Monday, June 1, 2020

Chasing Waterfalls on the South Branch Grass River

May 29th is my birthday.  Most years I attempt to spend it outdoors.  This year a stormy forecast made it difficult to plan a day outdoors.  By mid morning the weather hadn't turned for the worst yet and Puma tried to come up with ideas to spend the day outside with little planning.  She asked if there was a waterfall we could maybe visit.  That reminded my of a possible trip I stumbled across a couple months earlier.

A few minutes later I found our outing of the day.  Just north of Cranberry Lake, New York, a series of waterfalls plunge along a short distance of the South Branch Grass River tucked away in the northwest corner of the Adirondacks.  None of the waterfalls require too much effort to reach.  This made the trip more appealing since heavy rain in the forecast kept me from planning anything deeper in the backcountry.  Within a half hour Puma and I packed a lunch and were on our way.  Before making it the 30 miles to Cranberry Lake, we already passed through heavy downpours.  

About a mile from Cranberry Lake, the trip began on Tooley Pond Road.  The first stop of the day brought us to Copper Rock Falls.  The rain mostly let up by the time we began our first short hike of the day.  A tiny drainage of flowing water between the road and the start of the trail showed plenty of movement.  Numerous frogs leapt as we crossed the drainage.  The trail itself travels through a pleasant forest that smelled wonderful after the rainfall.  Where the trail reaches the river, numerous small drops on the river provide pretty scenery.  

One of several frogs near the trailhead 

Nice Trail

Small drop at Copper Rock Falls

Nice slide

One of many small drops at Copper Rock Falls

Another drop

Copper Rock Falls had the most separate drops 
Looking down river

After taking some photos and enjoying the views we were about to return back to the car.  I saw the trail continued and decided to follow it upstream.  Within a few minutes I heard a loud roar.  A larger waterfall gushed down the rocks in a narrow gorge.  I assume this is the true Copper Rock Falls

The roundtrip hike to Copper Rock Falls travels roughly a mile on a marked trail.  After the fresh rain, the area was somewhat slippery.  With extremely humid air and the time of year we traveled, the mosquitoes and black flies made there presence known.

The main falls at Copper Rock Falls

A few miles up the road we reached our next waterfall.  Accessed by a 1/4 mile hike or so, Rainbow Falls may be the most impressive falls of the day.  Rainbow Falls sits in a narrow canyon with a sheer drop.  The high volume drop creates mist.  I'm guessing on a sunny day, this mist creates a rainbow, giving the falls its name.  The canyon continues below the falls.  Rainbow Falls is quite wild and picturesque with quite a thunderous roar.  Given its position in a canyon, you can't quite get to the bottom of the falls, but a trail follows the top of the canyon giving an impressive vantage from several points.

Looking down the canyon from the top of Rainbow Falls

Rapids just before the drop

Rainbow Falls

Red Eft

The next waterfall along the road is Twin Falls.  We had difficulty finding this and there wasn't an obvious path to the river at this point.  I bushwhacked to the river to a pair of small rapid falls with deep holes below either drop.  I wasn't necessarily impressed after the previous stops and quickly moved on.

What I thought was Twin Falls

Just down the road, a signed trailhead marks the trail to the next stop, Sinclair Falls.  The falls is reached by a short but rough trail.  Sinclair Falls is said to be the most mellow of the falls in this stretch of river.  The river bends below the falls making them difficult to photograph.

Sinclair Falls

A wider view of Sinclair Falls
Neat fungus

Not too far down the road we started our next hike for Basford Falls.  Basford Falls probably has the longest access among the falls along the river.  The somewhat hilly trail travels about 1/2 mile before reaching the river.  While Basford may not be the most dramatic of the waterfalls, it was both Puma and my favorite.  The river drops in a couple stages but settles in a large hole at the bottom.  In the sweltering humidity, we took the opportunity to take a swim in the hole below the falls.

Next to the falls are smooth, slabby rocks that offer plenty of room to lounge along the water as well.  In the deep hole we could see large fish swimming as well as numerous smaller fish in the shallows.  We spent the longest time at Basford compared to any of the other stops.

Basford Falls with nice rock beach

Tree growing from rock in middle of the river

Part of Basford Falls

The upper drop of Basford

Notice the smooth rocky area by the falls

The final stop of the day actually lies on the main branch of the Grass River a few miles away.  Lampson Falls stands as the largest waterfall on our agenda.  Because its access sits along a busier road, it also sees more people.  It was the only other waterfall of the day that we saw anyone else.

Lampson Falls is accessed at a DEC Parking lot by a 1/2 mile trail.  The trail actually offers ADA access, so the terrain stays flat.  The easy trail ends at a viewing area at mid waterfall level.  Various trails lead to a small rocky area below the falls with a good look at the entire drop.

Lampson Falls Trailhead

Upper drop of Lampson Falls

The full drop 

Lampson Falls is by far the largest and most voluminous waterfall of the day.  Despite this, the area feels less wild and almost like a tourist attraction with its easy access from a somewhat busy road.  We both appreciated the wilder feel of the other waterfalls.

One of the upper drops

Close up of the upper drop

Several frogs swam in the vernal pools near Lampson

We returned to Cranberry Lake by retracing our route on Tooley Pond Road.  While traveling back we noticed a large waterfall we missed directly along the road.  This was the real Twin Falls.  Traveling the opposite direction on our way through, the waterfall was hidden.  Now traveling in reverse, the waterfall was hard to miss.  This waterfall is much more impressive than the little drops I mistakenly thought were Twin Falls.  Although I didn't know it at the time, A second waterfall drops on the other side of an island out of sight.  This is the second twin and a larger falls.

The real Twin Falls

Twin Falls

If you are looking to get a nature fix without a ton of effort, this trip may be a good option.  Visiting all the waterfalls requires only 3-4 miles of hiking.  Most of the falls offer a nice place to relax and enjoy the sound of crashing water.  We visited the area on a weekday and saw very few people on Tooley Pond Road.  We had all the waterfalls to ourselves beside Lampson.  We also saw a fair amount of wildlife.  We saw numerous turkeys, including one with young, a great blue heron, grouse with young, and numerous amphibians.  And despite the questionable weather, we only saw a brief showers during our outing.  The worst of the rain ended before we started our first hike and didn't pick up again until our drive home.  This was a nice way to spend my birthday.  It isn't often Puma goes with me on my longer hikes, so it was nice to enjoy a day in the forest with her.

Rainbow Falls

Finding the falls may be difficult without some sort of reference.  Most of the signage along the road is minimal and easy to miss.  I recommend the link: Cranberry Lake Waterfall Tour as a good place to start.

If you enjoyed this post, check out and "LIKE" Tomcats Outdoor Adventures on Facebook where I post photos more frequently and revisit past adventures.

No comments:

Post a Comment