View from Mt. Jo

Peak fall foliage is just around the corner here in the Adirondacks and I’ve received an increasing number of inquiries on what my favorite fall foliage hikes are.   It is hard for me to narrow them down to just a few but I picked 5 of my favorites that are close to the Lake Placid area.

1.    Mt. Jo
Mt. Jo is probably my favorite place to see fall foliage.  Part of it has to do with its convenience to where I work at the Adirondak Loj, but it also has one of the best displays of color during the fall season.  Sugar maples, red maples, yellow birch, quaking aspen and beech trees surround Heart Lake making the top of Mt. Jo the perfect place to observe their display of color.  Mt. Jo is a pretty short hike at 2 miles round trip (via short trail) with close to 700 ft. of elevation gain over rugged, rocky terrain.  Without too much effort you can have a great vista with fall colors and High Peaks in the background. This is also a great hike for the whole family.

 2.    Mt. Van Hoevenberg
View from Mt. Van Hoevenberg

Mt. Van Hoevenberg comes in at a close second in my list of favorite fall hikes.  Mt. Van Hoevenberg is a longer hike than Mt. Jo at 4.5 miles round trip with close to 750 ft. of elevation gain but it might have just a little bit better of a view than Mt. Jo.  Mt. Van Hoevenberg has a great rock ledge overlook where you get an 180° view of the High Peaks and the fall foliage surrounding South Meadows.  The terrain of the trail up Mt. Van Hoevenberg is a little gentler than Mt. Jo also, with less rocks to navigate over and with the first mile fairly flat and gentle.  This is another great hike for the family.

3.    Big Slide via the Brothers
Ever since I worked out at Johns Brook Lodge and experienced a fall out there, I have had to go back into the Johns Brook Valley each year to take in the fall colors.  One of my favorite hikes in the Johns Brook Valley during the fall is Big Slide via the Brothers and make a loop down to the Phelps Trail and out to the Garden parking lot.  This loop is 9.5 miles with 2800 ft. of elevation gain over pretty rugged terrain.   Along the way you can take in views of the Great Range and the fall colors below in the valley.  You can even make a side trip over to Johns Brook Lodge once you get to the Phelps Trail for a hot beverage or a baked good before you have to hike back out to the Garden parking lot.

View off of the Brothers going up Big Slide

4.    The Jay Range
The Jay Range isn’t right in the Lake Placid area but it is one of my favorite ridge walks in the Adirondacks so it had to make the list.   A new trail (2.5 miles) up to the ridge from Jay Mountain Road was completed a couple of years ago making the experience even better.  The path is great underfoot and does not resemble a classic rocky trail that is found going up most of the High Peaks.  Once on top of the ridge you can continue walking on the ridge for close to 1.5 miles while taking in the spectacular fall colors along the way.

5.    Cobble Hill
Cobble Hill is an often overlooked mountain in the Lake Placid area but I like it because I can easily walk to it from my house and it does have a great view of the surrounding Lake Placid area.  For visitors, it’s a great hill to go up if you are staying in a hotel in Lake Placid or it could be a nice hike before you go out to dinner in the area.  The hike is close to 1.5 miles round trip if you take the short, front trail with 450 ft. of elevation gain but be warned, there are a few steep slabs of rock that you have to navigate by going this way.  If you want to avoid these you can take the trail up the backside of the mountain which is longer in distance (1.3 miles up) but mellow.  This is another great family hike.

If you would like more information about these hikes and more, check out the following two guide books:

12 Short Hikes near Lake Placid plus the Saranac Lake 6 by Phil Brown

High Peaks Trails by Tony Goodwin and David Thomas-Train

Photos by Seth Jones