There are approximately 110 waterfalls in the Adirondacks, and dozens of those waterfalls are within a reasonable driving distance from the village of Lake Placid. Whether you want to appreciate these beautiful natural formations from wheelchair-accessible walkways, enjoy the sound of water cascading against the rocks in its plunge pool after a family hike, or break out the compass and topographical map before heading into the bush with a few other experienced hikers, you’re starting your search in the right place. As with many hikes, your experience hiking to a waterfall can vary season to season. Waterfalls typically have the greatest amount of water flow during the spring thanks to snow and ice melt, but catching one frozen in time by the temperatures an Adirondack winter can bring or seeing the colors of our famous fall foliage paint the backdrop of a Lake Placid waterfall is equally memorable. While sometimes at their driest in the summertime, an August hike past a waterfall provides an opportunity to cool off in ways you’ll be talking about for years to come.
Waterfall safety tips
Be sure to obey any signs or markings, as accidents leading to serious injury and even death around waterfalls do occur. Surfaces near waterfalls have a tendency to to be slippery so keeping to the trail and paying attention to your footing at both the top and bottom of a waterfall can help avoid a mishap. Not unlike any outdoor pursuit, it’s recommended to research your destination and be prepared for your hike to be aware of potential dangers you may encounter.
Waterfalls you can swim at
As mentioned above, waterfalls can be dangerous places and should be approached with caution. Thankfully there are several Adirondack waterfalls deemed to have pools suitable for swimming.
Bushnell Falls is near Johns Brook in Keene, NY and can be reached from the Garden Trailhead, which is also the starting point of some of the Adirondacks’ most popular hikes. Bushnell Falls is a little over a five mile hike from the trailhead, so you’ll have certainly earned a dip in its beautiful natural pool. This is located on the trail used to hike Mount Haystack and Basin Mountain, and directions to the falls can be found on either of those mountains’ pages.
While this waterfall is only a six foot drop, this waterfall and its serene surroundings are sure to take up some room on your phone’s camera roll. The trailhead leading to Rocky Falls starts from the parking lot at the Adirondack Mountain Club, so while you will pay for a day pass you can make this a stop along the way to many other destinations you’ll find on this network of trails.
Split Rock Falls
Located in Elizabethown, NY on the Boquet River, Split Rock Falls is well worth the 45 minute drive to bask in the water alongside the picturesque falls.
The Wilmington Flume
A favorite in the area for travelers and locals alike, The Flume in Wilmington is a popular road-side swimming hole complete with rock jumps. Its popularity does occasionally contribute to a lack of parking, so have a backup plan in mind like taking a dip by the covered bridge in Jay.
Roadside and wheelchair-accessible waterfalls
Not everything in the Adirondacks is nestled at the end of a trail in the mountains. If you’d rather hop out of the car and experience some awe, we’ve got roadside waterfalls, too! For travelers with mobility restrictions, attractions such as High Falls Gorge and Ausable Chasm can scratch your waterfall itch, and are impressive enough to be found on many lists of top activities near Lake Placid.
46er waterfall hikes
With so many mountains and waterfalls around Lake Placid, you may be wondering if there are any hikes where you can see waterfalls and also cross one of the 46 high peaks off your summer list. The answer is of course! You can stop for a swim by Bushnell Falls on your way to the peaks of Basin, Big Slide, and Haystack.
Adirondack Mountain Reserve
Several of the trails to high peaks that start from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve pass by Rainbow Falls and Beaver Meadow Falls. If you’re planning on adding one of these hiking trails with waterfalls to your itinerary, you’ll need to first make a reservation through AMR’s free reservation tool.
Uphill Brook Falls
If you’re hiking Mount Redfield you can find Uphill Brook Falls and marvel at the water cascading past you on its way to the Hudson River.
New York’s tallest mountain, Mount Marcy, features a lookout from the top of Indian Falls which offers a stunning view of the MacIntyre Range.
Best winter waterfall hikes
Roaring Brook Falls
Roaring brook falls is one of the most popular and easy waterfall hikes during the spring season, but it’s well worth the short trek from the trailhead to see it in its frozen state.
Wanika Falls is a fourteen mile trip along the Northville-Lake Placid Trail. Snowshoes are the recommended mode of transportation, but cross country skiing is also an option.
High Falls Gorge
For those looking to see frozen waterfalls near Lake Placid without donning any special gear, High Falls Gorge is open during the winter and is a favorite attraction among all ages.
Visit Cascade Pass, where ice climbers are often seen scaling the slopes around the frozen waterfall that feeds the two lakes beneath it during the warmer months.
Hamilton County Waterfall Challenge
Are the lasting memories and Instagram-worthy pictures not quite enough for you? Our friends at Adirondack Experience in neighboring Hamilton county have an Adirondack waterfall hikes challenge that rewards a patch to those who rack up enough waterfall sightings. The best part of this challenge is that thanks to the number of waterfalls with varying degrees of difficulty, many hikers can find criteria within their comfort level to earn the coveted waterfall challenge patch.
Other Great Waterfall Hikes
Stag Brook Falls
Many summer itineraries include riding the Cloudsplitter Gondola to the top of Whiteface or disc golfing at their summer course, but the mountain also features a free trail only open in the summer where you can hike to Stag Brook Falls.
Roaring Brook Falls
Roaring Brook Falls is one of the more popular springtime waterfall trails near Lake Placid. Thanks to the level, well-maintained trail this hike is one of the better choices for a family with children. Located between exit 30 on Interstate 87 and Lake Placid, this 0.3 mile hike is also the perfect activity to squeeze in before heading home to plan your next Adirondack vacation.