September 24, 2017 – Ausable Chasm, NY
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Length: Approximately 3.5 miles
Max elevation: 341 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 690 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Map: Displayed below and issued with admission to the park.
Trailhead parking: 2144 U.S. 9, Ausable Chasm, NY 12911
Admission fee: Rates vary
Ausable Chasm is a sandstone gorge located near Keeseville, New York. The Ausable River runs through it and then empties into Lake Champlain. The gorge is about two miles long and is a tourist attraction in the Adirondacks region of Upstate New York. It is also the oldest natural attraction in the United States (est. 1870).
It is fed at the south end by 91-foot-tall Rainbow Falls.
There is a dam upstream from Rainbow Falls, operated by the New York State Gas and Electric Company.
There are several tour packages depending on what activities you prefer. Activities include: hiking, rafting or tubing through the gorge, rappelling, rock climbing, mountain biking and more. Ausable Chasm also has a campground and motel on the grounds with a pool, playgrounds, shuffleboard and basketball court.
We decided to just do the self-guided hike so we could wander through the park at our own pace and without a crowd. After paying the entrance fee, we headed south along the gorge to view the falls and the dam. We then walked north, under the bridge and through a turnstile to a short spur trail that leads to a view of Elephant’s Head, one of their more notable rock formations.
Retracing our steps, we passed back through the turnstile and crossed the AuSable Chasm Bridge, that carries US 9 over the Ausable River. It was built in 1932-1933.
After showing our wristbands at the gatehouse, we walked to a viewpoint over the AuSable Chasm Bridge. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
We hiked the Inner Sanctum Trail, a 1-mile route that goes down into the heart of the gorge, and past features known at Pulpit Rock, Elephant’s Head, Devil’s Oven, Mystic Gorge, Column Rock and Hyde’s Cave.
Looking down into the gorge from the Inner Sanctum Trail.
Looking downstream into the gorge from the Inner Sanctum Trail.
The trail is moderate with lots of carved-rock and wooden steps.
The rocks may be wet and slick at times. I encountered some shaky railings in certain spots and would not recommend leaning on them.
Much of the trail is on ledges above the narrow and fast-flowing river with sheer rock on both sides and above you. There are several suspension foot bridges that carry the trail through the gorge.
The 2-mile Rim Walk Trail is the easiest route and follows the upper lip of the gorge through a forest. It is mostly a wood-chip path with picnic tables along the way.
The Adventure Trail is the toughest route that includes a cable course with traverses, bridges, cargo net climbs and edge walks.
The Dry Chasm Trail covers 1.5 miles in two sections. It travels through ancient riverbeds. We did not go on this trail because it was swampy and buggy on the day that we visited.
There are several shuttle stops which can be used to return to the center of the park instead of walking. We decided to walk back and turn our hike into a semi-loop. On the way back I spotted a couple of Garter Snakes along the trail.
We did an approximately 3.5 mile hike on our visit. We saw most if not all of the points of interests. Ausable Chasm is one of those places that you read about and just want to visit. We got there early on a Sunday morning, just after it opened. Just early enough to beat the crowds. On our way out we passed by a lot of people just arriving. The drive to and fro is quite scenic as well.
Pros: Very scenic, Lots of different activities available, great for kids.
Cons: Some of the railings are a little shaky, gets crowded. admission fee.