Hiking New York: OK Slip Falls in the Adirondacks

As awesome as it is to spend hours and hours on the trail in the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places on earth, sometimes, that kind of time isn't available. On a recent trip there from our home Philadelphia, my fiance and I needed a hike we could do in three hours or less, and located close to where we planned to meet our parents for a weekend getaway.

Not a bad spot to spend a spring afternoon!

Since everyone loves waterfalls, my fiance and I included, I researched waterfall hikes in the Central Adirondacks, and found OK Slip Falls. The waterfall had been closed to the public for over a century, and in 2013, the state of New York purchased a land tract in the newly created Hudson Gorge Wilderness from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. A new trail was then opened to OK Slip Falls in 2014, allowing access to the 250-foot cascade.

Getting to the Trailhead

Typing "OK Slip Falls Trailhead" into Google Maps gets you a direct link to the trailhead itself, located here. But the parking lot is just up NY 28 here. To get to the trailhead, hikers need to park in the lot and walk along NY 28. I recommend walking on a well-worn path on the south side of NY 28, then crossing when the trail sign comes into view on the other side. It's a long straight stretch of road, making it easy to see oncoming cars, but it's still a road with a 55mph speed limit; cross with caution.

Hiking to OK Slip Falls (6.4 Miles, Very Little Elevation Gain)

We arrived and parked in the parking lot around 11:30am on a Saturday after a 5:30am departure time from Philadelphia. There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot, but on our way back from the falls, we saw at least a dozen other hikers and arrived to a completely full parking lot.

The first junction 0.7 miles into the hike. As per usual in the Adirondacks, signage was great on this trail.

After walking 0.2 miles along NY 28, we crossed the road to the trailhead. I didn't initially see the sign across the road, but luckily, my fiance did, and we backtracked to the right spot. The trail sign reads 3.0 miles to OK Slip Falls, but hikers can also access Ross, Whortleberry, and Big Bad Luck Ponds. (Best names ever in this section of the Adirondacks, am I right?) 

We dropped down off the shoulder of NY 28 and into the woods on a muddy section of trail. We both had waterproof boots on, as "wet" and "muddy" are both expected characteristics of trails in the Adirondacks this time of year. 

Trail conditions were characteristic of the area, and a little less rocky than I expected! (PC: D. Herscovitch)

The first 0.7-0.8 miles covers an older trail with red blazes, and we wound through muddy, boggy sections, over perfectly laid wooden planks, and over tree root after tree root. A clearly marked junction directed us to OK Slip Falls with 2.3 miles to go, and the blazes changed from red to blue.

The trail covered more of the same gently rolling terrain through old forest and past a mostly dried up beaver pond. We noticed a tree nearly two feet in diameter that a beaver tried to chop through, and gave up, just standing there halfway gnawed into falling over. 

Taking a break at the nearly drained beaver pond.

We followed it another 1.4 miles to an old dirt road, which leads to the private Northern Frontier Camp. Hikers walk a few hundred feet up the road before turning right back into the woods and on the blue blazed trail. From here, we had 0.9 miles to go on an old overgrown road, which meant we could walk side by side. Eventually, two short, steep switchbacks dropped us down a slope and toward the OK Slip Falls lookout.

The view of the 250-foot cascade plummeting off a sheer cliff, slicing through an otherwise uninterrupted landscape of evergreens and deciduous trees yet to sprout leaves for the season, was spectacular. 

Absolutely worth the 6-mile round trip hike.

We could see a good bit of snow still hiding near the base of the falls, and proceeded to a second overlook a bit down the trail before reaching a rope with a sign reading "closed." This informal trail has evidently been closed for a while to protect the landscape, and to keep people from falling into the gorge.

Though we were too short on time to extend our hike another two miles, after heading back up from the overlooks, there's another section of the blue blazed trail leading toward the top of the falls and the Hudson River. I'd love to make a trip back to explore that section, and will update this trip report when I do!

Balance is key when you're traversing trails in the Adirondacks in May. One wrong move and you're soaked! (PC: D. Herscovitch)

Instead of an extension of our hike, we retraced our steps back to the car, arriving exactly on time to meet our parents at Garnet Hill Lodge for a weekend getaway.

Things to Know Before You Go

Getting to this trail and the trail itself is generally straightforward, but when we got back, the parking lot was full. Plan to arrive on the earlier side if you can. Wear waterproof shoes for the muddier sections, especially if you're hiking in the spring, and if you're there between Mother's Day and the end of June, expect to contend with black flies. 

When you get to the overlooks, heed the closed trail warnings and stay away from the edge. It's beautiful, but the cliffs are steep and dangerous. When you're done, stop at Beck's or Basil &Wick's for a meal, and if you need a place to stay nearby, Garnet Hill Lodge is lovely.

Prior to this trip, I hadn't even heard of OK Slip Falls. Who's been there? Think you'd want to go? Leave a comment!