A Weekend in The Adirondacks – 2022

It is that time of year again- the time when the world reminds us just how stunning mother nature can be. That’s right, it’s Autumn foliage time and this year really solidified to me that nowhere truly does it like The Adirondacks. Seriously- it’s got everything, the foliage, the small towns, the outdoor activities, but also plenty to do if you’re not into that- EVERYTHING. Last year we rv’d to Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain, and we would have RV’d to this year’s location, but our schedules just didn’t really permit that to happen. So, instead we took two nights to go the North Creek/Gore Mountain area. To compare a bit between the two (you can read about our Lake Placid trip HERE) …

Geographically Lake Placid is in the more Northeastern section of the Adirondacks, whereas North Creek/Gore Mountain is in the Southeastern section. We live on the middle Western section of The Adirondacks- just outside of the region. 

In terms of peak foliage, we were in the region for the Peak Colors of the season this year. Peak can last anywhere from a day to a week- there are so many factors at play. Last year we missed the full-on peak by maybe a few days. Once the leaves start to fall, they all tend to come down fairly fast. Last year was a much rainier season, so they fell earlier, whereas this year it’s been a bit dryer, they’ve stayed a bit longer, even if they started popping color earlier. 

I will say, I still think RV’ing or renting a small cabin in a wooded spot or along the lakes is the way to go. You can fully immerse in all the Autumnal Glory that way in a way that staying in a hotel doesn’t quite provide. 

Now, on to our actually trip. Like I said, this year we headed to the Gore Mountain/North Creek area. We really booked this location to go rail biking with Revolution Rail. This is something I’ve wanted to do since finding out we were going to be living in Upstate NY. They’ve got fantastic locations out here, and the rides are great. You can find their website HERE. However, we booked an afternoon ride on Saturday, so we had all Saturday morning to enjoy the area.

Saturday morning my husband decided to surprise us with a gondola ride and morning at Gore Mountain. Gore Mountain is home to New York’s largest ski resort. It boasts 4 Unique Peaks with a large, varied number of trails down the mountains. Dating back to 1934 (with development in 1964) and the only still operating Gondola in New York State, Gore Mountain is constantly updating, upgrading, and adjusting both its trails and the operating systems and lodges to meet the future. And- if you’re truly an expert skier, Gore Mountain has a trail that is a 70% pitch, one of the steepest in the East.  

We took a lift up to the top of one of the peaks to take in the beauty of Autumn in The Adirondacks. Honestly, I think the best time to see the actual sea of colors is while you are on the lift (I thought this with Whiteface too- the drive up is where you’ll get the best opportunity to capture that “sea” effect), but the view from the top is pretty incredible too. Plus, there was snow on the top! So, we got to experience that as well! If you’re interested, most of the ski mountains offer both mountain biking and hiking throughout the summer and fall season, something to keep in mind!

While we were at Gore Mountain, they were having their Harvest Festival, so we were able to enjoy live music, vendors from a wide variety of businesses, and some fun games. It made for a fun kick off morning. 

From there we headed down to North Creek NY for the event that we really came to this area for- Rail Biking along the Hudson River. When I had first learned that we were getting stationed in Upstate NY (after I got over all the feelings of leaving Germany) I knew that I wanted to go rail biking. It really just seemed like a fun and unique experience. Now, there are a couple different companies and locations for rail biking, but we decided to go with Revolution Rail. They offered a rail biking experience right in the “heart” of The Adirondacks and would give us a new way to experience the autumn foliage. I recognize that this is one of those things that is…very “us” as a family, but we actually really loved it. 

So, Revolution Rail was started in 2016 in North Creek NY. They launched in 2017 with 6 railbikes. The general idea is to turn the unused old railroad tracks into an opportunity. The railbike is either two or four seats and sits comfortably on the track. The ride itself is actually relatively easy- more comfortable than biking (because you’re on an actual seat) and any time it gets difficult- which is none- all you have to do is marvel at the world around you and it gets easy again. The railbikes are able to accommodate just about anyone- we had a wide variety of ages and skill level (you’re in a group of 10-20 bikes) and they are able to allow babies in strapped on carriers (like an ergo or bjorn). Revolution Rail is not only in New York, they offer trails in Colorado and New Jersey (and I think I might have seen one other location coming soon).  Both the Colorado and New York locations offer special combined experiences- usually involving the rail biking and a water experience. 

