The city of Ithaca has the slogan “Ithaca is Gorges” because of the region’s many gorges and waterfalls. And while there are many scenic waterfalls near Ithaca, there are also several spectacular drops that are located within the city limits. Of these, Ithaca Falls is by far the most impressive.
Ithaca Falls is located on Fall Creek. This waterway starts in the hills near Fillmore Glen State Park before flowing over several incredible waterfalls in Ithaca on its way to Cayuga Lake.
Ithaca Falls is the last waterfall on the creek before it flows into the lake.
The waterfall is located just north of downtown Ithaca near both Cornell University and Ithaca High School, and only a short walk from Cascadilla Gorge and the Sciencenter. The waterfall can be seen from the Lake Street Bridge over Fall Creek, which makes it accessible for nearly everyone and one of the state’s best roadside waterfalls. It’s also, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Ithaca, NY.
However, a short walk of around 150 yards along the creek provides even more stunning views of Ithaca Falls.
The area around Ithaca Falls was used for power for many years by a variety of mills and businesses. One of the most prominent was the Ithaca Gun Factory, which was in business along Fall Creek for over 100 years. Remnants of this factory and other mills in the area can be seen while walking to the base of the falls.
(It should also be noted here that there remains a lead contamination issue at Ithaca Falls because of the materials used by the Ithaca Gun Company. Use caution when visiting the site, especially with children. Don’t eat the dirt!)
The area between Lake Street and the waterfall is now known as the Ithaca Falls Natural Area. Other than creating a nice path to the area near the base of the falls, there isn’t any infrastructure here, but it’s a nice, easy walk of about 150 yards that’s worth doing.
This is an incredibly popular area for both people enjoying the waterfall as well as people fishing in the water below the falls. Unfortunately, swimming isn’t allowed here and several deaths have occurred here over the years from those who didn’t follow this rule.
From its base, Ithaca Falls is incredibly impressive. I’ve seen its height listed as anywhere from 75 to 150 feet, but my best guess is that it is somewhere around 100 feet tall (an approximate height confirmed by my drone) and 100 feet or so wide. Regardless of the height, though, this is an incredibly beautiful and impressive waterfall.
In my opinion, Ithaca Falls is one of the few in the area that looks better when water levels are a bit lower. That’s because not only do lower water levels make it easier and safer to explore around the base of the falls, but you can also really enjoy the shape of the waterfall when levels are low.
Fall Creek also seems to hold water better than some other streams in the area. When I visited and took most of these photos, spots like Buttermilk Falls State Park were quite dry, but Ithaca Falls still had a nice amount of water flowing over it.
If water levels are higher, it may be challenging or impossible to reach the base of the falls. However, the view from the bridge just downstream of the waterfall will still give you a great view of this beautiful spot.
How to Get to Ithaca Falls
Ithaca Falls is located just north of downtown Ithaca off of Lake Street.
There is parking on both sides of Lake Street near the intersection of East Falls Street just south of the waterfall. The most popular lot can be found at the following coordinates: 42.452699, -76.494903.
If the parking areas here are full, there is street parking along some of the side streets. Do not park on Lake Street itself.
The Lake Street bridge is a great spot to view Ithaca Falls from and there is a sidewalk on the bridge that helps make this a fairly safe viewing area.
The dirt path to the base of the falls is located on the southern side of the creek and is an easy 150-yard walk to the base of Ithaca Falls.
Ithaca Falls itself is located at the following coordinates: 42.452833, -76.491705.
There are also several other waterfalls just upstream on the campus of Cornell University that are worth exploring, but there are no trails that go to them from the base of Ithaca Falls.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]