The Adirondacks are a magical place no matter what time of year. Below are some month-by-month highlights in the area.
- Excellent cross-country and downhill skiing conditions
- Deep snow makes for great snowshoeing. To travel by snowshoe is to step straight into Adirondack history.
- Animal tracking tends to be excellent this time of year.
- The dead of winter is anything but moribund when it comes to birds. For birdwatchers, this is the time of year to get out and search for winter visitors from the far North, including white-winged crossbills, red crossbills, pine grosbeaks, Bohemian waxwings, and common redpolls. Bald eagles turn up sometimes, too.
- Love trees? Adirondack forests are magnificent and inviting in winter. There’s no better time to start learning about plants than in mid-winter. With leaves down and fields and forests buried in snow, the candidates are whittled down to a charismatic few.
- Fireside chats represent a venerable Adirondack tradition. If you’re hungry for fresh and illuminating conversation, hire a guide to regale you with takes of the good ole’ days, the rotten ole’ days, the wild and wooly present and more. Hot cocoa or something stronger by the fire heightens the pleasure.
- Relax indoors on a winter’s day and dive into a good book. The most famous novel set in the region is Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy,” and it’s a humdinger.
- Forget what the weather report says; February marks the beginning of spring.
- The sun rises earlier and lingers later in the afternoon, making days longer.
- Buds swell on trees that flower and leaf out early, especially maples and elms.
- Sought-after winter birds are still here in numbers. Listen for barred owls at night. They seem to say: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-alllll.” By day, chickadees start singing their spring love songs.
- Milder temperatures make for some of the most pleasant winter outings of the year.
- Skiing and snowshoeing conditions remain fabulous.
- Winter Carnival brings nine days of fun and games to the Village of Saranac Lake. Despite the cold, this is a great time for city folk to bundle up and savor small-town life at its warm and lion-hearted best.
- March is mercurial. Thermometers surge up, down, and all around. This inconsistency is part of the month’s unique, unpredictable appeal.
- It’s fun to get out in the woods in March and tune into early signs of spring.
- Winter birds start disappearing, and summer birds such as red-winged blackbirds and grackles begin to return. It’s fun to learn bird songs and know which birds are already bursting with passion and courting their mates.
- Depending on temperatures, skiing and snowshoeing conditions typically remain good. On an ideal day, you can traverse the white stuff in shirtsleeves.
- Maple sap flows in sugar maples, and the annual Adirondack maple sugar harvest is literally in full stream. A naturalist can teach you how to snip off the end of a twig and taste the sap right from the tree. Visit a sugarhouse or enjoy local maple syrup with breakfast. Our chef can create marvels with the stuff.
- Rivers thaw. This a great time of year to watch for beavers, muskrats, mink and otters.
- By April, the winter is over (despite the occasional blizzard!), spring is in full swing and there’s no turning back.
- Most ponds and lakes ice-out sometime during the month, although some hold out until May.
- Instantly upon ice-out, uncommonly beautiful common loons return to their favorite Adirondack lakes.
- Birds, birds, birds: birds that remained through the winter are singing their hearts out, and birds from the South are arriving every day. Among the newcomers this month are yellow-bellied sapsuckers, eastern phoebes, blue-headed vireos and early warblers such as the yellow-rumped, the pine, and the palm.
- Painted turtles rise out of the cold water to sunbathe on logs. Amphibians appear in astounding number: hordes of big, yellow-and-black spotted salamanders migrate at night to breeding ponds; and wherever there’s water, one can usually hear the ancient love-choruses of (depending on habitat) wood frogs, spring peepers, leopard frogs, pickerel frogs, green frogs, and American toads.
- Early in the month, trees and shrubs begin blooming in earnest. Among them are red maple, American elm, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, assorted willows, shadbush and beaked hazelnut.
- For nature lovers, May represents perhaps the most exciting month of the year.
- Aside from a little mud, hiking conditions become ideal – rarely too warm and only occasionally cold.
- Inhale the mountain air and literally smell nature coming alive.
- As the last snow melts, rivers flow free again, lakes slowly warm, and sunshine heats the soil; the entire landscape bursts with life.
- Every morning, new birds singing songs not heard since the previous summer fill forests and lakeshores with music and color. New arrivals include red-eyed vireos, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, Blackburnian warblers, yellow warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, American redstarts, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. American woodcock perform dramatic song-and-dance routines and aerial acrobatics in and over quiet meadows.
- Frog choruses continue. Listen for the knock-knock of the mink frog.
- Wildflowers start popping up everywhere: trout lily, goldthread, painted trillium, purple trillium, Clintonia lily, and pink ladyslipper orchids provided stunning beauty and interest.
- June is a joyous month. It brings birds, butterflies, and the full greening of our magnificent Adirondack northern hardwood forests.
- Wildflowers remain abundant, including the pink ladyslipper and Clintonia lily.
- Weather tends to be ideal much of the time, with warm days and cool nights.
- By day and night, the haunting calls of loons ring out on the lakes.
- Songbird choruses at dawn take the listener’s breath away with their wild and timeless beauty. A stroll at dusk will likely bring the soft, piccolo-like notes of a hermit thrush.
- For variety of interest, June represents the best time to walk in the Adirondack woods. Waterfalls and streams thunder down mountainsides with great enthusiasm, birds sing torch songs, wildflowers appear everywhere you look and even popular places are rarely crowded.
- Opportunities for fishing, photography, hiking and boating are outstanding.
- Birdsongs continue to turn the great Adirondack forest into a concert hall. To enjoy the performance, there’s no need to identify the performers. All one needs is a functioning set of ears, an alarm clock, and a love of nature. Just rise early or wander outdoors before dusk. Bird diversity in the woods reaches its peak, although some migrants will leave by month’s end.
