The Whetstone Gulf Rim Trail is a moderate day hike that circumnavigates the 3-mile-long gorge that cuts through the Tug Hill Plateau's Eastern Slope. At times the gorge reaches depths of 380 feet, with occasional waterfalls plummeting from its rim. The 5.6-mile loop trail can be accessed at either end of the gorge, though most people couple their trip with a visit to the Whetstone Gulf State Park and swimming hole.
Starting from the trailhead just inside the park, hikers typically begin by crossing the footbridge and turning left up the North Rim Trail. The North Rim Trail climbs steeply at first, but it quickly levels off into a more gradual climb through open hardwood forest. The left side of the trail drops steeply into the gorge, where you may catch glimpses of other visitors enjoying the picnic areas along the the gorge floor.
Shortly after the hardwoods are replaced by tall pines, an excellent overlook of the gorge appears. The shale and silstone walls rise vertically, sometimes creating dramatic fins that stretch out into the gorge. Continuing west along the trail, the forest closes in once more with occasional glimpses of waterfalls as the gorge stairsteps closer to the rim. Finally you will reach the Corrigan Road, an alternative access point to the trail. Follow the road for roughly 100 feet across the bridge over Whetstone Creek and start down the South Rim Trail.
Though initially the trail is often muddy, it cleans up quickly, and an excellent view of the gorge's first waterfall is available on a side trail bearing to the left. The gorge walls are only about 20 feet apart here. Continue down the South Rim Trail to reach one of the most spectacular views in the park. A break in the trees provides a great view back to the west, with a prominent shale ridge cutting into the gorge.
The trail splits once again just before it begins descending back to the picnic area and trailhead, Hikers who continue straight down into a steep gully and up the other side will reach an overlook that provides an expansive vista into the Black River Valley and the Adirondack Foothills beyond.
To reach the trailhead, follow the South Rim Trail by returning to the junction and following the signs for the picnic area. The trail will descend steeply and steadily all the way to the gorge floor, and the trailhead will be across the road from you.
During hunting season, be sure to wear bright clothing because hunting is permitted in the upper portion of the loop. In the winter, this trail is a great cross-country skiing route for experienced skiers.