West Mill Brook Falls
West Mill Brook Falls are formed on West Mill Brook—a medium-sized stream that rises from the southeast shoulder of Macomb Mountain (4,405’), and flows into a tributary of the Schroon River. Macomb Mountain was named for General Alexander Macomb, whose victory over the British at Plattsburg in 1814 was well acclaimed.
The hike follows an old road/trail along West Mill Brook that was once part of the Cedar Point Road that linked the Schroon River valley and Clear Pond, south of Elk Lake. One can only imagine what that road must have been like as it headed up to and around huge mountains. During the mid-to-latter part of the nineteenth century, the woods in the West Mill notch were extensively harvested, which accounts for the present condition of the road/trail, which is still well-defined.
There are two separate sections of waterfalls of the stream separated by less than 0.1 miles. Both are worth exploring.
Site One contains a 200-foot length of exposed bedrock with multiple drops and small cascades. Large boulders abound all about. Several of the cascades are at least 3 feet high, which may not sound like much, but put them into a scenic area like this one and the result is pure magic.
Site Two contains a phenomenon rarely observed in the Adirondacks—a plunge fall. At the top of the waterfall, the stream is funneled through a large pothole and then plunges 10 feet into a pool of water below. During times of high water, the section of bedrock spanning Mill Brook just downstream from the waterfall may back up the water sufficiently to produce its own cascade, while causing the plunge pool to rise up to nearly the height of the plunge fall. As is true for site #1, there is much exposed, fractured bedrock around.
Assuming that you are visiting later in the summer, take note of the west bank where a dry streambed arcs around the plunge fall and then back to the stream. A 6-foot-high block of rock near the end of this streambed becomes animated during times of high water flow, producing an additional 6-foot-high waterfall.
To get there: Driving north on the Adirondack Northway (I-87), get off at Exit 29 for North Hudson, and turn right onto Blue Ridge Road, heading east and going past the abandoned ruins of Frontier Town, on your right. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Route 9 and proceed north for ~5.5 miles.
Driving south on the Adirondack Northway, get off at Exit 30, and head south on Route 9 for 4.1 miles.
At the sign for the “Dix Mt. Wilderness Area. West Mill Bk Access to Dix Wilderness Boundary” [44°01.409’N 73°41.265’W], turn west onto a dirt road that leads downhill to a tributary of the Schroon River in 0.1 miles. You can either park off-road here and proceed the remainder of the way on foot (which is what I did to lengthen the hike), or continue by driving across the stream, which is very doable, and then head west on a very well-maintained dirt road. Take note of repeated orange-colored signs along the road that admonish “Public Right of Way across private land. Do not leave this road.”
There is a fair amount of activity going on back here, and you will see industrial machinery scattered about. After 0.7 miles you will come to the Adirondack Northway’s two bridge underpasses that are wide enough to allow cars to pass through unimpeded. After driving under the Northway, continue south for ~0.3 miles until you come to a barricade marking the point where the drivable portion of the road ends and State land begins [44°01.509’N 73°42.286’W]. West Mill Brook will be visible to your right at this point. If you are driving, park your car in the large area before the barrier.
Continuing on foot, in 0.05 mile you will come to a side path on your right that, if taken, leads down to the stream and then across it via a swinging footbridge to Erick’s Camp. While an interesting side diversion, there are no cascades to be found here, so instead, continue straight ahead on the main trail. In less than 0.2 miles, just before you reach a rusted, yellow barrier, a shallow gorge is visible to your right [44°01.632’N 73°42.458’W]. Bushwhack down to the gorge, which is less than 100 feet away. It is not difficult to do. A number of small cascades can be seen that are contained in an impressive section of exposed bedrock that extends for some 200 feet. It is a very scenic spot.
Return to the main trail. Walk past the yellow barrier and proceed west for another ~0.1 miles. Look for a faint path to your right that starts down towards a huge area of exposed bedrock, less than 100 feet away [44°01.708’N 73°42.550’W]. This is where the main waterfall is located.
From site #2, the trail continues northwest for several miles farther, fading out partway up the mountain. Other falls are listed on topo maps beyond where the trail ends, involving what I would assume to be a fairly arduous bushwhack of 2.0−3.0 miles, something that I have not attempted to do so far. An account of the hike, however, is written up by Barbara McMartin in an article entitled “The Other Niagara Falls” that appeared in the Adirondack Life 1999 Annual Guide to the Adirondacks. Two cascades south of Macomb Mtn are described, including a photograph of one of the falls that look as large as Beaver Meadow Falls.
For interested readers, a photo of the upper West Mill Brook Falls on the east side of Macomb Mtn can be seen in John Winkler’s 1995 photo book, A Bushwhacker’s View of the Adirondacks.
Topo computer software shows the waterfall on the shoulder of Macomb Mtn to be at a GPS coordinate of ~44°02.039’N 73°45.518’W. The other waterfall—McMartin’s Niagara Falls—lies farther south. – Russell Dunn