Grimes Glen Park, Naples
GPS: Parking: (N 42.61529 / W 77.41356)
Bridge: (N 42.61531 / W 77.41434)
First major falls: (N 42.61598 / W 77.41913)
Second major falls: (N 42.61877 / W 77.41832)
Third major falls: (N 42.62243 / W 77.41992)
Directions: From Main St. (Rt. 21) in Naples, take Vine St until it ends. There should be a sign saying “Grimes Glen County Park.”
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: A parking lot at the end of Vine St will hold about a dozen cars. It fills up fast, and there is no parking along Vine St.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Number of falls: 4 that you will see on this hike (there are more but they are on private property).
Size/Types: A variety of shapes and sizes. The first accessible falls, from the parking lot is a spread out, irregular-looking cascade nearly 4 ft high. About 100 yards upstream is a wide 3 ft tall cascade. The second falls is a steep cascade reaching 62 ft high. About 1000 yards further is the 3rd falls, which is just under 60 ft tall. The fourth major waterfall is roughly 50 ft tall (and is currently in a non-accessible section of the gorge further upstream).
Best time to visit: Year-round, with the best flow in spring. You will want to time it so you take advantage of spring rain, yet deep enough into spring where the water has warmed up enough to be comfortable to walk in.
Waterway: Grimes Creek. The first major waterfall is formed by the tributary Springstead Creek as it empties into the glen. Grimes Creek is a tributary to Naples Creek, which empties into Canandaigua Lake.
Time: Plan for at least an hour.
Seasons/Hours: Open year-round, from dawn until dusk.
Handicap accessibility: No.
Pets: Allowed if on a leash. For your pet’s safety, and the safety of other hikers, keep your pet on the leash. It doesn’t matter if your dog is “friendly,” it’s the law, and it’s for everyone’s safety.
Swimming: Often the pool below the second falls is deep enough to wade in.
Camping: Not allowed.
Accommodations: The building near the parking lot has restrooms.
AKA: Grimes Falls, French Hill Falls, Indian Falls
Grimes Glen is a long deep gorge that cuts through countless layers of shale and limestone as it makes its way into the village of Naples, eventually joining with Naples Creek, the southern inlet to Canandaigua Lake. Grimes Greek has its origins 5 miles to the north at Cleveland Hill, one of the highest points in the Naples region. It drops a total of 1000 ft by the time it reaches the village, with over half of that occurring north of the 32 acre park (a section of the glen that we have yet to explore). The plentiful refreshing waterfalls that can be seen easily via a simple creek-walk through the park are certainly a treat, although taking a risk and doing a little climbing and exploring to reach a few of the hidden treasures of the glen is what is so exciting to many. Unfortunately a series of accidents has made those falls off-limits.
Although the glen floor is outlined with trails, they are incomplete, so getting your feet wet is almost unavoidable. It’s probably best to wear a pair of old sneakers and dip right in without hesitation. The water can get really cold in early spring and late fall. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Although there are a few small cascades along the way, the most notable waterfalls are simply referred to as “first” and “second” falls. The first falls is a steep and striking cascade pouring over the side of the glen and spreads out over mossy and grime-covered shale layers, filling the gorge with what can be best described as “the sound of sparkling water.”
Further up the glen, the Second Falls roars in comparison. Although smaller than the first, it generally carries more water. Take a step back and look high to see the top half of the falls, a powerful chute that seems to hug the gorge wall as it curves around the bend. The chute breaks up a bit as it cascades down the bottom half of the falls, yet the right side maintains a powerful jet of water. The gorge opens up below the falls, and houses a shallow wading pool below the falls that stretches across a grotto on the other side.
Climbing up the cliff to the left side of the falls leads to the Indian Falls, smaller waterfalls and what is known as “Third Falls.” This is easier said than done. Erosion in recent years created an overhang and has crafted a dangerous climb. Rope and a great deal of skill and safety are needed to get up and back down without injury, so most hikers turn around here. The Ontario County Parks department recently reached out to notify people this section of the gorge is private property and off limits.
The more adventurous can work their way up the southwest side of the gorge, from the beginning of the trail, or by climbing the First Falls. From there they can connect to a trail that crosses Springstead Creek, and head up the wooded hillside (look for old growth trees here) to get a birds-eye view of the upper part of the gorge. When we hiked this in 2006, I did not go far enough to see if we could access Indian Falls this way. It may be possible.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Note: Nature parks such as this have risks. Going off the trail, climbing waterfalls, and jumping into shallow pools carries even more risk. If you choose to do those things, that’s your choice. I can’t stop you. Once you make that choice, you take that responsibility. You put your life at risk, rescuers at risk, the park at risk, and taxpayers foot the bill. Make good choices.
Distance: Roughly 1.5 miles of rough, muddy trails and unavoidable creek-walking (round-trip).
Be prepared to get wet. Although there are some trails that hug the cliff walls, you are often required to hop stones and criss-cross the creek to utilize them.
Right from the parking lot, you can head directly towards the creek to see the first falls. There’s another one downstream, but it is on private property. Upstream past the bridge is a wide cascade about 3 ft tall.
At about 1/2 mile you will come across the First Falls, which can be climbed (carefully) and a trail can be caught from the rim that leads north above the gorge. This waterfall is formed from a tributary as it empties into the gorge. It totals 62 ft high and is roughly 15 ft across.
