Located just 35 minutes east of downtown Syracuse is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Central New York: Chittenango Falls.
Chittenango Falls is the centerpiece of Chittenango Falls State Park in Madison County. This incredible waterfall is 167 feet in height (the same height as Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls). However, while it’s a popular local stop, you won’t be having to fight the crowds for the best views here.
Thanks to the power of flowing water, Chittenango Falls was the site of several mills and factories in the 1840s. However, recognizing the beauty of the area, the land was purchased by the Chittenango Falls Park Association in the 1880s to ensure it was accessible to the public.
In 1922, Chittenango Falls State Park was established as one of the first state parks in this part of New York.
Today, visitors come to enjoy this incredibly scenic spot, hike on the park’s 2.5 miles of trails, go fishing, or simply enjoy the picnic and playground facilities.
From the parking area, it’s less than a couple of hundred feet to the crest of Chittenango Falls. This viewing area is open year-round and offers a fantastic view of the waterfall. There are also signs here that offer a little bit of the geologic history of the area.
For those that are able, however, I highly recommend also hiking to the base of the waterfall.
The trail to the bottom makes a loop from the parking area that is about half a mile long. The trail starts from the parking lot side just below the crest of the falls. While it mostly consists of steps, they are rather uneven, especially for the second half of the hike down to the base.
About halfway down, there is a viewing area for the falls that provides another nice spot from which to see Chittenango Falls.
A bit further down the trail, there is also a really nice 50-foot seasonal waterfall on a sidestream near the bridge at the bottom of the gorge. Make sure to take a minute to enjoy this bonus waterfall if it is flowing well.
At the bottom of the gorge, views of Chittenango Falls are from a bridge crossing the creek about 100 yards downstream of the falls.
While it would be great to get closer to the falls, signs warn of endangered plants near the base of the gorge, so it’s best to stay on the trail. Fortunately, the views from the bridge really are quite nice.
Once you’ve finished enjoying the waterfall, you can head back up the way you came or you can do as I did and continue up the opposite bank of Chittenango Creek.
The trail here is a bit steeper but offers a few partial views of the falls. Plus, if water levels are high, there’s a nice little waterfall on another side stream that can be seen.
Once at the top of the gorge, the trail continues past the crest of the falls and another viewpoint before crossing the stream on the bridge just above the falls and taking you back to the parking lot.
While there are many impressive waterfalls in New York, Chittenango Falls has to be counted among the best in Central New York.
If you are looking for a great spot to visit east of Syracuse, don’t miss this fantastic state park.
Visiting Chittenango Falls State Park
Chittenango Falls State Park is located in Madison County, New York, five miles south of the town of Chittenango.
The parking lot can be found at the following coordinates: 42.977718, -75.842024.
From the parking lot, it’s a short walk to the top of the falls and the Gorge Trail which heads down to the base of the falls.
During the peak season, there is a charge of $3 per car on weekdays and $5 on weekends that is paid at an automated kiosk in the parking area. Note that no change is given or credit cards accept, so you’ll want to have exact change.
Also worth noting is that during the winter months, the Gorge Trail is closed, so you’ll only be able to view Chittenango Falls from above.