The spring season is one of longer days, flower blooms, the promise of warm weather dangles within reach on the horizon. It also happens to be when waterfalls in the Adirondacks really shine, fueled by snowmelt and spring rains.
With 6 million acres to explore, waterfall opportunities abound in the Adirondack Park. From quick roadside cascade views to rewarding spritzes from towering falls that require a hike, the region has a waterfall for everyone.
If you’re up for the challenge, hit some of the park’s best trails for a glimpse of one of Mother Nature’s works of art, where jaw-drops are a promise. A mix of hidden gems and well-known spots make waterfall hunting an exciting outdoor pursuit, perfect for hikers, snowshoers, and road trippers in search of some Adirondack splendor.
Take notes, and get ready to chase waterfalls at these 6 amazing cascades in the Adirondack region of New York.
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1. OK Slip Falls
Marvel at one of New York State’s highest waterfalls, nestled in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. Located just outside the town of Indian Lake, the trailhead to OK Slip Falls is on the north edge of Route 28, with parking located a touch further, across the road on the south side.
The route to the falls is less than 10 years old, having been forged in 2014. It’s now possible for hikers to get access to this spot via a 6 miles (RT) trail where Big Bad Luck Pond, Whortleberry Pond, and Ross Pond can also be accessed. Although these hiking destinations share a trailhead, the route to OK Slip Falls branches off after the first ⅔ of a mile. The well-marked path takes hikers through hemlock, spruce, conifer, white pine, and sugar maple trees, with a few stream crossings within the Forest Preserve.
Once you reach the cascade, there are two cliffside viewing areas to take in its splendor. The best time to photograph OK Slip Falls is in the morning light, before the afternoon shade settles in. If you’d like to stretch your legs a little further, the trail continues to the Hudson River with a steeper .8 mile path, or just call it a day…you made it to the main attraction, after all. The popular hike to this stunning waterfall can be enjoyed via hiking in the warmer months, or snowshoeing in the winter season.
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2. Shelving Rock Falls
Head to the Lake George region for one of the Adirondack waterfalls with relatively minimal effort. Situated on the eastern side of the lake near Fort Ann, Shelving Rock Falls can be accessed either a short quarter-mile hike, or by boat from Log Bay.
Those interested in the drive/hike combo will venture down Sly Pond Road to Shelving Rock Road, where there’s a parking lot and sign for the waterfall. The wide trail leads to the 50-foot falls, where you can view it from both the top and the bottom. A pool at the base is a refreshing spot to cool off in the summer. Continue along the water for a scenic stroll, where smaller cascades and pools riddle Shelving Rock Brook.
The trail eventually leads out to Log Bay where you’ll see people enjoying Lake George on their boats and swimming. This is a great waterfall expedition for people of all fitness levels and ages. If you choose to go by boat, keep an eye out for the picnic table landmark on the northern shore of the bay. From there, cross the wooden bridge and follow the trail that veers to the left along the stream for approximately 15 minutes. Boom, you’ve found Shelving Rock Falls.
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3. Rainbow Falls
Experience one of the Adirondack waterfall treasures in the High Peaks region. The towering Rainbow Falls was given its name due to the regular occurrence of a glorious rainbow appearing when the sun hits just right. The bad news: Rainbow Falls requires an almost 9.5-mile RT trek. The good news: It’s a relatively easy, flat trek — and it’ll be 1,000% worth it.
Hop onto the trail from the St. Hubert’s parking area off Route 73, just outside the town of Keene, which will have you venturing onto Adirondack Mountain Reserve property (dogs are not allowed, and make sure to stick to the trail and be respectful as it’s private property with an easement for public use!). Your journey starts right across the road from the Giant Mountain/Roaring Brook Falls trailhead.
Follow the dirt road approximately half a mile to the AMR gate, where you can sign in and officially begin your hike to Rainbow Falls. Venture along a few miles to the dam at Lower Ausable Lake before taking the wooden bridge with signs for the falls. From here, you’ll be leaving the dirt road and hiking on a regular trail through the canyon. Listen for the sound of the cascade and prepare to be wowed at the sight of the 150 foot waterfall. Hidden in a tall canyon, Rainbow Falls is nothing short of spectacular.
Many hikers combine the waterfall with a hike up to Indian Head, the iconic Adirondack view; you’ll pass by the trailhead on your return trek near where the dirt road and footbridge at the dam meet. The additional .8 miles is worth the extra effort for the vista.
After your waterfall expedition, it’s customary to pop into Keene and grab a slice of the famous pie at the Noonmark Diner. Just do it, and thank us later.
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4. Death Brook Falls
Despite the ominous name, Death Brook Falls (also known as Secret Falls) in the Blue Ridge Wilderness of the Central Adirondacks is a delight. It’s practically right off the road near the Adirondack Park’s Raquette Lake, to boot. Park at the sign on Route 28, just 3 miles or so east of Raquette Lake village and just down the road from Golden Beach State Campground (where you can find extra parking, if needed).
You’ll see a “closed” sign on the gate but that’s just to keep people from driving on the old logging access road. Walk on by and take the quick, .3 mile jaunt through some wetlands to the cascade. Admire the 70-foot waterfall from the base of the falls, and if you’re feeling adventurous, make your way to the top via the trail to the right.
It should be noted that this trail isn’t as well-worn and can be slippery, so take precaution. Spring is the best time to visit this waterfall, when it’s full-blown flowing from the snow melt and spring rains.
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5. High Falls Gorge
North of Lake Placid, and a smidge south of Whiteface Mountain and the town of Wilmington, High Falls Gorge is a popular attraction within a privately-owned 22-acre park preserve.
Dubbed as “the Adirondacks most breathtaking 30-minute walk” the pathways provide a portal down into the ancient rock crevice where the Ausable River and a series of waterfalls await to dazzle visitors. Venture along a series of walkways and bridges, taking in the gorgeous scenery such as natural potholes (including the Adirondack’s largest one), lush forest, and boulders that date back billions of years.
A loop trail takes approximately half an hour and you’ll be riveted by the Adirondack setting the entire time. Overlooks are the perfect opportunity for photographing the beauty and prepare to be downright awe-inspired at the first glimpse of the falls. In the summer season, glass-platforms allow visitors to peer straight down, given you don’t get vertigo!
High Falls Gorge is beautiful any season of the year; see it adorned with colorful wildflowers, fall foliage, or in a coat of winter white and sparkly icicles. Stop in the onsite cafe and gift shop on your way out.
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6. Bog River Falls
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This hidden gem waterfall is located near Tupper Lake in the Horseshoe Wild Forest. Discover it along Route 421 and prepare to hang out for a bit as it’s too gorgeous not to. Fueled by the Bog River, this cascade seems to have it all.
A roadside area with a picnic table is the perfect place to post up by the upper section of the falls. Here, you can eat lunch while mesmerized by the gorgeous scenery; an island splits the waterfall into two sections and it’s positively stunning.
Venture down to the lower portion of the waterfall with a short but steep walk down to the lakeside. Here, the waterfall goes underneath an old stone bridge before flowing into Big Tupper Lake in dramatic fashion.
Related read: Adirondack Park in Winter: Things to Do and More!
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