Waterfall #3 in Buttermilk Falls SP, New York

It’s been a while since I’ve thought about the waterfalls in Buttermilk Falls State Park. It’s a really beautiful state park in Ithaca, and there are so many different drops on Buttermilk Creek. Buttermilk Falls is the largest drop, and then Upper Buttermilk Falls is also a rather large drop. I also classified other drops (#1#2, and #6), with #4 and #5 being somewhat out of sight.

This third drop that I classified has three smaller drops that are extremely close to each other. You could almost call this Triple Falls. If this waterfall were all by itself, I’m not sure that it would be a main attraction (though that also depends on where the falls are located). In this case, you’ll see so many other waterfalls that it’s worth it to keep hiking. (Depending on how you choose to hike, there is a moderate ascent, with a much easier descent.)

Directions:

  1. There are multiple ways to access this entrance to the park. I think the easiest is to get onto NY-96B (aka Danby Rd.) heading south from Ithaca.
  2. Heading south, you will come to W. King Road. Turn right onto W. King Road.
  3. Head to the sign for the entrance to Buttermilk Falls State Park. Turn into the entrance.
  4. From here, you can park right there, and cross W. King Road. The entrance to the gorge should be rather obvious.
  5. The Gorge Trail is the best choice to view the falls, though it is only open during certain times of the year.

Accessibility: Ascent (4/10), Descent (9/10)
Height: ~15′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip (if you start near NY-96)

buttermilk 3

Where in the World is Waterfall #3?

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Lower Taughannock Falls, New York

The 200’+ tall Taughannock Falls is the main attraction in Taughannock Falls State Park near Ithaca, but there are other falls in the park that are just as pretty. Lower Taughannock Falls is found just as you enter the park on your journey through the gorge to the base of the falls. This falls can not be seen from the base viewpoint.

The falls are taller than they appear, and are wider than Taughannock Falls. The gorge at that point is not that high above you.  The falls are only a short distance from Lake Cayuga. From this point to the base of the falls, you may be able to walk on the bedrock in the river, as the water levels are usually low. Be careful, though, as that is not always the case, especially after a lot of rain.

Directions (to view base of the falls):

  1. From Ithaca, head north on NY-89.
  2. After a ways, you’ll end up at Taughannock Falls State Park. There are two different parking areas here. Park in either one and pay the entrance fee.
  3. The falls are just a short distance from parking.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Lower Taughannock Falls in September 2006

Where in the World is Lower Taughannock Falls?

Waterfall #1 in Buttermilk Falls SP, New York

There are numerous drops along Buttermilk Creek in Ithaca, and in essence they could be viewed as one very large waterfall that drops a considerable distance. This waterfall here is not the first waterfall you will see. Buttermilk Falls and Upper Buttermilk Falls will both come before this drop. I’m just designating this the first unnamed drop on the creek.

I wish I could explain the beauty of this drop adequately. The trees block the view somewhat, so the picture cannot do justice to how interesting the view was. I tried my best with the vantage point provided (which is really no vantage point provided). Before this point on the creek, the creek is actually rather narrow, and it is only now just beginning to widen considerably. You may also notice that hidden at the crest of the falls is another drop just above this wider crest. I was amazed at how secluded that drop was, but alas, there was no way to get a better view of the drop. The rock walls begin to climb dramatically at that point, and you end up standing above the falls at a considerable height. You will hear the falls below, but you will be unlikely to see them very well.

Directions:

  1. There are multiple ways to access this entrance to the park. I think the easiest is to get onto NY-96B (aka Danby Rd.) heading south from Ithaca.
  2. Heading south, you will come to W. King Road. Turn right onto W. King Road.
  3. Head to the sign for the entrance to Buttermilk Falls State Park. Turn into the entrance.
  4. From here, you can park right there, and cross W. King Road. The entrance to the gorge should be rather obvious.
  5. The Gorge Trail is the best choice to view the falls, though it is only open during certain times of the year.

Accessibility: Ascent (4/10 moderate/difficult), Descent (9/10 easy)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip (to see falls from lower entrance), 1.2 miles round-trip to see many of the falls

Waterfall in Buttermilk Falls State Park

Where in the World is Waterfall #1?

Taughannock Falls, New York

If you’re looking for the tall waterfalls, Taughannock Falls should be high on that list. It isn’t even the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, which is often considered a dividing line for waterfall classification. There are other waterfalls that are taller, including Upper Whitewater Falls in North Carolina. Taughannock Falls is in the tall category because it is one of the largest single plunge falls east of the Mississippi at over 200′, though one or two others may be larger.

Does that mean that Taughannock Falls is one of my favorite falls? No…It’s tall, but height isn’t everything. Taughannock Falls doesn’t have a whole lot of complexity, which I think is what makes waterfalls interesting. The far more interesting aspect of Taughannock Falls is the amazing gorge it has carved. At some points along the hike to view the base of the falls, you’re actually in a gorge that is something like 400′ above you. The rock formations are truly spectacular. It’s mindblowing to think that this falls has created such an interesting gorge.

