Do you never get tired of exploring beautiful parks and hidden natural gems? Are waterfalls surrounded by lush greenery your best pick? In that case, you’re on the right page that’ll inspire you to go on endless adventures.
When it comes to waterfalls, New York takes pride in some of the most inspiring ones. So, if you are traveling among Buffalo, Rochester, or Syracuse, detour to visit some of these majestic falls. Also, if you’re checking out the wineries in the Finger Lakes region, stop by and enjoy the view of glorious cascades. Here, we list our favorite must-see waterfalls in upstate New York.
1. Watkins Glen State Park
Right beside the village of Watkins, you’ll spot an enchanting realm created by a gorge. Indisputably, the water walls of Watkins Glen are among the most photogenic waterfalls in NY. What makes this park superb is that the gorge trail takes hikers, behind, above, beneath, and besides most cascades.
The area abounds with a total of 19 waterfalls and numerous spellbinding cliffs. Expect to remain speechless at the sight of Rainbow Falls. The gorge trail stretches for two miles and is open from spring through autumn, or first frost. There are other rim trails that hikers can use all year round. Don’t miss out the Cavern Cascade and the Suspension Bridge for a fantasy-like impression.
If you’re on for an adventure, pay a visit to Watkins Glen during the winter.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Watkins Glen Rock:
- Parking costs $8 for the day.
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the campsites are closed.
- Pets can accompany visitors but are not allowed on the Watkins Gorge Trail and must get leashed.
- The trails are not wheelchair accessible, since they have steep steps.
2. Taughannock Falls State Park
A short drive from Ithaca, at 1740 Taughannock Blvd., stands the highest single-drop fall east of the Rocky Mountains. With a 215-feet plunge, Taughannock Falls is the tallest of all must-see waterfalls in upstate New York. Visitors can observe the imposing drop from a platform across the canyon and from ground level.
The tranquility you feel when listening to the gushing sound of the water is invaluable. Keen hikers can enjoy multiple trails, while winter sports fans can go cross-country skiing. The park offers a beach, marina, camping, and water sports lessons. Remember that swimming in the gorge is off-limits, but you can freely bathe in the Cayuga Lake.
Things to know when visiting Taughannock Falls State Park:
- This state park welcomes leased dogs but only to enjoy hiking trails. It would be best if you keep pets off at guarded beach areas and playgrounds.
- Most parts of the park are suitable for wheelchairs but not the gorge trails.
- As for parking, the entry fee will cost you $8.
3. Lucifer Falls (Robert Treman State Park)
To access the park, you must drive to 105 Enfield Falls Rd. south of Ithaca. Once you reach the area, you’ll get spoiled by the mesmerizing views along the 4-mile hike. Lucifer Falls will then be the cherry on top of your trekking adventure. Thanks to the paved trails, reaching the waterfall is not an unbearable feat.
Falling from 115 ft., you can observe the falls from the rim trail and the gorge trail. The stone staircases make the whole experience a lot more adventurous. At the base, visitors can cool off during the summer period.
When visiting Lucier Falls:
- The scenery makes it perfect for families who want to have a relaxing picnic outdoors.
- You can explore Lucifer Falls starting your hike from either the lower or the upper car park.
- Prepare to pay $8 for an entry fee in the peak season.
- Finally, you may take your leashed pet along.
4. Lower Falls/Enfield Falls (Robert Treman State Park)
Navigate towards 105 Enfield Falls Rd. and you’ll see a world of fascinating colors and contours. The entire area of the Robert Treman State Park offers spectacular views of rugged gorges and winding trails. Lower Falls is one of the 12 waterfalls where visitors can cherish nature and recharge their batteries.
Also named Enfield Falls, adventurous swimmers can jump from a diving board and splash into the bathing pool below them. This pool is the highlight of the park’s swimming area to treat yourself after a sweaty hike along the numerous trails.
Lower Falls visiting information:
- Up to two pets per visitor can enter the park provided they’re on a leash and refrain from crowded spots and playgrounds.
- The park is open from dawn to dusk.
- If you visit from mid-October to mid-April, there is no vehicle entry fee. Otherwise, you’ll get charged $8 to access the park by car.
- The rugged landscape makes it impossible for wheelchair users to enjoy its amenities.
5. Buttermilk Falls State Park
Head to 112 E. Buttermilk Falls Road to enter a kingdom of greenery and incredible views. Getting its name by the foaming cascade, Buttermilk Falls is a creation of the Buttermilk Creek. Its total fall is 500 ft., and you can have a pleasant swim at the bottom in summer. Moving on through a steep valley, the creek then joins the Cayuga Lake.
The upper park will welcome you with nature trail winds through woodlands and picnic spots. There’s also a small lake and some playgrounds. The campsite, which stands within the lower park, is home to a natural pool and a large wetland. The park operates all year round, but it charges an entry fee only from April through November. Within this peak period, a car entry will cost you $8.
Tips for seeing the Buttermilk Falls in NY:
- The entire area and the campsite are pet-friendly and allow visitors to bring up to two pets along.
- Still, your four-legged pals must be on a leash and supervised at all times. Keep them away from pools and guarded beaches, as well as from buildings, playgrounds, and golf courses.
- Last, make sure you have a mask with you in case you’re hiking in NY crowded and narrow spots.
