Deserted Straight Mountain Road on a Rainy Autumn Day. Some Fallen Leaves are on the Wet Asphalt. Beautiful Fall Colors. Adirondacks, Upstate New York

These Small Towns in the Adirondack Mountains Come Alive in Fall

The Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York have been a tourist mecca for generations, and today, the Adirondacks region averages more than 12 million visitors annually. Summer is the busiest season, while winter is popular due to the numerous ski resorts. Spring is less busy but often chilly and damp, leaving fall as the ideal time to visit. The Adirondacks region is one of the best places to see fall foliage in America, and the crisp weather is great for outdoor activities. So, beat the crowds and experience the Adirondacks at their prettiest by planning your next autumn trip to one or more of our small-town destinations!

Lake Placid

LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK - AUGUST 20, 2020: Award-winning Lake Placid Lodge. It is the only hotel located directly on the shores of Lake Placid.
LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK - AUGUST 20, 2020: Award-winning Lake Placid Lodge. It is the only hotel located directly on the shores of Lake Placid. Editorial credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

The town of Lake Placid has a justified reputation as a winter wonderland due in no small part to the fact that it hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid’s world-class ski slopes and winter sports venues bring in big crowds during the snowy season, while the scenic Mirror Lake, East Lake, West Lake, and Lake Placid (the town’s namesake lake) are among the most popular summertime destinations in the Adirondacks. To avoid feeling overcrowded, visit during autumn, the time of year when Lake Placid is at its most beautiful. Check out the annual Flaming Leaves Festival in early October to enjoy fun events and spectacular fall colors.

Saratoga Springs

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY - JUNE 23, 2019: Exterior of brick building in the historical centre in Saratoga NY.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY - JUNE 23, 2019: Exterior of a brick building in the historical center in Saratoga, NY. Editorial credit: Enrico Della Pietra /

Like Lake Placid, Saratoga Springs is one of the busiest tourist towns in the Adirondacks. This means unlike some of the smaller towns, Saratoga Springs has more businesses and attractions that stay open year-round. The crowds tend to dip during the fall, even at Saratoga Springs’ main tourist draws: the famous mineral springs, Saratoga Race Course, the oldest sports venue in the nation, and the Battle of Saratoga Historical Park. The smaller crowds, crisp weather, and lovely fall foliage only add to the appeal of visiting Saratoga Springs in autumn. In late September, check out one (or more) of several Oktoberfest celebrations or the annual Saratoga Giant PumpkinFest.


Adirondack Balloon Festival, Queensbury, New York.
Adirondack Balloon Festival, Queensbury, New York.

The town of Queensbury has a big summertime tourist draw, the Six Flags Great Escape amusement park. The community also has a very popular winter destination, West Mountain Ski Area. Yet autumn is the best time to experience the true beauty of this gem located between the Hudson River and Lake George in the southeastern Adirondacks. The Warren County Bike Path, which winds through the town before showcasing spectacular views of Lake George, is at its most beautiful during the peak leaf season, late September through early October. The cute downtown area also gains a fun college-town feel when the students at the local university, SUNY Adirondack, return for the fall semester.


Fort Ticonderoga, fort headquarters, stone walls and cannon
Fort Ticonderoga, Fort headquarters, stone walls, and cannon.

Empires clashed over the strategic location of Ticonderoga for centuries, with Fort Ticonderoga passing through the hands of the French, British, and Americans. Fortunately, Ticonderoga’s location along the Lachute River in the small gap between Lake George and Lake Champlain can now be appreciated simply for its unsurpassed natural beauty. Autumn is the best time of year to take in the scenery from one of the lakes, and the surrounding fall foliage makes the Ticonderoga “Kissing” Bridge (an old-time-covered bridge) even more picturesque. Fall is also a great time to tour the historic fort, with smaller crowds, cooler temperatures, and the vibrant colors of autumn all around. The fort even hosts a corn maze and apple picking in the fall!

Saranac Lake

Reflection in Saranac Lake, Autumn in the Adirondacks, New York
Reflection in Saranac Lake, Autumn in the Adirondacks, New York.

The town of Saranac Lake gained prominence in the late 1800s as a place to recuperate from debilitating medical conditions such as tuberculosis. The clean air and cool breezes from nearby lakes (including Lake Flower and the Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes) were believed to have healing properties. Eventually, Saranac Lake became a grand resort town, and people still flock there to experience the pristine conditions. Unlike at the height of the summertime tourist season, Saranac Lake slows down in the fall, offering a better opportunity to soak in the majesty of the lakes and the historic vacation homes. If you are an experienced hiker, climb the 5-mile Ampersand Mountain trail to get unmatched autumn views from over 3000 feet high. 

Paul Smiths

Church Pond in fall with foliage in town of Paul Smiths, Adrondack Mountains, New York, USA.
Church Pond in fall with foliage in the town of Paul Smiths, Adirondack Mountains, New York, USA.

Paul Smith, a wilderness resort hotel owner in the early twentieth century, ended up having both a Franklin County village and college named in his honor. The latter, Paul Smith’s College, sits on an astounding 14,000 acres in the village, most of it forestland that reaches the shores of the lovely St. Regis Lake. The college’s Visitors Interpretive Center is the starting point for 25 miles of trails that, in autumn, offer some of the best fall foliage viewing in all of the Adirondacks. While it only has about 1,000 students, the college also gives the village a lively boost in the fall, which makes exploring Paul Smiths in autumn all the more enjoyable.


Canton, New York, United States
Canton, New York, United States. By P199 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

While many Adirondacks towns get their population boosts from the summertime crowds, Canton gets a big boost in the fall when classes resume at St. Lawrence University (2,400 students) and SUNY Canton (3,200 students). In addition to being a charming little college town, Canton, which is only about 20 miles from the border with Canada, is also a gateway to outdoor recreation in the northern Adirondacks. In autumn, it is common to spot kayak-topped SUVs parked outside downtown businesses like Grasse River Outfitters, with the owners prepping for a picturesque fall trip along the nearby Grasse River or Oswegatchie River. For some north-of-the-border autumn fun, take the 90-minute drive up to Canada's capital, Ottawa.

Autumn Splendor in the Adirondacks

It may not be fair to say that the Adirondacks truly “come alive” in the fall; they are a fantastic place to visit any time of the year. But, come late September and early October, when the fall foliage is at peak color, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful landscape. The crowds are smaller, many of the seasonal businesses are getting ready to close up until spring, and the winter chill has yet to arrive—so book your autumn trip to the Adirondacks today!

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