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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Explore New York's Eternal Flame Falls

Twenty minutes south of Buffalo inside Chestnut Ridge Park sits Eternal Flame Falls, a remarkably unique waterfall. The thirty foot two tier cascade may appear much like hundreds of others across the country, but the beauty and rarity of it lies in what's behind it. Roughly halfway up the lower cascade you'll find a grotto behind the falls where a flame flickers. A crack in the shale emits natural gas and one day, many years ago it was lit, giving Orchard Park, New York a truly one-of-a-kind waterfall. What was once only known to locals has today become an attraction drawing tens of thousands of visitors every year and news publications from all over the country have written about it. Scientists aren't sure how the gas is being fed to the grotto leaving the source of the flame a bit of a mystery. We've visited the falls during every season of the year, but really enjoy it during the winter months when it freezes over and in autumn after a heavy rain.

Eternal Flame Falls

Trailhead elevation 1,201'

Water Along Shale Creek

Don't miss Scrambling up to the top of the falls

Hiking to Eternal Flame Falls

At just short of 0.75 miles each way, the hike to view the falls is an easy one. The well defined trail winds through a gorgeous pine and hemlock forest, periodically marked with flame signs letting you know you're heading in the right direction.

Eternal Flame Falls

The forest is incredibly beautiful during the winter months, especially after a heavy snow when the pine and hemlock contrast with a white forest floor.

Eternal Flame Falls

At about 0.4 miles the trail descends a series of wood block stairs before reaching Shale Creek. The stairs can be surprisingly slippery in the winter and when wet so use caution. We've fallen on our asses more than once. From here the trail hugs the far side of the creek for a quarter mile before reaching the falls.

Eternal Flame Falls

We've always visited the falls mid-to-late afternoon when the sun has been above or behind us. If you're photographing here your best lighting will be roughly an hour before sunset. When you're done simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Eternal Flame Falls is an hour from Letchworth State Park, forty-five minutes south of Niagara Falls, and only twenty minutes south of Buffalo. If you plan on spending time in Buffalo make sure to check out Anchor Bar on Main where in 1964, Teressa Bellissimo famously invented buffalo wings! If you're interested in more great New York waterfalls be sure to check out Four Days in New York's Finger Lakes: A Waterfall Lover's Dream.



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