture of small towns with a charm – you’ve got plenty of spots to choose from across the state. In addition to the photo opportunities, these places offer an experience complete with farm-to-table dining, art, museums, 18th and 19th century architecture and more.

View looking down Warren Street in Hudson

With towns getting settled shortly after the first colonizers came to the United States, there is a lot of history packed into some of the small towns you’ll come across. You might even stumble onto a market festival, a concert or even a car show when traveling through these places – there’s almost always something charming going on.

A classic car show in Palenville, NY

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