Continuing our honeymoon posts, today we’re talking (or mostly just looking at pretty pictures of) Ausable Chasm. This isn’t technically located in Lake Placid, but was nearby enough to take a trip over there. Since it meant a 40 mile drive through the mountains, we thought we’d make the trip worth it and visited another couple of places nearby including Rulf’s Orchard (where we got THE best apple juice), the Champlain Centre at Plattsburgh (we needed some shopping time!) and the Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area on the shores of Lake Champlain.
Ausable Chasm is known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks. Before I go into more detail though, can someone tell me how to correctly pronounce it?! My head says “aw-sable” but I’ve seen others say it’s more like “ow-sable”. I was hoping the person on the desk when we bought tickets might say it so I would know for definite, but they didn’t! Anyway, speaking of which, the adult admission price to the chasm was $17.95 each, which is a fairly steep price really I’d say, but does give you full day access to the site. There are additional options such as the adventure trail, which we spotted as we walked around, and float tours down the river which were actually closed while we were there due to the water capacity at the time – not that we planned to do it anyway!
See more of our Lake Placid honeymoon posts here:
The chasm was discovered in 1765, and since 1870, over 10 million visitors have come from far and wide to visit it. The gorge itself is around 1 mile long, carved into 500 million year old sandstone around 10,000 years ago, around the end of the ice age that formed the Adirondacks. The journal from William Gilliland, discoverer of the gorge, describes the spectacular sight very well:
“It is a most admirable sight, appearing on each side like a regular built wall, somewhat ruinated, and one would think that this prodigious clift was occasioned by an earthquake, their height on each side is from 40 to 100 feet in the different places.”
Today it’s visited by tourists looking to explore a new landscape, starting at the Rainbow Falls, a segmented 91 foot tall waterfall where the welcome center is located. This can be viewed from the road bridge that crosses the gorge without needing to pay the price for admission, and you do get some views down the rest of the gorge looking the other way from here, but to really see and understand the natural splendour of the chasm, you do need to pay that admission and put your sturdy shoes on.
From the welcome center, you are directed over the road bridge then through a gateway where tickets are checked. There are 4 different trail options to follow, ranging from the Rim Walk, which is the easiest route and skirts along the top of the chasm through gentle woodland, to the Cave and Falls Hike – I believe you need to take a tour to follow this one, like the Adventure Trails. We started off on the Rim Walk, then dropped down onto the Inner Sanctum trail – an “intermediate” trail that takes guests down into the depths of the gorge and allows you to see formations such as the Devil’s Oven and Elephant’s Head up close.
I would highly recommend taking the Inner Sanctum trail if you’re physically able. I won’t lie, there were a lot of steps, particularly at the end, but if you take it slow (and remember, I was 17 weeks pregnant here!) then it’s definitely worth it. This trail was far quieter than the Rim Trail – in fact, I don’t think we passed anyone else on it – and was very interesting to walk. There were points where the trail was carved into the edges of the chasm so it was narrow and rocky, then other points where sturdy walkways and bridges crossed gaps in the rocks. It meant you got an up close and personal look at the gorge and could really see quite how spectacular it was. The Adventure Trail will get you even closer to the gorge and river, but this wasn’t on the cards for us that day!
We debated over continuing the wall along the Dry Chasm Trail (which was marked as “more difficult”), but the day was very warm and humid (crazy for NY state, especially considering we’d just come from hot and humid Florida!) and we had other things to be on with that day, so we caught the shuttle bus back to the welcome center. There was a little shelter we sat in out of the sun and the bus nearly missed it since we were the only ones there – it had to turn around and come back when we emerged from the shelter looking confused at the sound of the bus driving away! We had our picnic lunch back at the car park at the welcome center before moving on to the rest of the day’s activities.
All in all, a good morning out that gave you a fantastic view of NY state’s natural beauty and splendour, while also being a good bit of exercise too! I’d highly recommend it, but make sure you spend a bit of time there to make your admission price worth it.
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