Ithaca, New York is a gorgeous area of the United States that has over 150 waterfalls in the region. It is an area home to bears, hardwoods, and glacier-carved landforms. It is also the home to Cornell University and a history of mills.
If you are visiting Ithaca you will want to take the time to check out some of the beautiful waterfalls it has to offer. Some are easily accessible in the Cornell Botanic Gardens or state parks. Others are more difficult to view, as you must hike to them.
No matter what your age or mobility, there is a waterfall for you to view in or near Ithaca New York. This list dives into the 15 largest and most beautiful waterfalls Ithaca has to offer.
1. Ithaca Falls
Ithaca Falls is a tall 150-foot waterfall on Fall Creek that eventually fills Cayuga Lake. This waterfall is free to view and very easy to access.
The best view of the waterfall is from the bridge over Lake Street in Ithaca. The waterfall is dog-friendly, and a popular fishing spot too. You can not swim near this waterfall, but you may catch trout or salmon.
The waterfall is near ruins of a mill, offering insight into the history of the area. If you are traveling to Ithaca, this massive waterfall is one you will definitely want to visit.
2. Wells Falls
Wells Falls is found on Giles Road. This waterfall is also known as the Businessman’s Lunch Falls, because it has a popular flat picnic spot where people like to have lunch at its base.
The waterfall is made up of four drops, some natural, and others manmade. In total the waterfall stands 65’ between these drops.
Wells Falls is next to an abandoned power plant. It is also the site of the Van Nattas Pumping Station that provided the city of Ithaca with drinking water and water to the fire department beginning in 1893. The pump station was abandoned in the 1940s.
Wells Falls is on Six Mile Creek. It’s less than a half mile from downtown and the walk to the falls is about a quarter mile from the parking area. The trail to the falls base is short and steep. Most individuals find the hike very easy.
If you want to visit a waterfall with a great lunch spot, Wells Falls is where you should go in Ithaca.
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3. Triphammer Falls
Triphammer Falls is a 55- foot waterfall in Ithaca found on the grounds of Cornell University. This waterfall is made up of several cascades.
The waterfall is named after Triphammer Forge that operated at the site of the waterfall beginning in the 1820s. This waterfall is also where Ezra Cornell built the Beebe Lake Dam, that powered much of the area downstream from it year-round.
The best views of the waterfall are from the Triphammer Footbridge and the East Avenue Bridge. There is also an overlook you can hike to on the north rim of the waterfall behind Risley Hall.
Triphammer Falls is a beautiful waterfall to visit in an area rich with history, in the Ithaca area.
4. Buttermilk Falls
Buttermilk Falls State Park is home to Buttermilk Falls. This is a splendid waterfall on Buttermilk Creek, that flows to Cayuga Lake.
This waterfall has a lovely swimming area below it. There is plenty of hiking in the park, a campground, playing fields, and a pavilion that you can rent.
The gorge trail is the best trail to take to see the waterfall. You can also take the Rim Trail, but the views of Buttermilk Falls are not as impressive from this trail.
Buttermilk Falls is best in the wet months. It can often dry up during the dry season. If you want to see Buttermilk Falls in its full glory, we recommend visiting it in the spring.
5. Rocky Falls
Rocky Falls is a 44-foot waterfall on Fall Creek. It is also known as Sibley Falls. The waterfall is next to the hydroelectric powerhouse that is operated by Cornell University.
Neighboring waterfalls include, Triphammer Falls upstream of it and Foaming Falls, downstream from it. Rocky Falls flows year-round and is 100-feet wide in most spots.
The waterfall is very easy to view. The best place to view it is on the suspension bridge that goes across Fall Creek Gorge. There is a parking lot next to the bridge on Fall Creek Drive. Hiking is not required to view the waterfall.
If you are in Ithaca and looking for a beautiful waterfall that flows over bedrock, that you don’t have to hike to then you will want to check out Rocky Falls.
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6. Potter’s Falls
Potter’s Falls is sometimes referred to as Green Tree Falls. This waterfall is located in a wildflower preserve on Six Mile Creek. In the first mile to the waterfall, it is said there is the most wildflower diversity you can possibly find in all of New York.
The waterfall is free to visit. Your furry friends can visit the waterfall with you too. They must be leashed. Potter’s Falls is accessed by hiking in on the Greenway Trail and East Gorge Trail.
The hike can be steep in spots to reach this waterfall. The best place to access these trails from is the trailhead called Mulholland Wildflower Preserve. This is on Giles Street in Ithaca.
Potter’s Falls is open year-round, but in the winter the trails may not be accessible. They can be dangerously covered with ice. Spring through Fall is the best time to visit this waterfall.
7. Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls is a 215-foot waterfall in Taughannock State Park. The park is located just 8-miles from Ithaca. It is one of the highest waterfalls east of Rocky Mountains. It is higher than Niagara Falls but does not carry as much volume.
Taughannock Falls is in a rock bed creek. The walls around it tower up to 400 feet. The waterfall’s name is said to come from the word taghkanic.
This means “great fall in the woods” in the native Delaware language. It may also get its name from the chief called Taughannock that once led the tribe here. This waterfall can be accessed from the Gorge Trail or North Rim Trail.
In addition to being home to a gorgeous waterfall Taughannock State Park is a great place to camp, swim, kayak, and fish in the summer. In the winter, you may ice skate or ski here.
8. Lucifer Falls
Lucifer Falls is located in Robert H. Treman State Park. It is one of twelve waterfalls in the state park and the largest, at 115 feet tall.
