Walker's Guide to the Niagara Gorge Trail System

Hiking Patch


Niagara Frontier Region

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

P.O. Box 1132, Niagara Falls, NY 14303-0132

For more information call:

The Regional Interpretive Office (716) 278-1728 or fax: (716) 278-1739

or Schoellkopf Museum (716) 278-1780


The Niagara Region State Park Interpretive Division has designed a trail patch in recognition of the trails along the Niagara River Gorge.  The trail patch is for sale to those people who meet the following requirements:


  1. Hike the gorge trail sections listed below.  One of these hikes must be on a scheduled walk with a state park naturalist.


    Lewiston Branch Gorge Trail (Artpark State Park)


    Ongiara Trail (Devil's Hole State Park)


    Whirlpool Rapids Trail (Whirlpool State Park)


    Whirlpool Rim Trail (Whirlpool State Park)


    Upper Great Gorge Rim Trail (Schoellkopf Geological Museum)


  2. Write a summary of each trail section that you hiked: include date, time, observations, problems, etc.  Turn the summary in at the Schoellkopf Geological Museum.

Total trail mileage:  12.5 miles

Cost of trail patch:  $5.00 (includes tax)


The following guide is for the walking tourist, bent on exploring the paths and trails in and around the Niagara Gorge, on the American side of the river.   The walking and climbing involved is fine exercise, but this need not be your sole objective.  You will not wish to hurry because you will be seeing (close up) some of the most awe-inspiring spectacles in America.


You will want to grasp the dynamics of a great river, the overflow of the huge Great Lakes Basin, and observe the manner in which it has cut out the Niagara Gorge in the span of a mere 12,000 years, through rock strata that are themselves over 400 million years old!


Then again, you may enjoy identifying the flora and fauna to be found in season along the trails, or the fish that may be caught in the river.  You may simply wish to indulge your talents as a photographer.


The Niagara Gorge Trail System is made up of a series of smaller trail sections that parallel the Niagara River Gorge.  The trails are located on state property and vary in degree of difficulty.  These trails are not officially closed to the public at certain times of the year, but for your own safety, we recommend hiking in the gorge between mid-May and November 1st.  Rock falls are most common in the winter and early spring.  Trails at the top are in general well-developed footways, and can be negotiated with little effort in ordinary footwear.  Those in the gorge are more rugged and in places call for effort and caution.  Good sturdy hiking boots are recommended for descent into the gorge.




(Artpark State Park)


This trail section starts at the edge of the Niagara Escarpment where Niagara Falls began over 12,000 years ago.  There are actually two trails:  the upper trail parallels the gorge at mid-level, and the lower trail follows close to the Niagara River.  Both trails end under the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.


Trail Difficulty:  EASY

Distance:   2.0 miles each trail (round trip)

Sites:   Complete Silurian rock strata, Niagara Escarpment, power plants




(Devil's Hole State Park)


From the gorge side parking area, follow rim path down river (right) to the terrace overlook.   Continue to stairs to gorge trail at bottom.  Go up river (left) about one mile to the Whirlpool stairs to gorge top and return to parking area. 


Trail Difficulty:  MODERATE--Stairs, narrow sections, rockfalls

Distance:   2.5 miles round trip

Sites:   Scenic vista and side gorge, Robert Moses Power Plant, Silurian rock strata, "Giant Rock," and Devil's Hole Rapids




(Whirlpool State Park)


Start at the restroom shelter and follow path to DeVeaux Point for view of Whirlpool and rapids below.  Continue up river (left) along the gorge rim to the end of the park and return.


Trail Difficulty:  EASY

Distance:   2.5 miles round trip

Sites:   Scenic vista, Whirlpool and rapids 




(Whirlpool State Park)


From the restroom shelter, follow path to DeVeaux Point for view of Whirlpool and rapids below.   Continue down river (right) 3/8 mile to the Whirlpool stairs and gorge trails below.  Walk up river (left) until you reach a major rock fall below the point.   The orange blaze path leads you down to the Whirlpool Sandstone and around the point near river level to the "flats."  The pink blaze path leads you across a few rockfalls and onto the level of the old railbed.  Both paths reconnect again up river, and then split again into mid-gorge and river-level paths.  The two paths reconnect at a stone stairs and platform once used as a viewing area for the trolley line.  This is also the end of the trail; return to Whirlpool stairs to exit the gorge and return to Whirlpool State Park.


Trail Difficulty:  MODERATE/DIFFICULT--Some "boulder hopping"

Distance:   3.25 miles round trip

Sites:   Scenic vista, Whirlpool and rapids, Silurian rock strata, Whirlpool bridges 




(Shoellkopf Geological Museum)


Start at gorge overlook and walk up river (left) on asphalt path to American Fall.   Continue to pedestrian bridge to Goat Island, Bridal Veil Fall and Horseshoe Fall.


Trail Difficulty:  EASY

Distance:   2.25 miles one way

Sites:   Falls viewing area, gorge





Are you physically fit?  There are 300 steps combined with inclined pathways.


Use the buddy system in the gorge.  Avoid accidents.


Leave no litter...leave only footprints.  Carry out some litter that someone else left.


Campfires are forbidden!


Overnight camping is not permitted.


No firearms.


Wildflowers:   Enjoy them.  Do not pick them.


Throw nothing over the rim.  There may be hikers below.


Wear proper clothing for the weather.


Take water and food.


Let someone know where you will be and when you expect to return.


Poison ivy is prominent in the gorge...stay on the marked trails.


Watch for Bald Eagles!  They have been seen in the Niagara Gorge area.