Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Top Ten Frozen Waterfalls in New York State (and a bonus Ice Volcano)

by Mike Radomski


New York is home to over 600 waterfalls. We have so many waterfalls that we have a New York State Waterfalls Challenge to visit 100 waterfalls throughout the state. Most people visit NY’s waterfalls in the summer.  Most people are missing out on half their beauty.

Winter is one of the best times to see NY’s waterfalls.  Seeing them frozen in the winter only adds to their mystique and majesty.  It will make you feel like you walked into a scene from Frozen. 

New York weather can be a bit unpredictable in the winter. One day it will be in teens, the next it will be in the 50’s. This can make seeing frozen waterfalls tricky. 

My suggestion is to look up their locations or hashtags on Instagram to see the current status.  I also suggest following John Kucko on Facebook and Instagram.  John is very active on social media, taking near-realtime videos and pictures from around NYS. Another great resource for NYS Waterfalls is

Here are ten of our favorite frozen waterfalls in New York.  

1. Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls Image Source: @OutsideChronicles

The Eternal Flame Falls is a 35ft high cascade located at Chestnut Ridge Park located in Orchard Park, NY.  The Eternal Flame is found in a grotto on the lower third of the waterfall. The actual flame varies from 3-9″ depending on the natural gas pressure. A portion of the waterfall drapes over the grotto giving it a magical effect. The waterfalls are frozen in the winter giving the Eternal Flame a perfect contrast of fire and ice.

2. Letchworth Upper/Middle/Lower Falls plus Ice Volcano

Upper Left-Middle Falls, Lower Left-Upper Falls, Right-Ice Volcano Image Source @JohnKuckoDigital

Letchworth State Park is called the “Grand Canyon of the East” and features 3 waterfalls on the Genesee River.  The Lower Falls is 70ft tall and is best scene from a stone footbridge spanning the river.  The Middle Falls is the largest and highest falls at 107ft.  The Upper Falls is a 70ft horseshoe cascade.

In addition to the majestic waterfalls, the park features an Ice Volcano.  The Volcano forms from a gravity fountain that never shuts off. When temperatures drop, it forms this unique frozen feature that can reach up to 5 stories high.

3. Hector Falls

Hector Falls Image Source: @katieonthebluff
Hector Falls is a series of cascades reaching over 250ft with the main cascade measured at 165ft. The cascades fan out as it approaches Seneca Lake.

4. Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls Image Source: @noahjohnson2520

Located in Buttermilk Falls State Park, The main falls is 165ft high, tumbling in a wide, frothy cascade. It is divided into two equally high segments (the ‘first’ and ‘second’ fall), with a twist around the gorge in-between.

5. Salmon River Falls

Salmon River Falls Image Source: @1920peaches

The Salmon River Falls, located in the Salmon River Unique Area (Altmar, NY), is a 110ft waterfall that plunges over a steep cliff.

6. Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen Image Source: @rob.rawls

Watkins Glen is a series of 19 waterfalls that cascade through the gorge.

7. Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls Image Source: @natureadictlady

Kaaterskill Falls, located in the Catskills region, is a massive 231ft falls in three tiers. The first drop, an overhanging one, is 170ft tall. One of the tallest falls in the state.

8. Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls Image Source: @JohnKuckoDigital

Taughannock Falls is a 215ft waterfall located in the Finger Lakes Region. The surrounding gorge walls extend over 100ft higher than the falls adding to its grandeur.

9. Chittenango Falls

Chittenango Falls Image Source: @ccerio
Chittenango Falls, located in Chittenango Falls State Parkis a 167ft waterfall featuring multiple cascades.

10. Shequaga Falls

Shequaga Falls Image Source: @JohnKuckoDigital
Shequaga Falls, also known as Montour Falls, is a 156ft cascade that passes underneath a road. The gigantic falls are hidden behind the small houses along Genesee St. in Montour Falls, NY.

11. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls Image Source: @JohnKuckoDigital

We had to add Niagara Falls because this list goes to 11 (some Spinal Tap fans will get that). Niagara Falls is the grand-daddy of all NY waterfalls and is absolutely spectacular in the winter. Due to the Falls mist, everything is encapsulated in ice make the whole area a winter wonderland. 