6. Ithaca Falls
Mark Ithaca Falls on your Finger Lakes tour as it is one of the finest must-see waterfalls in upstate New York. Make your way to the south end of Cayuga Lake, and you’ll reach an unexpected oasis with towering sheer cliffs. With a total height of over 100 ft., you can admire this amphitheater-shaped cascade after a short hike.
Note that swimming is prohibited and dangerous all year round and that the soil contains high lead levels. Currents are unpredictable, and the flow can be violent in the gushing-power season. The waterfalls are spectacular in any period throughout the year, with colossal ice formations in winter and amber foliage in autumn.
Must-know tips when visiting Ithaca Falls:
- If you’re coming by car, park at one of the two small lots which are usually full. There’s a high school parking lot across, so you may also try that one out.
- Unlike with other falls, disabled people can access from the sidewalk on the Lake St Bridge.
- Dogs can enjoy the park and its trails but must get well-attended and be on a leash at all times.
7. Triphammer Falls
You’ll find Triphammer Falls right in the middle of Cornell’s Campus University. The sight of the dilapidated power station at the base of the waterfalls is eye candy for any nature-loving soul. The best spots to relish the 55-feer tall cascade are The East Avenue Bridge and the Triphammer Foot Bridge.
You can take two trails that’ll take you to a stance where you can observe this heavenly beauty. The narrow path leading to the falls is quite steep and rocky so accessing the area with a wheelchair is almost impossible.
Quick tips to Triphammer Falls:
- There is no entrance fee.
- The campus operates all year round from dawn till dusk.
- Visitors cannot swim anywhere on campus, but they can take their pets along on a leash.
8. Lick Brook Falls
To reach these impressive falls, particularly after a rainstorm, head towards Townline Road in Ithaca. The Lick Brook Preserve boasts three lovely cascades, with the highest one pouring down from almost 100 ft. Other smaller water walls and nearby meadows make the entire mosaic a unique display of undisturbed beauty.
All trails are open throughout the entire year and are ideal for hiking, cross-country skiing, running, and wildlife spotting. Walks along the Lick Brook gorge through the forest require moderate stamina.
Details to keep in mind when visiting Lick Brook Falls:
- There are several parking lots nearby, and they are all subject to fees depending on the location.
- Yet, entrance to the park is free.
- Swimming is not allowed.
- Dogs can easily use the 3-mile trail, which is rarely heavily trafficked.
- Some parts of the route are suitable for wheelchairs, but there is also a steep 500-foot climb.
9. Cascadilla Gorge
Located in the Finger Lakes Region, you’ll get spoiled for tricking water sights. The breath-taking rapids flow from the Cornell Campus to downtown Ithaca through a bedrock of sedimentary rocks. The trail is 1.3 miles long, with many stairs along the way, making it inaccessible for wheelchair users.
The journey of Cascadilla Creek starts with the picturesque Cascadilla Falls, about 20 feet high. Its path runs past seven other waterfalls with a total drop height of 400 feet. The stone-paved trail follows the creek bed, making it possible to appreciate every single fall from nearby.
Tips for visiting Cascadilla Gorge:
- Plan to visit the area from April to November or first freeze as steps get icy.
- There is no entrance fee gets charged to trek along the gorge.
- Pets can enjoy nature (keep them off the gorge trail) on a leash.
- Note that swimming is prohibited within the area.
- Metered parking is available on site, and prices depend on the street you settle on. Just make sure you take your camera with you, and you’re ready for the next weekend trip.
10. Businessman’s Lunch Falls
Ithaca is the home of gorges and waterfalls, some famous and some lesser-known. Located along Giles Road, Business’s Lunch Falls are some of the hidden gems that are worth your attention. The name derives from the trip multiple office workers take to the spot during their lunch breaks.
Also known as Wells Falls, the set of four foamy cascades flows next to an abandoned mill. The mill adds sublime fairytale accent to this unique place. Dare to explore the majestic site all year round, but avoid the icy period as paths can be impassible.
Businessman’s Lunch Falls important details:
- The parking lot is located about 0.2 miles from the waterfalls, so not much trekking effort is required on your side.
- Since the trail is easy to walk, wheelchair users may be able to enjoy the view.
- Note that visitors can not use the pool of the falls for swimming even in the hottest months.
11. Ludlowville Falls
If you happen to be passing by the village of Ludlowville, take a break and enjoy the calming sound of the nearby falls. Though not very high (the waterfalls are 35 feet only), the creek bed is unusually wide leading to a bouncing cascade. Under the caprock, there is a huge cave with massive boulders scattered in front of it.
Entrance is free, and hot summers indulge many to take a swim in the foamy waters. The trail gets classified as easy, so you’ll need no more than ten minutes to reach the waterfall. You can also spot some nice and rare plants here accompanied by animals like minks.
Quick details about Ludlowville Falls:
- Unfortunately, wheelchairs cannot access the park as there are no paved walkways.
- Dogs can escort owners, but on a leash only and further from the gorge.
- You needn’t pay for parking, but note that only five cars can fit the small lot. Alternatively, you can park along the road in front of the park.
Upstate abounds with iconic falls at every corner. Any nature lover will get stricken with awe at the sight of these natural wonders. If you haven’t got the chance to enjoy the waterfalls in this area, check the above must-see waterfalls in Upstate New York. We guarantee you won’t regret the effort.
Are there any other falls that left an impression on you? Feel free to share your thoughts with our readers who are eagerly seeking ideas for their next trip. Register for our newsletter for more suggestions on spending valuable time outdoors on the cheap.