Hamilton County is loaded with waterfalls and after the last few weeks of heavy rain those waterfalls are loaded with water and that opens up some serious opportunities for scenic hiking, and photography. While out exploring you can work on a popular hiking list called the Waterfall Challenge put on by Hamilton County as a way of rewarding those who visit them all. There are many and they do span the entire county, but what better way to see the entire region than by touring it by car and on foot? As I mentioned the water is flowing strong and there are many waterfalls to enjoy, but right now I would like to showcase 4 of my favorites.
Buttermilk Falls resides in the Town of Long Lake off the North Point Road, and even when the waters are low and gentle it offers a superior destination for relaxation and fun. This is possibly the most popular waterfall in Hamilton County - I'd say it's a close toss up between Buttermilk and OK Slip Falls.
From the trailhead parking you will only be required to hike a few hundred feet to the top of the falls and just a bit further to the base. Right now the buttermilk is flowing as heavy as I have ever seen it and I grew up in Long Lake. When the water is a bit lower and more gentle it makes for a popular swim hole and fishing destination. On hot days, sit on the rocks below the falls to experience a nice cooling effect from the mist blowing off the rocks as the water crashes upon them.
Death Falls (Secret Falls)
Death Falls got its name not because of a horrible tragedy, but because its cascades are part of Death Brook. Many locals have given the falls a different name: "Secret Falls," but the secret's out.
This 30-foot waterfall is very popular, especially to those staying at the Golden Beach Campground. Death Falls rests only about 0.25 miles away from Route 28, right across the road from some of the campsites at Golden Beach. As of this date no sign marks the easy, flat trail to the falls, but the DEC is in the process of changing that fact. Right now look for a state gate blocking an old forest road that follows along the south side of Death Brook. The trail leads to the base of the falls and a faint herd path leads to the top of the falls.
This waterfall is a new acquisition for the state and is now open to the public. The trail leading to the falls can be found off Route 28 just south of Indian Lake. This trail is possibly one of the more popular trails as of late in Hamilton County. Its ease of access and hiking conditions lends to its popularity and with the rocky slopes of the primitive area around it, makes for some dramatic photography.
The top of the falls can be seen from the trail with the best vistas of the day. A trail does continue down to cross OK Slip Brook where you can look back at the falls and into the gorge it feeds. This trail to the base is very slippery and should be done with care. As one of the longer hikes to a waterfall in Hamilton County, you should allow 4 hours round-trip to the top of falls and an additional hour to the base. Actually, just leave all-day to fully enjoy this hike.
This is a short hike to a wonderful waterfall along Old Route 8. This waterfall is more like a rapid cascading of water through a narrow gorge along a branch of the Sacandaga River. This trail which is called the "Austin Falls Walk" can be found east of Speculator along Route 30/8. Drive out of Speculator for 5 miles and look for a gated old bridge over Old Route 8, park here.
The trail crosses the bridge and follows the paved route to the left, trails lead to the right for additional hiking along the river. Not far up the trail you will start to see old guard rails as the slopes down to the river start to get very steep. Soon the rapids will come in and be seen from the road. A path will bring you to the shore of the river and upstream along the rapids. If the light is just right, the photographic opportunities can be outstanding.
Interested in more waterfalls in Hamilton County or maybe you want to partake in the Waterfall Challenge? Want to hike a couple of Hamilton County's rugged peaks, paddle a placid pond, or fish some of our famous rivers? Well, we can help you with that too. Meet you at the Falls!