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The US Northeast is world-renowned for producing the most vibrant hues of fall colors blanketing acres of wilderness every autumn. There are a lot of areas in the US northeast perfect for a fall foliage road trip and Adirondack State Park is one of them. Seeing the leaves change from green to yellow and orange to crimson red is an experience anyone is lucky to have at least once in their life!
Adirondack Park is the largest state park in the country and is known for its charming mountain towns, pristine lakes, Olympic sites, and miles of scenic byways, and challenging hiking and biking trails winding through its 6 million acres. It’s a wonderful place to experience the fall colors and offers a lot of activities from action sports and boating to relaxing and leaf-peeping. If you aren’t convinced the Adirondacks are the perfect place for a fall foliage road trip read my post 10 Awesome reasons to visit the Adirondacks in Fall for more inspiration on why a fall foliage road trip in Adirondack State Park is a great choice.
With all the Adirondacks have to offer you can easily span this trip into a full week or more enjoying fall festivals, outdoor activities some R & R, and the best towns for leaf-peeping. In this post, I’ll take you through my exact 4-night, 5-day fall foliage road trip itinerary listing the best areas to see, towns to explore, activities to experience, and locations to take photos at. I will also include my suggestions for extending your trip if four nights is not enough to make the most of your time in the Adirondacks.
How to get to the Adirondacks
I began this road trip from Redwood, NY since I was already there visiting family but you can start this Adirondack fall foilage road trip from many other convenient locations in New York or surrounding states.
If you are flying in, popular NY starting locations with international airports include Syracuse (SYR), Albany (ALB), and Plattsburgh (PBG). The best regional airport is Adirondack Regional Airport at Lake Clear (SLK) near Lake Saranac.
If you are driving, there are no rules. The Adirondack Park is easily accessible via state roads and major interstates throughout NY that will flawlessly allow you to circle back to your starting point.
I’ll be following the exact route (Redwood to Lake Placid to Lake George to Old Forge back to Redwood) I took for this fall foilage itinerary but there are a lot of alternate routes you can take to create your own personalized Adirondack fall foliage road trip.
Best time for leaf peeping
It can be hard to predict peak season as it changes every year and can be affected daily by mother nature. Usually, the leaves start to turn at the end of September into early October in northern New York. Once they start turning they usually cycle out within two weeks.
Peak season means colors are “at their peak” and leaves are still on the tree. Some leaves have fallen but colors are as bright as they are going to get. Past peak means most leaves are darker and begin to fall. Some trees will be bare, but you’ll still be able to see some beautiful colors.
Sign up for the Iloveny.com fall foliage newsletter to get the insider scoop on when and where the best colors will be. They start releasing their weekly fall foliage report in mid-September. If you can’t wait until then to book your trip, plan for early October. Even if you don’t hit peak season right on the nose there will still be plenty of beauty to see.
Know before you go
It’s best to be flexible during your road trip and book hotels or campgrounds as you need them in order to ensure you are able to go where the leaves and weather are best. Visiting during the week will be easier to get last-minute accommodations and hiking trails will be less crowded. Alternatively, if you don’t want to risk missing out on your first choice accommodations or only want to stay in specific hotels that may sell out you can always pre-book your route for peace of mind. Either way, you’ll have a great experience on this Adirondack Fall foliage road trip.
This fall foliage road trip lends itself to being a great car camping road trip. There are a lot of campgrounds in Adirondack Park which allow you to get closer to nature and enjoy the beautiful fall surroundings that much more. I stayed with family and in Hilton brand hotels on this fall foliage road trip because I was with my mom who is not a camper and I use Hilton points when I can. Camping is not for everyone but if you are curious to learn more about how I car camp in my Hyundai Santa Fe check out some of my car camping posts.
Adirondack Fall Foliage Road Trip Route Map
Day 1: Drive to Lake Placid
Drive (2.5 hours, 125 miles) from Watertown to Lake Placid via Route 3 and Route 86.