- This month and its successor are the most congenial of the year for boating, swimming, fishing and plain old walking in the woods. If you’re going to jump in the water and enjoy some old-fashioned lake or pond swimming, this is the time.
- Whitetail deer look gorgeous in their cinnamon-colored summer coats.
- On water, watch for big hawks called ospreys. They circle overhead on wings that look slightly crooked and dive for fish. If you’re really lucky, you might even spy a bald eagle.
- Late July brings the first touches of fall color. Leaves of crimson and ruby start making their appearance on red maples and hobblebush.
- Enjoy a walk with a naturalist guide. Make the acquaintance of Adirondack trees, wildflowers, birds and more, hold a frog or salamander in your hand and meet such fascinating novelties of the forest as the Indian pipe, a wildflower that looks like a fungus. Indian pipe’s leaves, stems, and flowers lack chlorophyll and are white as snow.
- Early in the month, water temperatures reach the year’s warmest. Go for a swim!
- August is an excellent month for all outdoor sports: hiking, canoeing, kayaking and more.
- Wild blueberries abound in sunny places early in the month. Their flavor puts that of grocery store blueberries to shame.
- Wild huckleberries (much like blueberries, with tiny gritty seeds inside) ripen at month’s end. Connoisseurs prize them more than blueberries.
- August is the time to get down on hands and knees and search for the most elusive and delicious of wild Adirondack Mountain fruit, the often hidden creeping snowberry. Even many locals have never learned of it. The berries are white and round and about the size of a plump pea. The flavor is a particularly savory wintergreen.
- Birds are moving. Most summer birds are still here, but nesting duties are ended for most and locations are less predictable. The month marks the last chance to hear wild forest music.
- On lakeshores, listen at night for the deep bass voice of the bullfrog. It sings, “jug-o-rum, jug-o-rum, jug-o-rum.”
- Cardinal-flower opens its flaming red flowers for business along the shores of rivers and lakes. In wet spots, the peculiar and arresting blooms of a wildflower called turtlehead appear.
- Some Adirondack autumns are colder than others. Late August may bring frosts that in turn usher in early autumn color, especially in red maple, silver maple and yellow birch.
- Fall color rises to near zenith this month. Red maple color peaks. The bright orange leaves of sugar maples in early October get more press, but the flaming crimson of red maples in September are every bit as gorgeous.
- Birds migrate in droves. This brings exciting opportunities for birders and casual bird-lovers. Southbound hawks stream across the skies on sunny days.
- The thermometer can’t make up its mind. Cool and warm days alternate. Waters begin to cool rapidly, so this is the last month of congenial paddling.
- This is perhaps the finest time to climb an Adirondack high peak or any good-sized lesser mountain. As you ascend in elevation, you move forward through the calendar and find yourself at the height of autumn. Humidity is often low at this time of year, making for crisp views.
- September is prime breeding season for moose. Be careful when you’re driving, especially at night. And if you’re in the woods, look for moose in wet places.
- Native asters and goldenrods bloom at this time of year. Neither causes hayfever, which is the fault of a drab exotic plant called ragweed, found in lesser quantity here than anywhere in the state.
- Watch for migrating monarch butterflies! They look like fluttering pieces of stained glass.
- Early October brings Adirondack fall color to its so-called peak
- Fall color may well be prettier here than anywhere in the Lower 48. Cold nights and warm sunny days make for vibrant hues, and our mix of flaming hardwoods and deep green pine, spruce, and fir make for dazzling contrasts. Autumn color in the Adirondacks represents one of the great wonders of the natural world.
- Birds are still migrating. Watch especially for large hawks overhead and for mixed flocks of songbirds.
- Learn to birdwatch. Believe it or not, birdwatching may well rank as America’s most popular pastime. More people watch birds than play baseball, football, hockey, basketball, golf and tennis combined. Crisp fall weather and a manageable of number of birds make this an ideal time to explore wild places with a guide and get in on the fun.
- Paddling and boating conditions are typically congenial early in the month. Fishing is good, too.
- Hiking conditions are often fabulous. Gazing down from a rocky summit into a sea of fall color can be thrilling.
- November can be a good month for wildlife watching. Leaves are down, and forests once impenetrable to the eye begin to reveal their secrets.
- Whitetail deer are breeding. Big bucks are at their most majestic with massive necks (they’ve been working out all autumn) and grand racks of antlers.
- With trees bare and deep snows typically not yet in place, the landscape shows off its history. This is perhaps the finest month of the year to get out and explore old railroad corridors and seek other signs of the rich Adirondack past.
- Hiking conditions are usually excellent in lower areas. Snow and ice may already rule in the high country.
- With fewer leaves on the trees, wildflowers withered and a greatly reduced number of birds around, this is a fine time of year for the aspiring naturalist to start learning. The candidates are fewer, so progress is more easily made. Early snows often make for excellent tracking.
- Dreaming of a white Christmas? Dream no more. Bring your family to the Adirondacks and enjoy a white, warm-hearted white Christmas season the old-fashioned way.
- Snows come, but temperatures often remain moderate. This is a great month to try on a pair of snowshoes for the first time. If you get hooked, an entire winter lies ahead!
- For guests looking for an excuse to rest and relax, December offers a bumper crop of excuses, starting with short days and cold weather. Bring a few good books, explore our bookshelves or hit the local bookshops in town.
- Shopping in the boutiques and galleries of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake beats city department store shopping by a country mile. Enjoy!
Many thanks to Ed Kanse, Adirondack guide, for the text!