The Adirondack Mountains are one of the most popular outdoor destinations on the East Coast for fall. With lakefront resorts, tons of hiking trails to choose from, and beautiful landscapes, it’s no wonder that people flock to the Adirondack Mountains from all over the US to enjoy the fall foliage.
If the Adirondack Mountains are on your bucket list, we share all of the best adventures to do in this region plus information on how to time your trip to make the most of fall colors.
Where Are The Adirondack Mountains Located?
The Adirondack Mountains are located in New York State.
Before my trip, I knew very little about this region and as one of the oldest settlements in the US, I always thought that the East Coast was covered in sprawling urban cities. To my surprise, most of New York State consists of rugged, undeveloped mountains that you could spend weeks exploring and not see it all.
To visit the Adirondack Mountains we flew into the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. From there it’s a straight shot up to the Adirondacks through Albany. Newark Liberty International Airport is located next to Long Island, New York, but you can take toll roads around it to avoid the busy city traffic.
Tip: When taking toll roads on the East Coast make sure to grab a pass at the toll road entrance. It was our first time going on a toll road here and we didn’t know that we had to stop and get a ticket. When it was time to pay, we had to pay the full toll road fee, instead of the small section that we actually drove through which would have been a fraction of the price. Oops! We learned the hard way!
It takes about 5 hours to get to the Adirondack Mountains from Newark Liberty International Airport.
The Adirondack mountain range is massive covering over 5000 square miles of vast wilderness including hundreds of trails, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. Just to give you an idea of the scale, the Adirondack Mountains are bigger than Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks all combined. Talk about impressive!
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the Adirondack Mountains is in the fall. But timing fall colors in the Adirondacks can be difficult because these mountains cover so much distance with varying altitudes and ecosystems. Other factors that affect fall peak times can be fires and the general weather of the season.
We visited the Adirondacks from October 7-October 10th and had already missed the peak fall colors by a few days. While some parts of the mountains were still very colorful, other areas were well past the peak and the trees had lost most of their leaves.
Fall foliage in the Adirondack Mountains usually peaks in late September up to early October.
I do hope to visit East Coast for fall again in the future but next time I plan to head out there a few days early. It’s better to come early than see no leaves at all. Once the leaves start falling, the trees turn bare very quickly.
Here is a fall foliage prediction map that has helped us plan several of our fall road trips. This map shows the progressive changing of the leaves for each region in the United States.
Things To Do In The Adirondack Mountains
If you’re planning a trip to the Adirondacks, there is just so much that you can see and do in this region, especially if you love the outdoors.
While the Adirondacks cover a large portion of New York State, there are only a few roads that travel through this mountain range. If you plan to go on any off-the-beaten-path adventures, be sure to get a vehicle that can handle off-roading.
Below we have picked out a few of our favorite attractions in the Adirondacks, especially for first-time visitors. Some of these activities are very popular (and yes, touristy) plus we included a few hidden gems and some amazing restaurants that we discovered in this area.
Indian Head Trail
Indian Head Trail is by far the most popular hike in the Adirondacks, especially in the fall. People flock to the Adirondack Mountains from all over the US to hike this trail and get that one popular shot overlooking the lake. Yes, you can judge us, we did too!
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If you plan to tackle the Indian Head Trail, I highly recommend setting aside an entire day just to do it, (but it’s so worth it!).
This hike is around 10 miles long, depending on the route that you choose, and gains around 2000 feet in elevation.
Indian Head Trail is very busy with limited parking so most people start this hike at 5-6 am. As a second option, you can wait until the afternoon when morning hikers start returning and parking spots open up.
The trail starts relatively flat and follows a wide path. There is a section at the end that requires you to scramble up a mountain slope to the overlook but there are stairs placed in the steeper parts to assist with the climb.
Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with panoramic views overlooking Lower Ausable Lake. This is where you can snap a few Instagrammable photos of the lake and the mountains that turn to colorful hues of yellows and oranges in fall.
If your legs are not too sore and tired, I recommend taking the longer West River Trail option back that passes scenic bridges and waterfalls.
Trailhead Location: 24 Ausable Rd, Keene Valley, NY 12943
If you love waterfalls but don’t necessarily want to hike long distances to reach them, you’ll enjoy visiting Ausable Chasm. This location has direct views of cascading waterfalls across a bridge just a few minutes walk from the parking lot.
If you’re in the mood for a longer stroll, I recommend purchasing an entrance ticket and exploring the rest of Ausable Chasm. The main trail here passes through a deeply carved canyon with hiking paths built on the sides of the gorge. If you have the time, I highly recommend this experience!
For those who like adventures full of adrenaline, you also have the option to sign up for a river rafting excursion or a guided group tour that will take you on suspension bridges across the river. But with the river rushing below you at dangerous speeds, this is not for the faint, especially for those with fear of heights!
- Cost: $20 for the basic entrance ticket. Try to reserve entrance tickets ahead of time, especially during the busy seasons in summer and fall.
- Hours: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Location: 2144 U.S. 9, Ausable Chasm, NY 12911
- Website: Ausablechasm.com
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Whiteface Mountain Gondola
If you’re looking for a unique adventure that you can’t experience every day, at Whiteface Mountain you can hop on a gondola that will take you to the top of the mountain in a cable car.
