Hiking Ausable Chasm – USA’s Oldest Natural Attraction

Also known as “the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks”, Ausable Chasm is one of the USA’s most beautiful sights, and is also the country’s oldest natural attraction.

Ausable Chasm opened its doors to the public back in 1870, and since then visitors from all over the US, Canada, and the world have come here to admire the beautiful Rainbow Falls and its amazing surroundings.

In addition, Ausable Chasm is only a 45 minute ride from the Canada-USA border, and only an hour and a half away from Montreal. Knowing this, it took very little convincing for us to hop in the car and cross the border for one of the most beautiful hiking parks in the USA.

Before even entering the park, we were greeted by the area’s most amazing sight, Rainbow Falls.

The thunderous Rainbow Falls can be seen from the bridge just outside of the main entrance of the park. The falls are about 91 meters high, and the power of the falls is regulated by the hydro facility near them. Meaning that on certain days the roaring of the falls might be lesser than on others. However you are always guaranteed to see the beautiful falls and the landscape of Ausable chasm.

Hiking in Ausable Chasm

The visitor center is inside an old wooden-cabin style lodge, which is also linked to the site’s restaurant and shop. At the reception we were able to see the different options for experiencing the canyon that the park offered. From a normal hike to a most adventurous option of repelling, climbing and ziplining through the canyon, to the most relaxed option of tubing down the calmest part of Ausable River.

The hike starts right outside of the visitor center towards a first viewpoint called Elephant’s Head which is located on the other side of the bridge. From then on, we had the option of choosing our trail, from a very easy hike on top of the chasm, to the most difficult hike requiring to go a bit far from the river.

We opted to hike the semi-difficult trail, which also happens to be the most beautiful trail of the ones offered. The trail goes down to about half of the chasm and continues besides the river providing beautiful views of the canyon walls.

The views provided by this trail are indeed gorgeous. Being surrounded by the giant walls of the inside of the chasm while the sounds of the river flowing below us gave us such a gratifying and liberating feeling. Just as kids discovering nature for the first time, we couldn’t help ourselves but to try to climb some of the easiest parts of the inner walls whenever there was a chance for it.

From our trail we could also see the visitors who opted to do the Adventure Trail as well as the route. Throughout the trail we saw people rock climbing through a via ferrata, passing through suspended rope bridges and more. While the trail did not seem that difficult from where we were (our hiking trail was higher than theirs), I’d say that you still need to be in good physical shape to do this one.

(For a more difficult climb see my post on Quebec City).


At the end of the trail we had the option of continuing to hike through either the easy trail or the difficult trail, or to call it a day and walk to the first free bus stop to take us back to the starting point. Of course we opted to continue on and join the trail to the difficult path.

This path proves to be a bit more challenging, however it is by no means an impossible feat nor does it require much hiking experience to do, but only a little bit of vigilance and attention where you’re walking.

The path goes down towards one of the dry chasms, an old chasm which has dried throughout the years and can now be accessed by foot. The views from underneath towards the top are surreal, the air is much cooler underneath as well, giving the impression of having completely stepped into a totally different ecosystem.

The trail ends at the second bus stop, where we took the bus back to the visitor center, but not before admiring some of the best views of the Ausable River and those enjoying the calm tubing activity.

Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks

The trails were, however, particularly short. Completing both the medium-difficulty and the end of the difficult trail took only about 2 hours to walk from start to end. Also, I found the price to get into the park to be steep ($18 USD per person), and the prices for the other activities as well (check them out on the park’s website here).

There are certainly cheaper options out there in the Adirondacks area, however I still recommend looking into spending a day walking the trails and picnicking at Aussable Chasm in the Adirondacks as it is the most affordable option.

Are there any other hiking trails near the Adirondacks you’d recommend? What is your favorite hiking trail of all in your home country?

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