Anybody who knows me knows that Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. When I was a kid it meant Halloween decorations, candy corn season, and playing in the leaves. In High School it was all about Cross Country season, candy corn, and Homecoming float building. Now, Fall is the time when Lake Placid quiets down a little, winter athletes start to return to the OTC, and everything becomes a thousand times more beautiful as the leaves change (also, Hannaford starts stocking candy corn). There’s something about the calm and quiet of the Fall, and the anticipation of the Winter that just makes me so happy. Its also the time of year when I like to look back on everything that I did over the Summer, and look forward to the fun of the Winter season in a Winter Olympic town. This Summer, I finished Ironman Lake Placid, and we are one year closer to the next Winter Games, so I am feeling especially content and happy heading into my favorite time of year!
Its no secret that people come to the Adirondacks in September just to take in the Fall Foliage, and with the leaves just starting to change, peak foliage will be here before you know it! The leaves will stay on the trees and the colors will stick around for a few weeks, but what we call “peak foliage” only lasts a few days – usually right at the end of the month. So in order to take advantage of all the Adirondacks have to offer as the leaves change, here’s a few suggestions of where to go and what to do while you visit!
We’ll start with the easiest & least physically taxing :)
LAKE PLACID BOAT TOURS
Just 0.5 miles from Main Street, you will find the Lake Placid Marina, where you can take a pontoon boat tour of Lake Placid. Lake Placid is surrounded by privately owned land, so this is one of the only ways to see the Lake and the beautiful camps on its shores. Whats better than a boat ride where you can see fall foliage, historic camps, and the High Peaks all while hearing about the history of Lake Placid and the Adirondack Park?
MIRROR LAKE FOOT PATH
If you are staying in town, one of the best things to do is take a stroll around Mirror Lake. There is a 2.7 mile brick sidewalk that wraps around the Lake to make a complete loop including Main Street. If you take the walk early in the morning, you can often watch the fog lift off the Lake to reveal late season swimmers and early morning fisherman in action. In the evening, you can watch the sun set over town from The Boathouse Restaurant on the back side of the Lake. During the day, you’ll pass runners, cyclists, and families out taking in the views and brisk weather!
MT WHITNEY ROAD
Mt. Whitney Road is one of my favorite places to run year round, but especially in the Fall. There’s nothing quite like the serenity of a windy gravel road meandering through the Adirondack forest. Its quiet and peaceful, and also a private road (so be respectful!). Located on the back side of Mirror Lake, it is the only way to reach many of the Great Camps along the shore of Lake Placid, and also the location of the Cobble Hill trail head. Cobble Hill is a popular short hike with views of Mirror Lake, the famed Ski Jumps, The Village of Lake Placid, and the Mt Van Hovenberg combined sliding track. If you want to enjoy a peaceful walk or run near town, but off the beaten path, Mt Whitney Road is the place to go!
THE AUSABLE RIVER
The Ausable River meanders from Wilmington to Lake Placid along Route 86, and down River Road. A popular place for fly fishing, the Ausable is gorgeous in the Fall. There are a number of hiking trails all along Route 86 which follow the river, including The Flume trails in Wilmington. You can marvel at the calmness of the Ausable along River Road in Lake Placid, or watch it plunge over nearly 700 feet of waterfalls at the High Falls Gorge in Wilmington. From there, you can take a scenic drive up the Veterans Memorial Highway to witness the mesmerizing views from the summit of Whiteface Mountain.
MOUNT JO & HEART LAKE
One of the most popular hikes in Lake Placid, Mount Jo and Heart Lake is also one of the most scenic. Located at the Adirondack Loj (pronounced like lodge) just outside of town, Mt. Jo is almost like the gateway to the High Peaks. It sits just in front of Algonquin Mountain, Wright Peak, & Iroquois Peak, the three iconic mountains which can easily be spotted on the Lake Placid horizon. From the top you can catch glimpses of the Village of Lake Placid, as well as all of the High Peaks and Great Range. It is one of the best places in the world to watch the sunrise, even more so in Autumn! Mt Jo can be hiked in 2-3 hours (round trip) or less, so its a great option for beginners or families! If you don’t feel up to tackling the climb, there is a short, flat trail which goes around Heart Lake.
Another popular hike, the trail to Marcy Dam is an easy and relatively flat 3 miles. This trail is the lead-in to many of the High Peaks, so it is very well maintained, and will have you hiking alongside some of the most experienced backpackers in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, the Dam itself was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, so the area in front of the Dam which used to be a serene lake is now more of a mud bog. However, it is still a beautiful walk, and the smaller dam (pictured above) is still there. You can take in views of Mt. Colden and Algonquin Peak from the Dam, and if you’re feeling ambitious, you can continue on to one of the many High Peaks off of adjacent trails or Avalanche Lake.
MY FAVORITE: THE THREE BROTHERS
In all honesty, any hike on any trail in the Adirondacks will be beautiful in the Fall, but The Three Brothers is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. I make a point to do this hike each year during peak foliage. A bit of a drive from Lake Placid (but worth it), this hike begins at the Johns Brook Lodge Parking Area in Keene Valley. The majority of the hike is along an open ridge, so you get to take in the above views for almost the whole time you are hiking! Because it is along a ridge, it is fairly steep and challenging hike. However, just as the name implies, there are three separate peaks on this hike, so it is possible to just hike one and turn around, or keep going and do all three! If you get to the top of the third and still aren’t satisfied, you can continue on the same trail and hike to the summit of Big Slide, one of the famous 46 High Peaks! There really is nothing quite like sitting atop an Adirondack Peak in the crisp Autumn air while surrounded by “flaming leaves”!
DRIVE THE IRONMAN BIKE LOOP
For those who aren’t into hiking, walking, or pontoon boating, there is always a scenic drive! While I’m not big into scenic drives myself, I am into scenic bike rides, and one of the best is the Lake Placid Ironman Bike Loop. Begin in Lake Placid and take Route 73 toward Keene. You will drive along parts of the Ausable, past the Ski Jumps and popular Cascade Mountain before descending into Keene. From there, go left onto Route 9 towards Ausable Forks. Route 9 has some of my favorite views along the whole loop! Once In Ausable Forks, turn left again on Route 86 toward Wilmington. Here you will see your first views of Whiteface Mountain and the ski trails on its face, which are very nice in the fall. Go left again in Wilmington to continue on Rte 86 back to Placid and revel at the views of the Ausable River and surrounding Cliffs and Mountains!
Giant Mountain via the Ridge Trail, Henry’s Woods, John Brown Farm & Historic Site, The Peninsula Trails, Phelps Mountain, Gothics Mountain
BONUS: CREATURES OF THE ADKS!
While you visit, keep an eye out for some of our unique wildlife! Loons are abundant in the area, and can be found/heard in and around almost all of the Lakes. The Loon call is an iconic sound in the Adirondacks, and can be heard throughout the day, but especially early in the morning and after dusk.
One of my favorite creatures in the Adirondacks is the Red Spotted Newt. Red spotted newts are really cool because they are born in the water. When they reach “adolescence” they turn red, crawl ashore, and live on land in the woods until they reach adulthood. When they are living on land, they are called “Red Efts”. As adults, they turn a grey/tan color, but their spots stay a bright red/orange, and their tail turns into a more aquatic looking tadpole-like tail. They make their way back to the water, where they breed and remain for the rest of their lives. Pretty cool if you ask me!
Thats all for now! I hope everyone gets to enjoy the ADK Foliage this Fall!