Year-round Beauty in the Adirondacks
Waterfalls in winter seem to get ignored by many hikers as destination locations. Sure, it wouldn’t make much sense to check out a waterfall whose main source of enjoyment is frozen solid. However, ice that is formed by constant movement of water does create an amazing sculpture of color and shape! Then, there are cases where the water is warmer than the air around it – this causes a fantastic fog which freezes on whatever it touches. This light moisture in the air coats nearby rocks, trees and vegetation creating an ice show like no other. So, take time to stop by that roadside waterfall or maybe take a hike or ski to a backcountry water show and see what I mean.
There are several waterfalls within a short distance of the Whiteface Region and many of which are very short distances from the road, leaving little excuse to check them out. Others, well, you might need to plan your day a bit more, but, none the less, they are worth the effort.
The Flume is the closest of the lot from Wilmington, located less than 2-miles south on Route 86 from the Wilmington town center. This large waterfall complex has a path leading downstream on both sides of the Ausable River. Be very careful as you hike along these paths as there are numerous steep drops and no rail to protect you on the slippery terrain. There are absolutely breathtaking ice formations here after particularly cold winter nights.
High Falls is located just under 5-miles from the Wilmington town center south along Route 86. High Falls Gorge is a tourist attraction; you will need to pay a fee to use the property. But that payment will afford you the opportunity to see not just one, but several winter waterfalls! Traction devices are provided for days when the boardwalk is icy and snowshoes are available for rent. These falls can be safely viewed from platforms and protected steps. Outstanding beauty and colors await the visitor!
Cascade Falls, while very tall and wonderful and close to the road, can be difficult to reach, but worth all efforts. There is a picnic area between the two Cascade lakes off Route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid. The actual path starts here but the parking is only maintained during the summer, requiring the visitor to park in the Cascade Mountain parking or further up Route 73 at a designated pull-off. Either way you will be required to walk down Route 73 for a distance. This waterfall is a local and visitor favorite for ice climbing. This waterfall is perhaps best viewed from the trail up Pitchoff Mountain, where you can get eye-level with the falls from across the road.
Roaring Brook Falls
This short hike of about 1/4 mile is located roughly 3-miles from the south end of Keene Valley at the Roaring Brook trailhead for Giant Mountain on the left. Hike back along the trail and take your first right along a well-developed trail to the base of the falls. Taking your first left will bring you steeply to the top of the falls. Please be very cautious; this area is extremely dangerous and should only be approached with care. Roaring Brook Falls can also be viewed from a pull-off along Route 73. This provides a nice, all-compassing view of the falls.
Split Rock Falls
This roadside waterfall is the furthest on the list but also worth the drive. It is located off Route 9 just north of the junction with Route 73. There is ample parking for Split Rock Falls and it is typically plowed. The falls are only a few feet from the parking area. Be very careful in this area near the top of the falls, some fencing is missing opening up steep cliffs and exposed areas.
Now here are two wonderful waterfalls, located near one another, but set back in from the road, requiring a bit of effort. You have the option here to use either skis or snowshoes to reach the base of the falls. Both are fine; the ski is much more fun.
Beaver Meadow Falls
This trip to Beaver Meadow Falls is located off Lake Road, which is very busy with hikers and cross-country skiers. Parking for the start of this hike is located across the road from the Roaring Brook Falls and Giant Mountain trailhead, outlined above. You will hike along a paved section of road then to a dirt road which leads to the main gate into the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). You will move along what is now Lake Road for just over 2-miles to the trail for Gothics on the right. Following this well-traveled trail you will be off the road and in the forest. This 1/2 mile trail will bring you to the Ausable River which you will cross on a bridge and quickly be at the base of Beaver Meadow Falls. There is no trail to the top of the falls. The ladder to the left of the falls leads to the Great Range Trail and many High Peaks.
Following the same Lake Road as outlined for Beaver Meadow Falls will lead you to Rainbow Falls. Rather than branching off on a side trail you will follow this road to the end at roughly 3.5 miles and then cross a bridge just downstream of the dam. Once across the bridge find and follow the short spur trail to the base of Rainbow Falls.
Do you need snowshoe or cross-country ski rentals? Check out a local outfitter for details. Want a guide to bring you on a waterfall tour in the High Peaks Region? Go to one of the local guides in the area and see what they have to offer. Hanging out for a while and need a place to stay or eat? Wilmington has outstanding lodging and fare.