Split Rock Bluffs are a bit off the beaten path, but the area has much to offer the entire family. Split Rock is located not far off Exit 30 of I-87 on Route 9, south of Elizabethtown. The area has been known for quite some time as a swimming destination and cliff jumping. It is also, all too well known to be the home of unfortunate events in the sport of cliff jumping. This is why I start out this blog with a warning that the area is home to tall cliffs and dangerous conditions. While some of the area is totally safe for almost anyone, many may not be so. Please practice acts of awareness and care as you pass through and recreate in the area.
First I will start off with the lower falls – these are the most dangerous and should only be viewed from a safe location. The lower falls can be reached via a path on the west side of the Ausable River from the parking area. Many casualties have happened here while swimming and should be avoided as such. The rocky shoulder of the falls is very slippery making the descent to the base of the falls very hazardous as well. Not recommended for children.
Next is the upper falls, which is the home of most of the cliff jumping. With an upper and lower pool this area can see hundreds of different people a day, on a busy weekend. Just because it is the busiest area, this does not mean it is any less dangerous. Below the falls is a large deep pool of placid moving water where swimming can be had by all. The upper falls are located feet from the parking area off Route 9 and much of the steep cliffs on this side are fenced off, but not all.
Now to the main event, the bluffs and the camping area are some of the nicest in the area. These parts can be reached by following a trail on the East side of the Ausable River. You will need to park in the parking area and walk back up Route 9 and cross the bridge. As the guard rail ends an old woods road, blocked by three boulders is there. Follow this attractive path down to the first campsite. You are now near the top of the upper falls. Walking toward the falls you will find a fence blocking the high cliffs.
Walk back through the clearing near the fence and keep the river somewhat near on the left and you will find a faint path leading steeply downhill. Following this it will bring you to another camping spot on the right. A path leads to the camping spot, but also leads straight ahead and uphill. This is the path to the top of the bluffs. This area gets very dangerous and kids are not recommended past this point. As the slope goes up the river goes down and before you know it, you are a couple hundred vertical feet above the river.
You will first come to a fence that blocks much of the cliffs, but the fence is short and does not cover the entire path. The fence ends at a boulder. Past the boulder the path continues and this is where you will continue at your own risk. The cliffs are not sheltered, or gated, or blocked, or protected and neither are you. There is one flat shelf with grand views of the falls hundreds of feet below. The path does continue on, but it gets very faint and the payoffs are not worth the risk. The flat lookout is plenty far enough.
This is an out and back destination, you will need to retrace your steps back to the parking lot. Again, I cannot stress enough the dangers in this area but the region is much too amazing and unique to go unvisited. Just use common sense and caring while you are in the area.