We did the South River Run ride which was a little over 2 hours (I would say about 2.5). We rode about 3.5 miles, stopped for a break and history chat, then biked the 3.5 miles back. It was incredibly beautiful and an experience that I honestly would repeat again and again. The boys weren’t able to pedal (they could barely reach- so we told them to relax and enjoy the ride) and Robert and I didn’t have any issues leisurely pedaling. I just can’t say enough fun good things about this little adventure, I highly recommend it. 

From there we wandered through the main street of North Creek, checking out the glassblowing- super cool- and other little shops. We stopped for dinner and headed back to the motel for the evening. 

The next morning, we packed up and headed out to make our way back home. We stopped at one more place though before reaching our home- The Adirondack Experience. The Adirondack Experience is a museum spread across a tract of land that walks visitors through the history, the use, and the relationship between the people and the wilderness of the Adirondacks. The land was originally purchased in 1867 by a Connecticut Farmer who used the land for a logging and lumbering operations. When The Adirondacks started to become a popular tourist spot, Tyler Merwin (the son of Miles Merwin who originally purchased the land) allowed for overnight guests. In 1880 he built a hotel on the location with the hotel growing to house 100 guests in 1907. While visiting the Experience, you are actually able to see and walk in the Log Hotel, originally of 1876 and named on the National Register of Historic Places. The Blue Mountain House continued in operations until the twentieth century- though it switched owners. In 1948 the hotels new owner, William Wessels, teamed up with Harold K Hochschild, a business exec and amateur historian, to form the Adirondack Historical Association. The original Adirondack Museum opened in August 1957 with the goal of showing the relationship between humans and the wilderness of the Adirondacks. The Experience features not only several buildings of exhibits, but also a steamboat, a railroad engine and passenger car, a stagecoach, canoe, and several other horse drawn vehicles. 

So, we actually spent a good 3-4 hours just exploring the grounds and learning all about the Adirondack region as a whole. The experience is very self-guided, with tour guides within exhibits from time to time. We started with the Boats & boating and learned about the evolution of the boating industry as it related to the Adirondacks (boats used to be the only way to get around!). We wandered over to the kids cabin and schoolhouse, where the boys got to experience not only what the schoolhouse offered, but also the various responsibilities kids had back in the early 1900’s. We wandered through Sunset Cottage, and the exterior of Log Hotel, which was closed at the time, as well as the Artist’s Cottage. The Life in the Adirondacks talked a lot about how man tried to work with the land, as well as the Indigenous Peoples of the regions. I would say this was one of the more interesting buildings of the group. We stopped at the river pavilion, which is where the steamboat and train are housed, headed up to bull Cottage, which aside from maybe being a bit small for us, is really our dream location. Finally, we stopped at the Work in the Woods, which talks about the logging industry, in both good and bad terms. It was well worth the stop, and they have a good number of hands on and hands off options. 

All in all- Leaf-Stravaganza 2022 was a big success (that’s what I’m calling this moving forward…). I truly don’t know if there is anything out there that can compare to Autumn in Upstate New York- it’s magical. I’m sharing every bit of the excitement and beauty over on Instagram- @acuppacosy, so follow there for the day-to-day beauty (even though we are past peak). 

Autumn in the Adirondacks

Oh, the pure bliss of it all. Autumn in upstate New York is one that you hear talked about a lot, along with Vermont and New Hampshire (ok basically all of New England). It’s one that everyone says is absolutely incredible (actually I’d argue that people tend to exclude New York from that conversation, which is completely unfair, but that’s a post for another day), but you always wonder…”can it really be that good?”. The answer is yes, yes it can be, in fact it’s better. 

