If you’re planning to visit the Adirondack Mountains this fall, then you’re in for a treat. With over 9,000 square miles of forest, mountains, and lakes, the Adirondack fall foliage is some of the best New York State has to offer.
As October approaches, the mountains are ablaze in shades of orange, yellow, and red. Leaf peepers in the Adirondacks are greeted with stunning vistas of fall foliage spanning as far as the eyes can see. This remarkable display is one of the many reasons to head to upstate New York this fall.
Here are more place to enjoy New York fall foliage.
Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage
Lake Placid is most famous for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics. While it’s one of New York’s top winter destinations, it’s also a great place to take in the fall foliage. During autumn, the town offers many seasonal activities, including the Flaming Leaves Festival in October. This celebration of all things fall has live music, crafts, and an array of local food and beers.
For a different perspective on the fall colors, adventurous travelers should consider taking to the lake’s waters in a kayak. This peaceful activity allows you to witness the bright colors of the foliage in all directions.
For some of the finest fall foliage views in the Adirondacks, head to the top of the 128-meter-tall Olympic Jumping Complex. From here you’ll have 360-degree views of the lake, mountains, and bright fall colors as far as the eye can see.
The town of Lake George, located on the southern tip of the lake of the same name, is rich in history and scenic beauty. As the site of a historically significant battle during the French-Indian War, visitors can learn about the battle while exploring Fort William Henry.
One fun way to admire the vibrant fall colors is by taking a steamboat cruise along Lake George. The Lake George Steamboat Company, which has been in operation for over 200 years, offers daily fall sightseeing and dinner tours.
For those seeking more adventurous ways to appreciate the autumn beauty, there are many scenic trails you can access directly from the town. You can hike or horseback ride through the forests, immersing yourself in the fall colors.
The Prospect Mountain Trail offers a challenging hike with panoramic views of Lake George and the surrounding mountains. The 5.5-mile trailhead is located on Smith Street in Lake George Village. Cat Mountain is part of the Lake George Land Conservancy and another nice place to hike.
Autumn is also a great time to take a scenic hot air balloon ride over the lake, where you’ll have a birds-eye view of the blazing foliage.
The Wild Center
Part nature reserve, part outdoor adventure park, The Wild Center is dedicated to nurturing a love for the natural wonders of the Adirondack mountains. This superb destination is perfect for families looking for a unique fall foliage experience.
The center has playgrounds and outdoor activities suitable for children of all ages, but the highlight is the Wild Walk. This trail of bridges takes you into the treetops of Adirondack forest. Along the way you can visit a four-story tree house, swing on bridges, clamber over a spider’s web, or even climb into the full-sized bald eagle’s nest replica.
The Wild Center also offers a web of woodland trails along their vast 115-acre property, and is a memorable place to appreciate the autumn beauty of the Adirondacks.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Discover the fall beauty of the Adirondacks by riding the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. This scenic journey that takes you between Utica and Old Forge, passing through lush forests and over rivers, all blanketed in vibrant fall colors.
Most of the train rides last between one hour and 90 minutes, perfect for those looking for a family-friendly fall activity. The railroad also offers special fall-themed rides, including a Haunted History Evening Excursion and a Pumpkin Train.
Echo Cliffs on Panther Mountain
The hike up to Echo Cliffs is a short but steep journey that rewards hikes with panoramic views of the southern Adirondacks blanketed in vivid fall foliage. Located near Piseco Lake in the town of Arietta, this moderate hike features a 1.2-mile round-trip trail with an elevation gain of 670 feet.
As you hike, the forest will captivate you with its awesome display of autumn colors. At the summit, Echo Cliffs itself is a flat, open portion of rock with a sheer drop of several hundred feet. From this vantage point, you can gaze out at the wide, uninterrupted view of Piseco Lake and the surrounding wilderness, savoring the fall colors that blanket the landscape.
Another great Adirondack hike for viewing the fall foliage is to Indian Head. The summit offers spectacular views of Lower Ausable Lake and the Lower Great Range. This breathtaking sight resembles a Norwegian Fjord, and is particularly breathtaking during the month of October.
While this 8.2-mile out-and-back trail is a long one, the first 3.3 miles are gentle and easy with minimal elevation gain. The last mile is the most gruelling, with a steep 730 foot ascent, but you’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful views in the entire Adirondack Park.
If you’re interested in hiking to Indian Head this fall, be sure to plan ahead as a permit is required during the peak months between May 1 and October 31.
Saranac Lake is a hidden gem of the Adirondacks that is full of natural splendor and a thriving local arts scene. The charming town of Saranac Lake is brimming with eye-popping autumn views and numerous great viewpoints for admiring the colorful scenery.
Saranac Lake also boasts a burgeoning local arts culture. During your visit you pop into the many galleries scattered throughout the town, which feature works of many talented local artists.
Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway
The drive along Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway offers captivating views of the Adirondacks in all their fall splendor. Whiteface Mountain is New York’s fifth-highest peak at 4,867 feet. This monumental landmark looms over the nearby peaks, offering spectacular views of the entire region.
The scenic road leads directly to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, rising over 2,300 feet in just five miles. At the peak is a castle, a restaurant, a gift shop, and even an elevator carved into the mountain. From the end of the road, hike the one-fifth of a mile Alpine Nature Trail to the mountain summit. There you’ll have views spanning across New England and as far as Canada.
The stunning views make this road one the of the best Adirondack scenic highways to drive in fall. The road closes during the winter months, and sometimes earlier in inclement weather. Be sure to check the conditions on the website before planning your visit.
Jay Covered Bridge
Not far from the town of Lake Placid is the iconic Jay Covered Bridge. The last remaining covered bridge in the Adirondacks, this wooden covered bridge stretches 175 feet over the East Branch Ausable River. The bridge was originally built in 1857 and fully restored in 2007 to preserve its historic charm.
The Jay Covered Bridge is open to pedestrians and bicycles, allowing visitors to walk across and explore its picturesque surroundings. The bridge is located within the Douglas Memorial Park complex, making it an excellent destination for outdoor recreation, picnicking, and enjoying stunning views of the river and fall colors.
As fall creeps across the landscape, the bridge becomes a perfect backdrop for photographers looking to capture the vibrant colors of the season.
Meandering through the heart of Adirondack Park is New York State Route 86. This scenic state highway offeris 39.11 miles of an in-your-face fall foliage spectacle. The roadlinks Franklin County to Essex County and is renowned for its mountain views that epitomize the beauty of the Adirondacks. Along the way, travelers can stop at many pull-outs to revel in the vibrant colors of autumn that cloak the landscape.
One of the most captivating stretches along NY 86 is the Wilmington Notch, found between Lake Placid and Wilmington. This portion of the road closely follows the Ausable River and provides mesmerizing glimpses of tumbling rapids and towering mountains.
Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or hunting for the best fall foliage in New York State, Route 86 and its remarkable fall views make for an unforgettable journey through the heart of Adirondack Park.
Tamar is an avid traveler who loves to explore the world with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about helping busy parents plan culturally rich vacations with their children, even with limited time off. You can read more of her work at Worldbyweekend.com.