Leaf Peeping Guide

Of course you know how to look at leaves! Or do you?

Because the Whiteface Region has so many gorgeous options, so many acres of foliage, and so much blazing color, choosing a spot can feel overwhelming.

Here are some tips for a fantastic fall getaway.

Choose your time

Peak color is not a firmly defined concept. No one wants to miss it, and yet it happens over a period of days or weeks. It is all about the weather. There's nothing any of us can do about the weather.

Patches of color start appearing the last couple of weeks in August, and the turning continues, usually slowly, until the last week of September and the first week of October. This time period is when things change quickly, depending on how cool the nights get, and how rowdy any rainstorms might be.

Hot fall color begins between the cool blues of sky and river.

If you go with "peak" being the widest spread of color, there are still leaves going dark and some with brightness in reserve. If we go by the brightest "peak" of color, there will be some early starters down and brown at the same time. I've seen spectacular displays that others dismiss as "past peak" because their criteria involves the presence of a particular shade of red, or comparative lack of yellow.

Color starts showing early in this high elevation. It includes areas that range from river level to the 4,865 foot summit of Whiteface Mountain itself. Unlike the flatlands, it's not likely that all the deciduous trees will be turning at once.

This gives you some wiggle room.

The peak of fall color goes all the way up the mountain.

The photo above was taken with large numbers of leaves already fallen, as seen in the foreground. Yet it is still a spectacular show.

Choose your place

The scenic drive is the classic way to see the leaves, and the Whiteface Region has some spectacular choices. Route 86 between Lake Placid and Wilmington has towering cliffs along the Ausable River.

Late season color is less bright, but more pervasive.

The Whiteface Mountain gondola, which offers 360 degrees of glassed-in views, gets slowed down for a gorgeous ride up Little Whiteface. It's a fine way to see more colorful acres.

So much to enjoy, any time.

Another thrilling choice is the Whiteface Mountain Veteran's Memorial Highway. This two lane road makes its way up and down the mountain in a switchback pattern, with many places to pull off and take pictures. The top of the mountain offers views of the Green Mountains, High Peaks, and even Montreal.

Both the gondola and the highway have delightful cafes for lunch.

Scenic drives? We have some of the best.

But even our simplest backcountry roads offer wonderful views. Explore more options with the blogs How to Get the Most Scenery and Driving Topless.

choose your activity

If your goal is lots of forest, choose from a wonderful range of hiking trails. There are some beautiful ones at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, where they have a 10 a.m. Wolf Walk most days. Visit the raptors, foxes, and other animals who are unable to be returned to the wild, and now act as wildlife ambassadors.

Then explore the nature trails on the property.

Hike in the crisp air, when the forest turns a deep, magical gold.

High Falls Gorge is another attraction with natural beauty combined with easy access. Catwalks and viewing plaforms let you get up close and personal to incredible waterfalls, boulders, and sheer rock cliffs, and the lush forest surrounding the river.

They also have their own River View Cafe.

High Falls Gorge has wonderful scenery, and easy ways to access the views.

For the ultimate in harvest experiences, take the annual Essex County Cheese Tour, which will be October 8 this year. Drive some of our most scenic, riverside roads and visit three local farms that specialize in cheese and other treats. I highly recommend Asgaard Farms' sea-salt goat milk caramels. Very. Highly.

This is a marvelous way to view the leaves, meet fun people, and explore some of our local goodies.

The cheese tour is a great way to combine goodies and beautiful fall color.

This will be the fourth year of this event, which gets more and more popular. Learn more about the cheese tour in our blog, Leaves and Cheese: delightful combination!

Beer tent, accordions, bungee jumping, and scenic gondola rides. Our Oktoberfest is the best of history and modernity.

Do Oktoberfest the Adirondack way on the weekend of September 30 and October 1. The area was settled by many people of German heritage, and of course, we have plenty of talented musicians and craft brew aficianados. The best minds of the area have been thinking about this weekend, all year.

Along with the authentic dancing, food, beverages, and bands throughout the weekend, there will be free Cloudsplitter Gondola Rides for ages 6 and under, plenty of games and activities for all ages, and the abundant local color all along the mountainside.

Learn more about our Adirondack Oktoberfest with our blog, Party Pants Required: Oktoberfest is coming!

You will find out why fall is one of our favorite seasons.

Choose that cozy lodging. Meet that fall appetite with our dining. Explore the attractions.

This week in related ADK news:

I wanna hold your hand

Crowd-less color

Five leaf poppers

An equation for fun

Fall in focus

Fire on the water

Dapper flappers 

Pamela Merritt

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