With many people having a three-day weekend to mark Columbus Day, it’s going to be a great time for a road trip and take in foliage that is much more colorful than it was a week ago, according to a new state forecast.
The best advice: Go north. In the Adirondack High Peaks, the leaves decorating the mountainsides will be in top form, according to the forecast released Wednesday by the state’s I Love New York program.
“Expect peak colors in many areas of the Adirondacks and near peak foliage in the higher elevations of the Catskills,” the report issued every Wednesday during the fall states.
The weekly reports from the state’s economic development and tourism agency are just one indication of how important people driving out to view fall foliage are to the economy.
“Leaf peepers come up from downstate and view the foliage map, and they come cruising up the Northway in search of that ideal view,” said Peter Bardunias, president of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga.
Hotels and restaurants benefit from overnight visitors, he said, and many small communities have festivals this weekend geared to people who may be passing through – and fall activities like apple picking are also available.
The state estimates the economic impact of travel in the state from September through November – the foliage season, as it moves from north to south – at about $26.5 billion.
The state report, based on reports from local observers, cites the Lake Placid area as close to peak color, with the writer going on to cite color descriptions not seen since your last purchase of a deluxe Crayola box: rhubarb, dandelion and buttercup are mentioned among the hues temporarily marking the slopes.
In many years, the High Peaks have already passed peak color by Columbus Day, but many observers have noted that this year’s change appears to be slower than normal, whether due to dry weather or a lack of hard frosts.
In recent years, Columbus Day weekend has surpassed Labor Day weekend as the busiest for visitors coming to the High Peaks, state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell said.
DEC announced last month that it would turn people away on Adirondak Loj Road outside Lake Placid if the Adirondak Loj parking lot is full, sending them to less-visited locations where the foliage is also expected to be spectacular.
“We encourage visitors to explore the hundreds of lesser-known trails that offer the same high-quality natural experiences as the more popular trails, and to be prepared to safely enjoy the park’s changing conditions,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.
Elsewhere around eastern New York, the mountains between Speculator and Indian Lake in Hamilton County are expected to be at near-peak color. The North Creek area is expected to be at about 75 percent color change, and the change will be between 50-75 percent in Saranac Lake.
At the northern end of Lake George, “there is still a good amount of green, along with burnt orange, shades of yellow and muted rusts, with occasional reds,” according to the state website.
Saratoga County is at near-peak, with about 40 percent color change, and “vibrant burst of red, burgundy, deep orange and bright yellow leaves.”
Schenectady and Albany counties, including the cliffs of Thatcher Park, are expected to be at about 40-50 percent color change this weekend. Schoharie County is reporting 25-40 percent color change, according to the website.
The National Weather Service in Albany is predicting clouds and possible showers on Saturday, but clear sailing and temperatures around 60 both Sunday and Monday.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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