Must-do Waterfall Hikes Along the Northville-Placid Trail

Must-do Waterfall Hikes Along the Northville-Placid Trail

Take a short hike to some scenic waterfalls along the famous Northville-Placid Trail

The Northville-Placid Trail (NPT), the Adirondack's very own historical long-distance trail, offers endless adventure opportunities to cascading waterfalls and fast-flowing brooks. It's this diversity of waterways along the trails entirety that make the NPT something special, from extensive lake and pond systems stretching across our largest Wilderness Areas, winding streams and rivers that connect many of the communities, and of course, waterfalls and flows! Many of these magical locations are within a short hike from where the NPT crosses roadways, making a day trip easy. Check out these three options for a day hike along the NPT, in celebration of its 100th anniversary!

A smaller waterfall cascading over blocky rocks

West Stony Creek Falls

While not a Niagara Falls sized flow, walking to West Stony Creek Falls can be a good way to spend a day on a quieter trail that leads to a small, peaceful falls. The walk, which is just under 1.5 miles one-way, doesn’t gain much elevation, making it a perfect mix of ease and adventure for a family outing. The blocky rocks next to the flow can be lovely spots to bask in the warm sun and dip your feet in the water. Combine this hike with a trip to Hamilton County for the Adirondack Boreal Birding Festival! Short hikes like this let you slow down and listen to what's around you, and this particular area has some great opportunities for hearing owls in the early morning hours, various kinds of raptors throughout the day, and some of our common songbird species. 

Buckhorn Lake Outlet

The hike into this waterfall, an outlet of Buckhorn Lake, follows along the NPT for its entirety, and is just over a mile one-way with a slight elevation gain as you travel toward the falls. After following blue-blazed trail markers on the trail for 1.3 miles, you arrive at a wooden foot bridge. Look right and you’ll see the top of the cascade about 25 feet downstream. Paths on both sides lead to the bottom of the falls. If you follow the creek upstream from the wooden foot bridge, you will be able to get a scenic view of Buckhorn Lake, which is known to sometimes host nesting loons! The hike into Buckhorn is a great area for birding, owing to the surrounding low-lying boggy habitats that hold lots of boreal bird species. Although this is a shorter, easier hike, it gives you time to stop in the nearby Oxbow Inn for lunch, and maybe even another short hike?

A large flow of water over small rocks

Cold Brook Falls, and the West Branch of the Sacandaga River 

The more difficult hike of the trio, this trip will lead you to the West Branch Gorge, which should be visited when water levels are lower. The West Branch of the Sacandaga River cascades through a narrow ribbon of rock among a steep canyon, and can be reached a couple ways, the shortest being from the end of West River Road in the Silver Lake Wilderness Area. Because this hike can be a bit difficult at times to follow, you’ll want to prepare by picking up the relevant map for this area, bringing a buddy, and doing prior research. A good resource for this waterfall, as well as the other two above, is the Adirondack Experience Waterfall Challenge brochure, which has driving directions, trail descriptions, and key statistics for each hike. 

A banner for the NPT100 celebration


It’s the Northville-Placid Trail’s 100th birthday! What better way to celebrate it than by going on a hike and visiting some scenic and pretty waterfalls, all on the NPT? Whether you’ve never gotten the chance to hike any of it, or have thru-hiked the famous trail a few times, you won’t want to miss any of this year’s NPT celebrations. Be it in the town of Northville at the trail’s southern terminus, in Blue Mountain Lake at the trail’s heart, or up in Lake Placid at the trail’s northern terminus, there’s an NPT-themed event that will excite you! Let’s all come together to celebrate a key piece of what makes the Adirondack Park a special place!

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