This week we continue with the Exploring Locally Series by visiting the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is a natural wonder located in the Adirondack Region of New York. The trail is a 3/4 mile loop trail that takes you past the Trout Brook, Stone Bridge, entrances to several caves, and a whirlpool and pothole.
Visitors can explore the trail on a self-guided tour or those looking for more thrill can join in on the Adventure Tour and climb and crawl through the caves and underground river.
Walking the Nature Stone Bridge and Caves Trail
The trail through the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is about 3/4 of a mile long. The hike is fairly easy and do-able for hikers of all levels and children. The trail does contain over 500 rock and wooden stairs.
After exiting the gift shop, begin the trail at marker one and follow the trail to the right. Along the trail you will find markers, which will match up with a provided map and some information about each site.
The trail will first take you through a garden area, adventure park, and the disc golf course. I bypassed this section and continued on to markers #4 and 5, which overlook the Trout Brook and the Sawmill Waterfall Site.
#4: The Trout Brook: The Trout Brook is the remains of the once rushing river that crafted the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. The river was formed by the melting of the Wisconsin Glacier. The brook is now a small, calm stream that is home to trout, turtles, and beavers.
#5 Sawmill Waterfalls Site: A water wheel once stood at the site and provided power for the early Dutch pioneers that was used to cut lumber and grind grain.
After visiting the Trout Brook and Sawmill Waterfall Site continue on down the path to Meditation Isle at marker #6.
Meditation Isle is a small island-like area that will bring you in front of the stone bridge and give you some great views. Next, continue back up the path (it is a round loop) and head to the right, which will take you over the Stone Bridge.
The Stone Bridge is the largest cave entrance in the East and leads to one of the two main cave systems within the park. Cross the bridge and pause as marker #7, Lookout Point. This will give you some great views of the brook, caves across the way, and the Stone Bridge from above.
After crossing the bridge you will come upon the Giant Slide at marker #8. The Giant Slide is a steep cave opening that when looking down will give you a view of the river flowing under the Stone Bridge.
After visiting the Giant Slide, follow the signs towards the descending stairway, which will take you down to the foot of the cave system under the natural bridge.
This will take you to stop #9, The Natural Stone Bridge. The Natural Stone Bridge cave entrance is believed to be the largest in the Eastern US. The caves were mapped between 2003 and 2010. You will be able to take the stairs down and follow the stone out to the fenced area below the bridge.
Next, continue across the bridge where you will find several smaller cave entrances. Follow the stairs into the first cave, stop #10. This cave is known as Noisy Cave and is the start of the second main cave system in the area.
When you enter the cave you will quickly see why it is referred to as the Noisy Cave. The river flows through the cave and continues underground to the other areas of the park.
Next continue back along the path and you will come upon stop #11, Peter Pan’s Peephole. Peter Pan’s Peephole can be found at the bottom of a staircase. It is a small area, but will give a peek at the river flowing underground through the Noisy Cave.
Return back up the stairs and you will come up a great photo op spot, #12. You can continue past stop #12 to #13, Serenity Point. This section was closed on my visit for construction.
Next, continue along the path to stop #14, the Upper Nature Trail. This will take you along the upper path overlooking the cave systems and natural stone bridge. It will also take you to the next section of the park where you will find the natural potholes and additional cave entrances.
Along the trail you will come upon Inspiration Point, stop #15. Inspiration Point will give you some views of the cave systems while standing on top of Hemlock roots.
Next, continue on to stop #16, the Indian Maidens Kettle. Indian Maidens Kettle is one of the largest potholes in New York. It measures over 30 feet across. This area is also a great viewing spot for the entrance to Echo Cave, which connects to the Garnet Cave.
Stop #17 is next and is known as the Oyster Shell. The Oyster Shell is the exit point for the water that flows under the Natural Stone Bridge. Also in this area if you look close enough you can see the shape of George Washington’s face in the rocks.
Stop #18 is also found in this area and represents the high water mark. The high water mark represents the line when the caves can no longer contain the water levels and it spills over into the pot hole area. This tends to occur in the spring time when the ice/snow is melting.
Stop #19 is known as the pothole area. Here you will find some smaller potholes steaming with their own biosystem. You can also view the Whirlpool, the spot where the water drains from the Noisy Cave.
The last stop is #20, the Lost Pool Cave. The water in this area is 30ft. deep. After this continue back up the stairway and towards the exit.
How to Get There
The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is found at the end of Stone Bridge Road off of route 9. To reach the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves coming from the North, follow the Northway I-87 until you reach exit 26. The exit will take you to Stone Bridge Road, which you will follow for about 2 miles before reaching Natural Stone Bridge and Caves.
If you are coming from the South, again take the Northway I-87 to Exit 26. From there get on Route 9, which you will follow for 1/2 a mile. When you reach the intersection, take Stone Bridge Road and continue for another 2.5 miles until you reach Natural Stone Bridge and Caves.
There are a couple different options for touring the park. For those just looking to see the natural sights along the trail, a self-guided tour is a great option. The tour will take about an hour to complete (and that is with plenty of stops for photos).
The Adventure Tour: The Adventure Tour is a four hour rigorous tour that includes walking, climbing, crawling, kneeling, and walking through water. The Adventure Tour is recommended for those who are more physically fit and able to complete all tasks. Minimum age for the tour is 13.
Snowshoeing: In the winter time snowshoeing of the additional 14.5 miles of trails is available.
May through September: 9am to 6pm (Last ticket sold at 4:30pm)
September through October: 10am to 5pm(Last ticket sold at 3:30pm)
Adventure tours are available four days a week (Wed., Fri., Sat. and Sun.) in July and August. Self Guided Tours are available daily from May to October.
Winter hours: 10am to 4pm (Fri., Sat. and Sun.)
Self-Guided Tour: $16 for adults, $8.50 for children (ages 5-12)
Adventure Tour: $100 per person
Snowshoeing: $13.50 for adults, $8 for children (5-12) with an additional $5 fee for snowshoe rental.
Tips for Visiting
- Wear sneakers. While the trail is fairly easy, there is quite a bit of uneven terrain that can get slippery when wet.
- There will likely be no service in the area, so be prepared for that.
- Be sure to leave some time for the other family friendly activities available at the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. These include digging for dinosaur bones, rock climbing walls, disc golf, gemstone making, and jewelry making.
- On your way out, or way in, stop at the Stone Bridge Ice Cream shop at the corner of Stone Bridge Rd and Rt 9 for your selection of over 40 flavors of soft serve ice cream, coffee floats, and vanilla chai tea freezes.