In fact, when I dreamed about what Autumn in New York would be like, I dreamed of spending a weekend in a cabin in the middle of the forest and just watching in wonder at the beauty around me. However, rentals go FAST around here, and you’ve got to plan almost a year out to get what you really want at a decent price (and I was determined NOT to do a hotel in a city for this particular dreamy weekend). My husband took over the plans and ended up booking us an RV and a campsite for the weekend in the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain area. There aren’t a lot of words that I can really give to the sheer beauty of it all, and so, while there will still be words in this post, the real star of the post will be the pictures that I took throughout the weekend. 

Now, before we go much further in this post, I’ll address the elephant in this post. Yes, we stayed in the RV in a KOA campground…and we LOVED every minute of it. My husband has been trying to sell me on the whole RV thing and while I wasn’t opposed to it, I also wasn’t jumping up and down and going out to buy one. This weekend convinced me though that an RV for the bulk of our travel is actually a really good idea. Let me briefly explain. When we travel to certain locations, we do a lot of outdoor activities. We are big outdoors people, loving to explore nature, hike through the woods, see waterfalls, and just general do everything we can within nature. When you spend all day just reveling in Mother Nature and the beauty that is around you, only to go back to a hotel in a city it can be a bit…jarring. Especially if what you are craving is an escape from “the real world”. Enter: the RV. It was brilliant and honestly, really added to our weekend. The boys loved it and, at least for this weekend, I didn’t feel like I was truly missing anything by staying in an RV instead of a hotel. It is something that, while we will be renting a few more times first, we are definitely going to be looking at investing in. I would say we do a fairly equal amount in our travels between visiting cities and escaping into nature, so this would definitely be something to have. 

Anyways, tangent over back to our post about Autumn in Upstate. We pulled in on a Friday afternoon and got all set up and unpacked at the campsite. Made up the beds, set up our little cooking and dining area and feasted on some dinner. Like I said, we stayed at the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain KOA and we really liked it. It had good amenities, very active and sweet owners (this was actually their last weekend there) and was VERY beautiful. It is a perfect spot to stay due to its location close to everything to see in the immediate region. 

Our first full day in the area we spent chasing leaves across Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface Mountain is the 5th highest mountain in New York and part of the Adirondack High Peaks. It is unique in that you are able to access the summit by car, with the Whiteface Memorial Veterans Highway. This highway was constructed as part of the New Deal public works projects and funded entirely by New York State. It winds up the mountain giving absolutely incredible views of the valley below (with several pull off points to step out of the vehicle and stare in awe), stopping just shy of the summit you are able to then walk through a tunnel and ride an elevator to the fully developed summit OR hike the stairway trail to the summit. The tunnel walks you through to the center of the mountain where an elevator whisks you to the top. We chose to take the elevator due to weather and little children (if the weather hadn’t been windy and damp, we would have probably hiked the trail up). The summit is the most incredible view of Lake Placid and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can even see the skyscrapers of Montreal on the distance. We didn’t have a clear enough view to see Canada, or even Vermont, but we were able to see down to Lake Placid and our further out surrounding area. Whiteface Mountain Summit is only open May to October (in fact the weekend we went was the last weekend), in part due to weather at the summit, but also because on the opposite side of the mountain is the Whiteface Ski Resort. The workers who work the roads and top, also work the ski resort, so they transition from one side to the other to prep for winter and the upcoming ski season.

So, like I said, the opposite side of the Veterans Highway is the Ski Resort. The Ski area is noted by the Olympic Regional Development Authority as a major ski area and is known for hosting the alpine events of the Winter Olympics as well as an Olympic Training Site and just a generally good spot to ski. There are two double black diamond trails within the ski area, as well as quite a few standard trails, and a great separate beginners’ area. Year round, you are able to ride the Cloud splitter Gondola up to the summit of Little Whiteface, which is what we did after leaving the summit of Whiteface Mountain. I will say- this is totally not necessary. In fact, I would recommend just choosing to drive the Veterans Highway and summit Whiteface Mountain. Yes, the gondola rides up to Little Mountain is INCREDIBLE, but it’s just not as good as the drive up the mountain. Just a personal opinion. 

