With Adirondack fall comes the season for scenic drives. While these are deservedly popular for the sheer volume of fine vistas available, there are a few disadvantages. The driver doesn't get to look at the view as much as their passenger does. Also, it is restricted to having to quickly change vantage points in a moving vehicle, which might not always provide the best angles. Trying to focus through the window of a car is not a way to get good pictures. In order to get the best of the Adirondack foliage, here are some fine drives with places to pull over for photo opportunities, and more.
The number of parking spots all along Route 86, from Lake Placid to Wilmington, were put in because of how gorgeous the river and mountain views are. I can say this in all honesty — sometimes they are so stunning I was in danger of not paying attention to the road! For safety's sake, there are plenty of places to pull over. In my own photo journeys, I have found that every pull off offers a great view in some way.
Some of these spots might be marked by a brown wooden sign with yellow letters, designating a trailhead, such as the Owen, Copperas and Winch Ponds. This would mean some hiking to a lovely setting. These are usually on the eastern side of Route 86. Those on the western side, where the mountains are, lead to the river. If a reason for the pull off is not readily apparent, it might be a fishing access site. Find the short route down to the river for some incredible scenery.
The Whiteface Mountain Gondola is open until Columbus Day, for an enclosed ride over the blazing trees.
Take your time. There are also plenty of places to stop for lunch. See the blog Dining with a view for outdoor dining options.
Don't miss Route 9N, which runs from the southern intersection with Route 73 to Ausable Forks in the north, all of it following the East Branch of the Ausable River. It adds up to 16 gorgeous miles.
The river here is shallow with a lot of tumbled rocks. There's a few meadows with fall wildflowers, especially the wild purple asters that are my favorites.
About halfway through the town of Jay there is a wonderful art shop, The Jay Craft Center. Many artisans offer their wares here, from ceramics and paintings to earrings and shirts. I always find something I want there.
You've been warned.
North of Jay the river broadens and roadside parks appear, with picnic tables and views of the forest on the other side. Get a lunch right on Route 9N at Devin's Garage Deli. I recommend the NY sharp cheese.
Franklin Falls Flow is an artificial lake created by a dam. Upstream of the damn there is a parking place and a small beach where you can look out over the wonderful lake. I find this lake to have an interesting shoreline, perhaps because it was formed so recently, in 1912.
Reach the dam by turning west from the Wilmington four-way stop, and drive through the farming lands of the past. A stretch of forest, and then the modern hydro-electric dam will appear. Across the street is a little parking area, with steps down to the beach.
Keep going around the curve to the Franklin Falls boat launch. I often stop here even if I don't have a canoe or kayak handy. Of course, that would be a plus for more scenery, but there are wonderful views from the launch point. It is a broad, shallow, beach.
Across the street is a little outlet with a lovely mix of trees.
Notice, in the picture above, how the reflection in the water has more definition than the sky. That's the water slowing down the reflection and giving it a different look. This is why I love photography in the Adirondacks. It's the colors and the light that make the scenery.
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