My favorite thing about fall in Saranac Lake is that it is possibly the best place in the world to revel in the amazing colors of autumn. I spent some formative years in a place with no change of seasons. Now, I love watching the leaves on the trees change colors, and also having so many trees that will happily do that for me.
Adirondack trees are just the right mix of species to provide maximum range of gorgeous leaf colors, from the vibrant red of maples to the fluttery gold of birch. Then they're complimented with the blue of mountain lakes and skies, and the earth tones of rugged rocks to set it off just so.
There are so many places where I love to view the leaves, but in the interest of easy access to the spectacular, I chose these five favorites. Each one has a special attraction.
Our wonderful Saranac Lake Riverwalk is a paved path along the Saranac River that winds through parks. It combines a central location with easy access and abundant benches to sit on.
We can pick up the most beautiful fall leaf in the world, but mailing it to a friend will not sum up the loveliness of fall color. Which is why I always look for "frames" to show off the trees.
The river, with its stony banks, gives contrast. The hill, rising on the northwest side, gives an excellent vantage point for acres of different trees, often at different stages.
This is also a great choice for someone who needs wheelchair access or otherwise has mobility difficulties. The entrance behind the town buildings has a ramp, and the paved walk ends at the Tops parking lot, flush with the paved area, for pickup if need be.
Part of the Riverwalk is the boat launch for paddlers behind town hall. There's also St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, right downtown, for rentals. Either way, it's the easiest paddling in the area as the Saranac River, which flows north, carries you almost to Bloomingdale along lovely vistas and distant mountains.
The north end of Saranac Lake is graced by Lake Colby, an extremely well-placed lake. The clover leaf shape gives it a gorgeous shoreline. Seen below is a shot I took last year, with the season well underway.
Of course, paddling is the best way to get the most of the color show in all four of Lake Colby's bays, but if you prefer to hike, try the Lake Colby Tracks trail. There is a lovely little park on the east side with picnic tables and benches.
With the wilderness to its west, it has a fantastic vantage point for Adirondack sunsets. Add a little extra color to your day.
Thinking of launching your paddling craft from the Lake Colby fishing access site on the north side of the lake off Route 86. See our blog post about fishing and paddling Lake Colby.
One great thing about Church Pond is how it's so easy to find and enjoy. Access is by a little seasonal road which is between Route 86 and 30, right at Paul Smith's College. It may be only a half-mile long, but its smallness can be deceptive.
It is a favorite photography spot of mine because the far shoreline is just the right distance away to balance out the leaves, the water, and the sky. If you set out in a canoe or kayak, you can find that the journey can be as short, or as long, as you wish.
Church Pond allows access to Osgood Pond, and through Jones Pond Outlet, to Jones Pond. Bring a lunch, because it might just keep on expanding.
There's a definite advantage when you take to the water in the fall. You can paddle as close, or as far, as needed to get the best angles and distances. You get a much greater variety of landscapes, and you can get there with a minimum of effort.
Some of our most stunning vistas can only be seen from the water.
Heron Marsh Trail
There's incredible hiking at the Paul Smith's College VIC, and it is also one of the first places to show color. Out of the 25 miles of trails available there, the one that really shows off in autumn is the Heron Marsh Trail.
This trail really brings home the realization that it isn't just the leaves of the trees which become more colorful in the fall. It is all of our vegetation, from the delicate bog plants to the frilly ferns to the bright little plants along the shoreline.
The three-mile Heron Marsh Trail includes 900 feet of boardwalk that makes for wonderful vantage points to enjoy the colorful vistas. There are wetlands, hardwood forest, and mixed conifers. There's rushing water at the Shingle Mill Falls dam and the elevation of raised observation decks with benches and even an observation tower.
The north and south sides of the marsh feature a resident beaver dam. Otters are active in the early morning or late afternoon.
Reach the Heron Marsh Trail from the VIC building deck. It's easy to loop back to the building, or choose another trail at an intersection to expand our hike. Pick up a trail map at the reception desk.
The classic choice — view the leaves from a high vantage point. If you don't feel up to climbing a tall mountain, you can still enjoy a breathtaking view by climbing a small one: Mount Pisgah.
In the winter, this is our town ski hill. In the fall, this is an easy mountain to climb simply by following the outlines of the rope tow to the top. Bring the mountain bike and enjoy the amazing bike trails, too.
While Pisgah is an easy climb, the view is really something. There is Brewster Mountain straight ahead, and the long ribbon of the Saranac River to the right. There are lots of mountains to climb in our area, but it's possible that Pisgah is the simplest. It's also right in town with easy parking.
Take a short walk, go for a paddle on a small pond, climb a little mountain. You don't have to make a big deal about getting out. You only need to get out.