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Leaf-peepers will lose their minds over autumn in the Adirondacks.
Everyone knows that The Northeast is one of the top-notch places in the USA to view fall foliage in all its glory.
Autumn in the Adirondacks is proof, with its spectrum of fall hues decorating the tree tops of Upstate New York in cinematic fashion. With more than 6-million acres in the Adirondack Park, there’s more than enough to keep anyone entertained with a wide array of ways to absorb the scenery.
Whether you’re a road trip style leaf seeker, a hiking and photography fall fan, or a drink-beer-at-a-brewery-and-stare-at-the-pretty-colors type of foliage peeper, this classically gorgeous region has you covered.
Grab your pumpkin flavored treat of choice and take notes…these are 7 fantastic places to embrace the fall season in the Adirondacks.
Related Read: The Top 10 Best Hikes in Upstate New York
1. The Keene Valley
Nestled in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park, the Keene Valley is a fantastic home base for exploring the area, away from the crowds of Lake Placid. With a large concentration of the High Peaks mountains in the valley, it’s a hiker’s paradise.
Stay in the couple-run Keene Valley Lodge right on scenic highway Route 73 for a cozy Bed & Breakfast experience, just a hop and a skip from some of the top trails. The backyard has access to the Ausable River and the homemade muffins will leave your knees weak (in the best way possible).
Soak up the autumn-tinged trees with a 6-mile round trip trek up to the Hurricane Mountain fire tower, where sweeping views await. For a less demanding hike, head down the Adirondack Loj Road and enjoy a leisurely walk around Heart Lake, and time your 1.3-mile round trip summit of Mount Jo for sunset, for the ultimate light and color combo.
Here, you can see Heart Lake from above to bring the experience full circle. If you’d like to tackle one of the High Peaks, Giant Mountain’s 7.2-mile round trip trail will give you a challenge while also providing decent bang for your buck. Post hike fuel-ups are best done at the iconic Noonmark diner where a slice of pie or loaf of freshly baked bread is a must, or the Forty Six restaurant, if you’re looking to get a touch fancier.
Due to overcrowding and parking issues, either show up super early in the morning (like pre-sunrise) or take the Route 73 Hiker Shuttle, which runs through October 10th.
2. Elk Lake Lodge
For an Adirondack destination that has it all in one place, book a stay at the Elk Lake Lodge in North Hudson. Set on 12,000 acres with access to a myriad of amazing hiking trails, this wilderness resort is a truly authentic Adirondack experience.
By day, take advantage of the canoes and kayaks to explore the lake, get your heart-pumping on big or little trails such as Dix Mountain, Sunrise Mountain, the Clear Pond loop trail, or the easy onsite waterfall jaunt. The dinner bell will beckon you for dinner amongst other guests where mingling with a drink on the gorgeous porch or main lodge room are a must.
Set your alarm and watch the sunrise from a classic Adirondack chair on the dock – it’s tradition. Rooms include 3 meals a day, with the option for a bagged lunch to bring along with you on your ventures.
Choose from lodge rooms or spacious cabins; wherever you slumber, you’ll be waking up to a postcard-perfect Adirondack vista. With so much to do without even leaving the property, visiting Elk Lake Lodge is easily one of the top spots to dive into the fall foliage season in the Adirondacks.
Related read: 12 Best Spots to See Fall Foliage in the Catskills
3. Bolton Landing
Visit the ever-so-popular Lake George region without dealing with the overly crowded village of Lake George. The solution is Bolton Landing, a quaint lakeside town on the western shores, approximately twenty minutes north of the busy village.
Don’t get us wrong, Bolton Landing is still bustling, but a lot less kitschy and a bit more under-the-radar. Lodging options range to accommodate almost anyone, from the upscale and historic Sagamore Resort to Airbnb rentals and even island camping in the Glen Islands at the base of the Tongue Mountain range.
Getting out on the lake is undoubtedly one of the most stunning ways to view the area’s foliage colors. Bring your own kayak, or rent from Lake George Kayak Co. or, reserve a speedboat from Norowal Marina to hit the water and explore the giant lake.
Enjoy 270 degree views from atop Cat and Thomas Mountains, a hike that can range in distance from 1.4 miles to 3.5 miles depending on the route you choose. Hungry? Grab legit bagels from Bear’s Cup, dinner at The Huddle Kitchen & Bar, and sip brews from the porch of the local Bolton Landing Brewing Company.