We finished our day out at High Falls Gorge, a nature park that has been around since 1899. This nature park provides trail access to look throughout the falls of the AuSable river with bridges, clear viewing platforms and several photo spots to get close to the falls. There is also a nature trail that walks you through a protected untouched forest called Climax Forest. While the trail, river, and foliage was gorgeous, I don’t know that it was entirely worth the cost. It’s a really pretty area and maybe if we hadn’t spent time touring various waterfalls in the Finger Lakes (HERE) the month previous I would have felt differently, but this just wasn’t absolutely worth the cost. It’s one of those, I recommend, but I also wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it. It was neat I suppose.

And that wrapped up our first full day in the Lake Placid region. I’ve literally never been so in love with a trip (maybe if we had rv’d or camped that Finger Lakes trip, but we stayed in a hotel instead) and a space at a moment in time, but I just kept looking around in awe at every turn. A tear may have been shed over just the sheer beauty of it all. After the High Falls Gorge, we went back to the RV for the evening and spent our night around the fire, munching on some smores and just reveling in the area. 

On our second full day in the region, we headed into Lake Placid proper. Lake Placid, originally known as North Elba, started as a location for an iron ore mine. It started to grow in the late 19th century, starting as a place for former slaves to own land (thanks due to Gerrit Smith and John Brown) before turning in to a resort town. The name change was brought about by Melvin Dewey (of the Dewey Decimal System) who made a “Placid Park Club”. Lake Placid was incorporated in 1900 and became known as a resort spot, as well as a rest and recouperation area (especially for those suffering from tuberculosis- Saranac Lake had a sanatorium for those sick with the disease to convalesce). Before too long Lake Placid became known for alpine sports, later on going on to host the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. 

We started our morning off on the lake itself, taking a boat tour and looking at all the different “camps” and lodges that sit right on the water. It was a peaceful start, giving us a little look into some of the more “known” families that lived there at one time or another. We were also able to spot loons on the water and an eagle up in one of the pine trees. Not to mention, the leaves were just starting to wane from peak season, so all those beautiful reds/yellows/oranges were still standing amidst a sea of green and gray (from the trees that had already lost their leaves). It was a special bit of time. 

Once finished with the boat tour, we headed into downtown Lake Placid. Lake Placid is actually currently under construction…yes, the entire town is undergoing a massive overhaul. This made walking the main street a bit of a struggle, but we wandered down amongst all the shops and scenery of Mirror Lake. We did not make it to the Olympic Complex in town as it was under construction too. It was open to the public, however the reviews that we had read, it was only a fraction of the complex and so we decided to head to a different Olympic attraction from the overall complex. 

The Olympic Ski Jump Complex is one to see. You cannot accurately understand what the jumps are like, until you are standing in front of them, on top of them, riding the lift up next to them. They are MASSIVE. The current jumps are the only free-standing jumps and are listed at 90 and 120 meters tall. The 120 Meter jump is the one open to tourists, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The original jump was built into the mountain in 1920 and was known as the Interval 35 Meter. This jump was initially lifted, still within the mountain, to 50 meters in 1923. In 1927 they built the first tower to increase the jump to 60 meters. Ever few years this was increased, with a 75-meter used for the 1932 Olympics, until 1977 when the entire complex was demolished to build fresh towers for the 1980 Olympics standing at 70 & 90 Meters. The current towers date back to 1994. Another feature of the complex is the freestyle aerial training center, seen from the right of the jump towers. Athletes can train on two similar jumps and jump into a massive pool of water. 

Now, I’m terrified of heights. More specifically, I’m terrified of FALLING from high up. I do not have the personal strength to actually do this jump, just standing up at the tower, a few feet above where the ski jumpers would launch from was more than enough for me to get nervous (aka panic panic panic), but it was pretty incredible to think that people actually do jump and enjoy it. 

And that really wrapped up our weekend in Lake Placid and the Adirondacks. It was one of the most incredible trips.  I really just fell in love with this area of New York (and specifically at this particular time of year, but I’m sure of its beauty year-round) and will happily go back again. I think that we talk about New England as being such a hot spot for Autumnal Foliage, but don’t write off Upstate New York. It’s just as incredible and I would highly recommend checking it out.