As the saying goes, “Ithaca is Gorges”! That’s because there are over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of Ithaca. It’s not easy to narrow the options down to just 10 Ithaca waterfalls, but it’s certainly a doable number if you have just 48 hours to spare
Day 1: Ludlowville Falls, Ithaca Falls, Tripphammer Falls, Six Mile Creek (Businessman's Lunch)
Before you start your adventure, fuel up at one of our great breakfast places around town. Ithaca Bakery is a classic, a favorite in town since 1910 for its creatively-named sandwiches, amazing artisan breads, bagels and superb pastries.
- Start your waterfall quest by taking the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway north up the east side of Cayuga Lake, heading through Lansing to Ludlowville Falls. Salmon Creek pours over a hard limestone cap to form beautiful Ludlowville Falls. The soft shale underneath has eroded away, creating an overhang cave and deep plunge pool.
On your way back down into Ithaca, check out Lansing’s Myers Park and its nice beach area, playground, marina and an accessible little red lighthouse. Can you spare time for a maritime adventure? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board from Paddle’n’More and explore Cayuga Lake.
Feeling hungry yet? Grab some take out to eat at Crossroads, renowned for its delicious, locally made offerings that will have you coming back for more, great service and a family friendly atmosphere.
- Head back down the Scenic Byway to Ithaca Falls, the largest falls in Ithaca at 150 feet tall and 175 feet wide. Ithaca Falls is the region’s most powerful waterfall. Once home to a number of mills, it’s now a beautiful natural area with a pleasant, tree-lined short trail to the base of the falls.
- Next, drive up the hill to Cornell University campus. Park across from Johnson Art Museum and take the staircase down to the Suspension Bridge that will give you a view 150 feet above the Fall Creek Gorge. Triphammer Falls is a short walk from the Suspension Bridge, viewable from the Thurston Avenue Bridge or the footbridge that also delivers a great view of Bebe Lake.
- The other gorge that runs through Cornell’s campus is called Cascadilla Gorge. The trail runs from campus to downtown and is a favorite of students and locals alike.
- Next up: Six Mile Creek and the lower falls called Businessman's Lunch. The best way to see this is to walk alongside the creek to the base of the falls. The staircase down to the creek is on the steep side, but it gives you three falls in one and an interesting view of the old pumping station perched on the cliffs on the side of the gorge.
- After working up an appetite and seeing half of the must-see falls, set your sights on downtown and Restaurant Row, the Commons or the surrounding blocks for nourishment. Many downtown restaurants have extended their outdoor seating capacity, or call ahead for take out.
Bickering Twins Tacos, an authentic Mexican and Latin American restaurant and bar, is run by bickering identical twin brothers Corey and Kevin. Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine serves some amazing Ethiopian food that will make you want to come back for more, and Red’s Place is known for its farm-to-fork cuisine and a unique twist on comfort food. The famous vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in the DeWitt Mall is a great place to get some locally sourced healthy natural food. If none of these appeal, there are plenty of other eateries and restaurants to choose from.
Day 2: Taughannock Falls, Lucifer Falls, Lower Falls, Lick Brook Falls, Buttermilk Falls
Start your second day in Ithaca with another great breakfast, and then it’s time to learn about how the Finger Lakes came to be and the wildlife the area has to offer.
- The tallest single drop waterfall this side of the Rockies is your next stop, just a short hop up Route 89 along the lake. Taughannock Falls State Park's namesake waterfall is one of the truly outstanding natural attractions of the Finger Lakes. It plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. Both the Gorge and Rim trails offer spectacular views from below and above respectively. If you don’t have time to walk the trails, stop up at the Overlook for the amazing views looking across and down at Taughannock Falls. Don’t miss the Visitors Center at the Overlook, your source for more information about the area or a “Ithaca is Gorges” souvenir.
While at the park, visit the section along Cayuga Lake where you can watch the boats go by, swim at the beach, picnic or rent a kayak.
Hungry? Take a five-minute drive into the charming village of Trumansburg, where there are a number of places to grab lunch. The Falls Restaurant is known for its great homemade pie and diner fare. NY Pizzeria serves the best pizza outside of New York City, while the Creekside Café next door always has some amazing daily specials that are farm-to-fork delicious.
- Wrap up the day with two more state parks. Robert H. Treman State Park has two of the 10 must-see falls in Ithaca. Take the back route through Enfield, which will take you right to the upper park entrance. There’s plenty of parking by the 19th century grist mill, which is now a self-guided museum. Then walk the mile-and-a-half gorge/overlook loop, by far the prettiest gorge in the area. The trail will take you past many smaller falls and down the side of Lucifer Falls, the tallest in the park. Cross the creek and take the switch back staircase up to the overlook; the view looking across at the falls from there is well worth the climb.
- Make your way back through the woods to the grist mill, hop in your car and head down to the lower entrance of the park to see the Lower Falls. A short paved walkway will take you through the shady picnic area next to the creek to the base of the falls. During the summer season there is a life-guarded swimming area and diving board.
- A quick drive from the lower entrance will get you to a parking area and trailhead for the relatively flat lower trial to Lick Brook Falls. This hidden nature preserve has one of the lesser-visited falls in the area, which makes it a relaxing hike to the sounds of nature. If you are looking for a bit more of a challenging hike, park up at the trailhead on Sandbank Road and pick up the two-mile trail that has lots of stairs and hill climbing, plus numerous beautiful cascading falls.
- Our last falls of the Top 10 is Buttermilk Falls, located on the southern edge of Ithaca and a short drive from Robert H. Treman State Park. If you are hiked out by this point, the gentle stroll across the parking lot at Buttermilk Falls State Park on Route 13 will take you directly to the largest falls in the park. However, if you still have energy to burn, there is a mile-and-a-half loop that you can take up stone steps along the side of the falls through the 150 feet cliffed gorge with plenty of smaller falls along the trail. Then take the rim trail back through the trees and enjoy the views down into the gorge and back to the parking lot.
All that hiking has probably whetted your appetite, so it’s time to grab some dinner. Just down Route 13 South from Buttermilk Falls is turnoff for the Ithaca Beer Company. It has a great tap room, plus a beer garden in the summer. They serve their own freshly brewed beer and great food (many ingredients sourced from their own on-site farm) in a family friendly atmosphere. Or you can head over to The Boatyard Grill on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake to enjoy the only restaurant that serves dinner next to the water.
Hope you enjoy your 10 falls in 48 hours. With so much more to see and do in Ithaca and Tompkins County, we hope you come back soon to explore some more!