Directions (to view base of the falls):

  1. From Ithaca, head north on NY-89.
  2. After a ways, you’ll end up at Taughannock Falls State Park. There are two different parking areas here. Park in either one and pay the entrance fee.
  3. Follow the 1 mile trail to the falls.

There is another view of the falls from above. To get to this viewpoint, continue north on NY-89 a short ways to Taughannock Park Rd. and turn left. From there, head a ways to the viewpoint, which would be on the left if you’re heading west.

Accessibility: 9/10 (to base), 10/10 (from upper viewpoint)
Height: 215′
Length of Hike: 2 miles round-trip

Taughannock Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Taughannock Falls?

Wells Falls, New York

Wells Falls (also known as Businessman’s Lunch or Van Natta’s Falls) is one of my favorite waterfalls near Ithaca. This one is off in a different area of Ithaca, but is still relatively easy to view. Well, once you get to it. Traffic and driving in Ithaca can be difficult. To get to Wells Falls, you’re either going up an incline or driving down it. Either way, you’ve got make some pretty quick turns, otherwise you’ll miss the roads leading to the waterfall.

Once you’ve gotten to the waterfall, enjoy the old dam/power plant/whatever it is that is right next to the falls. It’s windows are shuddered up, but that just makes this waterfall all the more interesting. Getting to the base of the falls is also a cool thing to do, though this does involve trying to figure out how to get down to the base in the first place. Once you’re down at the base, pay attention for two other smaller waterfalls that may be falling down the cliffs. These waterfalls will probably be more apparent in spring.

Directions:

  1. From the center of Ithaca, head out on East NY-79.
  2. You’ll pass the intersection for NY-366, but do not turn here. Shortly after that, you’re going to turn onto Water St.
  3. Water St. will end at the parking lot of a nature preserve that is right next to Six Mile Creek.
  4. Park in the nature preserve and walk across Giles St. and over the bridge that crosses Six Mile Creek.
  5. After you have passed the bridge, you have two options. First option: There is a trail that has been widely used that you will come up to first. This trail can give you some very good views of the crest of the falls, but not the base. If you continue on the trail, you will most likely end up with the trail ending abruptly. Second option: If you go a very short distance further, you’ll will notice a somewhat inclined trail/rock road/path that leads downward. If you follow this trail, you’ll end up with a much better view of the base of the falls. Try both options for multiple photo opportunities.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 65′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Van Natta’s Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Wells Falls?

Rocky Falls, New York

Scattered throughout the Cornell University campus are a number of waterfalls. I was walking around the campus one day with my camera and found this waterfall. At the time, I didn’t even know it’s name, since there’s no reason to advertise the numerous waterfalls. People will find them without much difficulty.

I believe there are other viewpoints of Rocky Falls than just from above. I’m just not sure how to get to them, partly because I wasn’t really paying attention at the time. There are other falls in Fall Creek Gorge, so pay attention!

Directions:

  1. I’m not even sure how to give directions to this waterfall. Cornell University’s campus, as with many other campuses, is not easy to navigate. It may be easier to do so in the summer when there are fewer students around. Parking is also extremely difficult to find, but it does become more available after 5 or 6 pm.
  2. One option for viewing the falls is going onto Cornell’s campus, and finding Fall Creek Drive. Fall Creek runs parallel. There may be parking there, though I can’t remember.
  3. Multiple pedestrian suspension bridges cross the river. The view of the falls comes from one of the pedestrian suspension bridge shown in this.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, from above)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: variable depending on starting location

Rocky Falls in March 2006

Where in the World is Rocky Falls?

Ithaca Falls, New York

The whole time I lived near Ithaca, I had a hunch that there were some waterfalls nearby…I didn’t realize that there were so many in the city itself, many of them very easy to get to. I would have visited Ithaca Falls when I lived there if I had known! I decided to go back this year once I found out what great waterfalls were in the area.

If you’re only in Ithaca for a short time, it can be difficult to decide which waterfalls to visit. This is one that is very easy to visit, so check it out. The most difficult part is getting to the waterfall. Since it’s a college town, it’s crazy to try to navigate around the city. Add to that the extremely varied terrain, and you could get yourself lost without much difficulty. GPS is probably a necessity if you do not live in the area.

One point before the directions…Ithaca Falls is much larger than it appears in photos. It’s a perspective deception.

Directions:

  1. From NY-79 in Ithaca, head north on Cayuga St.
  2. Turn right onto E. Falls St.
  3. Head to the end of E. Falls St. We couldn’t find the dirt parking lot others have referred to, so we parked for a short period of time next to an apartment complex.
  4. The short trail to the falls starts at the end of Falls St.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 100′
Length of Hike: 0.15 miles round-trip

Ithaca Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Ithaca Falls?