Lake Placid is a well-known winter destination for skiing, but it’s also an incredible place to experience fall foliage in the Adirondacks. In fact, my personal favorite time to visit is in the fall. This great little mountain town is the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend in the Adirondacks, and provides easy access to hiking trailheads for stunning foliage views, fall festivals, awesome restaurants and scenic foliage drives. This post is all about the best things to to do in Lake Placid in the fall, so let’s get into it!
Is Lake Placid Worth Visiting In The Fall?
Absolutely! Lake Placid has a really nice cozy vibe with a charming alpine-inspired downtown, great restaurants highlighting seasonal flavors, amazing hikes and scenic walks that showcase the stunning foliage colors. There’s also lots of opportunities to celebrate the fall season with festivals and traditional fall activities.
When Is Peak Fall Foliage In Lake Placid?
The end of September is typically the best time to experience peak fall foliage in Lake Placid. Because it’s higher up in the mountains, it tends to turn earlier than other parts of New York State. It’s good to note that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when peak foliage will be in any region, so it’s best to be flexible if you can. There have been years where peak foliage in Lake Placid was mid-September, and years where it was in early October. But generally speaking, the last week of September is a safe bet.
Best Things To Do In Lake Placid In The Fall
Ranging from apple picking and cider donuts, to fall festivals and foliage hikes, there’s so much to pack into a fall getaway in this cute little town. Here’s my list of all the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall.
1. Visit Rulfs Orchards
Okay, so my first suggestion for one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall is a bit out of town, but most definitely worth the effort! Rulfs Orchards is one of my favorite apple picking and farm stand destinations in the Northeast. Located in Peru, it’s just under an hour from Lake Placid’s downtown, but has everything you could want for a day of fall fun.
At Rulfs, you’ll find an awesome farm store with cider donuts, fresh apple cider and a bakery, a corn maze, a petting zoo, a cafe, pumpkins and lots more – it’s really the best one-stop shop for everything fall (and they also the best apple cider donuts near Lake Placid).
2. Get Maple Ice Cream At Emma’s
Maple creemees are a staple throughout the New England region, and if you’re looking to get some maple ice cream during your visit, this is one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall. Maple Creemees are basically just maple-flavored soft serve ice cream that you can get on a cone or in a dish, and Emm’a in downtown Lake Placid serves up the best in the area.
Even if you don’t like maple flavors, Emma’s is still an awesome place to stop during your stay. The interior is really fun, and they have everything you could want including frozen cheesecake on a stick, all different kinds of ice cream and sundaes, chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, waffle ice cream sandwiches, and the list goes on from there. Even in the fall, there will likely be a line out the door, which is always a good sign.
3. Ride The Whiteface Gondola For Amazing Foliage Views
One of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall is to take a ride up Whiteface Mountain in the Cloudspitter Gondola. From the summit of Whiteface, you’ll get some of the best fall foliage views with displays of gorgeous color.
On a clear day, you can often see Lake Champlain in the distance, as well as incredible views of the other Adirondack high peaks.
4. Take A Scenic Fall Foliage Drive
There’s no shortage of places to see fall color in and around Lake Placid, and one of the best things to do in the fall season is to take a scenic foliage drive.
One of my personal favorites in the drive to Jay, NY, which is about 30 minutes from downtown Lake Placid. To take this easy and scenic drive, you’ll want to make your way to Whiteface Mountain, and then catch Route 86 North to Wilmington. Once you reach the 4-way intersection in Wilmington, take a right to head toward Upper Jay, and then connect to Route 9N. During the drive, you’ll get beautiful views of the Au Sable River, and also see some cute shops and eateries along the way.
Some other great drives to consider are the Franklin Falls Loop, Black Brook Loop and Stickney Bridge Drive.
5. Admire The Foliage Around Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is at the center of downtown, making this one of the easiest things to do in Lake Placid in the fall season. Main Street provides lots of opportunities to admire the foliage around the lake while you’re visiting the shops, but there are several access points while strolling through downtown. You don’t have to go far for some awesome fall color!
6. Grab A Seasonal Beer At Big Slide
Big Slide Brewery is my favorite in Lake Placid for both food and great beer, so this is one stop you won’t want to miss. It’s located a short 5-minute drive from downtown Lake Placid, and during the fall, you’ll be able to try their Maple Bourbon Imperial Stout, Maple Brown Ale and Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Ale (all of which are excellent!).
But don’t just stop at the drinks – you’ll definitely want to get lunch or dinner here for amazing comfort foods. I especially love their pretzel bites and pizzas.
7. Explore High Falls Gorge
High Falls Gorge is a great place to visit in the area year-round, but it’s especially beautiful and picturesque in the fall season because of the foliage. Located in nearby Wilmington about 10-15 minutes from downtown Lake Placid, you’ll find a 22-acre nature area with scenic walks, footbridges and waterfalls.
