Adventures High Above Ausable Chasm

Referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, Ausable Chasm is an awe-inspiring sight and a one-of-a-kind adventure. With roaring waterfalls cascading through deep sandstone canyons, the stunning views are so powerful they will take your breath away. This beautiful destination has much more to offer than just vistas though. The wide variety of adventurous activities give visitors the opportunity to experience the chasm from new and exciting perspectives. On a recent trip, my friends and I had the chance to enjoy several of these perspectives—including the view from above!

Ausable Chasm's Adventure Trail

We began our day on Ausable Chasm’s Adventure Trail, which took us through the upper region of the chasm. I’m actually fond of heights, so I went into the experience with no reservations. After our equipment fitting and a brief safety training session, we scaled the wall of the canyon on a cargo net and made our way to the first crossing—a single foot cable with two cable hand rails at either side. Despite being in a harness, wearing a helmet, and being clipped onto the wire by two strong carabiners, I still felt a flutter in my stomach as I took my first steps, felt the cable sway, and looked down to the raging river below. The initial uneasiness quickly gave way to excitement though, and I traversed the first bridge without any problem.

Criss-crossing the chasm

For the next hour, we continued to maneuver our way down the chasm, criss-crossing from side to side as we went along. The Adventure Trail uses a modernized version of the “via ferrata” climbing technique. Strong steel cables are bolted into the canyon walls at increments, and our harnesses were clipped to the cable at all times. Not only did this ensure our safety, it also provided a clear path for us to follow. While there were some ladder rungs and wooden platforms at particularly steep or tricky sections of the trail, the majority of the trip had us inching along thin ledges and balancing on cable bridges high above the canyon bottom. I felt totally safe at all times, but looking over the edge or down below still provided a rush of adrenaline.

The most impactful aspect of the experience for me was the unparalleled views the trail afforded. I could have stayed on some of those bridges gazing down at the water and up at the rugged canyon walls for hours if my balance had been good enough!

Dedicated guide 

We were fortunate to have a dedicated guide on our trip who provided tips on the trail and interesting facts about Ausable Chasm. Depending on the size of your group and how busy the Adventure Trail is, you will either be paired with a personal guide or encounter guides stationed at various checkpoints along the way. If anyone in your group isn’t fond of heights, or would simply prefer not to participate, there is a ground-level Riverwalk that winds along the canyon underneath the Adventure Trail and eventually meets back up for the last two bridges (which are very sturdy and encased in cargo nets).

A climb

After we completed the Adventure Trail, we headed to a designated rock climbing route with a top rope already in place. We swapped out our sneakers for climbing shoes and started to climb. The route was perfect for climbers of all experience levels. Easy enough for beginners, the layered composition of the sandstone makes it a fun climb for experienced climbers as well. After everyone had a turn we headed back to the canyon entrance and off to our final experience of the day.

Tyrolean traverse

A short shuttle drive from the main lodge is a rappelling course with several Tyrolean traverses. Similar to the set-up of a zip line, our harnesses were attached to a single line that spanned the width of the canyon. Pushing off from the first platform, I soared high above the river, taking in the most incredible view I had seen all day. At that height and distance, I was able to see much more of the chasm and river at once than I had been able to when I was between the canyon walls. The best part? I was able to get a second glance when I turned to glide back to the starting platform!

Our fun-filled day was only a sampling of the experiences Ausable Chasm has to offer. Had we had more time, we could have floated down the river on a raft or in our own personal tubes. There were several more rock climbing routes, additional stops along the rappelling route, and, had we stayed until dark, we could take a guided tour of the Chasm by lantern light. Ausable Chasm’s adventure packages combine a variety of these activities in order to give you the full experience. My recommendation? Try as many activities as time allows!

More adventures at the chasm

There is also lots to see and do at Ausable Chasm outside the adventure activities. The main lodge hosts a large gift shop, museum, and café. An easy walking path provides stunning views of Rainbow Falls and various walking trails allow you to explore the wilderness surrounding the chasm. Be sure to arrive early so you can take advantage of all Ausable Chasm has to offer! For the best experience, be sure to check the website for guest requirements before you arrive. Adventurers must meet certain height, weight, and age requirements in order to participate in the various activities, and some experiences require proper footwear or attire.

I had never been to Ausable Chasm before embarking on their Adventure Trail, but already I cannot wait to return. The Adirondacks and North Country are filled with countless natural wonders, and Ausable Chasm has earned a spot on my list of favorites. Check out Lake Champlain Region's other outdoor activities offering you many more adventures. 

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