5 Winter Waterfalls in CapNY

maria and waterfall
maria and waterfall

Amazing fact: there are 64 waterfalls in CapNY!

I recently visited five that are incredible winter hiking trips– trails are less crowded, ice and snow lend themselves to beautiful vistas and there are plenty of places to stop and warm up after a trip! Read on, bundle up, and let’s go!

Cohoes Falls, Cohoes

The first stop on my 5 winter waterfalls exploration is the beloved Cohoes Falls.  Due to substantial snowfall, the path to Falls View Park was inaccessible so I took a short walk to Overlook Park to see the falls. There are plenty of places to park to access Overlook Park and I parked right behind the Cohoes Falls Apartments.  Overlook Park is extremely accessible; it has a paved path and offers multiple areas to stop and take in the view — and what a view it is!

This waterfall is huge– it’s about 1,000 feet wide, and ranges from 75 to 90 feet tall. (For reference, Niagara Falls’ American Falls is about 830 feet wide and 70 to 110 feet tall.) I was stunned by how large and gorgeous the falls are. White water rushed over massive cliffs into the deep blue Mohawk River below. Overlook Park is a great place for all ages but will leave everyone in child-like awe at the immensity of Cohoes Falls.

After exploring, stop by LePage’s Market, a Cohoes staple, for a sandwich, or to grab something from their selection of  over 400 craft beers. There’s a decent view of the falls from the corner store’s porch as well.

Buttermilk Falls, Schaghticoke

Located in Rensselaer County, Buttermilk Falls is a beautiful, quiet spot year-round, you can especially enjoy its solace in winter. Right off Buttermilk Falls Road, just park your car on the side of the road to get a great view. The 15-foot cascade is formed on the Tomhannock Creek. When I visited it was frozen from our first big snowstorm of winter. 

On arriving at Buttermilk Falls, I noticed a man parked on the side of the road, staring intently at the falls. He pointed out a porcupine that was waddling around on the frozen pool at the base of the falls! I was already excited to see the gorgeous waterfall, but porcupines are my favorite animal, so it made the experience that much more captivating. I can’t guarantee that you’ll see a critter if you visit Buttermilk Falls, but keep your eyes open!

Rensselaerville Falls, Rensselaerville

After the holidays, I decided to put the Christmas cookies down and check out another of my 5 winter waterfalls. So I went for a walk at the E.N. Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville, Albany County. The 2,000 acre preserve is home to Rensselaerville Falls, a multi-level cascade that ranges from 60 to 100 feet. Before I even saw the falls, I could hear the gushing of water from the trailhead. A flat, gravel trail, only .1 miles from the parking lot, took me to the base of the falls. This trail is definitely suitable for all ages and skill levels. The view is really spectacular, as cascade after cascade of water flowed over rock continuing on in the Ten-Mile Creek.

The trail that continues on to the upper portion of the falls was closed due to ice. But I was still able to spend some time taking in the beauty at their base. Then I explored some of the other trails that snake through old growth hemlock forests, stone walls and small wetlands.

When visiting Rensselaerville Falls in winter definitely bring microspikes. The trail was pretty icy and if you visit during or after snowfall, snowshoes would help as well. The E.N. Huyck Preserve’s website regularly updates trail conditions as well. I’m glad I visited in the winter as the Rensselaerville Falls are often crowded and heavily visited in the summer. I only came across two other people on the trail and ended up finding a lot of peace here. Even though I wasn’t that far into the woods, I still felt secluded and hidden amongst the rushing water and dense, towering pines. 

Rensselaerville Falls can be accessed from the E.N. Huyck Preserve’s visitor center at 5052 Delaware Turnpike, Rensselaerville, NY 12147. 

Wolf Creek Falls, Knox

Wolf Creek Falls is very high on my list of my 5 winter waterfalls in CapNY that are well worth visiting. I discovered this hidden gem back in May. I was sick of staying in my house and needed to stretch my legs outside. This preserve has not one, not two, but THREE large waterfalls and a few smaller ones along the Wolf Creek. Reaching these waterfalls requires a true hike over rolling terrain and microspikes are necessary in the winter. There is also a water crossing on the trail so be sure to wear waterproof boots. 

Wolf Creek Falls Preserve is a quiet, tranquil forest with an abundance of waterfalls to stop at and admire. I didn’t see a single person while hiking on the waterfall trail. And I had plenty of time to take in the beauty of the waterfalls without feeling crowded or rushed. The crown jewel of the preserve is the 30-40 foot waterfall that sits nestled deep in the woods.

The last time I hung out with a garter snake that was hunting salamanders in the pool at the base of the falls. This time, half a dozen black-capped chickadees kept me company. All of the waterfalls in the preserve are dazzling in their own way. This is a place I am always in awe of no matter how many times I visit. 

Wolf Creek Falls Preserve is located on Bozenkill Road in Altamont. Once you’re done hiking, warm up with coffee, bagels, baked goods and sandwiches at Hungerford Market in Altamont. This quaint cafe is known for its variety of bagels and flavored coffees.

Christman Sanctuary, Duanesburg

I knew I had to visit the Christman Sanctuary when exploring winter waterfalls. The 120-acre preserve is known for its many waterfalls on the Bozenkill, but most notably a 30-foot waterfall with a large pool at its base. The largest waterfall is inaccessible due to a water crossing, but there are plenty of other waterfalls to explore throughout the preserve.

The trails here cover about two miles over rolling terrain. Microspikes are a must in winter, and snowshoes could be used in heavier snowfall. I first made my way to the falls by the preserve’s lean-to. Icy rocks and cold creek spray greeted me at the base of the 15 foot falls. The crisp, cold air beautifully combined with the brightness of snow and pure, smooth ice. I love hiking in the wintertime and I felt all of those elements come together as I sat by the falls.

The Christman Sanctuary is a really popular spot in the summer. Yet it doesn’t slow down too much in the winter! The icy falls are truly stunning and well worth the trip. This preserve is very family-friendly and dog friendly too! The Christman Sanctuary is located at 3281 Schoharie Turnpike. 

There are so many more than just 5 winter waterfalls in CapNY, I’ll see you out there!

Written by: Maria Gigliello

Maria Gigliello is an avid hiker, paddler and writer who enjoys spending as much time as possible doing all three things in the Adirondack State Park. She is just as passionate about beer as she is about responsible outdoor recreation and is always in search of a good view and a brew. You can follow her adventures on her blog, The Dirt.