There is a lot of beauty to be found along Route 86 between Lake Placid and Wilmington New York in the Adirondacks. However, one of the most beautiful spots is hidden from view just off of the highway: Flume Falls.
Flume Falls can be found along the Ausable River on the southeastern side of the highway, just downstream of the popular High Falls Gorge and Whiteface Ski Resort. It is located directly across the road from the Flume Trail System and is located within the Wilmington Wild Forest.
Other than crossing a busy highway, visiting this waterfall is relatively easy as long as you use a bit of common sense. This is definitely a spot that shouldn’t be missed while exploring the many outdoor attractions in the Adirondacks.
Read on the find out everything you need to know to visit the Flume Falls near Lake Placid.
Parking for Flume Falls
There are actually two parking areas for Flume Falls, both of which are slightly dangerous, so make sure to use extreme caution at the beginning of this hike as cars drive very fast on this portion of Route 86.
The best parking area to use is the main lot for the Flume Trail System on the opposite side of the road and the bridge from the trailhead. This lot can be found at the following coordinates: 44.366216, -73.841204.
This lot is big enough for about a dozen cars.
There is also a small pull-off just past this parking area on the right side of the road (if traveling away from Lake Placid). This area is only big enough for a handful of vehicles and can be found at the following coordinates: 44.368290, -73.839277.
From this second lot, there are likely trails that head down towards the falls, but the views from this side wouldn’t be as good.
So instead, park in the first lot listed, if possible, and very carefully cross the road and the bridge over the Ausable Creek (taking a second to enjoy the view from above on the bridge). You’ll find the unmarked trailhead on the far side of the bridge.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]
Hiking to Flume Falls
From the trailhead along Route 86 (which can be found at these coordinates: 44.365793, -73.840914), follow the obvious but unmarked trail away from the road as it starts to go downhill.
There are no official viewing areas for the two waterfalls here. Instead, you’ll want to listen for the rushing water and follow the faint trails on your left to the edge of the river.
The first viewing area that I checked out was right above the first of the two drops and only a few feet downstream from the bridge.
This spot is a bit precarious as you have to get pretty close to the ledge to look over and see the waterfall. However, the view is quite great.
At this spot, you can really get a great glimpse of the power of the river as it splits into two around a massive rock. In many ways, it reminded me of nearby Split Rock Falls.
While this waterfall is only about 15 feet tall, it really is quite beautiful and powerful.
There is a second vantage point for this waterfall a bit further downstream. To reach it, return to the main trail and head downhill (past an obvious but totally unmarked trail that heads off to the right).
Once the trail starts to flatten out, head to the left and work your way back upstream (past the lower falls, which I’ll discuss in a moment) and onto the rocky cliffs alongside the stream.
If you hike along these rocks for as far as you can go, it’ll bring you to a fantastic vantage point in the heart of the flume.
This is a truly fantastic spot as you can really see the amazingly straight rock walls that have been carved over time by the Wilmington Flume. It truly is a beautiful and unique spot.
Looking upstream gives you a great head-on view of Flume Falls a few hundred feet upstream. In my opinion, this is the best vantage point within this area.
Heading back downstream for a short distance, you’ll come to another waterfall at the end of the flume. While this 8-10 foot waterfall is less dramatic than the one upstream, it’s still quite a beautiful spot to see and features tall cliffs around portions of the pool.
A large pool at the base of the waterfall is quite popular in the summertime, so I definitely recommend visiting this spot outside of peak hours if you really want to enjoy the beauty of this area.
Note that while swimming is allowed here at the time of publication, people have died in this spot. I don’t recommend swimming here unless you are experienced and have confirmed its continued legality.
While this is the last of the waterfalls on this section of the river, it’s worth taking a few minutes to explore the land here. The river in this area is quite beautiful, especially during fall in the Adirondacks, and it’s quite a peaceful area if you can manage to visit when it isn’t too crowded.
Once you’ve had a chance to enjoy this area, simply return to the trail and follow it back uphill to your vehicle for a roundtrip hike of around a third of a mile.
It’s also worth taking a moment to check out the view of the river from the bridge on the parking lot side of the road. This provides a nice view of the Ausable River upstream of the bridge and a few smaller drops leading into the Wilmington Flume. A narrow, but precarious trail leads from the parking area down to near the river if you want another view.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, the trails at the Fume Trail System that leave from the parking lot are quite nice. You’ll find everything here from easy and short loops to long hikes to the peak of one of the area’s mountains.
Overall, Flume Falls is a really neat spot to check out as it’s unique, beautiful, and quite easy to see. However, you’ll want to make sure that you visit this spot during off-peak times on warm days as it can get quite busy.