The Cloudsplitter Gondola starts at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort.
In the winter this is a popular place to come skiing, but in the fall, you can go for a ride in a gondola while enjoying mountain views and fall foliage in a safe, effortless way.
It costs $24 to ride the Cloudsplitter which will provide you with one ride in the gondola. Give yourself about an hour to ride the gondola and enjoy the views at the top of the mountain before heading back down. Note that it can be chilly at the summit so be sure to bring along a jacket to stay warm.
- Cost: $24 for adults, $18 for kids and seniors
- Hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
- Location: 5021 NY-86, Wilmington, NY 12997
Mount Jo Trail
Mount Jo Trail is another wonderful hike to do in the Adirondack Mountains for fall.
This trail leads to a viewpoint that overlooks Heart Lake and Algonquin Peak in the distance.
Mount Jo trail is very short but it’s one of those hikes that makes you work for the views. It starts at the High Peaks Information Center and immediately starts climbing up gaining around 700 feet in elevation for the entire time until you reach the Heart Lake viewpoint.
There are two trails that you can take up – the Long Trail or the Short Trail.
The short trail is the quicker option but this route has a lot of giant boulders that you will need to scramble across. The long trail is much easier but still has plenty of tree roots and muddy sections so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and watch your step.
You can always take one route up and the other way back down for a variety of scenery. We ended up taking the short trail up and the long trail down which seems to be a popular option.
The views once you reach the overlook are just breathtaking, although we did miss the fall peak colors by about a week and could even see some snow forming on top of the mountains in the distance. Mount Jo trail is located higher in elevation so it usually starts getting fall colors earlier on than other locations in the Adirondacks.
- Cost: $15 to park for a full day, $7 for a half day
- Location: 1002 Adirondack Loj Rd, Lake Placid, NY 12946
Much of the Adirondacks consist of rugged mountain landscapes with very few towns or roads that travel through this region.
Lake Placid is the little epicenter of the Adirondacks. This is where you will find most of the accommodations, restaurants, breweries, and other things to do for visitors. Lake Placid is also a popular weekend getaway for folks from the nearby cities so it can get very busy, especially on the weekends.
We’re not big spenders when it comes to road trips, but staying at the High Peaks Resort by Lake Placid was our one big splurge of this trip. With a direct view of Mirror Lake right outside of the room, our stay at the High Peaks Resort was so relaxing and much needed on an otherwise packed road trip itinerary.
High Peaks Resort is located right on Main Street so within a short walk we were able to reach restaurants, shops, and local breweries. High Peaks Resort also offers complimentary kayak rentals for guests (as long as the lake water is above 60 degrees for safety).
Cobble Lookout Trail
Cobble Lookout trail is one of the most scenic hikes to do in the Adirondack Mountains, especially for fall. This adventurous 2.5-mile-long trail is relatively easy, passes through beautiful woods, and ends at an overlook.
With only a slight elevation gain of 240 feet, the Cobble Lookout Trail is a great hike for families and older kids.
The Cobble Lookout trailhead starts next to Highway 18A/Gillespie Drive. Parking is very limited and we had to walk a little way to the trailhead after parking along the road. The trail itself is well-marked and straightforward.
This is one of the most popular trails in the Adirondacks so you can expect it to be very crowded.
Certain sections of the Cobble Lookout trail are rocky and muddy so if you plan to hike it, be sure to wear waterproof hiking shoes to avoid slipping in the mud or getting your feet soaked.
The trail ends at a clearing on top of a cliff that offers panoramic views of the mountains that look very colorful in September and early October. Do note that it can be very windy and cold past the tree line so bring along a jacket to throw on while enjoying the views.
Location: Co Hwy 18A, Wilmington, NY 12997
If you plan to venture into the southern part of the Adirondacks, Schroon Lake is an impressive mountain lake that’s great for day trips. This is a popular attraction where visitors come to lounge on the lakefront or tackle the scenic Severance Hill Trail that overlooks Schroon Lake.
Despite the lake’s size, there are not that many access points along the shore. We came to Schroon Lake Beach for sunset and enjoyed a relaxing evening watching the sun go down behind the mountains.
Next to Schroon Lake is a quaint little town with lakefront cottages that are great for low-key getaways.
- Schroon Lake Beach Hours: 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
- Location: Dock St, Schroon Lake, NY 12870
Natural Stone Bridge & Caves
Natural Stone Bridge & Caves is a geological wonder situated in the southern part of the Adirondack Mountains. This location has self-guided trails that pass along a river but the main attraction here is the Natural Bridge Cave.
Natural Bridge Cave is 180 feet wide and 62 feet high making it the largest marble cave entrance on the East Coast.
This cave is so large that it even has an underground lake that used to trap trees sent down the Trout Brook River during the logging days in the 1900s. Now, this privately owned location is solely used as a tourist attraction.
In the spring Trout Brook River overfloods but in the fall, the water level at Natural Stone Bridge & Caves is very low. We were able to walk on top of the dry river bed and peek inside caves with underground waterfalls during our visit in October.
