Tips for Seeing Fall Foliage in the Adirondacks

By: Mary Godnick - Adirondack Council Marketing and Communications Associate
Monday, September 23, 2020

Fall is one of the most amazing times to enjoy the Adirondacks. The weather is mild, the bugs have retreated, and the leaves put on the most glorious color display as they change from green to yellow, orange, red, burgundy, or brown. Especially this year, it is one of the most popular times to get out and enjoy the Park, and it’s critical we think about how we can minimize the footprint and health risks of our experiences. That’s why we’re sharing a few insider tips for safely seeing fall foliage in the Adirondacks.

Finding Peak Color

Each year, the color timing and vibrance changes depending on a variety of factors, including length of days, temperature and available water. The regions of the Adirondack Park are going to hit “peak color” at different times because of their elevation, temperature and forest make-up. You may find it helpful to look at the I Love NY foliage map that is updated regularly.

If you’re worried you will “miss it,” don’t - the colors are still beautiful as the fallen leaves become a carpet on the forest floor.

Adirondack Fall Foliage Tips

    • Recreate responsiblyStay local, bring a face mask, plan ahead to make limited stops and have backup plans, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing. Take on less challenging and remote adventures, as search and recue personnel are already streatched thin. Reduce your exposure to other people by planning to visit less popular areas. 
    • Roadside viewing - Some of the best viewing can be seen from the road. But be sure to drive safely and stay alert. Be careful where you slow down, and make sure to pull over at designated “pull-offs” and not in “no-parking” zones.

    • The best colors can be found below 3,500 feet - The best colors are going to be in low elevation hardwood forests, so you will see the most vibrant colors up close on trails below 3,500 feet and in the Southern Adirondacks. But don’t underestimate the beauty and wonder of coniferous foliage, especially bright yellow tamaracks in late fall.

    • Plan ahead and be safe - Prepare by researching the rules and regulations of where you’re going to visit ahead of time, including parking information. Additionally, you may want to choose marked trails to traverse, as unmarked trails may be harder to follow when covered by fallen leaves. Remember that trails, rocks and surfaces covered with leaves, especially after rain, will be slippery, so take it slow, and it may take you a bit longer than normal to reach your destination. With unpredictable weather, be sure to pack warm layers, extra food and water, and a light source. 

    • Enjoy the colors at sunrise and sunset - Fall colors are simply stunning to enjoy in the morning and at dusk, but in order to do so safely, bring an extra head lamp, flashlight and batteries. Know the rules for campfires in the area you’re visiting. However, in general, Leave No Trace and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) suggests avoiding building a campfire unless it’s in a designated metal or cement campfire ring to avoid visible impacts for other users, and causing forest fires. This is critical, as many forest fires have been reported in the Adirondacks this year. Also, many animals are active at dawn and dusk, especially deer, so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife crossing roads.

    • Know the rules for flying your drone- It is illegal to fly a drone in a Wilderness designated area in New York State. Make sure you know the boundaries of where you want to fly your drone, and be respectful of other visitors. Private land owners (such as the Adirondack Loj and Adirondack Mountain Reserve) also have their own rules for flying drones. You can learn more about regulations and find a map here.
Photo: @priolaphotography
  • Double the color on the water - While seeing the patchwork of colors from a mountain peak is an amazing experience, one of the most breathtaking ways to see fall colors is by the water. When fall colors reflect off ponds, rivers, cascading waterfalls, and lakes, there is nothing more quintessentially Adirondacks than that. If you’re paddling, make sure to keep your emergency supplies in a dry bag and wear a lifejacket, as water will be cold. Visit a boat wash station, and make sure your boat is clean, drained and dry before you put it in the water. Try a new trail in an area you’ve never been before that goes to the edge of a lake or pond and enjoy the reflection of colors.

  • Eat with the season- It's peak harvest season in the Adirondack Park, so support the growers, makers and bakers of the region and visit a farmer's market with fall colors in the backdrop. Make a picnic from a local food grocer and enjoy the foliage. Visit Adirondack Harvest to plan your apple picking and farm-store stops.

If you’re not sure where to go to experience the Adirondacks next, use the following links to find state-land camping areas, hikes, wilderness areas, picnic and day use areas, beaches, bat launches, and information on rules and regulations for using specific state land areas. Click here for info on the Lake Champlain, Lake Placid and Lake George region, and here for the Old Forge region.

One last tip, as always, remember to Leave No Trace, but to also responsibly share your adventures on social media. During the fall season, there is a huge influx of beautiful photos of the Adirondacks shared online, which is great...the world should know about this special wild place we have and the need to protect it for the next 150+ years. But remember, when posting, make sure you’re encouraging those in your network to recreate responsibly, in terms of both COVID safety and environmental stewardship. This will help us all keep our Adirondack Park the wild, beautiful place it is for the next generation.

Mary Godnick Adirondack Council

Mary joined the Council in August 2016. As the Marketing and Fund Development Assistant, Mary works with the team to coordinate marketing and fundraising efforts. She develops, manages and implements strategic social media and marketing campaigns to grow the visibility of the Council's efforts. She also works with the Fund Development team in production of materials, mailings and reports to help expand our support to preserve the Park for future generations.

Mary grew up in Harford, NY. She graduated from SUNY Oswego with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Public Relations in May of 2014. Previously, she worked in digital marketing, search engine optimization and social media management. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, gardening, yoga, and enjoying all that the Adirondack Park has to offer.

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