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New York State Parks
Niagara Falls State Park

Great Gorge
Railway Trail


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The Great Gorge Railway Trail follows the path of the former "Great Gorge Route" of a railroad that once carried passengers from 1895 to 1935.  The railroad had numerous names and many owners.  The original company that planned to build the railroad, the Niagara Falls and Whirlpool Company, went bankrupt before construction began on the railroad.

After reorganizing the bankrupt company and renaming it the Niagara Falls and Lewiston Railroad, plans again were made to build the railroad.  Construction began on April 11, 1895 and the railroad was open for business on August 25, 1895, taking only 75 days to build.  The railroad instantly became a huge attraction, almost bigger than the falls themselves.

Over the years there were numerous accidents and other events that marred the railroad.  Finally on September 17, 1935 at 2am over five thousand tons of rock fell on the railroad bed destroying over 200 feet of track.  The track was never repaired and railroad operations immediately shut down.  You can find more information on the history of this railroad at The Great Gorge Route website.

As you walk down the trail you'll notice the gorge walls and may wonder how more slides didn't occur.  When we hiked in late 2010, you could tell that a slide had possibly occurred recently from all the loose rock piled on the side of the trail.  Unfortunately many visitors to Niagara Falls miss exploring this amazing trail with spectacular gorge views and a unique look at the falls.

This 2.5 mile round trip hike starts at the Discovery Center parking lot, which offers FREE parking unlike the three other Niagara Falls State Park lots that charge $10 and many local lots that charge $5. There are some real nice views of the gorge to check out including an overlook off to the west of the parking area.  There are a few tables along the fence area.

From the main parking area head toward the Discovery Center and veer right away from the ramp to the Niagara Aquarium.  The trail "officially" starts under the ramp, however you have already walked about 0.1 mile from the parking area.  There is a stand nearby that offers guided hikes into the gorge.  Check out the NY State Park website for more information.

At 0.2 miles you'll reach the first overlook that features the remains of an old aluminum plant.  At 0.3 miles the Great Gorge Railway Trail turns left away from the Rim Trail and Robert Moses Trail.  In about 100 feet you'll reach the second overlook.  At 0.4 miles another trails heads off to the right.  Stay left and soon you'll reach the third overlook.

At just over 0.5 miles of walking from the parking area you'll reach the fourth and last overlook.  Many visitors turn around here and miss out on the best part of the trail, the hike down into the gorge!  From the overlook you can see the bridges to the north.  This is where the trail will end, below the bridges.

As you continue along the trail, there is what looks like an overlook on your left, but it is part of a group of abandoned buildings that is below you.  A bit further down the trail is a trail on the left that (we believe) heads toward the abandoned buildings.  We did not explore this side trail or the abandoned buildings.

You may find yourself looking up as you walk along the walls of the gorge with the large overhangs above you.  Eventually the trail moves a bit further away from the wall, but you can still see signs of rock slides as well as the random boulder that has surely fallen from the gorge wall.

As you walk down the gentle grade you'll notice the mighty Niagara River is getting closer and closer to the trail.  At 1.1 miles is a nice view upstream of the rainbow bridge and Niagara Falls.  Another nice view is just a bit further ahead, just prior to crossing under the bridges.  It's amazing on how high the bridges are above you.  A sign lets you know that your under surveillance.  The trail ends a bit further ahead at 1.26 miles as the rapids of the Niagara River begins as the river approaches the Whirlpool.

If you go to the scenic overlook at Whirlpool State Park, you'll see where you were under the bridges.  If you look up from the end of the Great Gorge Railway Trail, you may see that overlook at Whirlpool State Park along the Rim Trail.  To return to the parking area, simply retrace your steps.

We recommend that anyone visiting Niagara Falls State Park to explore the Great Gorge Railway Trail.  Although you descend into the gorge, the descent is fairly gradual on a gentle grade.  Look below for a few pictures, maps and video of this great hike.

Trail along the gorge wall

Niagara River Gorge from an overlook

Rapids along the Niagara River near end of the trail


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