Located on the western shores of Cayuga Lake is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New York: Taughannock Falls.
Taughannock Falls is the focal point of Taughannock Falls State Park near Ithaca and is the tallest, single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains at 215 feet in height. This Ithaca waterfall is surrounded by cliffs that are upwards of 300-feet tall and create an impressive hollow surrounding the waterfall.
Taughannock Falls State Park was created in 1925 in Tompkins County, New York, and is 750 acres in size. In addition to Taughannock Falls, the park features two other large waterfalls, hiking trails, a beach for swimming in the lake, and a campground.
However, without a doubt, the star attraction is Taughannock Falls.
There are two ways to see this impressive waterfall, and, if you have the time, I highly recommend visiting both.
Taughannock Falls Overlook
The first and fastest way to see this beautiful waterfall is the Taughannock Falls overlook. Located on the cliff’s edge downstream from the falls, this vista provides an impressive view of not only the waterfall but also the surrounding cliffs.
The Taughannock Falls overlook is located just steps from the parking area and should be a stop for anyone visiting the park. This is especially true for those that are unable to hike the trail to the bottom of the falls or don’t have the time or desire to do so.
Should you need any additional information or local souvenirs, a gift shop is located adjacent to the overlook.
Taughannock Falls Hiking Trails
There are approximately eight miles of hiking trails in Taughannock Falls State Park.
If you only have time for one, make time to trek to Taughannock Falls by hiking the Gorge Trail. This 0.75 long trail is both wide and relatively flat and follows Taughannock Creek as it meanders from Route 89 to the base of Taughannock Falls.
Near the start of the trail, there is a beautiful 20-foot waterfall known as Lower Falls. I’ve hiked miles to see waterfalls much less impressive than this one, so the fact that it’s nearly an afterthought when visiting the park always baffles me a bit.
Along the way to the falls, the Gorge Trail offers fantastic views of the creek, which features many small waterfalls along the bedrock creekbed. The further you walk into the gorge, the higher the cliffs above you get.
There are also signs next to the trail that offer a bit of information about the history and geology of the falls and area, so make sure to take a minute to read them if you want to know more about the park.
Finally, the woods along the trail open up as you reach the imposing falls. After crossing over the bridge near Taughannock Falls, the trail continues a short distance to a viewing platform near the base of the falls.
From this viewing platform, the full majesty of Taughannock Falls comes into view. While it’s obviously not as powerful as Niagara Falls, Taughannaock Falls is nearly 50 feet taller. This is truly one of the most impressive spots in all of New York.
In addition to the gorge trail, there are several other Taughannock Falls hiking trails worth considering.
The South Rim Trail and the North Rim Trail both run from the bottom of the park near Cayuga Lake to the 100-foot Upper Falls on opposite sides of the creek. This creates a loop of approximately three miles that offers great views of Taughannock Falls and its gorge.
Whether you opt to take the loop hike or drive up to the upper parking area, I also recommend taking a few minutes to check out Upper Falls. This waterfall is located upstream of Taughannock Falls and drops 100 feet through a narrow gorge.
Unfortunately, this is a difficult waterfall to see. However, there are views of it from a bridge high over the gorge, which is located a short distance from the parking area off of Jacksonville Road.
While it might not be the tallest waterfall in New York, Kaaterskill Falls for one is taller, there’s no question that Taughannock Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls near Ithaca and probably in the entire state.
If you are visiting the Finger Lakes, don’t miss Taughannock Falls State Park.
How to Get to Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park is located approximately 10 miles north of Ithaca, New York along the shores of Cayuga Lake. There are three different parking lots from which to access the park’s waterfalls, though hiking trails also connect these, so you could park in one and hike to all three viewpoints as well.
The parking area for the Taughannock Falls overlook can be found along Taughannock Falls Road at the following coordinates: 42.538629, -76.608090.
The parking lot for the Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail can be found on Route 89 along the shores of the lake at the following coordinates: 42.545351, -76.599001.
Lastly, the parking lot for Upper Falls can be found off of Jacksonville Road at the following coordinates: 42.531742, -76.615945.
If you are visiting from the Watkins Glen area, make sure to visit Hector Falls on your way to or from the park.
Taughannock Falls Admission Costs
Taughannock Falls State Park charges an admission fee of $8 per vehicle for much of the year. The fee is collected on weekends from late April through Memorial Day Weekend and again from the weekend after Labor Day through mid-October. Fees are charged daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If you arrive prior to 7am or after 5:30pm or on a day when fees are not charged, you can avoid this fee, with the exceptions of evenings with special events in the park.
Where to Stay Near Taughannock Falls State Park
If you are looking for somewhere to stay near Taughannaock Falls State Park, there are many great options.
Located adjacent to the Gorge Trail, the Inn at Taughannock is highly-rated and offers great accommodations inside a historic mansion, as well as several smaller buildings surrounding it. Given that you can walk into the park from the inn, you can’t get closer to the action than this property.
Another option, if you’d rather rough it, is the Taughannock Falls State Park, which features a campground and cabins. This is an inexpensive way to stay in the park and enjoy the beauty of the Finger Lakes Region.