As a four-season natural attraction, High Falls Gorge is a wonderful family-friendly option for visitors to the Whiteface Region.
It provides ample parking, photo opportunities at every turn, shopping, and dining. There are three paths for exploration: the Easy Path, which is a quarter-mile loop with access to the center of the gorge without having to negotiate stairs; The Waterfall Walk, a half-mile loop that includes stairs and suspended walkways; and the Nature Trail, which in wintertime can be explored wearing the provided snowshoes. With a day pass, do one, or spend the day and do all three.
Winter at the gorge offers a unique viewpoint.
A Frosted Lens
Today, as I approach the side entrance, the winter snowfall softens my perspective. I see things today through a pure, alpine filter. The chilly weather snaps my senses into a crisp alertness, the clean, odorless air makes me breathe deep and slow. I'm fully awake now.
I am met at the door by a moose, whose attire is, well, let me just say he dresses really interestingly. Not wanting to be rude, I respectfully nod and try not to stare as I pass him by.
The gift shop is all-inclusive: books, Adirondack-style gifts, decor, candles, etc. And there's no shortage of seasonal needs such as hats, gloves, and scarves. There's also an attractive, and educational, rock, gem, and fossil shop, complete with a mining trough.
I allow myself to wander around the gift shop and watch people try on the latest winter hat fashions to the sounds of laughter. Up ahead I see the River View Cafe. I look to my right and I suddenly realize I didn't send Mom a Christmas card this year. I see the word coffee. But, I must stay on track, I am here for the outdoor adventure, and obviously so much more.
A day pass is wrapped around my wrist, and here at High Falls Gorge, a day pass means a day pass; you can leave, drive to nearby Whiteface Mountain and pick up the rest of your family, come back here and finish your day by having lunch together at The River View Cafe.
For my safety and enjoyment, I am asked to sit down while a young man quickly slips a pair of mandatory Yaktrax onto my shoes. For those of you not familiar with Yaktrax, it is a lightweight and easy to use ice-traction device. Ideal for pedestrians, hikers, and the elderly, it affords greater stability and assurance while walking on snow or ice. The trails are well groomed and maintained by the staff, but there is always a possibility of that stubborn mound of ice or slick patch of snow this time of year.
The Yaktrax under my feet gives me a confident stride across the footbridge. In the center of the bridge, I look up the Ausable River, and then down the river, and the views — both ways — are snow-white, unblemished, and amazing.
I was told that just across the footbridge I could indulge myself by roasting a marshmallow at the firepit in the picnic area. I stopped and warmed my feet and hands at the firepit, but with my latest holiday overindulgences, I remained strong and did not roast a marshmallow. I always wind up eating the entire bag anyway — I am an all-or-nothing type person when it comes to food and snacks.
It feels unnatural for me to abandon the warmth of the fire, but duty has no sweethearts or comforts. Or marshmallows.
The Adventure Begins
The thoughtfully groomed trail and the pleasant evergreen forest draw me deeper toward the gorge.
An intricate system of steel bridges and staircases and beautifully drawn footpaths take you into the depths and frozen cascades of this natural phenomenon a billion years in the making.
I keep descending into a frosty abyss.
And still deeper.
The flow of water betrays itself as it escapes its frozen mask.
This catwalk is not for the latest in stiletto high heels, and I am thankful for my Yaktrax; I grip the cold, steel handrails, which are at a safe and comforting height. These are vantage points normally only accessible to rock climbers and daredevils, but here at High Falls Gorge, a snow-laden path is set before you.
The rush and roil of water and the frozen falls makes me shiver.
Back To Base Camp
It's a fast 30-minute winter walk, but with this weather, I don't complain, and my day pass allows me to come back out if I wish and capture what I may have missed on my first walk-through.
The special board and the menu at the Riverview Cafe are speaking my language — beer & wine also available.
The chef, Dennis, cooks everything to perfection.
Chocolate shavings cover the majestic, whipped cream peak of my hot chocolate - this is my kind of mountaineering.
Another gentleman, confident in his choice of garb, waves goodbye to me.
I head out to the parking area where other satisfied visitors and adventurers rejoice in the experience.
Consider a day pass at High Falls Gorge — a unique way to spend your winter's day, or any time of year.
If you enjoyed your day in the Whiteface Region, why not spend the night in one of the region's accommodations where every room is a room with a view.
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