Natural Stone Bridge & Caves is a great spot to visit if you love geology and unique rock formations.
- Cost: $16 for adults, $8.50 for kids
- Location: 535 Stone Bridge Rd, Pottersville, NY 12860
- Website: Stonebridgeandcaves.com
There are so many incredible locations in the Adirondack Mountains. While you may not be able to visit them all, Flume Falls is a great little spot along Highway 86 that you shouldn’t skip!
Flume Falls is a set of waterfalls in a canyon along the Ausable River. You can see Wilmington Flume Falls from a bridge right next to the visitor parking lot or head into longer trails to check out the other nearby waterfalls and swimming holes.
Location: 5257 NY-86 Scenic, Wilmington, NY 12997
Roaring Brook Falls Trail
Roaring Brook Falls was a pleasant surprise that we stumbled upon while researching hikes to do in the Adirondack Mountains.
Roaring Brook Falls trailhead is located near the Indian Head trail starting point. While many people park at the Roaring Brook trailhead parking lot, very few venture into this trail and opt to do the more popular Indian Head hike instead.
I recommend checking out Roaring Brook Falls as well, it’s quite the little gem!
The trail to Lower Roaring Brook Falls is only 0.5 miles long, round trip. You also have the option to hike to an overlook of the upper falls that adds an extra mile to your adventure.
This trail is not well traveled and parts of it were a bit hard to follow especially in fall when the entire forest was covered with freshly fallen leaves. The hike ends at a cliff where the waterfall flows down its side cutting away the rock along its path.
High Falls Gorge
Although we didn’t personally visit High Falls Gorge, it’s a popular attraction in the Adirondack Mountains so we wanted to mention it in our post.
High Falls Gorge is a private nature park that features waterfalls and hiking trails built on the side of a canyon, similar to Ausable Chasm.
We had pulled over next to it to snap a few photos of the river and missed the entrance by a few minutes – it closes early at 4:00 pm. Although I don’t expect to see every location on a short vacation like ours, this is a great spot to explore for beautiful outdoor scenery.
- Hours: Friday to Tuesday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Cost: $13 for adults, $10 for kids
- Location: 4761 NY-86, Wilmington, NY 12997
While it’s great to have a plan of all the top things that you want to see, be sure to leave some room for impromptu adventures as well.
Along with visiting these major attractions in the Adirondacks, much of our trip consisted of just going down random side roads (as long as they were not private roads) and seeing where they take us.
During these unplanned side trips, we stumbled upon mirror-like ponds, cozy cabins, and winding mountain rivers.
Impressively, the Adirondack Mountain region in New York is home to over 3000 lakes and ponds. As a fun adventure, you can rent a kayak or a canoe and spend the day on a remote lakefront surrounded by magnificent fall views.
Forty Six Café
Forty Six Café was one of my favorite places to stop for lunch in the Adirondack Mountains. This restaurant is very cozy and modern, quite unexpected because it’s located in the middle of nowhere.
Most of the cafes in the Adirondack Mountains felt a bit outdated but Forty Six was able to incorporate contemporary pieces (like the gorgeous ceiling lamp) while keeping some of its traditional cabin-esque elements.
The menu at Forty Six is small but consists of items that are made with a lot of thought and preparation. The ingredients are organic, fresh, and paired well, you really can’t go wrong here!
Do note that seating at Forty Six restaurant is very limited so call ahead and make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, especially for dinner.
- Hours: Thursday to Monday from 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
- Location: 2837 NY-73, Keene, NY 12942
Big Slide Brewery
After spending time in the mountains, there is no better way to relax at the end of the day than by grabbing food and a beer at a local brewery. Big Slide Brewery & Public House is a hip, low-key restaurant that offers a great selection of food and seasonal beers on tap.
With a relaxing ambiance and well-thought-out menu items, Big Slide Brewery is a great spot to come for dinner.
Along with a couple of their pizzas, we tried out a few of their specialty beers. I got a beer flight that included some interesting beer choices like beet sour and hot pepper ale. My favorite was the Giant DIPA which was very hoppy with slight notes of citrus and pine.
Location: 5686 Cascade Rd, Lake Placid, NY 12946
Generations Tap & Grill
If you’re looking for a place to eat around Lake Placid, Generations Tap & Grill is a great restaurant that we walked to from our hotel. Generations Tap & Grill serves food all day long – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their menu is very generous and covers a variety of items to choose from, including pizza, sandwiches, and vegetarian options which I appreciated.
They also have a great selection of beer and drinks. My husband tried the Good Fortune IPA which was hazy in color and a bit sweet.
While Generations Tap & Grill wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, food options in the Adirondack Mountains are limited and this restaurant was able to accommodate us without a reservation on a busy night. The service at Generations Tap & Grill was very friendly and welcoming, just what we needed after a long day of hiking!
- Hours: 7:30 am – 9:00 pm
- Location: 2543 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946
We hope this travel guide has helped you plan your trip and add a few scenic locations to visit in the Adirondack Mountains for fall foliage. If you have any questions about these attractions, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments below!
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Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, and durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra-fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set.
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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