Cross country skiing

Cross Country skiing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter and Spraque Brook Park is a great place to ski. They have grommed trails so the skiing is very easy. The main trail will take about 1 hour to ski. You can also follow the mountain bike trails for a longer trip.Please remember to bring snacks and water. They also have a warm hut for when your done. So take advantage of this great weather and go xc skiing.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Preparing for a Winter Hike

by Mike Radomski

Bent tree, an old Native American route marker.
Hiking in the winter is a magical experience with many mind, body and soul benefitsIt is without a doubt different than hiking in the summer.  However, with these simple steps you can make it one of your most enjoyable outdoor experiences. 


The days are shorter in the winter so you need to give yourself more time.  You typically move a little bit slower in wintery terrain.  If you normally hike at a pace of 2mph, plan to possibly cut that in half depending on the snow conditions.  If you are planning a longer hike, it is advisable to start around sun up and be back at your car before sundown to avoid the coldest temperatures.

As with summer hikes, always share your route and itinerary with a friend or relative. If there are problems encountered on the trail, the cold temperatures can escalate the situation quickly.  In addition to the 10 essentials, you will need to take some extra planning for clothing, traction, nutrition and hydration. 

Finally, double check the batteries in your headlamp and GPS.  The cold drains weak batteries very quickly. 

10 Essentials


There is a famous quote by Ranulph Fiennes that says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

Layering for winter hikes is the key to success. If you dress too hot, you will sweat and create dangerous moisture in your clothing. If you dress too cold, you got it, you will be cold. You 
will never find the perfect single piece of clothing for each situation.  This is why people say to layer your clothes. 

REI has some great advice on layering basics.  Ideally, you want a base layer that can wick perspiration.  There are a ton of options for a synthetic base layers in nylon and polyester materials or natural material like merino wool.  Your base layer should NEVER be cotton.

For my base layer, I typically wear a wicking tee and a synthetic lightweight or expedition weight long sleeve shirt depending on the temps.

The next layer in winter is your insulating middle layer. Most people choose a synthetic or down jacket or fleece. I, personally, am a fleece person.  

Even in cold Adirondack temperatures, a fleece middle layer is enough.
Unless the temperatures are below 20 degrees, I will start my hike in just my middle layer.  I like to start my winter hikes feeling a little bit cold. Due to the extra exertion in the snow, you warm up quickly.  You want to avoid overheating and sweating.

The final layer is the outer layer. This layer protects you from wind, rain and snow. The performance of this layer highly depends on the temperatures.  If temperatures dictate, this layer might be a heavy shell/parka or just a waterproof rain jacket.  I usually throw this layer on when I stop moving or when the temperatures drop or wind picks up.

What did I miss?  

Right, hat, gloves and maybe a Buff.  I would suggest having a backup of each in case you get any of the items wet.  Another add-on is a few hand warming packets. Gaiters can protect your lower legs from the wet, cold elements of deep snow.

My final suggestion is always take sunglasses.  Although many winter days are gloomy, when the sun peaks out the reflection of the sun on the snow can be intense.

Proper Footwear, Traction Devices and Snowshoes

Proper footwear and traction is the key to an enjoyable winter hike. Warm waterproof hikers or pack boots are recommended. It is a good idea to choose a half-size or whole size up for your winter boots. This allows you room for an extra pair of socks and room to wiggle your toes. Improper fitting boots can restrict blood flow and cause your feet to get prematurely cold and even result in frostbite.

In the winter, you will encounter many different terrains from frozen ground to ice to snow.  This requires specialized gear depending on the terrain. I would suggest that every winter hiker invest in a set of microspikes. Microspikes are used in icy conditions or packed snow, I prefer the Kahtoola Microspikes.

For deeper snow, snowshoes will be needed. Just about any major brand of snowshoe will suffice for most trails in WNY. If you are thinking about hiking in the Adirondack or Catskill Mountains, my go to snowshoe is the MSR EVO or EVO Ascent. I would also suggest using ski poles or trekking sole.  

Before going out and investing in snowshoes, I suggest renting or borrowing a pair.  I bet some of your friends have a pair.  If they don’t, your local gear shop like Gear for Adventure  will rent them very inexpensively.  Many local conservation organizations, like BN Waterkeeper, organize free snowshoe hikes.

Snowshoes at the summit of Mt. Marcy


As you learned in our previous post, we learned that you burn more calories hiking in the winter due to the cold temps and more rugged terrain.  Therefore, you must plan your nutrition appropriately.  I suggest taking 1/3 more calories than you normally would during a summer hike.  My rule of thumb is about 150-200 calories per hour on Adirondack High Peaks OR 100 calories per mile (flat ground) in the Spring, Summer or Fall.  I will increase to 200-250 per hour on Adirondack High Peaks OR 130 calories per mile (flat ground) in the Winter.


