It’s a gloomy Saturday morning with rain in the forecast, but we’re determined to see OK Slip Falls. When we sign the register, we learn we are not alone: four other parties have preceded us on the trail to the tallest waterfall in the Adirondacks.
Added to the Forest Preserve last year, OK Slip Falls has become a popular destination since the state Department of Environmental Conservation opened a trail this year. Long owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company, the waterfall had been closed to the public for a century before the state bought it from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. As a result of the acquisition, the falls and other state lands in the vicinity are part of the recently created Hudson Gorge Wilderness.
The hike to the falls is fairly easy: a three-mile walk through a handsome forest, with hardly any elevation gain, leads to an overlook with a spectacular view of the 250-foot cascade. Those seeking a harder challenge can extend the outing by hiking a mile or so from the falls to the Hudson River, a side trip that will require a steep climb on the return.
Carol Fox and I did both trails on Saturday, for a round-trip hike of eight miles. Even in the rain, we had a great time. (Actually, the forest canopy kept us relatively dry.)
The hike begins on the north side of Route 28 between the hamlets of North River and Indian Lake. At first you follow an older trail, marked by red disks, that leads to Ross Pond. There is a muddy section near the start, but otherwise this trail is an easy stroll.
At 0.8 miles, you arrive at a junction with the new trail. Turn right and follow blue markers. At 1.6 miles, after crossing a stream and passing through a hemlock grove, you reach an old beaver pond that has largely drained.
At 2.2 miles, the trail comes to a dirt road, which leads to Northern Frontier Camp, a woodsy retreat for boys on OK Slip Pond. Turn left and walk 250 feet to a trail sign, then turn right to continue to the falls. The trail follows an old woods road for a little more than a half-mile, then veers left onto a footpath. Follow the path a quarter-mile to the overlook.
Actually, there are two overlooks about seventy-five feet apart. The first offers the better view: looking across the gorge, you watch as OK Slip Brook slides off a bedrock ledge, plummeting amid evergreens in a silver ribbon. Be careful near the edge of the overlook as the drop is long and precipitous.
The spur trail to the river begins just before the overlook. It too is marked by blue disks. Shortly after getting on this trail, bear right at a junction and descend to a footbridge over OK Slip Brook. From here you can watch the stream as it disappears over the ledge at the top of the falls.
From the bridge the trail ascends to a height of land. As you climb, look to the right to see the overlook cliff across the gorge. The descent to the river is gradual at first but becomes steep toward the end. You end up at a large campsite near the mouth of OK Slip Brook, just upstream from OK Slip Rapids. There is a nice swimming beach nearby.
On the day of our hike, Carol and I watched several whitewater rafts drift past. Coincidentally, the next day we took a rafting trip ourselves and stopped at the same beach.
It’s possible to do the hike and a raft trip in the same day. Square Eddy Expeditions will pick you up on the Hudson at the end of the trail and row you through six rapids en route to the takeout in the hamlet of North River. That might be the only way to top a hike to OK Slip Falls.
Look for another article on OK Slip Falls in the November-December issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.
Photos by Phil Brown: (1) Carol Fox at the OK Slip Falls overlook; (2) OK Slip Brook just before it plummets into the gorge; (3) Carol Fox on the bridge over OK Slip Brook.
DIRECTIONS: If coming from the east, drive west on NY 28 about 10 miles past the first turn for North Creek and look for a parking area on the left side of the highway (a sign about a quarter-mile beforehand lets you know the parking area is coming up). If coming from the west, the parking area will be on the right 7.6 miles past the NY 28/NY30 junction in Indian Lake. From the parking area, you walk west along the highway for a third of a mile. The trail is on the opposite side of the road.