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Leaf peeping: Fill your fall with color

Tennille Millo, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 9/25/22

Within a few days, the lush, evergreen forests of Central New York will give way to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

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Leaf peeping: Fill your fall with color

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Within a few days, the lush, evergreen forests of Central New York will give way to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. As autumn changes into a colorful spectacle, fall enthusiasts are compelled to indulge in its bountiful patchwork. However, before everyone chases those reds and golds, we’ve sought out a few tips that will help make you a leaf peeper extraordinaire.

Track, track, and track

Mother Nature has a strict schedule to abide by regarding the picturesque foliage it produces. According to New York State’s foliage report, it takes two weeks for a color to complete its cycle in any given area. For those seeking foliage at its peak, it’s imperative to understand that this rare opportunity only lasts three to four days. Experts recommend using calendars, such as I Love New York’s Fall Foliage Tracker, www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report, to discover when colors are at their prime so they can plan a sightseeing adventure based around their destination.

Get off the beaten path

Hiking and trail walking are at the top of the list for outdoor foliage excursions. However, if your intention is to immerse yourself in the colorful beauty, leaf peepers caution you to opt for locations, like Bald Mountain, that are below 3,000 feet in elevation. While this might seem conflicting, experts explain that colorful deciduous trees grow at lower elevations, which means the higher you go, the more likely you are to be surrounded by green coniferous trees.

Several rivers, lakes, and ponds in our area provide unparalleled opportunities for exploring the seasonal foliage. Consider renting a kayak and exploring the Moose River or spending a Saturday paddling along the tranquil waters of Delta Lake to obtain an exclusive look.

Be daring

Take a zipline between the foliage at Gore Mountain, a hot air balloon ride above Lake George, battle the elevated trail at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, or gondola up and down Whiteface Mountain to add a little more adventure to your peeping excursions.

Those looking to stay close to home can take advantage of McCauley Mountain’s scenic chair lifts, which provide breathtaking views of the foliage and the Fulton Chain of Lakes. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and smooth rocks perfect for an afternoon picnic.

Go for a drive

If there’s ever a time to take a road trip through New York’s vivid landscape, it’s when foliage season is taking place. Pack a lunch (and some snacks) and take a drive along the Adirondack’s High Peak Byway as it winds along pristine waters and offers several scenic overlooks.

Or explore all our backyard has to offer with a short drive up Rt. 20, Rt. 12, or Potato Hill Road.

For those who want to enjoy the ride without taking the wheel, there’s the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which features a five-hour fall foliage train ride that heads to Lake Placid and back.

Bring a little knowledge

Entertain yourself, and your guests, with a few fun facts while you drive. History shows that leaf-peeping originated in New England when tourists flocked to the area to see the changing colors of their woods. However, the tradition of “hunting leaves” actually spawned from the Japanese tradition of momijigari, which revolved around the aesthetic appreciation of the seasons and the Buddhist celebration of “transience.”

According to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, leaves change color when “chlorophyll — the chemical that makes leaves green — breaks down as temperatures drop in autumn, causing the yellow and orange pigments already in the leaves to show.” Researchers have also looked at the relationship between peak foliage and weather. They found that rainy summers mean strong fall foliage, while dry summers and early frosts mean weak colors and short peak seasons.

Keep in mind

Leaf peeping is a popular activity that means more traffic, unique roadside stands, and fall festivals. Make sure to factor in extra travel time for viewing, crowds, and shopping for locally-made seasonal products. Lastly, don’t forget to bring your camera and enjoy!

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