There might be no better time and place to be in New York than fall in the Adirondacks. The weather is beautiful, the colors are vibrant, and there’s still plenty of open attractions to check out.
However, with nearly 10,000 square miles within the Adirondack Park (and even more if you count the surrounding counties that are part of our Adirondack Region), it’s hard to narrow down the best places to see fall foliage in the Adirondacks.
To help you do that, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite places throughout the region. And, while you can go on epic hikes to see fall foliage in the Adirondacks, I thought I’d make this list of places that you can see from your car!
When to See Fall Foliage in the Adirondacks
Before you leave home, it’s important to know when to visit the Adirondacks to see peak foliage.
Obviously, this can vary depending on factors like latitude, elevation, and weather, but, generally speaking, you’ll want to visit sometime between the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.
That being said, if I was planning another trip to see fall foliage in the Adirondacks, I’d look at the first week of October, though the second week would also be good if you aren’t planning on doing much hiking to the high peaks.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite places to see fall foliage in the Adirondacks.
Downtown Lake Placid has many fantastic spots to see fall foliage from your car, but if you are looking for the best views, I recommend driving along Mirror Lake Drive. This road, combined with Main Street, encircles Mirror Lake and provides the chance to see incredible beauty in autumn.
From this road, you can get panoramic views of the village and the mountains behind it. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how this lake got its name.
Located in the southern Adirondacks, Lake George is the name of both a charming Adirondack community and the largest lake entirely within the Adirondacks.
Lake George, the town, is a great jumping-off point for exploring Lake George, the lake. You can view the lake from the shoreline in the village’s parks or from Fort William Henry. You can also climb aboard a boat tour on the Minne Ha Ha Steamboat for a chance to see the lake from the water.
For an even better view, drive or hike to the top of Prospect Mountain for amazing views over the area.
Route 86 is one of the major roads through the Adirondacks and extends from Paul Smiths to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and finally to Jay, New York.
This road passes through some of the most beautiful parts of the Adirondacks and connects several of the places on this list. I especially enjoy the section leaving Lake Placid towards the east. Along this route, you’ll find small waterfalls (like Flume Falls), amazing views of Whiteface Mountain, and many more beautiful roadside spots.
Of course, you could also hop out of your car to hike one of these magnificent trails if you desired.
If you are looking to make a loop drive, leave Lake Placid on Route 86, turn south of Route 9N at Jay, and then pick up Route 73 to head west back towards Lake Placid. This trip is 40 miles in length and should take about an hour if you don’t stop (though there are plenty of great spots to stop on this trip).
Jay Covered Bridge
Speaking of places to stop on the Route 86 loop out of Lake Placid, Jay Covered Bridge is one of the best.
This is the northernmost covered bridge in New York and is also one of the most beautiful.
The bridge spans the Ausable River at an incredibly scenic spot with many giant boulders that you can go out onto and explore when water levels aren’t too high.
Of course, if you’d rather, you can view this spot from near the parking lot as well, and simply enjoy the beauty of fall here without leaving your vehicle.
Saranac Lake is both an Adirondack village and a lake a short drive west of Lake Placid. The town is, somewhat oddly, centered around Lake Flower, with Lower Saranac Lake sitting a short distance outside of the town.
In addition to just being a neat little town to explore, Saranac Lake’s many nearby lakes feature fantastic views during the fall foliage season.
The photo above I took on a foggy morning within steps of my room at Gauthiers Saranac Lake Hotel while peering across Lake Flower.
Located in the southern Adirondacks, Lake Pleasant, New York is a small community sandwiched between two incredibly beautiful lakes: Lake Pleasant and Sacandaga Lake.
This means that you have two great locations to see fall foliage along the community’s lakes.
If you are looking for one spot to head, however, check out the beach and park on the northern end of Lake Pleasant which provides incredible views.
Indian Lake is so beautiful that a song was written about it in the 1960s.
This lake is located a short distance north of Lake Pleasant and is one of the most forested lakes on this list. In fact, views of the lake are quite sparse if you want to see foliage over the lake from your car.
However, on the southern end of the lake, along Route 30, there is an excellent spot to pull over and enjoy a quiet cove on Indian Lake. You can also get great views from Lakeshore Drive on the northwestern side of the lake.
The Cascade Lakes
There are actually two Cascade Lakes (Upper Cascade Lake and Lower Cascade Lake) separated by a very short channel about six miles from Lake Placid.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most stunning places to see fall foliage in the Adirondacks, or really at any time of the year) as the two lakes sit at the base of a rocky mountain that looks like something you’d expect to find in the Rockies. Even better, a towering, though light-flowing, waterfall cascades down the mountain between the two lakes and can be seen in the distance.
If you are up for a hike, the hike to the top of Cascade Mountain is considered the easiest of the 46 High Peaks, though it’s still a challenging hike.
Long Lake is, not surprisingly, one of the longest lakes in the Adirondacks, with a length of 14 miles. It’s also quite skinny, giving it a different look than many of the expansive lakes in the region.
In addition to the great autumn views, what makes Long Lake so unique is that it’s a popular base for the seaplanes that can be found around the Adirondacks. Whether you just want to see them docked along the lake, take off and land on the lake, or whether you want to climb aboard one for a tour of the area, this is a great spot to catch them.
Roaring Brook Falls
Roaring Brook Falls is more than 300 feet in height, making it the tallest waterfall in the Adirondacks.
While there are hiking trails to both the base and the crest of this massive waterfall, you can also view this waterfall from a distance at a pull-off along Route 73.
From this pull-off, you can not only see the majority of the waterfall, but you can also enjoy the forest hillsides surrounding the area. Make sure to look not just toward the waterfall, but also to the northwest for great views of the road leading away from the waterfall towards the Adirondack peaks.
Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in New York and the tallest mountain in the state that you can drive to the top of. That makes it a fantastic spot from which to see roadside fall foliage in the Adirondacks.
Truthfully, this is the one spot on this list that I haven’t personally visited, though the photos I’ve seen from here are so majestic that I thought it was worth including.
From the top of this mountain, you are treated to a 360-degree view of the Adirondacks. Views can be had from a variety of spots as you drive up the road and from a tower at its peak.
Do you have a favorite spot to see fall foliage in the Adirondack Park? Let us know in the comments below.