Winding Falls

This is a little-known route to a dramatic waterfall known locally as Pa’s Falls, after the memorial stones next to the Bog River. In its current state, this trail is not recommend to anyone who’s new to hiking. While the path is well-worn in spots, in other places it almost completely vanishes, meaning you need to look for signs of footsteps on the leafy ground to find the way. There is some flagging along the second half of the route but that’s sporadic, too. If you decide to venture to the falls, bring a map and compass and know how to use them.

That said, this is a beautiful, 1.5 mile adventure through a variety of forest types that ends in a tremendous waterfall. Park on the side of Route 421 so your vehicle isn’t blocking the yellow gate, then walk around the gate and into the woods. The forest here is thick, with immature balsam firs lining the narrow, but obvious, path. There is the occasional fallen tree to clamber over, but other than that things are pretty clear until the two small beaver ponds. 

The challenge here is getting past the ponds. The trail basically continues straight, but staying on it requires a balancing act across an overgrown beaver dam. The best course is to bear left to circumnavigate the upper pond through the thick fern growth. On the other side of the dam, the path turns into an old woods road as it gently climbs a hill. There is a much larger beaver dam and pond on the left, through the tress.

Once the road reaches the top of the hill, things get a little trickier. The trail passes through open areas of grass and ferns, and some of them are so overgrown the trail is obscured. It takes a little searching along the perimeter of each opening to figure out where to re-enter the woods. There’s a long, easy-to-follow climb through a forest that’s predominately yellow birch, followed by a steady decline through more birch. The path down is tricky to find, as the thick stand of birch saplings and leafy forest floor make the ill-defined trail hard to see. The flagging begins around this spot — use it to get an idea of which direction to go. 

The rest of the way is like this — there are small, grassy openings with muddy sections; thick spruce and balsam stands where the path is obvious; and beautifully open hardwood stands. There are also short climbs and dips, but the terrain is mostly easy — it’s route finding that can be a chore. The best advice is to use a combination of tools. Don’t lose sight of the last ribbon — they occur fairly frequently, but some have fallen to the ground. Keep an eye out for footprints  in the mud and, as mentioned above, bring a map and compass and know how to use them.

It’s true that getting to Winding Falls is an adventure, but it’s worth it. The forest here is full of birds and signs of other animals. Before long you’ll reach the Bog River, which is flowing beneath an old railroad trestle. The roar coming from downstream is obvious. Turn left, followed the riverbank, and there it is — a frothing white torrent of river that shoots through a narrow mini-canyon before splashing into a calm bend in the river below. Next to the cascade there are a couple of memorial stones, the namesake tribute to someone’s Pa.

Trailhead: From Tupper Lake, take Route 30 toward Long Lake and turn right on Route 421. You’ll pass Bog River Falls, then the road makes a hard left (there’s a sign for Horseshoe Lake) and climbs a long, steep hill. About 3 miles after the turn onto 421 there’s a yellow metal gate and a small wooden sign that says “Winding Falls.” Park on the side of the road and be sure not to block the gate.

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