It poured the whole way during this drive so I skipped a lot of planned stops such as Cranberry Lake and Arab mountain but I did make a pit stop in Saranac Lake. It was still raining so I missed out on the nature hikes but enjoyed the river walk, shopping on Main Street, and the scenic views from the town square.
Stops along Route 3 to Lake Placid
- Cranberry Lake; third largest lake in the ADK Park, watersports, beaches, swimming
- Mt. Arab for easy hiking to a fire tower
- Tupper Lake; waterfall tours, breweries, art galleries
- The Wild Center; a science center
Things to do in Saranac Lake
- River Walk, easy and short
- Baker Mountain; easy 1.7 mile loop trail
- Bloomingdale Bog Hiking Trail; flat 3.7 mile out and back scenic trail
- Biking: 17 mile Split Rock Loop
- Main Street’s locally owned shops, restaurants, and art galleries
- Saint Regis Canoe Area
From Saranac Lake, take the scenic route NY-86 to Lake Placid and stay in Lake Placid for the next two nights.
I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Lake Placid overlooking Mirror Lake. I wasn’t planning to spend two nights here but it is a lovely hotel in a great location convenient to so many sights, one day wasn’t enough to explore.
Spend the rest of the day driving around the area and stopping to enjoy the views every chance you get. There are some pretty pullovers along NY-86 overlooking rivers, mountains, and vibrant rees.
I took the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway to the summit and was treated to some amazing views. Access to the highway costs $15 a car + more for additional persons, which I thought was a bit steep for an 8-mile drive. There are nine viewing overlooks and a great view of Lake Placid but I wouldn’t pay for it again.
We skipped this because of rain but the 15 min Cloudsplittler Gondola ride at Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort is another way to get to the top of Whiteface mountain. The entrance is off NY-86 (separate from the Memorial Highway) and on a clear day, the views stretch for miles.
Spend the night in Lake Placid (two nights)
There is so much to see and do around Lake Placid, I suggest staying here for two nights (or more) as it makes a great base to explore the area’s top attractions.
Lake Placid lodging options
Day 2: Explore Lake Placid
Take another full day to soak in the beauty of Lake Placid. Go for a hike on one of the many high peaks, rent a kayak or canoe and float through the pristine lakes, shop at local boutiques and galleries, drive the scenic byways or just stroll through town admiring the beauty of autumn.
Even though I woke up to scattered showers I decided to hike Casada Trail. It’s a moderate 3.5-mile uphill hike with lots of boulders and rocks and takes about 5 hours to complete. I was only at the summit for five minutes before the cloud cover rolled in and the rain started beating down. Although I wouldn’t recommend hiking in the rain the 360 views at the top are really amazing even though I only got them for a few minutes. It was an exhausting uphill hike but I am glad I did it!
Things to do in Lake Placid
- High Peak Wilderness Hiking
- Olympic Parks
- Adirondack Loi Road
- Keene Valley
- Whiteface Mountain
- Chairlift or Memorial Parkway
- Downtown Main street for shoping and dining
- Adirondack Store and Gallery (I loved this place)
- Bike down Rapid Descent Trail
- Coverved Bridge near Jay connecting Jay road and Mill Hill Rd
Scenic Roads near Lake Placid
- Route 86 between Lake Placid and Wilmington
- Route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene Valley
- Black Brook Scenic Loop Drive (14.5 miles)
- Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway (8miles + fee)
Best photo spots in Lake Placid
- Mirror Lake scenic walk
- Pulloffs along White Face Mountain Memorial Hwy
- The road view on road 63, Fox Farm Rd
- High Falls Gorge area
- Entrance to Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort off of route 86
- Summit of Whiteface mountain via gondola ride (with good weather)
Spend some time driving around Keene Valley and up Adirondack Loi road for tree-lined streets, scenic byways, and plenty of hiking trailheads.
