Located in southeastern Onondaga County, about 25 minutes from downtown Syracuse, Pratts Falls is a waterfall that’s well worth taking the short drive to see.
Pratts Falls is located in Pratts Falls Park, a county park that was the site of Onondaga County’s first mill. The park, which has been open to the public since the 1930s, features an archery course, picnic pavilions, and several miles of hiking areas.
The highlight of the park, however, is the waterfall.
Pratts Falls is 137 feet tall and cascades down the hillside as a ribbon cascade falls. There are viewing areas at both the crest of the falls and from near the base, offering great views that are accessible to almost anyone.
To see the falls, park in the parking area to the right of the main entrance. You’ll pass a small pond on your right as you head towards the parking area. This pond feeds the falls and gives it decent flow throughout the year.
When parking, try to get a spot close to the bathroom building as that will place you closest to the falls.
When visiting Pratts Falls, there are three spots that are worth checking out.
The first spot from which to see the waterfall is located behind the bathroom building. While there is nothing to distinguish this spot as a viewing area, this is the best view of the waterfall from above.
During the warmer months of the year, the underbrush can grow up here block the falls to an extent, but you should still be able to get a nice view of at least the upper part of Pratts Falls throughout the year.
From the top of the falls, it’s also worth taking the short walk over to the area near the crest of the falls.
Not only are there incredible views of the gorge carved out by Pratts Falls, but you can also get a close look at the stone channel through which the waters flow. The small pond on the opposite side of the road is said to be a nice spot to go fishing.
Also near the crest of the falls is some great signage that tells the history of the area.
It was on this spot in 1796 that Manoah Pratt built a sawmill, the first mill in what would become Onondaga County. Today, the dam that creates the small pond and the stone path that the water flows between the pond and the falls are all that remains of the mill.
While the top of the falls offers nice views and interesting signage, the best spot to view Pratts Falls is from the end of the Falls Trail.
The trail starts near the parking area below a sign that says “Falls Trail.”
The sign here and the park map both list this trail as 0.6 miles. While that is probably true if you do the entire loop, if you follow the trail the way listed here, it’s less than a quarter-mile down and back.
When you cross below the sign follow the trail for just a few steps. Within a few feet, you will come to a split in the trail. If you head to the right, you will be able to do the entire 0.6-mile loop. However, if you take the trail to the left and go down the steps, you will head directly to the Pratts Falls viewing area.
The trail down to Pratts Falls loses about 75-100 feet of elevation in the roughly tenth of a mile to the falls. Fortunately, a series of nice staircases make this descent (and especially the ascent) easier. All told, most of the elevation loss is at the trail’s four staircases.
After just a couple minutes of walking, the trail ends at a great overlook of Pratts Falls.
While you are a hundred feet or so from the base of the waterfall, this is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the waterfall. In fact, the view here gives you a nearly unobstructed view of the entirety of Pratts Falls.
Once you’ve had your fill of the view, simply retrace your steps back to your vehicle.
Without a doubt, Pratts Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. What makes it even better is that it is so close to the parking area and the upper viewing spots can be visited by almost anyone, making this a great waterfall no matter your age or ability level.
So, the next time you are in Syracuse or are traveling through the region, take the short drive out to Pratts Falls Park.
How to Get to Pratts Falls
Pratts Falls is located in southeastern Onondaga County, New York, near the community of Pompey and Highway 20.
Pratts Falls can be found at the following coordinates within Pratts Falls Park: 42.931256, -75.994336.
At the entrance to the park, there is a collection box for the $2 entrance fee for the park (Exact cash only).
More information on the park and a map of the trails can be found on the park’s website.
It’s worth noting that Pratts Falls is located a short drive from several other great waterfalls. Within about 20 minutes, you can reach Chittenango Falls State Park, Delphi Falls, and Tinkers Falls, all of which are worth seeing while in the area.