Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

One of the things I’ve had on my bucket list for the longest time was to see the Fall in the Adirondacks. The idea of exploring wonderful forests dotted with red, yellow, green, and orange patches – a real masterpiece that you can only see once every year – sounded pretty enticing. Although many Italians head to Maine (USA) to see the Autumn foliage, I read that the Fall foliage season in the Adirondacks lasts longer than other areas of the United States of America. From September to November, a remarkable window of time, considering how short it can be in other areas! That’s why, when the Lake Placid Tourism Board invited us, I immediately said yes: challenge accepted!

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

But what is the main highlight of the Fall in the Adirondacks, exactly?

The term “foliage” refers to a natural phenomenon. The leaves of the plants are green thanks to the chlorophyll, which is produced by capturing the light and using it to feed the plant itself. When the Summer season ends, the days become shorter and the “veins” inside the leaves become smaller and smaller until they close, as if adding a cork at the base. Chlorophyll then begins to degrade until it is completely transformed: at this stage the leaves change color, becoming yellow, red or orange.
In the United States, this phenomenon mainly occurs on the East coast, and specifically in the North, where temperatures drop in Autumn and Winter. According Garet Livermore, Executive Director of Great Camp Sagamore, they can get as low as -40° C!

This is to warn you that you won’t find red and yellow leaves in Florida, but you can certainly visit for many other reasons, not just have fun in Miami!

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

Beeches, sugar maples, red maples, aspens and birches are almost everywhere on the forty-six peaks of the Adirondacks. These forests are not only beautiful to explore, perhaps during a “forest walking” experience, but also … good to eat! In Spring, they produce the delicious maple syrup for which the Adirondacks are famous. During our Fall in the Adirondacks we had the chance to eat cookies, candy, waffles and pancakes with maple syrup. This is really one of the best quality we ever tasted, so much so that we decided to buy a bottle to take home: it’s almost too good to be true!

 

Since this is a natural phenomenon, it is almost impossible to choose a specific date to plan a “fall foliage trip”. Unfortunately, this year a series of hurricanes and natural catastrophes, perhaps due to global warming, have brought death and destruction in many areas of our planet. We live in a tremendously delicate and sensitive ecosystem, so even Fall foliage has suffered the consequences. After a particularly promising start, in fact, the rise in temperatures reopened the “veins” inside the leaves, blocking the normal metamorphosis process.

 

Raquette Lake was as hot as in August. Saranac Lake… too. We had a bag full of photographic equipment, hiking boots and autumn clothing. Full disclosure: we were very scared we didn’t have enough light clothes with us. We were ready to go for an intensive shopping session, thinking we had completely messed up our plans, when everything changed. Temperatures collapsed overnight, going from an average of 32° C to a minimum temperature of -2° C, with maximum temperatures that never went above 14° C. An absolutely abnormal thermal excursion, which left us baffled… after all, we aren’t quite used to it!

The best way to deal with a trip in Fall in the Adirondacks is probably pack some light t-shirts, long-sleeved cotton shirts, a heavy hoodie and why not, maybe even a fleece shirt! Layering is, once again, the best strategy for being ready for almost everything.

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

The Adirondacks are lesser known than other popular areas of the US, at least here in Italy. Yet not many people know that the concept of “vacation” was born right there. In the early 1900s, those who lived in the cities began to realize that heat, pollution, and frequent illnesses were all concatenated. The rich classes then started to spend the Summer away from the city, on the Adirondacks, where fresh air and tranquility seemed to keep the most pernicious plagues at bay.

 

The Adirondacks Park protects 85% of the forests on the East coast of the United States, and is larger than Yellowstone, the Everglades, the National Parks of the Glacier and the Grand Canyon together. Unlike other National parks, though, there is no entrance gate and you won’t have to buy a ticket. The park is in fact a  patchwork of public and private lands, on which very few people live. Just think in some areas, like the ones ones around Lake Champlain, it’s absolutely normal to have to drive almost 50km to find a mall… or even a movie theater!

The forests in Fall in the Adirondacks, dressed in yellow, red and orange, are in fact protected by a series of strict rules that won’t allow the opening of large shopping malls or intrusive billboards: even the usual Starbucks sign is scarce in the area. We found this to be a good thing, as it helped grow many small local alternatives, much more interesting. Some even prepared a good espresso with an Italian grinder, that we enjoyed with warm and fluffy muffins, or family-run diners, or even small self-service shops with products coming directly from the farm: we certainly didn’t miss any of the “big players” during our trip.

