Located less than six miles from the Canadian border in the northern Adirondacks is High Falls Park Campground. And, as the name implies, this campground is home to a beautiful waterfall.
Thankfully, for those of us that love visiting waterfalls in New York, you don’t have to spend the night at this campground to visit this beautiful spot (though it appears to be a nice campground for those that are interested in camping or RVing in the area).
High Falls is located on the Chateaugay River (known as the Chateauguay River once it crosses the border into Quebec) in northern Franklin County. This 120-foot waterfall is topped by a dam, but this does little to take away from its incredible natural beauty.
Visitors are allowed to visit during daylight hours when the campground is open for the season (typically May through mid-October).
When you arrive, head into the camp store to start your visit. There is a small fee ($5 per person in 2021) to visit this beautiful waterfall if you aren’t staying overnight. In the store, they will give you a map of the property and directions for how to hike to the waterfall.
The trail starts off from behind this building at a wooden entryway with a sign that reads “Entrance”.
The trail to the waterfall winds its way through the woods for about a quarter-mile before reaches the stairs to the base of the falls. Just beyond the stairs, there is a decent viewing area, though the overgrown trees block the view a bit.
The trail actually makes a loop at this point, but I opted to head down the first set of stairs to get to the base of High Falls.
There are over 200 steps down to the river from the top of the hill. The wooden stairs are in good condition, but in a few places, the structure was a bit wobbly. In my opinion, this wasn’t unsafe, but it might cause some to pause.
When you reach the bottom of the stairs, they put you out at river level a short distance from the falls.
High Falls is a seriously impressive waterfall that is said to be 120 feet tall. The water cuts through a narrow chasm in the towering cliffs that are just as tall.
Above the falls, there is a small lake the is held back by the dam. While the upper part of the waterfall isn’t natural, it does a good job blending into the rock walls and, depending on the angle you are at, can even be difficult to see.
The area around the base of the falls is a ton of fun to explore, but it should be noted that campground rules prohibit climbing on the waterfall itself or swimming in the pool beneath it. However, for those that want to enjoy some incredible natural beauty, this is a great spot to visit.
There is even a bench near the falls where you can relax for a bit.
While you could return via the steps you came down on, I instead recommend completing the loop as you return to your car.
To do this, follow the path downstream along the Chateaugay River for a short distance. The river here is incredibly scenic and worth taking the time to see.
The path cuts along the banks of the creek, crossing onto beautiful wooden boardwalks at several points. Soon, the path comes to a shelter and makes a left turn to head back up the hill.
This uphill portion is a series of trail and stairs that takes you back towards the starting point of your hike.
This route is a bit longer of a hike than the way down, but the stairs and trails aren’t nearly as steep. If the slightly wobbly stairs that I recommended for your descent are too intimidating, you could instead opt to head down the hill this way.
Once at the top of the hill, simply follow the trail back past the upper viewing area and the other set of stairs as you walk back to the campground store and your vehicle.
Without a doubt, High Falls is one of the most beautiful spots in northern Franklin County, New York. While it might not be worth a long drive from other parts of the Adirondacks unless you are a huge waterfall fan, it’s a fantastic place to stop if you are traveling across the northern part of the state or find yourself near towns like Malone and Chateaugay.
For more information on High Falls Park Campground, you can visit their website. The campground and waterfall can be found at 34 Cemetery Road just outside of Chateaugay, New York.
Note: High Falls is one of the most popular names for waterfalls in New York. This waterfall should not be confused with High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid, High Falls in downtown Rochester, and High Falls Conservation Area in Columbia County.