Related read: 10 Beautiful Mountain Resorts in the Adirondacks
4. Route 28 Scenic Drive
Route 28 is one of the main roads through the Adirondack region, and incredibly scenic at that. Stretching 50-some miles from Central New York in Forestport, to Warrensburg, driving a section (or all) of this route in the autumn months will leave you in a perpetual state of jaw-drop.
Start on either end, making your way through small Adirondack hamlets, plenty of scenic vistas, hiking trails, and more. Towns to keep on your radar include North Creek, Indian Lake, Raquette Lake, Inlet, and Old Forge.
In between North Creek and Indian Lake, chase waterfalls with a hike to OK Slip Falls, a 6-mile round trip trek to one of the tallest cascades in the state. At Lake Durant, branch off for a quick detour on the ‘Old Route 28’ where you’ll find a series of campsites and picnic spots overlooking the water.
This is a great place to enjoy a packed lunch or simply take some photos. Make a stop in the tiny town of Blue Mountain Lake at the public beach for views of the iconic Blue Mountain, and if the brewery is open, grab a few to go as a souvenir to enjoy at the end of your road trip.
Between Blue Mountain and Raquette Lake, hop out and head to Death Brook Falls, a quick, .3 mile walk to a 70-foot cascade in the Blue Ridge Wilderness.
Don’t pass up on a visit to the charming village of Raquette Lake, with pretty views, an old church, and the Raquette Lake Hotel & Tap Room, a favorite local watering hole with great food. In Old Forge, take your pick of things to do, from hiking Rocky Mountain Peak to boating the Fulton Chain of Lakes with the foliage background in full force.
Related read: 8 Amazing Glamping Spots in the Adirondacks
5. Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area
Tucked in the northeastern region of the Adirondacks near Schroon Lake, the lesser-known Pharaoh Lake Wilderness area bursts with color during the fall season.
Choose from shorter hikes like the 3.4-mile round-trip Spectacle Pond trail, to overnight treks and camp in one of the lean-to’s along Pharaoh Lake via the 6-mile loop trail. A myriad of ponds dot the landscape here as well, with spur trails to keep you busy for days. If peaceful leaf-peeping is on your agenda, you can’t go wrong with this wilderness area.
Pop over to Paradox Lake on the northern edge with a kayak or canoe and paddle around looking for loons, admiring the autumn colors, and picnic on one of the islands. Any post adventure deserves a beer (or two), which is where Paradox Brewery comes into play. Pizzas and other snacks help soak up the delicious IPAs and other brews.
Related read: 12 of the Best Airbnbs in the Adirondacks
6. Tupper Lake and Cranberry Lake
Venture to the northwestern section of the Adirondack Park in search of solitude with your foliage. Tupper Lake and Cranberry Lake offer a remote feel with unspoiled wilderness. If you have a chunk of time, tackle the Cranberry 50, a 50-mile loop around the lake…an authentic Adirondack Park experience.
If you’d like to opt for a shorter trail with sprawling views, climb up to the Mount Arab Firetower, a 2-mile out-and-back moderately difficult trek up to a rewarding vista. Drive down Route 421 for a roadside waterfall surrounded by lush foliage. Bog River Falls is located within the Horseshoe Wild Forest and has two tiers, the upper and lower cascades, with a picnic table to enjoy lunch in the upper section.
Staying the night in the area? Trade leaves for stars at the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory, on the 1st and 3rd Fridays with clear conditions each month.
Related read: 11 Beautiful Cabin Rentals in the Adirondacks
7. Route 30 Between Speculator and Indian Lake
The approximately 25-mile stretch between the Adirondack villages of Speculator and Indian Lake is one of the top scenic drives in the park. Starting at whichever end you’d like, views all along the western shore of Indian Lake will dazzle you.
Choose from three lakes in Indian Lake; in addition to the namesake body of water, visitors can enjoy activities like fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming on Lake Abanakee and Adirondack Lake. Various campsites can be found along Indian Lake’s west side, with easy access off of Route 30.
Registration for these and the multiple island campsites is done at the Main Office and Ranger Station in Sabael, where Indian Lake and Lewey Lake meet (on the southern end of Indian Lake).
Hikers looking to tack on a trail to their scenic drive can climb up to Snowy Mountain fire tower, an almost 4-mile hike with rewarding views. Also along the route, Whiskey Brook Falls, a small roadside cascade. In Speculator, grab a sandwich or snacks from Mountain Market and stop into Lemon Tree Brewery for a crisp beer.
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