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

The first areas where the foliage appears are the forty-six peaks, including Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in the state of New York. So any trip to discover the Adirondacks Fall foliage should probably start from the High Peaks, possibly from the small town of Lake Placid on Mirror Lake. Then you could move to the lower areas, preparing a loop itinerary that, in case you’re flying there, will bring you back to any of the big New York airports. The Adirondack region lacks a big airport, and public transport is reduced to bone. In order to explore this area, it’s absolutely necessary to rent a car.

Fall in the Adirondacks, however, makes even a long drive interesting. There are in fact many scenic roads crossing the forests, just like the Blue Ridge Road, that goes from North Hudson to Fort Ticonderoga and then to Newcomb, or the Black River Trail, which on the third Saturday of September organizes the Cream Cheese Festival, with cheesecake, cheese danish, stuffed bagels and many other cheesy treats. In short, driving in this area is never boring, especially during the Fall!

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

In between the many things to do for your Fall in the Adirondacks, hiking should be high on your list. There are hundreds of very beautiful trails, as well as highlights like the Ausable Chasm, also called “The Grand Canyon of the Adirondack”. In case you don’t feel like hiking (even if you should, we loved it!), then I recommend the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. This scenic road will take you to the top of Whiteface Mountain. It has scenic viewpoints small parking spots and some picnic tables where you can have lunch with a breathtaking view. The last stretch, that leads to the highest point of the mountain, can be reached by a lift or by the stairs. The entrance to this panoramic route is included in the $ 35 Olympic Sites Passport, which includes the entrance to the Olympic Sports Complex, the Olympic Jumping Complex (where you will have access to a sky deck at the top of the ramp), and the Olympics Center, an interesting Winter Olympics museum in Lake Placid. In Winter you can even enjoy some ice skating (maybe with a hot chocolate, since I think you’re going to need that!). When the Adirondack lakes aren’t frozen, people love to go kayaking. The area has a very ancient tradition of building wooden kayaks. If they aren’t your thing, you could go through this list of inflatable kayaks that are way easier to transport over there.

 

Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

 

With the Olympic Passport, in addition to a series of discounts for other attractions, you can also access the “Gondola ride” (nope, they’re not shipping you to Venice!) and the Oktoberfest (held every year between the end of September and the beginning of October). Needless to say we immediately decided we had to check out the Oktoberfest! Of course it was just… you know, to research the facts. Not because we wanted to listen to German music, see the costumes, drink some beer and eat pretzels! Absolutely not! After all, to access the Gondola ride that will get you on the top of Whiteface Mountain, you have to pass for the Oktoberfest. Be it because of the beer (I’m so not used to drinking) or because the view was truly impressive, I didn’t get scared at all, even if I don’t like heights. On the top, as a nice bonus, we got to listen to a group playing Alpine horns! Once you get back from your Gondola ride, it might be interesting to have a look at the stands of the small market at the Oktoberfest: we have found many local products, different types of maple syrup (you can taste them too!) and nice craft objects.
It might be the perfect time to buy some souvenirs!

 

This post was written in collaboration with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism for Lake Placid. They helped us to plan our trip through the Adirondack Peaks and to make lots of new friends. All opinions are our own.

 

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Fall in the Adirondacks: relax, pumpkins and foliage

58 Comments

  1. Paige

    The Adirondacks just seem like one of the best autumn locations in the U.S. I can’t believe I haven’t been yet! I would love to do some fall hiking and check out that Ausable Chasm. I know I’d be bringing fresh maple syrup home to bring the taste of the Adirondacks home with me.

  2. Marvi

    So many interesting facts! 🙂 No wonder you were excited to to partner with the Lake Placid Tourism Board, it looks like a beautiful place to experience Fall! The colours are beautiful and very relaxing to the eyes. I think I’ll settle for a nice hike and maybe a drive to the Whiteface Mountain. Nothing beats a relaxing trip with that gorgeous view!

