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Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

Adirondacks, New York

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Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

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  • A steep portion of the East River Trail.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • The East Branch of the Ausable River.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • Hiking to Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • An inviting place to dip the toes in the East Branch Ausable River.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • A sheer cliff face looms behind the foliage.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • East Branch Ausable River.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • The bridge and dam just below Lower Ausable Lake.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • The dam impounding Lower Ausable Lake.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • Small waterfalls as the trail nears Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • First glimpses of Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • The base of Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • Beautiful textured walls in the box canyon.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • Lush vegetation at the base of the falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • Looking up at Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
  • - Rainbow Falls on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful views. Well maintained trail. Other adventures nearby.
Cons: 
Some restrictions in access.
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Region:
Adirondacks, NY
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,017.00 ft (309.98 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
9.40 mi (15.13 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,155.00 ft (352.04 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

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Rainbow Falls is simply magical. Plummeting from the airy heights of the Great Range in the Adirondack Mountains, Cascade Brook has etched away at the heart of the High Peaks to form a miniature box canyon so narrow that it rarely sees complete sun. What results is a stunningly beautiful micro-ecosystem and one of nature’s most impressive and refreshing natural showers.

The one downside to Rainbow Falls is its location. Situated squarely on Adirondack Mountain Reserve land, there are a few prickly points hikers must be aware of when accessing the falls. First, dogs are strictly forbidden on AMR land, leash or not. Secondly, despite the well maintained dirt road that parallels the East Branch Ausable River all the way to Lower Ausable Lake, non-members are restricted to foot traffic only. That being said, it is great that non-members are able to access any of the hikes on AMR at all.

From the St. Huberts parking area and trailhead, hikers will follow a paved road for 0.5 miles and parallel a golf course some of the way. At the tennis courts, turn left onto Lake Road Way to reach the gated dirt road and trail register. From here, a handful of trails parallel the Lake Road to Ausable Lake, where the spur to Rainbow Falls begins.

While following the Lake Road all the way up is the most direct route, the East River Trail allows hikers to avoid the constant bus and truck traffic of the road and enjoy the surrounding forest. The trail parallels the East Branch of the Ausable River, rising and following gradually. A few openings in the trail provide excellent views up and downstream as well as access to the river itself, which is cool and inviting.

Roughly 3.3 miles up the East River Trail a bridge spans the river just below a moderately sized dam that creates Lower Ausable Lake. Follow the bridge and signs for Rainbow Falls. The trail begins climbing steeply at first, but it quickly levels and begins paralleling the trickling Cascade Brook. As hikers approach the falls, the trail weaves closer to the brook, along vertical rock walls and over small boulders. An early view of the falls will likely leave even the most seasoned of hikers hustling up the trail to get a better look.

The rest of the world falls away once you reach the base of the falls. The sky is enclosed by dark rock walls, and the air is filled with mist and a hissing of falling water. Lush green vegetation lines the left wall, while jumbled chunks of boulders slowly erode directly below the falls. Refresh yourself with a dip below the chilly curtain, or enjoy from afar. Either way, Rainbow Falls is worth the hike.

For those seeking bonus views, the access trail to Indian Head and Fishhawk Cliffs is directly across the Lake Road from the bridge to Rainbow Falls.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(6 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(54 within a 30 mile radius)

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