The wonders of Western New York don’t stop at the brink of the Falls. Just downstream from the world’s most famous waterfall, you’ll find several miles of hiking trails that take you deep into the heart of the magnificent Niagara Gorge, far from the viewing platforms, souvenir stands and easily accessed attractions that command the typical visitor’s attention.
The gorge requires some exertion, but for travelers who’ll enjoy a side of solitude and tranquility along with the legendary main course, it’s more than worth the effort. A note of caution: this hike is not for everyone. Only fit and nimble hikers who can adjust their stride to accommodate the many rocks, roots and irregularities along the trail should descend into the gorge.
From downtown Niagara Falls it’s a short (3 miles) drive north on the Robert Moses Parkway to Devil’s Hole State Park. Take a moment to enjoy the spectacular vista before descending the winding trail to the base of the gorge. As you walk upstream you’ll be struck by the ferocity of the current as the Niagara River makes its way to Lake Ontario. Step carefully and stay focused as you make your way along the edge of the river. There are no barriers or guardrails and at times the trail runs precariously close to some steep drop offs. You’ll be rewarded when you reach the Class Five rapids of the Niagara Whirlpool.
This stretch of unnavigable and untamed river is highlighted by striking rock formations, soaring canyon walls and, of course, the impressive tumult and turbulence of the river right at your feet. It’s hard to believe that you are only minutes by car from one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire world.
There are plenty of places to sit and just stare, but the savvy hiker will bring water and trail mix to refuel for the more challenging hike back. It’s a steep climb to the rim of the gorge and it’s best done via the Whirlpool State Park Trail. The newly restored staircase will take you to the topside trail and an easy yet breathtaking walk back to your car at Devil’s Hole State Park.
Congratulations, you are now a certified Buffalo Niagara insider!