There is an increased dehydration danger in winter.  The reason you do not feel thirsty in winter is due to a process called vasoconstriction.  This is your body’s response to the cold by decreasing the amount of blood it sends to your extremities to decrease heat loss. Your brain does not detect this blood volume decrease that normally triggers the “thirsty response”.  On top of that, your kidneys detect the increased blood volume in your core which triggers your “pee reflex”.  Why do you think you always have to pee when it’s cold?

Not feeling thirsty and peeing frequently results in a net water loss in the body.  Remember to drink even when you are not thirsty in the winter.

Also remember, it is cold in the winter and water freezes. Camelbak drink tubes will freeze. You can prevent this by blowing the water back into the bladder, but this will only last for so long.  Nalgene bottles also will freeze.  The best you can do is store them upside down so the cap freezes last.  

My suggestion is using a stainless vacuum bottle like a Hydroflask. For short hikes, cold water or room temperature water will not freeze. For longer hikes, I suggest hot water or non-caffeinated tea.

Remember avoid to avoid caffeine on winter hikes. And absolutely NO alcohol!  Save that for after the hike.

Creek at Erie County Forest

Safety Tips

  • Know the weather forecast, take into account windchill.
  • Be aware of the signs of hypothermia, frostbite and frostnip.
  • Test the ice at any creek or stream crossing. 
Layering, in middle layer and carrying my shell.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Don't Hibernate this Winter, Get Outside and Hike

by Mike Radomski

Woods behind my house

Only skiers like the winter, right?  For most people, winter is that season you sit on the couch, drink warm beverages and binge watch Netflix.  After all it’s cold, dreary, it starts too soon and drags on too long.  Winter and cold weather are not a negatives if you can see the positive aspects of embracing the cold.  You can learn to actually enjoy and maybe even look forward to it.  

Hiking in the winter, however, does take a bit more planning.  The days are shorter so you need to give yourself more time as you typically move a little bit slower in wintery terrain.  You will also need to consider proper layering, food, hydration and safety.

Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge
If you only go hiking when it's warm, you will never realize the amazing mind, body and soul transformations that happen when you hike in the winter.

There Are A Lot of “No’s”

  • No bears - Hopefully.  If you do happen to stumble upon one, stay far away, they will be very HANGRY.
  • No mosquitoes or other bugs
  • No mud - The trails are frozen or snow covered.
  • No blazing sun
  • No people - They are all inside binging on Netflix and gaining couch-pounds.
My wife at Franklin Gulf County Park

The Landscape is Transformed.

You will experience the outdoors in a completely different way.  Trails that you are familiar with will suddenly transform in new and exciting ways.  Winter hiking will bring to life:
  • Frozen waterfalls
  • Frozen creeks
  • Clear views with no leaves
  • Snow and ice formations
  • Animal footprints

Good source of vitamin D in winter

Snow reflects tremendous amount of light.  Hiking in the winter is a great way to get all those precious rays.  Sunlight is a great way to boost your vitamin D levels, helping to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  

Think of it as a mood multiplier. Nature+Sunlight=Happy Hikers

Vintage snowshoes at Sprague Brook County Park

Burn a Ton of Calories

Studies have found that you burn 34 percent more calories at temperatures between 15 and 23 degree than in temperatures in the mid-50 degrees. The cold constricts capillaries which will improve cardio performance and capacity more than warm temps. On top of these benefits, snow adds resistance working your muscles even more.

Performing physical actives in the cold have lasting benefits.  You build more muscle by breaking down fat before muscles in colder temps.  Exercising in the cold promotes the production of the hormone Irisin. Irisin helps convert bad, adipose “white” fat into beneficial, healthy, brown fat.

Hot Drinks are More Enjoyable After a Cold Hike

There is no better feeling then finishing a winter hike at a lodge or casino being warmed by a roaring fire. Even better is having a nice hot drink to warm the cockles.  Think about how nice it would be to kick up your feet with a mug of hot cocoa, glass of mulled wine or cup of hot tea. You’ve earned it, you’ve burned the calories, boosted your mood and enjoyed yourself doing something new.

Hiking in the winter is without a doubt different than hiking in the summer.  You need the right clothes and gear to make it enjoyable.  There is a famous quote by Ranulph Fiennes that says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” So let’s gear up, embrace the winter and get outside.

A future post will talk about:
  • Proper layers for winter hiking
  • Proper footwear, traction devices and snowshoes
  • Nutrition & Hydration for winter hiking
  • Being safe in the outdoors in winter 
Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks

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