You’ve heard that fall foliage in the Adirondacks can’t be beat, and we agree! But what if you don’t want to commit to an all day hike, or join the crowds of people on the most popular trails? We’ve got you covered. We have compiled a list of fall foliage finds that are quick roadside pull offs, moderate trails, and places that likely won’t be filled with tons of people.
Keep scrolling to see our suggestions! We promise, you won't have to work hard for these views!
1.) Route 86 pull-off
Leaving Saranac Lake, travel north on NY Route 86 for about 4 miles. Just before the Harrietstown Cemetery on your right will be a small dirt pull-off at the top of the hill. This parking area is home to one of the most spectacular roadside vistas you can find. Mountain views light up with brilliant hues of orange and red across a wide open field, where you’re likely to see a deer or a rafter of turkeys trotting by. While you’re there, you might think about heading down the road a short distance to the Great Adirondack Corn Maze. There’s no foliage to speak of there, but there's lots of fall fun!
2.) Raybrook tracks
This next roadside gem can be enjoyed from the car (or a few steps outside of it), but if you’re up for a short hike it gets even better! Heading out of Saranac Lake toward Lake Placid, you'll find the Raybrook “tracks" on the right. In the summer months this pull-off is host to fresh produce stands, but in the fall this dirt pull-off is home to some great colors! If you walk towards the Adirondack Rail Trail on your left, you will see a dirt path on your right marked with a "No ATV Vehicles Permitted" sign. This easy dirt trail will carry you through the woods all the way to the water's edge, where you can enjoy mirroring images of the foliage on a calm channel between Lake Flower and Oseetah. Or, for a shorter jaunt, simply stick to the Rail Trail, which is gravel footing, and leads towards mountainous views. Please note, the portion of the Adirondack Rail Trail mentioned in this story is under construction for the fall of 2023, and is not able to be accessed.
Bonus: in late fall after the leaves have all dropped off the trees, this pull-off is also home to a tamarack grove, showing off their golden needles well into October and November.
3.) The beach!
Beach days don't have to end just because summer is unofficially over. Our next location also takes us to a waterside view of the fall foliage. It's great for a picnic lunch, or for a relaxing spot to dip your toes in a chilly lake after hiking Ampersand Mountain (one of the Saranac Lake 6ers). The beach at Middle Saranac Lake, near Bull Rush Bay, is sometimes called First Beach at Round Lake by locals and is accessible by a short trail, starting at the Ampersand parking lot. From downtown Saranac Lake, turn right onto Route 3 and head west toward Tupper Lake. The parking area is on the right after about 8 miles. The wooded trail is only about a half mile long with flat terrain, so it is appropriate for families, or toting a small lunch. Once there, the beach is surrounded by trees, and overlooks the beautiful lake. This picturesque setting might make you feel as though you’ve just stumbled upon a classic Thomas Cole painting.
4.) Moody Pond and The Pines
Popular for walkers and hikers seeking Mount Baker, Moody Pond is an easy loop with unarguably good views of the foliage, consisting mostly of birch trees. This time of year is very busy and parking can become a concern, so to experience a less popular path, continue your stroll into The Pines, an adjoining trail through the woods. This well-maintained trail system connects Moody Pond to the end of Pine Street near the Pine Ridge Cemetery and rail trail. The Pines is a 15-acre tract right in town! It was part of Jacob Moody's original purchase in 1819, and is now maintained by Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association. The trail will bring you through a quiet wooded area where you will be surrounded by deciduous trees and mature evergreens alike. Be sure to keep your bearings though, because this intertwined trail system does include several trail offshoots onto private property that are not otherwise marked.
It is important to note that parking at Moody Pond is extremely limited and located adjacent to a quiet local neighborhood. Planning ahead will make your walk better and less stressful. We highly recommend parking downtown and walking or biking the short mile distance to The Pines trailhead, or Moody Pond. The walk/ride is attractive and best of all, you'll be close to downtown's excellent restaurants for a post-hike repast! There is also parking available along Pine Street near the McKenzie Pond intersection, where you will see a wood sign marked "The Pines" to access both The Pines trails, and Moody Pond via The Pines.
5.) Mount Pisgah
Our final suggestion is Mount Pisgah. This hike is not entirely under the radar, but it does offer a wide-open option for taking the trek, where you are unlikely to run into too much traffic. You can opt to walk up the popular T-bar line, create your own path throughout the open face of the mountain, or explore the 5+ miles of BETA bike trails on the edge of the mountain - but heads up, those trails are heavily used by mountain bikers, who descend at high speeds. For less foot traffic and an experience all your own, we suggest traversing the face of the mountain, and enjoying the other lookouts on your way up. Once on top of Pisgah you will have a view of Moose Pond, Lake Colby, Moody Pond, Kiwassa and Oseetah, the Saranac River, Lake Flower and the Lower Saranac Lake, as well as a panoramic view of the Saranac Lake Village.
These are just a few of our top picks, there are many other options to enjoy the leaves without the crowds. We encourage you to set out on your own adventure and explore the area for the perfect place to peep the leaves!
While you are enjoying the foliage of the season, be safe, and enjoy everything that Saranac Lake has to offer, from lodging and dining suggestions to fabulous events. Happy hunting leaf peepers! We hope these off-the-beaten-path foliage locations find you "oo"ing and "ahh"ing over reds and oranges galore.