During your visit, lunch at their River View Cafe is actually really good! Sometimes, the cafes at parks can be so-so, but the food here is honestly worth the stop, and provides nice views of the Au Sable River. Just keep in mind that the cafe closes after Columbus Day Weekend.
Note: There is an admission fee to enter this park. As of 2022, rates are $10.50 per child and $14.50 per adult. Children 3 and under are free.
8. See The Olympic Ski Jumps
This is another great attraction that’s worth visiting year-round, but again, foliage season makes the Olympic Ski Jumps extra spectacular, and this is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall.
There’s an elevator that takes you to the top of both jumps, and the mountain and fall color views from top are really awesome. It’s also exciting to try and imagine what it must have felt like to be waiting at the top for your Olympic run down the slides.
Note: To see this attraction, you’ll first have to drive to the admission office to purchase your tickets, and then drive to the actual ski jump park, which is just a few minutes away.
9. Visit Jay Covered Bridge
One of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall is to take a drive down to Jay, NY (mentioned above in the scenic drives section), and during your visit, you’ll definitely want to see the Jay Covered Bridge, which is the only covered bridge in the Adirondacks.
During the fall season, the bridge is surrounded by beautiful fall foliage, and offers really lovely views of Au Sable River. It’s also a really fun experience to walk through the bridge to the other side, as the entire interior is made of wood.
10. Tour The Local Farms & Farm Stands
Even though you’re in the mountains, one of the best things to do in Lake Placid the fall is to visit some of the local farms. There’s actually quite a bit of rural farmland all over this region, with farms producing some amazing foods and products. This is a great thing to do to fill a bag with special goodies to take home with you.
Rivermede Farm in Keene, NY is a great little farm stand to visit that sells lots of nice seasonal things like mums, maple syrups, coffee, jams and lots more. And if you happen to visit before Columbus Day Weekend, you can also swing over to the Keene Farmer’s Market where quite a few local farmer’s will have stands selling their homemade products and foods.
Some other great farm stands to explore during your visit are Sugar House Creamery, Whitney’s Maple Spring Farm and Asgaard Farm.
Best Fall Hikes In Lake Placid
One of the very best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall is to hit the trails, and there are so many amazing opportunities for scenic walks and hikes in this area that are the perfect places to admire the foliage. Here’s my list of the best fall hikes in Lake Placid.
11. Indian Head & Rainbow Falls Trail
One of the most popular fall hikes near Lake Placid is the Indian Head & Rainbow Falls hike, which is also one of my personal favorites. If you’re on social media at all, you’ve probably seen the view from the top all over Instagram, and with the lake below surrounded by foliage, it’s pretty easy to see why this hike is so popular.
This hike starts with an easy and relaxing 3-ish mile walk through the woods on a carriage road, and then the last 2 miles or so are a bit more challenging with steeper climbs and some rock scrambling. It’s not super challenging, but definitely not easy. Once you reach the top, there are tons of places to admire the views, and it’s also a great place to have some snacks and relax.
I highly suggest you continue on to the Rainbow Falls hike from there, which will take you to a really impressive waterfall, and through some scenic parts of the woods. If you add on this part, it will be just under an 11 mile-loop.
12. Mount Jo Trail
Mount Jo is another one of the best fall hikes in Lake Placid with really amazing foliage views. This route is easy-moderate, with a steady incline and some wooden ladders to climb on your way up. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with some awesome views of Heart Lake surrounded by gorgeous fall color.
The Mount Jo Trail is only about 2-miles round trip, so it can easily be done in about two hours at a moderate pace.
13. Heaven Hill Orchard Loop
For something a bit easier, a great scenic fall foliage walk in Lake Placid is the Heaven Hill Orchard Loop, which is only about a mile and a half long. The trailhead for this scenic walk is only about 10 miles outside of downtown Lake Placid, and offers beautiful foliage views with the sweeping mountain vistas in the background.
You also have the option to make this hike shorter by just doing the Big Field Loop, which is only about a mile long.
Hiking Tip: All the trails mentioned above are popular in the fall season, and parking will fill up fast. If you plan to hike any of these, especially Indian Head, on a weekend, I highly suggest you get there very early in the morning.
Lake Placid Fall Festivals
Lake Placid is a great home base for all the festivals in the Adirondacks during this time of the year. From German Oktoberfest celebrations to traditional fall events, here’s a list of the best Fall Festivals around Lake Placid.
14. Whiteface Mountain Oktoberfest
The Whiteface Mountain Oktoberfest is typically held the first weekend in October, and is one of the most fun fall festivals in the Adirondacks. It was even named as one of the 5 best Oktoberfest celebrations in North America!
