Just downriver from Niagara Falls and up the Robert Moses Parkway you can enter a hiker’s wonderland at Whirlpool State Park.
The trail options from Whirlpool accommodate the casual walkers looking for panoramic views and the experienced hikers looking to do a little climbing. Whichever path you choose to follow, it’s a must to start at the scenic overlook just inside the park entrance to take in the vast beauty of where you are.
From there, head north to start your hike. If you have no interest in descending roughly 200 feet to the river base (remember you need to come back up), follow along the top of the gorge on the Rim Trail. It’s a nice, flat walk that looks down but doesn’t go down.
If you’re a little more adventurous (as we were), take the first set of stairs you find on your left. This may test your nerve as you negotiate your way down 325 old, somewhat crooked steps. But it sounds worse than it is, just take some caution heading down.
Be sure to stop a few times to observe the many unique rock formations and any initial glimpses of the Niagara River rapids. At the end of your journey down you’ll be at the beginning of the Whirlpool Rapids Trail and the end of the Devil’s Hole Trail. You can choose either.
The Whirlpool Rapids Trail is listed as difficult and could include some boulder hopping. We opted for the Devil’s Hole Trail and enjoyed some nice ups and downs.
These trails bring you within shouting distance to the crashing, class six rapids. And the closer you get, you’ll find no matter how loud you yell, the sound of the waves (or the jet engine powered boat) will win the shouting match.
To be amidst such natural beauty and to be so close to one of nature’s most powerful forces, you’ll feel small, possibly humbled and most certainly appreciative.
And the best part? You can do this all for free. All you need are some comfortable hiking shoes, snacks and water, and your camera. (Note, I’m assuming you know to wear more than just hiking shoes).