There isn’t a time I’d rather go for a hike or canoe than fall in the Adirondacks. In September, after some sunny and dry days and cool nights, peaks and forests turn red, rust, and vibrant shades of orange. Spend just a few days in the woods and you might start to think how dull, even boring, other parts of the country are.
Late last September I called my friend AnnMary to see if she was up for a fall adventure. Not long after, we were planning our route — a short drive from Wilmington up Whiteface along the border of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area. We planned to stop at Franklin Falls to spend a few hours on the water and then end the day at a local cafe in Saranac Lake for a warm drink and healthy bite to eat.
The next morning we filled our thermoses with coffee and got on the road early, driving down to the Wilmington Bridge, which overlooks the West Branch of the Ausable River on Route 86.
Not long after, we began the drive up Route 431 along the Wilmington Forest and over the mountain to Franklin Falls. This is a good drive if some thoughtfully planned: avoid weekends and busy travel times and you will find that it’s generally pretty quiet.
As we gained a bit of elevation the foliage was even brighter and it wasn’t long before we reached winding River Road and the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. There’s not a lot of cell service up here which is nice if you’re looking to have a quiet morning. Just be sure to take a glance at a map before getting too far along. While it would be difficult to get lost, the woods are dense and it’s easy to miss the access site to Franklin Falls.
I spent a lot of time fishing and camping at Franklin Falls as a kid. The shoreline itself is just about eight miles long but there’s a small island in the middle which is easy to get to in a canoe or kayak. There’s also a beautiful view of Whiteface Mountain from the water. All reasons this place is one of my favorites in the Adirondacks.
After a few hours at Franklin Falls we drove through Bloomingdale to Saranac Lake and walked around the quiet town until we made it to Origin Coffee. One of my favorite cafes in the Adirondacks, Origin offers plenty of fresh and local ingredients from places like North Country Creamery and Asgaard Farm. My go-tos include a hot cup of pour-over coffee with maple syrup (quintessential Adirondack) and the avocado toast with spicy red pepper and toasted sesame, essentials after a long morning on the trails.
The fall foliage in the Whiteface region is simply beautiful and a scenic drive over quiet, less-trafficked roads is a great way to see this famous scenery. Come to the Whiteface Region to see it for yourself and make some vibrant, beautiful fall memories.
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