I had heard about a place called Flat Rock Gulf while looking for locations to get outdoors along the northern area of the Adirondack Coast. Hearing about it and finding it are two very different things. What I had to go by were countless people asking me “what’s that?” when I asked if they had heard of Flat Rock Gulf, and one person with a general Idea of what town the Gulf was in. There are few results on the internet detailing the Gulf as well. I was stumped. It was becoming clear that the lowland hikes, although beautiful, are overshadowed by the mountain hikes that end with a rewarding view.
It’s Saturday night, the night before the planned trip to search for the Flat Rock Gulf. My hiking partner and I were armed with a general sense of where to go from our searches online. I was at a potluck dinner of some twenty people and knew that at least one of them must know where I should go. Fortunately just one did know because he had taken to the Flat Rock Gulf trail a few times in the past. His instructions were simple and a bit humerous. “Take Route 11 to Cannon Corners Rd. Turn right onto Cannon Corners Rd and before the border crossing into Quebec turn left at the goat”. Insert screeching record sound and a roar of laughter here. “Turn left at the goat?”. This was what I had to go by. There’s a dirt road on the left next to the Goat on Cannon Corners Rd.
We followed these directions closely, but still managed to reach the border crossing without taking the left at the goat. Turned around and about 1/2 mile south of the crossing there he was! We broke into laughter when our off-the-wall directions actually led us to the Flat Rock Gulf about a mile down the dirt road. I’ll give some detailed directions at the end of this blog. For now, lets get to the Flat Rock Gulf.
Spring was in the air! The sun was shining bright, the birds were chirping, and the sounds of wildlife coming from the marsh were echoing through the air. Although not the typical Adirondack Mountain hike, the Flat Rock Gulf Unique Area does offer up a magnificent wooded hike through mixed terrain filled with stands of pines and mixed hardwoods of Beech, Birch, Oak, and Ash trees. The terrain is definitely rocky so sure footing is a must or you’ll find yourself tripping the entire way. It’s difficult to walk and look around you. We paused often to look around and save ourselves from stumbling.The marsh has signs that beavers had been there in the form of gnawed off tree stumps. The spring flowers popping up along the trail through the thick mat of leaves left from the fall also caught our attention. There’s a large abundance of Trillium here. More than I had ever seen before in one place. Only a few had opened, but I’m sure that in a few days time there would be a sea of purple trillium all along the trail as well. This place was teaming with life. The Chipmunks were running about, birds of all varieties were singing songs, the smell from the carpet of flowers was intoxicating, and the snakes, well, their are snakes. Anyone with a fear of snakes need not apply to this trail. We came across five this day, so I can only assume that it is like this all season long.
The trail is about 2.6 miles long and has a very definite end point at the border with Canada. At the end is where you’ll find the Gulf. The Gulf is essentially a large crack in the earth that separates the United States and Canada. It’s hard to see the Gulf through the trees, but you will catch glimpses of the steep walls on the Canadian side. Not far from the end there is an unassuming creek that runs off of the edge of the New York side of the cliffs. From the trail it can appear as just a small trickle of water, but if you venture off trail for a few, you’ll find 60+ foot falls created by the creek. We stayed in our off trail position for a while just as we did at the marsh to view the falls and listen to the sounds. nature is always best enjoyed in silence. That’s how our hike back went. We both hiked in silence with the occasional sound of one tripping on rocks and grumbling at the snakes as they slithered quickly off the trail. Snakes don’t bother me, but when hiking in silence and hearing them slither quickly through leaves, you’ll grumble at them too. The snakes in this part of the Champlain Coast mean you no harm. Leave them be and they will do the same for you.
So in the end. The Flat Rock Gulf Unique Area is just that, unique. There is a lot here that one won’t find on a mountain trail. Carpets of flowers, large amounts of wildlife, sandstone cliffs, and no uphill climb. There is no rewarding view, but there are many rewards all along the trail. Grab your binoculars and camera. Even if you don’t venture all the way to Canada, you should stop by to take in the abundance of wildlife.
How do you get to this bustling wildlife community? Turn left at the goat of course!
The easy directions would be to take interstate 87 to the Champlain exit 40. Turn left on Route 11. In the village of Moores Forks turn right onto Cannon Corners Rd. Turn left on Rock Rd (at the goat). Rock Road is marked, but can be missed easily. It is a dirt road between two fences. Of course on the right side of Rock Rd there are a couple horses and, well, a goat. if you make it to the border with Canada you’ve gone too far. Turn back and about 1/2 mile on your right is Rock Rd. The trail head is clearly marked with a DEC sign. Past the DEC sign is a large sign indicating private property.
I do not recommend hiking the Flat Rock Gulf in the fall. Hunting is allowed here.