On the way to the second major waterfall there are several small ledges along the way. You’ll be able to hear the Second Falls as you approach it. This falls is a more gradual cascade in two segments with a huge pool beneath it. It comes in at just under 60 ft tall.
To the left used to be a decent way to climb up above the falls, but in recent years landslides have made the path steep with overhangs, loose dirt and rock. If you choose to climb, it’s your risk, your life. People have been seriously hurt going off trail and climbing waterfalls here and it is clearly against park rules. You have been warned.
Above is a clear view of the top of the second falls and the third falls sits in the glen about a half-mile upstream. The third falls is roughly 50 ft tall and people have climbed about half of the way up to the limestone ledge in the past. Climbing above this falls would be very difficult and dangerous and, of course, climbing back down is never as easy as going up.
Grimes Glen Park Interactive Map
Long before white pioneers settled here, the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation ruled this region. Naples, particularly South Hill (now within the Hi -Tor Game Management Area) was of particular importance to the Seneca people. This massive wooded hill, that juts out over the highly productive marshland on the southern end of Canandaigua Lake, was considered to be the birthplace of the first Seneca people. As the legend goes, the hill opened up and the Seneca people (referred to as the “Great Hill People”) walked out. The crack in the hill from which the Seneca were born is called Clark Gully today.
Settlers established homes and businesses in the Town of Naples as early as January 1790, with ever-increasing numbers moving in as the potential for mill-power became realized. Seneca tribes continued to inhabit the area as well, with little or no conflict. Early settlers in the village banded together to create a mill race that extended water from Grimes Glen into the village to power mills. The first entrepreneurs to construct mills along this race were Paul Grimes (the glen’s namesake), who built a woolen mill, Perry Holcomb (fulling mill), and Benjamin Clark (for which Clark’s Gully was named) who built a saw mill with partner Jabez Metcalf. Mr. Grimes and Mr. Clark also operated pubs within the village. The first church was constructed on the corner of Main and Vine streets in 1826.
The primary methods of getting in and out of the Naples Valley were either by steamboat via Canandaigua Lake or by wagon on one of the many rough roads connecting the townships. In 1892, the Middlesex Valley Railroad built a station in the valley and facilitated the exports of Naples produce, eventually leading to a successful wine industry. The arrival of electricity meant the decline of water-powered mills and most of them have been razed. The mill that tapped Grimes glen still stands today on the corner of Race and Wall streets. The Grimes Glen property that comprises the park remained privately owned until recently.
Even when it was located on private property, Grimes Glen was an easily-accessible, family-favorite destination of locals and out-of-towners alike. Despite the former landowner, Naples native Don Braun, being extremely kind in allowing the public to enjoy the glen, there were always the threats of development and abuse looming over such a beautiful slice of land. It wasn’t until 2005, after a massive campaign by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, that the property was purchased from Braun. This began the process of converting Grimes Glen into an Ontario County Park. In 2008 it officially became a park, under the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s stewardship, complete with a few facility upgrades and a small budget for maintenance. The preservation of Grimes Glen is now a sure thing, and thanks to the parties involved in making this deal happen, the public can continue to enjoy the sparkling waters, sheer cliffs and spectacular cascades for generations to come.
Grimes Glen Park Media
Grimes Glen Waterfall Audio
More Grimes Glen Photos
High above the glen lie some specks of untouched old growth forest. If you can make your way up the first waterfall, you can join up with a trail that will lead you through them.
The world’s second oldest fossilized tree was found here. A 350 million year old specimen, discovered in 1882 by Naples biologist Dana Luther, is now currently on display at the New York State Museum in Albany. In 2010, older specimens were found in Schoharie County, New York.
Check the shale rock for impressions of trilobites and brachiopods, which are numerous here.
A trip to Naples is not complete if you don’t pick up a delicious grape pie. Almost 70,000 of these sweet and tangy pastries are sold here annually and the community even celebrates them with an annual baking contest. You can find them sold in local farm markets, shops and at road-side stalls, but I have a particular affinity towards the creations at Monica’s Pies on Rt 21, north of Naples.
- Bring that wide angle lens; the first major falls is over 60 ft tall and there isn’t much room in the glen to back up.
- Don’t just concentrate on the waterfalls. There are plenty of small drops, twists in the creek, interesting stones and trees along the way.
- On a hot summer day there are always going to be people enjoying the pool below the second falls. Either wake up really early to visit the glen before they do, or include people in your shots. It adds a sense of scale and captures the fun feeling of splashing around in this section of the glen on a hot day. Although, when I visited on a hot day in 2018, the gorge was packed (with people, their unleashed pets, and their trash) and nothing was particularly camera friendly.
- The stones in the creek are very slippery, especially in the lower glen. Be careful. Use footwear with a good grip, and take advantage of your tripod or monopod as a walking stick. It’s best to pack that camera away as you move across the water.
Silky Water Effect
- To get that smooth cotton-candy look to the falls, you need to use a Neutral Density (ND) filter on your lens. The ND filter will block some of the light from entering the lens without altering the color, and thus allow your shutter to stay open longer. This blurs the water and creates a soft white gloss to the foamy areas of the falls. Check out the article for the all the details.
- See the Articles for more photography tips.