Going places: Catching the peak fall foliage in the Adirondacks

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Sheer delight at hiking to the Chimney Mountain summit for a 360-degree view of Adirondacks in full fall foliage color © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin and Dave E. Leiberman
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

We literally raced up to catch the peak fall foliage colors in the dramatic, spectacular setting of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

There are so many different hiking trails, we wanted to make the best choices for a one-day adventure. Researching potential hikes, I found The Adirondack Experience, which lists hikes in categories, one of which is “best summit views” and excellent descriptions (also alltrails.com gives precise maps, elevations). That wasn’t enough for me to pin down, so I called Adirondack Experience, to get the low-down on the trails to high peaks. They also offer a fall foliage report, as does New York State.

We set up an itinerary that would allow us to do two hikes to summits affording 360-degree views, in one sensational day:

Chimney Mountain: The extraordinary appeal here are the geologic formations at the top, a maze of caves and crevices, after an invigorating mile-long climb (entirely uphill), before you get to the true summit, a smoothed, mostly flat boulder, reached via a quarter-mile long herd path. “Chimney Mountain has unique features due to a large proportion of soft, sedimentary “Grenville layers” that have made passageways, cliffs, boulders, and caves. View the large geologic depression that was formed when the Western Rift separated from the Eastern Rift.” The hike, three-miles round trip (in/out), is a 870-foot ascent to 2721-foot elevation. Plan on 3 hours (bring water, and take into account that it gets dark in the woods before the sunset). (Big Brook Road, Indian Lake, NY, 12842, 518-548-3076, info@adirondackexperience.com, www.adirondackexperience.com/hiking/chimney-mountain).

We came down and had ourselves a picnic lunch before setting out for our afternoon hike, about 30 minutes further drive, at Castle Rock, above Blue Mountain Lake. By the time we arrived, the drizzle which started just as we got back into the car turned into an actual rain when we were on the trail. But no matter, we were determined to forge on. This trail is a 3.2 mile long loop with a steady rise, but more gradual than Chimney Mountain – that is, until the last one-tenth mile that involves a scramble up over and between boulders, made more challenging (and therefore satisfying), by the slippery leaves (young kids would have no problem). But so worth it (and really satisfying to have accomplished it)! The rock formations here at the top are absolutely fabulous.

Amazingly, just as we got to the summit – another relatively flat boulder – the rain turned to drizzle and then stopped altogether, allowing the sun to poke through, making the wet rock surface glisten. The views of Blue Mountain Lake, with its several tiny islands, and Blue Mountain, with other mountain peaks in the near and far distance, are stunning.

The summit is about at the half-way mark of the loop. At about the 1.5 mile mark, there is a sign that directs you to the summit, only a little disconcerting to realize you have another half-mile to go. It’s 1.8 miles up on the less steep part of the trail, 1.4 miles on the other side, which goes past fabulous rock formations. (So glad we opted to do the full loop, instead of returning on the 1.8 mile side to avoid a steeper descent, but it actually wasn’t bad at all, even with the slippery leaves.

I’ve cultivated a technique of hanging on to trees and branches to swing down, or climb down, or sit down and dangle my feet, and I really value my hiking poles.)

This is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so people are advised to get here early to get parking at the trailhead (Maple Lodge Road, Blue Mountain Lake). Also, on all of these hikes, wear a face mask and respect social-distancing when people are passing.

The Adirondack Fall Foliage Meter (www.adirondacksusa.com/fall) provides up-to-the-minute fall foliage reports on where the leaves are prettiest and most colorful.

More sources: Adirondacks Regional Tourism, visitadirondacks.com; Hamilton County Tourism, adirondackexperience.com, 800-648-5239.

Since the Adirondacks are about a five-hour drive from the downstate metro area, people are flocking to Lake George and the surrounding area for accommodations which has maintained very strong occupancy. There are also any number of cabins, lodges, Airbnb’s to choose from, many with exquisite views along one of the many, many scenic lakes. At the trailhead to Chimney Mountain, in fact, there are rustic cabins.

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid offers three different lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack Mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel with 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated earlier this year); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection with 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Take a break from studying or work with a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool, paddling Mirror Lake, hiking, biking, golfing. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. Save up to 30 percent with the Best Dates, Best Rates package, with rates starting at $125 per night excluding taxes and fees (www.highpeaksresort.com).

Foliage in the Catskills: Find vibrant fall colors on a hike along the Hannacroix Creek Preserve (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/hannacroix-creek-preserve-hcp) in New Baltimore—featuring 113 acres of trails and scenic vistas—or explore the RamsHorn Livingston Sanctuary (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/ramshorn-livingston-sanctuary) in Catskill, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife and plant life along more than three miles of trails. For a bit of exhilaration on your quest for foliage, try mountain biking along the Tannersville-Hathaway Trail System (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/tannersville-hathaway-trail-system) in Tannersville—it’s great for beginners and experienced riders alike. To get the latest update on colors in the region, check out our fall foliage meter (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/catskills-fall-foliage).

Connect with nature while camping at Purling Waters (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/camping/purling-waters), a fully-equipped campsite accommodating up to 6 campers, located along the banks Shinglekill Creek. For a historic stay, try Tumblin’ Falls House (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/resorts-lodging/tumblin-falls-house). The house, offering 5 guest rooms in an 1890s Dutch Victorian perched on a cliff overlooking Shinglekill Falls, has a tree level spa overlooking falls, natural pools, garden and trails.

To keep tabs on the progress of fall foliage in the state, www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report.

See more information on where to go, what to do in New York, www.iloveny.com, 800-CALL- NYS, info@iloveny.com.
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