An Area Known for its Waterfalls
From small cascades to thundering waterfalls that drop hundreds of feet, Ithaca is renowned for its spectacular landscape featuring lush rolling hills, scenic gorges and of course, the more than 100 majestic waterfalls around the region. The towering waterfalls are one of Ithaca’s largest draws and a must-see attraction any time of year. Whether traveling with friends, family or heading out on a solo adventure, choose among leisurely hikes on well-worn paths through state parks or a peaceful walk to some of the area’s lesser-known falls and local favorites. Wherever your journey takes you, enjoy the breathtaking vistas, the towering gorges and revel in the sounds of the roaring water as it plunges into the pools many feet below. In the summer months, take a swim in Ithaca's waterfalls for an escape from the heat!
History of Ithaca’s Waterfalls & Gorges
Ithaca owes its “gorges” scenery and spectacular waterfalls to ice, lots of ice. The local landscape is one of the area’s most popular attractions and was revealed roughly 15,000 years ago when mile-high glaciers retreated, leaving Cayuga Lake and its steep-walled valleys. Subsequent erosion scoured deep gorges and created the waterfalls the area is famous for today.
Though the landscape is young geologically, the exposed rock is quite ancient. It’s actually the bed of a primordial sea that covered the region more than a half-billion years ago. Sediment collected on this seafloor for 300 million years and hardened into beds of sandstone, shale and limestone we see today. Devonian fossils are common in these rocks; keep your eyes open for fossilized clams and other evidence of early life while hiking outdoors in the gorges and on your way to the waterfalls.
Swimming at Ithaca's Waterfalls
Not all of the waterfalls allow swimming, but the ones that do make for the perfect place to spend a warm summer day. Spend time at the Robert Treman State Park, where you can swim right up to the lower falls. At Buttermilk Falls State Park, experience an old-time swimming hole at the bottom of the falls, the perfect place to cool off.
Waterfalls and Gorges Safety
Most waterfalls and gorges in Tompkins County are publically accessible through state lands, municipal parks and local natural areas. To preserve public access for future visitors, please respect posted rules and stay on marked trails. Swimming is possible in some of the waterfalls. For more specific information, you can view and download our official Waterfall Visitors Guide online!
If staying in Ithaca, please use common sense while enjoying the scenery. The same forces that created these wonderful gorges and waterfalls in Ithaca continue today. Floods and rockslides are not uncommon. Trails to the waterfalls are often wet with slick footing. Terrain is steep and climbs can be strenuous. Be smart while you’re exploring. And don’t forget your camera!
|Giles St., Ithaca, NY 14850|
Businessman's Lunch Fallls is a set of four cascading falls - 30ft, 5ft, 15ft, 15f - and is popular lunch spot for downtown office workers. No fee Swimming prohibited Dogs allowed on leash Fun Facts Today,...
|Fall Creek Dr. Ithaca, NY 14850|
The Rocky Falls on Fall Creek is a 25ft cascading fall, producing green energy since 1904. Open year round No fee Dogs allowe don leash Swimming is prohibited Fun Facts Fall Creek cuts a gorge 140ft deep...
|Fall Creek Dr., Ithaca, NY 14850|
Forest Falls on Fall Creek is a 25ft cascading fall with birds-eye view of a “hanging valley." Open year round, but with no winter maitenance No fee Dogs allowed on leash Swimming is prohibited Fun Facts...
|Salmon Creek Rd., Lansing, NY 14882|
Ludlowville Falls on Salmon Creek is a 35ft multi-plume cascade with a pioneer history. No fee Dogs allowed on leash Swimming is prohibited Fun Facts Salmon Creek pours over a hard limestone cap to form beautiful...