Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vromans Nose and Plotter Kill Falls - A Few Hours In The Helderbergs And Mohawk Valley

Upper Plotter Kill Falls
After having known for several years that there were some interesting areas on the Helderberg Escarpment of New York, I finally had a chance to briefly check out a couple of them this past October while enroute to the Adirondacks from Virginia.

It was nearly dusk when my buddy +Peter Barr  and I made it to the Indian Ladder trailhead in John Boyd Thatcher State Park on that trip. We had just enough time to get to the base of the spectacular 116' plunge of Mine Lot Falls while there was still enough light to see it and take a few pictures. Then we drove up the nearby high point of the eastern escarpment in the dark, mainly just to say we had been there.

That was enough of a taste to convince me that some of the other nearby places I had read about would also likely be worth getting to sometime. As luck would have it, that sometime was now, less than three months later. Leanne wanted to visit two of her cousins living near Albany. I would only have a few hours to spare, but that would be better than nothing.

The trail atop Vromans Nose hugs the edge of the cliffs.
Overlooking the Schoharie Valley.
After dropping Leanne off, I headed west to Middleburgh and Vromans Nose. This is a small but very impressive peak that rises abruptly 600’ above the flat valley of Schoharie Creek. Less than a mile up an icy trail and I was atop the dramatic cliffs that line its south side. While the local landscape here generally may not be as breathtaking as the Adirondacks or the Catskills, the scene is a pleasing one as it looks down precipitously to the broad, flat rural valley below. In turn, the valley winds its way southward into the surrounding hills of the Helderbergs. Off in the distance are visible a couple peaks in the Moresville Range of the Catskills. Supposedly Windham High Peak and the magnificent Blackhead Range are also visible from here, but haze and cloudiness prevented that today. The trail itself is right on the top of the cliffline, disconcertingly so in a few spots when it is snowy and icy like it was today, and it stays there with continuous views for about 3/10 of a mile. I’m not sure how high they are, but 150’-200' or more wouldn’t surprise me in a couple of areas, and the edge is a straight plunge - no ledges a few feet down. In fact, it almost seems that you would land on the road 600’ below if you jumped. The clifftop is also wide and flat, especially near the western end, which is known as the Dance Floor. Apparently, there actually were dances here back in the Prohibition era. Hopefully no alcohol was involved because there are no barriers whatsoever to the cliff edge.

Vromans Nose
 After completing the short loop, I drove several miles north to near the Mohawk River and a few miles west of Schenectady. Here, the waters of Plotter Kill and Rynex Creek have carved a two mile long gorge that drops several hundred feet. The result is more than a dozen waterfalls. Most are small, but there are three large falls near the upper end of the gorge.

I started at the upper trailhead, above the larger falls and followed the icy trail downhill and across the creek to the top of the Upper Plotter Kill Falls. They were quite impressive and mostly frozen - though I was a little skeptical that they were 60’ high as claimed in the guidebook. I would have guessed 40, maybe 50 feet. Regardless of their height, they presented a scene of great beauty as the stream poured over the brink and poured into the rock walled amphitheater below. I continued down the trail along the rim until I was able to catch a glimpse of the 40’ high Lower Plotter Kill Falls and Rynex Creek Falls as well. I considered trying to descend the narrow, very steep ridge between these two falls to get a better view from below but decided against it when I found it to be quite icy and having some dropoffs lower down. I settled for backtracking a short distance and taking the trail down to the creek between the upper and lower falls. From here it was easy to continue upstream to the base of the upper falls for a better view. From this vantage it was easier to see the entire cataract and the masses of ice it had built up. The spray had also encased the trees immediately downstream, its weight bending their branches over the frozen stream like bowers. It was a scene of great beauty, mostly in black and white, that I left behind as I made my way back up the trail wishing I had time to explore a little while longer.

The route of the Vromans Nose hike. To see a larger map click here.

The route of the Plotter Kill Falls hike. To see a larger map click here

Hike Stats:
Vromans Nose - 1.5 miles, 500' elevation gain
Plotter Kill Falls - 1.4 miles, 150' cumulative elevation gain

Vromans Nose & Plotter Kill Falls, NY

More pictures from these hikes

Local Hikes - Vromans Nose
Local Hikes - Plotter Kill Preserve
Hiking The Plotter Kill Preserve
Vromans Nose (gpx, kml, topos)
Plotter Kill Falls (gpx, kml, topos)

Trailhead Coordinates

Vromans Nose: 42.59474,-74.3584
Google Map for trailhead

Scan QR code to navigate to trailheads with Google Maps on your smartphone:

Plotter Kill Falls: 42.82567,-74.05187
Google map for trailhead

Scan QR code to navigate to trailheads with Google Maps on your smartphone:


  1. It seems that you really had a great escapade. And those places were really breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks a lot for sharing this one.

  2. You're welcome! Yeah, it was a good trip. Can't wait to get back to New York again.