During this festival, you can expect authentic Bavarian-style music, dancing, drinks and food, and you can also buy tickets that include a ride on the Cloudspitter Gondola (which I highly suggest because it’s actually a great deal).
15. Wilmington Festival Of Colors
The Wilmington Festival of Colors is a wonderful fall festival for families with children. Located just outside of Lake Placid, you’ll find lots of children’s activities here like comedy shows and clowns, and fall favorites like craft and food vendors, live music and art demonstrations.
16. Flaming Leaves Festival
Typically held on Columbus Day Weekend each year, the Flaming Leaves Festival is a great option for those who want to celebrate the fall season and also visit the Olympic Ski Jumps, since the festival is held right at the ski jump park.
During this event, you’ll be able to enjoy live music, dancing, food and craft vendors and beer while admiring the fall foliage all around the area. Oh, and let’s not forget the main event – actual ski jumpers competing in the FIS Continental Cup! Wondering how they can go down the jumps in the fall? You’ll have to attend to find out!
On the Saturday during Columbus Day Weekend, you can attend the OKTUPPERfest celebration, which is held in Tupper Lake and about 40 minutes from Lake Placid. This festival is great for both adults and families with kids, and you’ll find activities like face painting, a t-shirt tie dying station, pumpkin painting, discounted rounds of golf, live music, and all kinds of craft, food and beer vendors.
What To Do In Lake Placid In October
The first two weeks of October will likely provide some of the best fall foliage views around town, and this is a great time to visit Lake Placid. All of the best fall festivals in the region take place in October, and conditions for some of the best hiking places are still ideal (meaning, not yet covered in snow). This is also a great time to make a trip to Rulfs Orchard for apple and pumpkin picking.
Where To Stay In Lake Placid In The Fall
The great thing about Lake Placid is that there are so many different kinds of places to stay, ranging from resorts with spas to cozy cabins in the woods. Here are my picks for the best places to stay in Lake Plaid in the fall season.
Walkable to Downtown: The Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa is the best place to stay in Lake Placid for those wanting to be right in downtown, and within waling distance to all the shops and restaurants. This place is the perfect combination of a cozy inn and a bigger resort, and offers amenities like on-site restaurants (one of which, The Cottage, is right on the lake, and open in the fall!), and also a spa. This is a great place for a cozy getaway in the center of town.
Best Resort With Amenities: The Whiteface Lodge is a great choice for those wanting a more upscale getaway with lots of amenities, but still want to feel like they’re in the mountains. They have on-site restaurants, a wonderful spa, Adirondack-style rooms, bowling alleys, indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs. It’s also only about 5 minutes from downtown Lake Placid.
Best Budget Option: The Lake Placid Inn on Main Street is great for both budget-conscience travelers, and those wanting to be right in the downtown area. Rooms have recently been updated, and include full kitchens to cook meals in.
Best Cozy Cabin in the Woods: This little riverfront cabin in the woods is perfect for two people, and is a great way to find some seclusion during your fall getaway in the Adirondacks. There’s a really nice porch with views of the river and mountains, and even two Adirondack chairs at the riverfront to enjoy your morning coffee!
Note: Most of the cozy cabin options in the Lake Placid area will be outside of Lake Placid itself, and you’ll find the best options in the Keene Valley and Jay/Upper Jay. These will be about 30 minutes outside of Lake Placid, but definitely worth it for the seclusion. Plus, the drive to Lake Placid’s downtown will be very scenic in the fall!
How To Get To Lake Placid
The closest airport to Lake Placid is the Adirondack Regional Airport, which is only 20 minutes from downtown Lake Placid. Albany International Airport (Albany, NY) and Burlington International Airport (Burlington, VT) are about 2 hours away. If you’re up for a road trip and want to save money on your flight, Boston Logan International Airport is about a 5-hour drive, and NYC-area airports are just under 6 hours from Lake Placid. These airports would allow you a nice Upstate New York road trip in the fall season!
From the airport, you’ll want to rent a car, as that’s the best way to explore Lake Placid’s attractions, including Whiteface Mountain, the local hiking trails, farm stands, and of course, the scenic drives.
What Is Lake Placid Known For?
Lake Placid is most known for being the host of two Olympic winter games: 1932 and 1980. In fact, it’s 1 out of only 10 cities in the entire world that have hosted the Olympics twice.
Lake Placid is also known as being one of the top ski destinations in the Northeast, and one of the best destinations in the Adirondacks for hiking.
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That’s A Wrap On The Best Things To Do In Lake Placid In The Fall
And there you have it, all the very best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall! If you’ve been wondering if Lake Placid is worth visiting in the fall, even though it’s known as being a big ski town, hopefully now you can see that this is actually one of the best times of the year to visit. Whether you’re excited to tackle the amazing hikes, or are looking forward to scenic drives and exploring downtown, it’s a great little place for a fall mountain getaway.