Whether you crave the breathtaking force with which nature provides beauty or the idyllic sounds of rushing water, the Finger Lakes region’s range of waterfalls are not just a product of our glacially-created topography, they are also diverse, regionally significant, and awe-inducing.
If you’ve ever seen the bumper sticker, “Ithaca is Gorges,” it’s true. Home to a number of notable waterfalls, the steady rush of water carving gorges created a hot spot to take a hike, breathe in the views, and cool off from the mist of numerous waterfalls. The main attraction at Ithaca’s Buttermilk Falls State Park is the park’s namesake. The foaming Buttermilk Falls can be seen from the entrance of the park and is just one of 10 waterfalls to be found there. It derives its name from the frothy cascade of waters that are fed from Buttermilk Creek as it drops and flows down to Cayuga Lake.
Cascadilla Gorge Trail
Cascadilla Gorge Trail is no exception when it comes to magnificent views, and it offers a corridor-style park and trail that connects to downtown Ithaca and runs three-quarters of a mile long. The trail features eight waterfalls, six of which are considered major.
Fillmore Glen State Park
Surrounded by tall trees, Fillmore Glen State Park is home to five waterfalls that can be viewed while trekking the long gorge trail across numerous foot bridges and within the shade of dense foliage, making for fantastic wilderness views. The Glen itself was created and enhanced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. While visiting, check out the stream-fed swimming pool.
Grimes Glen Park
In Naples, Grimes Glen is host to three waterfalls, all of which are roughly 60 feet high. A one-mile meander along the creek will bring visitors to two of the waterfalls. Near the second waterfall there are ropes available to help hikers make the trek to the third waterfall, but it is a precarious climb best left to more weathered hikers.
High Tor Wildlife Area
For hiking enthusiasts up for a challenge, Conklin Gully in High Tor, a 6,100-acre Fish and Wildlife Management area near Naples, offers a number of scenic waterfall views. This trek is not recommended for young children, as there are steep cliffs and climbing on the trail. But don’t worry, High Tor offers easier, flat hikes for waterfall viewing with the family.
Keuka Outlet Trail
Follow the path of the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, a natural waterway that connects Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake, with access points in both Penn Yan and Dresdent to view two waterfalls. Seneca Mills Falls is a three-tiered cascade of more than 40 feet. The smaller, second waterfall, Cascade Mill Falls, has a 20-foot cascade and is surrounded by old mills and factories, making it a unique spot that merges history with nature.
A waterfall seeking excursion wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Letchworth Park, or as it’s also known, the “Grand Canyon of the east,” where waterfalls abound amidst this enormous spectacle of nature. While there are many waterfalls within the park, the Genesee River winds and crashes its way over three main falls—the Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and Upper Falls, all of which have identifying characteristics that make them unique.
Lick Brook Glen
Also located in Ithaca, Lick Brook Glen is situated in the forest-rich woods of Sweedler Preserve. The 128-acre sanctuary is home to three waterfalls that all flow to Cayuga Lake. Along the trail, smaller waterfall cascades make for scenic views. There are, however, occasional steep inclines so parts of the trail may not be suitable for children.
Follow the craggy glory of the Enfield Glen within Robert H. Treman Park to take in the 12 waterfalls that grace the landscape. The main waterfall attraction is Lucifer Falls, which cascades 115 feet down. Along the nine miles of hiking available, you can even take a dip and enjoy the wonder of swimming beneath a waterfall in a stream-fed pool.
The picturesque historic town of Montour Falls, situated just south of Seneca Lake, derives its name from Shequaga Falls, a 156-foot waterfall that is easily visible from the road. The location of the falls offers visitors accessibility for quick trips and long, deep breaths to take it all in.
Seekers of majestic sites should head to Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, where they will find nature at her finest carving a 400-foot gorge. Plunging 215 feet over rocky cliffs, the Taughannock Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, making it higher than even Niagara Falls. The gorge is accessible by a number of trails.
Surrounded by lush greenery and an amphitheater of shale, a sheer curtain of water falls roughly 50 feet creating what is known as Tinker Falls. The falls, which are located in Truxton, are a part of the 1,474-acre Labrador Hollow Unique Area, which has the distinction of being the first property to be designated as a Unique Area in New York. It is open to the public, and the short trail to the falls can be found off NY 91.
Watkins Glen State Park
On the southern point of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen State Park is home to a publicly accessible 800-stone step trail overlooking a gorge carved out by the 19 waterfalls that can be found throughout the park. Located right on Main Street, it’s hard to miss the caverns, streambeds, and visual delight just waiting to be explored. Tours are available during the summer season.
Waterfalling is just one of the adventures you can have when visiting the Finger Lakes, and you can be sure the sights and sounds will fill your senses with their magnificence. Make sure to check park websites before adventuring, however, for closings or restrictions.
For more on waterfall hikes, visit: Top Waterfall Hikes in the Finger Lakes region.