There are many incredible waterfalls in the Adirondacks, but few are more beautiful or easier to reach than the waterfalls in High Falls Gorge.
High Falls Gorge is located along the Ausable River approximately eight miles northeast of downtown Lake Placid. This 22-acre park is privately owned (meaning you have to pay to see the falls). However, the combination of impressive waterfalls and hanging walkways make this a fantastic spot to visit.
From the gift shop and visitor center, the main loop at High Falls Gorge is only about half a mile long. This essentially takes you a short distance down the Ausable River before crossing over to the opposite bank and bringing you back upstream.
However, despite the hike being relatively short, this is still an impressive sight to see.
The waterfalls at High Rock Gorge are located a short distance downstream from the visitor center. After crossing the river, the trail heads downstream towards the falls. Along the way, there is a very large boulder next to the trail.
This is an anorthosite rock. Not only is this the type of rock that is under the Adirondack Mountains, but it’s also very similar to the moon rocks brought back by NASA.
There are a total of four different drops here that cascade through the gorge. Each waterfall has its own name, but it also appears that the whole series is known collectively as High Falls.
The furthest upstream waterfall is the tallest drop at roughly 30-35 feet in height. This waterfall can be viewed from above and is quite impressive. However, the best views are from the bottom of a narrow stairway that heads down to near the base of the falls. If you are able, I highly recommend walking down to the viewing area at the bottom of the steps.
From here, the trail starts to head into the gorge itself. The trail here hangs from the rock walls of the gorge creating views that would never be possible without this incredible infrastructure. There are also a few (optional) glass floor areas where you can see down 20-25 feet to the river below. Unfortunately, on the day I visited, they were a bit fogged up, so I wasn’t able to get the full effect.
For those that are afraid of heights, it’s worth noting that some of the walkway surface is made of metal grates, so there might be a few spots where you don’t want to look down.
As you head down the gorge, there are a few signs and points of interest that are worth taking a minute to enjoy, including one of the largest potholes in New York.
After a short hike, the trail turns to cross the Ausable River. To me, the views from this bridge are the best in the entire High Falls Gorge site.
From here, it’s possible to see all four waterfalls, as well as the incredible walkway that hangs precariously to the gorge’s sheer rock walls. Definitely take a few minutes to enjoy this incredible viewpoint.
Once on the opposite bank of the river, the trail climbs through the woods back towards the top of the gorge. There are a few viewing areas here, though the views aren’t as good as those on the side of the river you hiked down on.
Once back at the top of the gorge, the trail crosses the river once again on a rather remarkable bridge.
This bridge offers fantastic views in both directions, and it is probably the best spot from which to view the uppermost waterfall in High Falls Gorge.
It’s worth noting that while the lower walkway portion of the site isn’t handicapped accessible, there is a path to this bridge that is. That makes High Falls Gorge a great spot for those looking for a handicapped-accessible waterfall in the Adirondacks.
Once you’ve had your fill of the view from the bridge and of High Fall Gorge, take the trail upriver the short distance back to the visitor center.
To be honest, with so many free natural wonders in the Adirondack Park, I’m always hesitant to pay for access to sites like this one. However, while the trail isn’t overly long, High Falls Gorge really is a great spot to visit.
Not only are the waterfalls beautiful, but the incredible pathway is worth seeing and experiencing on its own. And, if the walkway didn’t exist, it would likely be impossible to fully appreciate the beauty of High Falls Gorge.
Don’t miss this great spot the next time you are traveling through Essex County, New York.
Note: My visit to High Falls Gorge was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
If you want to see more of the river, check out Jay Covered Bridge and the Ausable Chasm near where the river enters Lake Champlain. You can also check out nearby sites like Split Rock Falls and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
High Falls Gorge
Hours: Hours vary. See website.
Cost: Adults: $12.50, Kids: $9.50
Address: 4761 NYS Route 86
See map below for other area attractions.