  3. Megan Jerrard

    You’ve convinced me that Fall in the Adirondacks is a worthy bucketlist destination! We really love hiking, and spending time in the outdoors, and autumn sounds like a fabulous time of year to visit and take in some forest hiking. I’ve heard of the region, but had no idea that it was larger than Yellowstone, the Everglades, the National Parks of the Glacier and the Grand Canyon together!! Such a stunning palette of colors – thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  4. Kavita Favelle

    Magical! Your photos are absolutely beautiful and really show off the incredible natural beauty of the fall foliage. I have been to some parts of the US eastern coast to see the fall colours but not to the Adirondacks, so great to know what a wonderful choice this region is for the colour.

  5. Caitlin

    I agree, this is a wonderful time to explore the area! If you get a chance, next time you should go to Vermont, it’s my home state and absolutely stunning (I would argue every more so than the Adirondacks :D)

  6. Medha

    I love the contrast of the yellow and red leaves against the blue waters of the lake. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do (I live in a country that has pretty much one season through the year – it’s WARM or HOT. LOL. You see almost no trees here (in the UAE) and it’s a dream for me to see to fall colours in a gorgeous setting such as in Adirondacks. Love your pics and the video too!

  7. Alli

    I loved this post based on the title alone! Reading through this post instantly relaxed me, haha! I am obsessed with the fall and especially pumpkins! You have inspired me to visit the Adirondacks this beautiful time of year.

  8. Arnav Mathur

    Going through your pictures is like imagining myself in a fairytale. Adirondacks looks so beautiful specially in the fall, and can only imagine what a time it would have been trekking through this amazing location.

  9. Jitaditya

    I love fall colors (who doesn’t?). But it was even more beautiful than what I expected when I clicked the link. The only sad part is that the season eventually changes… but that also means that it will come back again and maybe I will make it there someday.

  10. Vasu

    Fall colors are so photogenic! I have never heard of Adirondacks but after seeing your pics, I would like to head there during fall. The myriad hues of red, orange and yellow , especially those encircling houses and framing buildings look very beautiful.

  11. Suruchi

    That is so interesting. I like the history of term vacation and how it started here in Adirondacks. Hiking to White face mountain, Gondola ride and Oktoberfest has interested me a lot in particular. Buying some local maple syrup is another thing i would love to do. Loved your pcitures

  12. Ami Bhat

    This place is perfect for hiking and camping. I am sure the birdlife here too, would be fun to capture. And with those fall colors, this place is a perfect photographer’s paradise. Cheers

  13. Carol

    Aaaaah….I love this! I live in New Jersey and I always brag about the beauty of fall in the northeast! You are right — many people think of New England when as far as autumn foliage is concerned, but there are other places in the region that offer the same experience. I have not been to the Adirondacks, but hope to go for a weekend trip with the family soon.

    1. They’re a short trip away from New York City and you’ll basically feel like… in another world! Also… I found them a cheaper alternative to New England, and they’re also less touristy. If you like the great outdoors you’re going to have lots of fun!

  14. Eric Gamble

    Darcee has been bugging me to take her one year to see the leaves change and since I love backpacking & camping, the Adirondacks may fit the bill for both of us. I love all of your pictures. I just read that somewhere around there is an old train line where you can actually ride an old train pulley car through the foliage!

  15. Ali Dunnell

    What wonderful colours. I have been living in Sub Saharan Africa for four years now, after living in Sweden and England and I miss the colours of autumn, or fall, so much. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs

  16. Shaily

    Beautiful post! The pictures are simply breathtaking! Autumn is such an enigmatic art of nature with all those hues of orange and yellow.. The video justifies that beauty! Thanks for sharing this mesmerizing experience. 🙂

  17. WhodoIdo

    Adirondacks is so beautiful with the different colours of red and orange. I’ve not heard of the Adirondacks, but would love to visit one day. And you don’t have to pay for a ticket into the national park! I bet the famous maple syrup is divine with pancakes. : )

  18. Travelquartz

    It’s so strange how a beautiful phenomenon teaches us a life lesson to let go with grace this is what fall means to me, your post on Fall in the Adirondacks is one of the best fall posts this season. I am bookmarking this for inspiration. This reminded me of my visit to Seattle recently where I saw such amazing colors and kept clicking the pictures. Did you attend the Gondola ride too along with Oktoberfest? How was it? I can’t imagine a Gondola ride so pretty amidst the fall 🙂

    1. They actually produce maple syrup in spring, but I can confirm that it’s delicious in the Adirondacks, and widely used in fall to make candies, cakes and more. I’ve tasted many types of maple syrup but the one in the Adirondacks was the best of all!

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