There's something special about a crisp autumn morning in the Adirondacks that can't be beat. There's a reason that fall is in a four-way tie for my favorite season in Malone!
Drive around anywhere this time of year and you are all but guaranteed to see beautiful foliage in the peak of its vibrancy. People come from all over the country, and the world, to see the colorful autumn leaves that we are lucky enough to have in our backyards.
When life gets busy we often forget the beauty that surrounds us, if we only just took a moment to look! Driving to work the other day, I had a moment of awe when I came around a bend and saw the beauty of fall in the Malone area. It reminded me of how easy it is to fall in love with the place I call home.
There are many maps and guides to use for enjoying the fall foliage of northern New York, but on my drive it occurred to me that you don't need to take a whole day or weekend to appreciate what's around you. If all you have is a morning or afternoon - whether you live here, are making a day trip to the area, or have a few hours to spare on your vacation - this is how I would spend it.
The Malone Rec Park
Just on the outskirts of the village of Malone is the Malone Rec Park -- it's a place that really comes alive every autumn. The Rec Park has a paved loop that's about a mile long, which makes it an easy stroll for all ages and abilities.
Park in the main parking area next to the newly refinished tennis courts on County Route 25. You don't even have to leave your car to see the beauty of the large oak trees growing along the embankment of Rotary Pond. I do, however, suggest that you get out of your car and take the loop around the park. Whichever way you take (the trail is a loop that will lead you back to the same place), the walk brings you through open fields and is also nestled in the woods about halfway through.
Throughout the park you will find more large and impressive oak and maple trees. There are gazebos, picnic tables, and benches so you can sit and enjoy the crisp air and the view of the trees and the water.
Bill King Memorial Park
When you decide it's time to leave the Rec Park, head south on County Route 25 again. You will enjoy views from your car as you drive alongside the Salmon River. After you cross a bridge over the river, your next stop is directly to your right. The Bill King Memorial Park is a sometimes overlooked gem of the area. It's small and quaint, and the trail isn't but half a mile long, but it sits alongside the Salmon River and many times all you can hear is the breeze and the water.
Again, this trail can easily be walked in 15 minutes or less and is another easy stroll for all ages and abilities. There are picnic tables and benches to take it all in. Whether you look east or west you'll see trees filled with bright foliage intermingled with hearty evergreens to make the contrast even brighter. I am a fan of sitting at one of the first picnic tables and lazily watching the traffic pass over the bridge. It's my kind of peaceful.
After getting your fill at the Memorial Park, continue heading south on Route 25 toward Titus Mountain Family Ski Center. Johnson Road is partly a seasonal road and is worth a trip to slowy drive down and take in the sights. When you turn on to Johnson Road, if you see that Titus is open you should take a quick detour and see the property; the idle chairlifts against the foliage is a unique sight, and you can see Owl's Head from the parking lot.
Just past Titus, Johnson Road becomes a single lane dirt road; drive through the trees and you will experience the quintessential "leaf peeping" that you would see in a movie. The sound of the gravel beneath the car tires, the quietness in the area, and the views, both looking up the road and back down it, all come together to create a foliage experience. The road itself is about a mile long -- you could drive it in 5 minutes or walk it in 20 (plus another 20 to walk back).
Add-On: Owl's Head or Elephant Head
If you want to make it a day trip, I suggest that after Johnson Road you choose to hike Owl's Head (intermediate hike) or Elephant Head (beginner's hike). The hikes sit on either side of Titus Mountain and have views overlooking the foothills of the Adirondacks. Depending on your hiking ability (both are great for all ages), you can finish the hikes in an hour or two. Take a break at the pinnacle, eat a packed lunch, and you have created the perfect fall day.
All in all, this trip from beginning to end - Malone to the Rec Park to the Memorial Park to Johnson Road and back again - could be finished in two hours. Take another hour or so to appreciate the foliage, stop to smell the roses, and you have the perfect morning or afternoon. If you add on the hike and lunch, it's a great little day trip. Yet despite the short timeframe, it packs a punch and gives someone no excuses, local or visitor, to take some time out of their day and enjoy the beauty of Adirondack foliage. I suggest everyone try it.
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