Finish the day with a stroll down Lake Placid’s Main Street, dinner at Jimmy’s 21 or Luna’s, and watch the sun illuminate Whiteface mountain as it sets over the horizon reflecting off of Mirror Lake.
Spend the night in Lake Placid
I highly recommend the Mirror Lake Hampton Inn. It was very clean and roomy for a reasonable price and has great views of Mirror Lake in the lobby.
Road trip add on options
If you have extra time and want to extend your Adirondac fall foilage road trip add a few nights here and stay in Keene Valley. There are a lot of cabin rentals in the area that make great places to stay for those rustic fall vibes. Take some time to explore more of Dix Mountain Wilderness or head to Vermont. Route 7, one of Vermont’s best scenic drives is less than two hours away.
Day 3: Lake George
Drive (1.5 hrs, 80miles) to one of America’s most beautiful lakes, (according to Travel and Leisure) Lake George. You can take NY 73 through Keene and hop on I-87 or add another hour or so to your trip by taking the scenic route NY 9N along Lake Champlain.
Stops along N9 or I-87 to Lake George
- Roaring Brook Falls (3miles return hike, easy but with some elevation gain)
- Historic town of Ticonderoga with a downtown park, covered bridge and waterfalls
- Fort Ticonderoga
- Natural Stone bridges and caves (Pottersville)
- Bolton Landing
There are a lot of activities to do around Lake George. It was pretty busy around the lake and parking was hard in the downtown area but I enjoyed the scenic Lake Shore Dr. and short waterfront walk. After exploring downtown a bit I visited with a friend for the day at her lake house near Bolton Landing. Bolton is a great place to explore and has lots of options for lake rentals, outdoor activities, and tasty eats in town.
Things to do in Lake George
- Boat tours and rentals
- Fishing charters
- Bolton Historical Museum
- Highland Castle in Bolton (rentals available)
- Million Dollar Beach
- Adventure Center (whitewater rafting and Zip Lines)
- Prospect Mountain Highway
- Road biking 17 mile Warren County Bikeway, Glen Falls to Lake George
- Saddle up Stables Horse Back Riding
- West Mountain Ski Resort
- Top of the World Gold Resort
Best photo spots in Lake George
- Prospect Mountain Veternas Memorial Highway overlooks
- Sunrise at Bolts Landing at Rogers Park
- Sunset at Pilot Knob Preserve
Lake George always looks so beautiful in photos but it actually was a bit more developed than I thought it would be. It was pretty congested and touristy at the base of the lake. To enjoy the best views and get a tranquil feel you would have to book a stay at a nice resort property or private cabin in a more secluded area. I was lucky to spend the day at a private cabin surrounded by trees on a nearby lake which was a completely different vibe than the main downtown area of Lake George.
Spend the night in Lake George
I stayed at the Hampton Inn Lake George downtown. It was very basic but easy for one night. I woke up early to drive the Scenic Prospect Veterans Memorial Highway. It is a 5.8-mile road that ends at Prospect Mountain Peak. The entrance is off of US Route 9 in downtown. You can also hike to the peak on a difficult but beautiful 5.6 mile return hike. Trailhead parking is alongside Smith Street.
Lake George lodging options
- Highlands Castle
- The Lodges at Cresthaven
- The Juliana Resort
- Scotty’s Lakeside Resort
- Lake George KOA
- Hearthstone Point Campground
Road trip add on options
If you have more time to spare for this fall foliage road trip, this is a good time to add a few extra nights before moving on. There are many hiking trails in the Lake George Wild forest, and surrounding small towns that would make good day trips with Lake George as your home base. The Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont is less than an hour away. Historic Glen Falls is 20 mins away and known as “Hometown USA” for its homey feel and big-city amenities with unique buildings from the 1800s and a rich history stemming from the Revolutionary war.
Day 4 Old Forge
Drive (1 hr 45 mins (86 miles) to Old Forge, the last stop on this 5 day Adirondack fall foliage Road trip itinerary. Old Forge makes a good base camp for exploring nearby Adirondack park and really gives off that cozy rustic mountain feel. From lake George head west and hop on US 9 to NY-28 S. The drive is just under two hours but you should definitely stop at Gore mountain along the way.
