Autumn in the Adirondacks is a magical time of year. There’s no bugs, the air is crisp and cool, and the colors! Oh boy, the colors are something to behold.
The downside of fall is that the days are shorter and the nights cooler, but that also makes it a great time to tackle a short hike that won’t take all day - that is, unless you want to bask in the autumn wonderland.
So here are three ideas for short, family-friendly hikes that won’t take up a ton of your time but still offer unforgettable autumn experiences.
Panther Mountain, on state Route 3 between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, is a great short mountain hike that offers rather expansive views for such a quick trip.
The parking area is just across the road from the trail, and on the trail you will be climbing the entire way. Luckily, the trail clocks in at a mere 0.6 miles each way so by the time your legs start to burn you’ll be at the top.
Once on the partially-treed summit, feel free to spread out on the warm rocks and take in the views of the southern High Peaks and the Tupper Lake area.
The hiking trail to Moose Pond, between Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale, is flat for an Adirondack trail. And that is to say there’s some ups and downs, but it’s mostly just a walk in the woods.
That easy walk is thanks to an old lodge that used to stand on the shore of the pond (it burned down a long time ago, though the chimney still stands), and the trail largely follows the old access road to the lodge. At right around the 1-mile mark the old road continues straight to the former lodge site, while a foot trail to the right leads down to a rock outcrop on the water.
With stunning views across the pond of the McKenzie Mountain Range and Whiteface Mountain, Moose Pond is a surprisingly good spot to take in the fall foliage of the mountains.
The Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center - affectionately known as the VIC - is a quick drive out of town to the only four-year college in the Adirondacks. Just north of the main campus is the VIC, and it’s worth a visit whether you have an hour or a day.
With 25 miles of maintained trails, it’d be easy to wander the VIC for hours, enjoying the wildlife and mix of forest, pond, and bog. But there’s also self-guided nature walks for those looking to take a little more away from the visit, and the trails are wide and welcoming, so this is a great place for those with little kids and strollers. There's also lean-tos and benches strategically placed throughout the property, so if you're looking for a place to sit and eat or just relax, there will be a perfect spot just around the next bend in the trail.
One of the best things about the VIC is that it still feels like immersing yourself in nature even while strolling across a boardwalk or taking in the view from an elevated platform overlooking Heron Marsh. And with so many trails and loops, your amount of hiking is decided by you! The VIC is a place where the journey becomes the destination.
Fall Foliage Updates
Finding the peak changing of the leaves is a bit of a crapshoot, so check out the fall foliage page when planning your hiking trip to Saranac Lake. Updated weekly, the foliage page will help you time your getaway perfectly!