Best Fall Drives
Lake Placid, New York, is a top destination for leaf-peepers, but many other roads lead to changing autumn colors.
Ever since crossing the “Blue Line” near the southern edge of Lake George, we have been teased. The line is the border of Adirondack Park, which is so huge it appears to encompass all of upstate New York as far as the Canadian border. (The area has a “forever wild” designation that keeps overdevelopment at bay.) We are driving on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) and, thanks to the views, are eager to see more of the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges that cover this alpine landscape. Count us among the leaf-peepers: the masses who head into the wilderness—or the closest thing to it—every fall like a forest-obsessed nature cult.
Our car, a 2013 Lincoln MKS ($42,810), is tailor-made for the trip. Equipped with a 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 engine (with 304 horsepower that performs like a V-8), it moves at a fast clip. We slow down coming off Exit 30 since this is where the real show begins. Front and rear sunroofs allow everyone to get a stellar look at the trees overhead, and the seats—made from an environmentally friendly soy-based foam—are remarkably comfortable.
Our first destination is Lake Placid, which we reach by following Route 73, enjoying the spectacle of maple, beech and birch trees changing colors amid waterfalls and massive ponds. The town is the jewel of the area, with Mirror Lake at its center and the larger namesake lake at the western end. (It also features some of the best accommodations and restaurants in the region.)
As you approach the town, home to an Olympic training center, two enormous ski jumps appear. Take the glass-enclosed elevator to the observation deck of the 120-meter tower for a spectacular view. Find another lofty vantage point by making a right onto Route 86 and following the Ausable River out to Whiteface Mountain, which rises 4,867 feet. A gondola ride at the base of the peak takes passengers up to a spot just below the summit.
Another option is to continue on to Wilmington, New York, and turn left for a five-mile drive to the summit of Whiteface via the Veterans Memorial Highway. On a clear day you can gaze across a carpet of colors to Lake Champlain and, past that, Vermont. The road stays open through October 8, and there is a small toll. Doubling back toward Lake Placid, after eating at the excellent Hungry Trout (5239 Rte. 86; 518-946-2217; hungrytrout.com), pass the High Falls Gorge, where you can get a bottoms-up perspective.
This drive never gets old, but the United States and beyond are filled with leaf-viewing options, like the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in Asheville, North Carolina; the Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway in Boulder, Colorado; and Niagara Parkway in Ontario, Canada. Enjoy.