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12 Unmissable Waterfalls To See In Ithaca, NY

12 Unmissable Waterfalls To See In Ithaca, NY

Ithaca, New York is home to more than 100 waterfalls including some of the tallest in the entire Finger Lakes region. From hidden gems to beautiful cascades located directly in the center of town, Ithaca offers visitors the chance to see nature at its finest.

In this guide, we’ll show you where to find the best Ithaca waterfalls including tips on how to find each one.

Our Ithaca Waterfall Experience

Two people hiking Cascadilla Gorge Trail on the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York
Mark and Kristen hiking along the Cascadilla Gorge in Ithaca, NY

Kristen grew up in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and we also temporarily lived in the area when Mark immigrated to the US in 2019. We spent most of the pandemic exploring Ithaca’s beautiful waterfalls and state parks so we’ve visited these falls numerous times in different seasons.

Most of the photos in this guide were taken from an April 2023 trip. We decided to visit at this time of year because the waterfalls would be at their strongest. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included our interactive map so you can easily find all 12 of the waterfalls we’ve discussed. Read more about us.

READ: Fun things to do in the NY Finger Lakes

Why Visit The Waterfalls In Ithaca?

The town of Ithaca is located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake. It’s a lively college town with two universities filled with restaurants, wineries, museums and outdoor activities. When you visit, it won’t be long until you see the city slogan Ithaca is gorges written on a bumper sticker.

This play on the word gorgeous references the beautiful ravines found throughout the area. And where you find ravines, you’ll also find waterfalls. We love visiting Ithaca because you can see many waterfalls in a quick trip, not to mention you can also check off some of the best New York state parks.

Downtown would be a good place to base yourself for a few days of waterfall chasing because there is so much to do for the entire family. If you’re new to the area, we recommend you read our best things to do in Ithaca guide next.

Without further ado, let’s find the gorgeous Ithaca waterfalls!

1. Ithaca Falls

Partially covered Ithaca Falls in upstate NY during the spring season
Partially obstructed view of Ithaca Falls near Cornell University
  • Waterfall Height: 150 ft (46m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 175 ft (53m)
  • Waterway: Fall Creek
  • Distance from town: About 1 mile from downtown
  • Location: Google Maps

Surrounded by Cornell University student housing districts, Ithaca Falls is not only the regions most powerful, but one of the most easily visited waterfalls and it can be found very close to downtown. The falls tower over visitors at 150 ft high and 175 ft wide. We like this waterfall because it’s very large and offers the most bang for your buck.

Reaching Ithaca Falls requires a very short and easy walk alongside a rocky river bed, but the area is small and often jam packed full of tourists, families or students. The best way to reach this waterfall from downtown is to take Aurora St north for about 0.7 miles to Lincoln St. From here, turn right and then left onto Lake St. The falls will be on your right.

READ: How to find Ithaca Falls

2. Cascadilla Gorge

Cascadilla Gorge Trail running heavily with water and moss on the stairs
Stunning waterfalls and Trail in the Cascadilla Gorge
  • Waterfall Height: Two drops over 30ft (9m)
  • Waterfall Crest: Varies
  • Waterway: Cascadilla Creek
  • Distance from town: About 0.5 miles from downtown
  • Location: Google Maps

You’ll find the impressive Cascadilla Falls inside the Cascadilla Gorge. This gorge is a high trafficked route connecting Cornell University to Ithaca college town. We like the Cascadilla Gorge because it’s a hidden oasis from the busy city as its transports you into another world filled with serenity and waterfalls.

As you hike through the gorge, you’ll pass 6 large and several smaller waterfalls. It’s stunning to see how these waterfalls have carved their way through the soft shale and sandstone over time.

Cascadilla Gorge is nicknamed the staircase in reference to both the beautiful cascading waterfalls and climb back up the 300 stairs to campus. You’ll find the upper trailhead for Cascadilla Gorge near College Ave Bridge next to the Schwartz center for the Arts. The lower trailhead is located downtown at Cascadilla Park near Linn St and Court St.

READ: Tips for hiking Cascadilla Gorge trail

3. Wells Falls

Hiker standing on a large log in front of Wells Falls
Kristen standing on a log in front of Wells Falls
  • Waterfall Height: 65ft (20m)
  • Waterfall Crest: Varies
  • Waterway: Six Mile Creek
  • Distance from town: About 1.5 miles from downtown
  • Location: Google Maps

Located near downtown Ithaca, Wells Falls otherwise known as Businessman’s Lunch Falls, offers a cascading 65 ft waterfall split into four beautiful levels. We like Wells Falls because it offers a different view compared to other waterfalls in Ithaca and has been reclaimed by nature because it sits directly next to the abandoned Van Natta Pumping Station.