This waterfall was formed like many waterflows and landscapes through the area. Glaciers retreated here. The waterfall is in a gorge that widens over the drop of the falls. This waterfall is near a great swimming spot, with a lifeguard on duty.
There are camping spots in the park, making it a waterfall you can enjoy for many days, while you hike around the trails in the park. There are at least nine miles of hiking trails at the state park.
The dense forest in the park is home to hemlock, maple, birch, red oak, white pine, black cherry, and basswood trees. Animals including pileated woodpeckers and barred owls call the forest home.
There is an old mill on the property. This gives visitors insight on the history of this area. Gorge tours are available in the park for those that want to learn more about the park’s history, ecology, and geology.
We highly recommend taking a tour to maximize your experience at Lucifer Falls. If you want to have a gathering near Lucifer Falls. There are pavilions you can rent out.
There is a fee to visit the state park and access the falls. This fee varies based on the time you intend to spend in the park.
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9. Cascadilla Gorge
Cascadilla Gorge is found in the Cornell Botanic Gardens. It is in an area where stone trails and staircases built in the 1920s ascend 400 feet, highlighting several waterfalls naturally carved into the bedrock.
The trail that weaves through this beautiful area is 1.3 miles total. The drops along it range from 8 to 80 feet. This pathway is open most of year. Some areas are open year-round, including the part of the trail above College Avenue. Other parts of the trail close in the winter.
Dogs are allowed in Cascadilla Gorge. This makes it a fantastic place to visit if you are travelling with a dog and want to see several waterfalls in one place.
10. Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park
The Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park are found on Enfield Glen. This waterfall is 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It’s found just off of Route 13, which is southwest of Ithaca.
Often Lower Falls is referred to as Treman Falls or Lower Treman Falls. It is close to the east entrance of Robert H. Treman State Park, making it very easy to access.
There is swimming with a lifeguard and diving board at the base of the waterfall. This makes it a popular place for many to go, especially during the warmer months.
From Lower Falls you can easily access Lucifer Falls. The Gorge Trail leaves the parking area near Lower Falls and visits an Old Mill before reaching Lucifer Falls.
A fee is required to enter Robert H. Treman State Park. The park is accessible for those with limited mobility. The trail is open all year, but the best time to see Lower Falls is in the fall and spring. The Lower Falls can freeze over in the winter.
If you want to camp here, there is a campground as well. This allows you more time to take in the falls and scenery of Robert H. Treman State Park.
11. Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls is a 30-foot waterfall in the Cornell Botanic Gardens and Fall Creek Gorge Natural Area. It is located on Horseshoe Falls Trail.
The waterfall can be viewed from an overlook on the south side of the falls. You can also view it from a suspension bridge that goes directly over the gorge. The hike to the falls is steep in some sections. The trail is very well maintained.
Horseshoe Falls Trail is linked to a number of other trails. This allows you to hike beyond the falls and check out other areas of Cornell Botanic Gardens.
12. Forest Falls
Forest Falls is a 60-foot waterfall on Fall Creek Gorge. It is found in Cornell Botanic Gardens. It is the second to last of the five major waterfalls in the gorge. Forest Falls drops 45 feet. It is 90 feet wide.
Ithaca Falls is just downstream from Forest Falls. Upstream from Steward Avenue Bridge. This waterfall has limited parking. It is acceptable to park on the street and walk to access the Fall Creek waterfall.
The hike from the trailhead to the falls is 0.6 miles out and back. This makes it a great waterfall to visit for those that do not want an extensive hike to reach it.
13. Ludlowville Falls
Ludlowville Falls is a waterfall that stands about 30 feet tall on Salmon Creek. The waterfall was a popular filming location during the silent film era.
Today, Ludlowville Falls is a popular fishing spot. It has a large section of limestone rock overhanging along part of the face of the waterfall 35-30 foot. This makes the waterfall unique.
This waterfall is very easy to reach. It’s viewable 100 yards from the parking area. The parking area is on Mill Street off of Route 34B. There are only five or six parking spots in the lot. It can be difficult to get parking during peak fishing season here.
This waterfall is a massive 175 feet wide, when it is fully flowing. It does have the potential to dry up each year, as well.
One other unique thing about this waterfall is that you can visit a cave beneath it. The cave under falls is popular place to visit, but can be dangerous if rocks above get dislodged above you in it.
Ludlowville Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is easy to access. If you are in Ithaca and looking for a large and unique waterfall this is a great stop.
14. Lick Brook Falls
Lick Brook Falls is in Sweedler Preserve. It is a collection of three waterfalls. One is 25-feet tall, the second is 47-feet tall and the tallest one is 93 feet tall.
The trails to this waterfall area are found on a 1.2-mile round trip hike on Finger Lake Trail. There is also a 3.4-mile loop trail, but it is closed in the winter.
Dogs are allowed on the trails here. There is no fee required to visit the waterfalls. It can be buggy on the trail, so bring your repellant.
Depending on the time of year, the trail can be snowy, icy, or muddy. Snowshoes can be used to traverse this trail in winter. No matter what type of year it is you will want to bring the appropriate footwear for the conditions.
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15. Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is found near Ithaca at Watkins Glen State Park. The waterfall is accessible from May to October and closed during the winter. There is a fee to park in the park, but you can park in town and hike to it for free or take a shuttle to reach it.
Rainbow Falls is found on Glen Creek Gorge Trail. It is called Rainbow Falls because on sunny afternoons rainbows reflect and refract across the rock where the waterfall drops down.
There are several other waterfalls in this state park. Camping is available to allow the time to check out all of them. Besides Rainbow Falls, Cavern Cascade, Central Cascade, and Pluto Falls are all gorgeous sights.