Stops along NY 28
- Ok Slip Falls Trail
- Look out for oversized Adirondack Chairs along US 28 near Indian Lake
- Hudson Gorge Scenic views
- Gore Ski Mountain Resort (North Creek)
After driving up Prospect Mountain in Lake George and grabbing a bite to eat I headed to Old Forge. Along the way, I spotted signs for Gore Mountain gondola rides and had to stop. It was a beautiful day and an amazing way to see the beauty of fall surrounding me. The lifts cost $24 for a roundtrip ride. At the top enjoy scenic hiking and biking trails or a picnic lunch.
After your pit stop, continue to Old Forge. You may want to stop again along the way to take photos of the beautiful scenery and pose with the oversized Adirondack chairs (photo above). We didn’t get to Old Forge until early evening (I stopped for a lot of photos) and it was raining but I grabbed a snack and Chai Tea Latte from Ozzie’s Coffer Bar along US 28 in downtown. Ozzie’s was one of my favorite food and latte stops on the entire trip.
Things to do in Old Forge
- McCauley Mountain Scenic Chairlift
- Hike Bald Mountain to a fire tower
- View center for arts and culture
- Downtown for shops and resturants
- Old Forge covered bridge
- Boat tour of the Fulton Chain of Lakes
- Mountain Outdoor Supply Rentals
- Llama Treking at Moose River Farms
Stay near Old Forge
I stayed with family outside of town but there are a number of small inns, Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and campgrounds near town perfect for a short stay.
Old Forge lodging options
Unfortunately, it rained the entire time during my visit to Old Forge. I didn’t get to explore the town how I would have liked but it was fun dodging the rain going in and out of the “Main Street” specialty shops. They have everything from apparel to candy, vintage housewares, and wood art shops. If you have better weather, rent a kayak from Mountain Outdoor Rentals and explore the Moose River or for a really unique experience head to Moose River Farm for llama trekking. How random is that?
Day 5 Head Home
Feel free to spend more time in Old Forge before ending your Adirondack fall foliage road trip. I headed back home after another stop at Ozzie’s for breakfast. I took NY 28 to NY 12 through Lyons Falls, Lowville, and Booneville making a few pit stops along the way. I love the treats at Nolt’s Country store. They have homemade baked goods and chocolate-covered everything. If you want to see the wind turbines up close there are a ton of them along NY-26 near Tug Hill and Denmark, NY.
Stops along US 12
- Booneville Village
- Lyons Falls
- Carlowden Country Club
- Busted Grapes Winery
- Tug Hill Vineyards
- Nolts Country Store (off of 812)
- Windmill Farms off of NY 26 (Martinsburg, Denmark NY)
Road trip add on options
If you want to add a few more days to your Adirondack fall foilage road trip there are some waterfront river towns in upstate New York worth a stop. Sackets Harbour, Cape Vincent, Clayton, and Alex Bay all rest along the St Lawrence Riverway. The towns will be more relaxed during fall but all are charming, with their own flare and no more than 2hrs from Old forge. You can even continue further north into the popular1000 Islands spanning across the US and Canada depending on how much extra time you have.
This Adirondack fall foliage road trip was one of the best road trips I’ve ever taken all thanks to the vibrant tree-lined highways, misty lakes, rustic mountain towns, and epic peak views. Fall foliage is one thing I will never get tired of seeing and am already planning a new fall foilage road trip route for next year.
If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below. I’m happy to answer and provide additional guidance if needed!
More Posts about Upstate New York:
- 10 AWESOME reasons to visit the Adirondacks in the fall
- The BEST 7-Day Finger Lakes Road Trip Itinerary (with map)
- Where to find the best sunflower fields in New York
- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes
- How to Hike the Stunning Watkins Glen Gorge Trail
- Your Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Fall in the Finger Lakes