This waterfall is also very easy to visit because after a short 10 minute walk, you’ll find yourself near the base of the waterfall. The best way to reach Wells Falls is to follow Route 79 east from the Ithaca Commons and turn right onto Giles St. You’ll then turn left into the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve to park your vehicle.


4. Lucifer Falls

A low running Lucifer Falls near Ithaca New York in early fall
Lucifer Falls running dry in early fall
  • Waterfall Height: 115 ft (35m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 25-30 ft (8-9m)
  • Waterway: Enfield Creek
  • Distance from town: About 8 miles from downtown
  • Location: Google Maps

Visiting Robert H. Treman state park is the perfect day out for hiking in Ithaca. This park features rugged gorges, dramatic scenery and natural beauty around every corner. The two main waterfalls at Robert H. Treman include Lucifer Falls and Lower Falls. Each of these two waterfalls showcase stunning vistas and a natural fed swimming hole.

Lucifer Falls is an incredibly attractive cascade waterfall flowing out of a stunning gorge and plummets 115 ft over multiple tiers of rock into Enfield Creek. What makes this Ithaca fall so attractive is the dramatic gorge opening up into the creek along with a fairytale-like stone path hugging tightly to the cliff edge.

Here are the two different viewpoints you should look for:

  • Rim Trail – This is quintessential view as seen in our photograph above
  • Gorge Trail – This option brings you to within 10 meters of the Lucifer Falls upper section

READ: Visiting Robert H. Treman state park

5. Lower Falls

Enfield Falls or Lower Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park
Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman with a swimming pool

Sometimes referred to as Enfield Falls, Lower Falls is located a only few miles downstream of Lucifer Falls at Robert H Treman state park. It’s worth hiking the fantastic 2.25 mile gorge trail from top to bottom to see the entire creek.

Enfield Creek narrows into a tunnel-like ravine as it nears the end of its flow and plunges 30 ft into the designated swimming area which is popular with families in the summertime. The best way to reach Robert H Treman is follow Route 13 south about 4 miles and turn right onto Route 327. The lower entrance parking lot will be on your immediate left.

Travel Tip: Park at the upper entrance for much shorter hiking distances to Lucifer Falls from both Rim Overlook and Gorge Viewpoint (around 0.5 miles).

6. Buttermilk Falls

Heavy flowing Buttermilk Falls in spring time
The famous Buttermilk Falls in April
  • Waterfall Height: 165 ft (50m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 45 ft (14m)
  • Waterway: Buttermilk Creek
  • Distance from town: About 2.5 miles from downtown
  • Location: Google Maps

Buttermilk Falls state park is one of the most popular parks around Ithaca thanks to a short but exceptionally scenic gorge trail featuring pothole pools and dozens of small waterfalls dropping from less than 1 meter.

Right at the entrance, the 165 ft high creamy frothing waterfall, which happens to look like buttermilk slips, slides and glides down an angled slab of rock into a swimming pool. The most striking feature of Buttermilk Falls is how the water seemingly bursts out of a dense tree lined hillside, much like an enormous waterslide.

The easiest way to get to Buttermilk Falls is to follow Route 13 from downtown Ithaca and look for the blue bridge to make a left. If you want to visit upper gorge, take the left at Sand bank Rd and turn left again after 2.5 miles onto W King Rd. You’ll find the upper entrance shortly on you right.

READ: What to see at Buttermilk Falls state park

7. Taughannock Falls

Heavy flowing Taughannock Falls during the spring season seen from the lower viewpoint
Close view of Taughannock Falls in spring
  • Waterfall Height: 215 ft (66m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 30-40 ft (9-12m)
  • Waterway: Taughannock Creek
  • Distance from town: About 10 miles
  • Location: Google Maps

Taughannock Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains easily making this Ithaca waterfall the most visually impressive waterfall in New York. The spectacular single drop waterfall plummets 215ft into a deep bowl-like depression in the Earth. Taughannock Falls can be viewed from the drop zone or from an incredible overlook hundreds of feet away.

You can walk along a flat Gorge Trail to reach the base of Taughannock Falls, which will be powerfully crashing over the ledge in spring and early summer. The best way to reach the main parking lot for Taughannock Falls state park is from Route 89 north. To access the over look, turn left onto Taughannock Park Road and follow the signs to the viewpoint.

