Eternal Flame Waterfall

Seeing this waterfall has been on my to do list for awhile.  Geocachers on the geocaching facebook groups mention it frequently as one of the best, and of course, I love waterfalls.  So when planning our ASPGB week-end and realizing we were only an hour away, I scheduled a "detour" to finally see these falls.

I was a bit nervous.  From what I had read online, it could be a dangerous hike, crossing the creek twice, steep hills, and it sounded like there was not much of a path.  I have a knee injury that has been problematic lately, and I'm still recovering from a minor health issue that had kept me from hiking much at all in the past year, meaning I am even more out of shape than normal.  But I really wanted to do this hike, and I didn't care how long it took us, we could take all day if need be.  I packed extra shoes, and even a change of clothes, just to be prepared.  (All needless preparations.)

Have you seen Google Timeline?  It's great when I am trying to remember how long it took us to hike things, or how long we drove, etc.  According to google timeline, it took us just over an hour round trip, and it was only half a mile of walking.  Others have said it is 3/4 of a mile, and that might be accurate - part of the trail is pretty much straight up, and google may not have calculated those steps.  We spent plenty of time talking to two different couples at the falls, and taking lots of photos - so we were not rushing. 

There was no need to worry.  This is not what I consider a difficult hike.  It's similar in terrain to Ricketts Glen, but this is a MUCH shorter version.  There's a really steep section, but most of the trail is pretty flat, wide, and easy to navigate.  For the last section, you do walk along the creek bed, and you do cross the creek - but water flow was so low while we were there (even after a full spring of constant heavy rains?  We were very surprised by how low all the water was in this area).


Molly Mouse, our tiny dog, and me, the overweight out of shape human, had absolutely no problems with this trail.  Yes, be cautious and use common sense.  It's not a Texas hiking path (I was surprised when we got to Texas and went to a "hiking path" to find it was a concrete sidewalk, and of course it was Texas, so it was absolutely flat....) but it's not an impossible hike for the average non athlete.  It wasn't even the most difficult hike of our week-end.  (That HILL on the ASP #2 Night cache!  Oh my word!  My ankles still hurt from walking at that angle....)

All of my photos from our hike, with lots of photos of the trail, are here:

These are the reviews that made me nervous about this hike:

These pictures are amazing.  Even after a SUPER wet spring (it's rained almost nonstop this spring!) the waterfall was nowhere near this when we visited in May 2017.

More photos - I'd love to go back and see it in the winter!  I'm sure the hike is much more treacherous when it's all icy, but look at those beautiful photos!

This is from the geocache page -
"Upon entering the gorge and approaching the base of Eternal Flame Falls, cachers will notice a change in the ambient aroma. What you smell is the natural gas that leaks from between the shale layers. At the base of the waterfall you will find a small grotto that emits natural gas which can be lit to produce a small flame.
The natural gas that is escaping from this small grotto is a gaseous fossil fuel consisting primarily of methane. It is found in oil fields and natural gas fields, and in coal beds. When methane-rich gases are produced by the anaerobic decay of non-fossil organic material, these are referred to as biogas. Sources of biogas include swamps, marshes as well as man-made entities such as landfills, sewage and manure storage facilities. The result of this natural gas leak is two and sometimes three burning flames behind a wall of water."

This flame is said to have been lit years ago by native americans.  Whether that's true or not...  the flame does go out, but is relit by hikers.  We took a stick lighter along just in case, but the flame was lit when we arrived.

There are thousands of these flames all over the world, but most are man-made. This one is a natural flame, and a rare one.  "natural eternal flames can only be kept alight by gas 'macro seeps'. Gas usually comes through soil, where bacteria eats the methane converts it into carbon dioxide. Alternatively, gas comes out in a location where it disappears quickly, so can't keep a lit flame burning.  In the case of the New York flame, a 'macro seep' of gas comes from a natural hollowed-out chamber. Because the gas is contained and isn't converted, the flame is kept alight eternally."

Recently, researchers from Indiana University discovered that the rocks are not hot enough to produce the gas reaction, and that the shale beneath the eternal flame falls cannot be creating gas the same way as other flames around the world.  They cannot explain how this area is created.


This geocache has 510 Favorite Points.  Surprisingly, it's not even the most favorited in NY - it's currently #5 on the list of most favorited caches in NY state. There's one called The Spot that currently has over 800 favorite points, and Bridal Veil Falls Earth cache has 511.  I suspect that the ASPGB event being held right by the Bridal Veil Falls cache helps get a lot more people there to favorite it.