Visiting Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks, New York
Ausable Chasm is one of the best attractions in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, Ausable Chasm is not to be missed when you are visiting Upstate New York! The chasm is 150 feet deep and offers a wide variety of activities for thrill-seekers and families as well. Throughout the park at Ausable Chasm, there are trails, opportunities to go rock climbing, and you can even ride in a raft through the chasm’s river. Ausable Chasm has been an attraction in Upstate New York from the late 1800s and it is still one of the best things to do in the Adirondack Mountains. If you are camping in the Adirondacks or staying in Lake Placid on a vacation, Ausable CHasm is the perfect way to spend a day doing something totally different!
Where is Ausable Chasm, NY?
Ausable Chasm is located along Lake Champlain, on the eastern border of New York State in the Adirondacks. If coming from Vermont, you can easily take the ferry across the lake into Port Kent, New York to visit Ausable Chasm. Otherwise if coming from any other direction, the chasm is located not far at all from the Northway (rt 87). Many people love to visit Ausable Chasm when they are in the Adirondacks vacationing. Ausable Chasm is less than an hour’s drive from Lake Placid which is a popular place to stay when you visit the Adirondacks. And if you are coming from New York City, you can expect a four and a half hour straight shot to Ausable Chasm which would make it an awesome weekend trip from NYC.
What to do at Ausable Chasm
Ausable Chasm hiking trails offer a few different options, making it a great place to visit as a family. The shortest trail you can take is only 1 mile, and if you chose to walk all the trails it would be 5 miles total. There are no strollers permitted in the chasm, so if you do have a child who isn’t yet walking, a carrier would be suggested which you can also rent at Ausable Chasm if you don’t bring one with you. There are plenty of options for hiking in Ausable Chasm for all ability levels, whether you would like a leisurely stroll, want to be up close to the chasm and river, or if you even want to be hanging off the edge of the chasm tied to a rope there is always that too – haha 🙂
Our family chose the trail that led you right along the edge of the rim, called the Inner Sanctum which was considered the “intermediate” level trail. We wanted to be able to experience the chasm and the river, but we weren’t quite ready to be hanging on by a rope. The trail was mostly shaded and offered some really awesome viewpoints throughout the walk. I will say that if you have a really severe fear of heights this trail may not be perfect for you as it does look down into the chasm.
We stopped at almost every viewpoint to take in the views, which consisted of Rainbow Falls, the river in the chasm, and the really awesome rock formations in the chasm walls. Ausable Chasm in the summer can be a very popular place so there were definitely some decent crowds starting to form when we were there. We did arrive early but still had lots of company on the trail as expected. Not only were there some really sweet views on the trail, but we also got to walk over some fun bridges throughout the hike.
There was an easier trail but did not give you the up-close experience like the Inner Sanctum Trail did, however, it would be ideal for someone with a fear of heights. There are two additional trail options, one is deeper into the woods and a more rugged trail, and the other trail is the Adventure Trail which is the most thrilling of them all. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to try the Adventure Trail out because at the time our kids were too small, but we loved watching the other adventure enthusiasts climb along the edge of the chasm with the raging river below. The Ausable Chasm Adventure Trail surely does look like a great experience and we hope to return when the kids are bigger so we can enjoy it too!
Rafting Trips/Tubing Tours
In addition to visiting Ausable Chasm from land, you can also get even closer and experience it on the water. There are two different options for getting on the water to ride through the chasm. And your two options will depend on the age/size of people in your group, and also the style of adventure you want to take! The first option is to do a rafting trip through the chasm river. This is what our family did because our youngest was not quite tall enough to ride in the tubes at the time. The rafting rides all begin at the conclusion of the trails in Ausable Chasm. When you get to the start of the raft ride you will likely have to wait in a line to get on the raft. We only waited less than 20 minutes or so, but we overheard from some people that the wait can get really long later in the day at the peak of the summer. So like I mentioned earlier – it is 100% worth it to arrive at Ausable Chasm early in the day, and pack sunscreen in case you are stuck in a line for a while. Most summer days they open at 9 am so ideally arriving before then would be smart!
Ausable Chasm provides you with a life jacket before you get on the raft and you just return it at the end of the ride. Each raft fits approximately 10 people – we had nine in ours but had room to spare. The ride is relatively slow, other than one part where you do get to go through some rapids and a small hill, but other than that it is mild but so much fun! The kids loved the rafting trip in Ausable Chasm and learned a ton about the chasm from our tour guide too.
The other option is the tubing tour, everyone gets their own individual tube to float down the river with. It is required that you have shoes on (not flip flops) and you can also expect to get very wet on this ride. But what a great way to spend a hot summer day staying cool on the river in the chasm! Along with a few other things we can’t wait to return to Ausable chasm to have this experience as a family.
If it is a hot summer day in Upstate New York, both the tubing and rafting tours will be an awesome way to cool off after the hike you took to get to the boat launch. You can also visit Ausable Chasm and just do the raft/tube ride, but the hike was really so beautiful I couldn’t imagine skipping it. Once you reach the end of the rafting or tubing tour, you will get out and you will have a few choices to getting back to the visitor center. You can choose to walk back and follow the trail, or there is also a shuttle that picks up visitors every few minutes and brings you directly to the visitor center, which is what we did mostly because my feet got soaked on the raft.
Rock Climbing and Rappelling
An even more unique way to experience Ausable Chasm on your visit is to rock climb on the chasm walls above the raging river. This activity is for people 13 years and older, but it is perfect for even someone who has never rock climbed before. You will get 90 minutes to rock climb in Ausable Chasm with your ticket, and there are courses for all different ability levels. In addition to rock climbing, you can also try rappelling which is also only available to those who are 13 years old or more. We obviously did not get to try these two activities out, but we did enjoy getting to see the others giving it a shot!
The Visitor Center
Back at the Visitor Center of Ausable Chasm, you can take in the view the Ausable River and Rainbow Falls. The visitor center also has a few options for food, a gift shop, and an informational mini-museum to learn more about the chasm. When you are visiting Ausable Chasm you really do have lots of options for activities to choose from, and one of the best parts is you can choose a ticket package that works best for your group when you go.
Our Review of Visiting Ausable Chasm
Overall we loved visiting Ausable Chasm, and honestly, it was one of the most unique experiences we have had in a while. I will say that it was incredibly busy by the time we left, but that is to be expected when you are visiting such a cool place in the busy season. While I do think it was loads of fun for our kids and a great place to visit with a family, I do think it would be even more fun if our kids had been bigger on our visit. But that to me just means we will need to make a return trip to do everything that we weren’t able to this time around.
Tips for Visiting Ausable Chasm
- Arrive early to beat the crowds if you are visiting in the summer or a holiday: find ticket prices here, but you can only purchase when you are on site
- Bring a change of shoes/clothes even if you are riding on the raft as you will get wet
- Wear comfortable sneakers for the hike, there are lots of rocky areas and steps as well
- Pack a lunch to enjoy at Ausable Chasm (there are not any good local restaurants to our knowledge)
- Plan to spend anywhere from 2 hours to the full day visiting – if you just do the hike and the rafting tour it will be only about 2-3 hours making it a perfect day trip when visiting Lake Placid in the summer
- Ausable Chasm is also a great day trip if you are visiting Burlington, VT, and adding in the fun ferry ride over Lake Champlain makes it even better!