READ: Our Taughannock Falls state park guide

8. Upper Taughannock Falls

View of Taughannock Falls state park upper falls
View of Taughannock Falls upper waterfall

There are two more smaller waterfalls located with Taughannock Falls state park. The first is the upper falls which are located along the rim trail. Unfortunately, this waterfall is more difficult to see because it’s partially obstructed.

To reach the upper falls, drive Park Road and take the left onto Jacksonville Road where you’ll find a small gravel parking lot. You can hike either North Rim or South Rim Trail and you’ll find upper falls where these two hiking trails meet.

9. Lower Taughannock Falls

Hiker looking at lower Taughannock Falls near Ithaca New York
Kristen standing in front of lower falls

The lower falls at Taughannock Falls state park are located along NYS Route 89 where the Gorge Trail begins. If you hike the gorge trail, you’ll pass by lower falls shortly after beginning your hike.

The photo above is from a spring visit. April is the best time to see the water flowing in lower falls, but you still might be able to see a little bit of water trickling through Taughannock Creek during other times of the year.

10. Triphammer Falls

Top half of Triphammer Falls on the Cornell University Campus
Top view of Triphammer Falls near Cornell
  • Waterfall Height: 55 ft (17m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 30-40 ft (9-12m)
  • Waterway: Falls Creek
  • Distance from town: On the Cornell campus
  • Location: Google Maps

Located in the heart of the Cornell University, Triphammer Falls is one of the many waterfalls located along Falls Creek in the middle of the busy Ivy League campus. Interestingly, Triphammer Falls originally existed naturally but the waterfall was altered slightly in order help to create the dam we now see today and the modification has resulted in Beebe Lake.

After stopping by Triphammer Falls, you can also find Rocky Falls and Horseshoe Falls nearby. We hoped to visit these additional Ithaca waterfalls but ran out of time during our last trip. The best place to park to visit Triphammer Falls is at the Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center. From the intersection of University Ave and East Ave, you can explore Beebe Lake or the Cornell Botanical Gardens.

11. Denison Falls

Denison Falls inside the Cayuga Nature Center
Heavy flowing Denison Falls hidden away in the Denison Gorge
  • Waterfall Height: 21 ft (6m)
  • Waterfall Crest: Varies
  • Waterway: Unnamed 3 mile-long tributary to Cayuga Lake
  • Distance from town: About 7 miles

Denison Falls is a 21 ft cascading Ithaca waterfall located near the Cayuga Nature Center surrounded by a peaceful wooded gorge and numerous hiking trails. Named after local teacher and naturalist, Marion Denison Ehrhart, Denison Falls is one of Ithaca’s most unique waterfalls. It also sits next to an amazing six-story tree house overlooking the Denison gorge.

We love visiting Denison Falls because an easy gravel trail will lead you directly to the waterfall as you pass by the Cayuga Nature Center. Admission to the trails, treehouse and lodge work on a pay as you wish system. But please try to leave a little donation when you visit to support the amazing work provided by the center.

The best way to get to Denison Falls is to take Route 89 north 5 miles to the entrance of the Cayuga Nature Center. Use the All Peoples Trail to make your way directly to the waterfall.

12. Ludlowville Falls

Ludlowville Falls or Salmon Creek Falls
The beautiful Ludlowville Falls in spring with a gorgeous rainbow
  • Waterfall Height: 35 ft (11m)
  • Waterfall Crest: 120 ft (37m)
  • Waterway: Salmon Creek
  • Distance from town: About 10 miles
  • Location: Google Maps

Ludlowville Falls, also known as Salmon Creek Falls, can be found in Ludlowville Park which is about 10 miles from downtown. This Ithaca waterfall is certainly worth a visit became it features a wide creek bed and a very large cave underneath its cap rock which often emits a beautiful aquamarine color.

We visited in April and you can see from our photo above that when water levels are high, the cave is barely noticeable under the rushing water in the spring time. The easiest way to visit Ludlowville Falls is by parking in the nearby Ludlowville Park and taking a short walk to the vantage point of the popular waterfall.

You can also head towards the chain fence and make your way down the wooded trail towards the rushing falls. Swimming is prohibited in this area, but you’ll find often find people fishing near the falls.

READ: Stunning quotes about waterfalls

Where To Stay And Eat

If you’re in the area to explore the gorges and beautiful Ithaca NY waterfalls, you’ll definitely work up an appetite. Here are the best restaurants in Ithaca:

If you need a hotel recommendation, here are the Ithaca hotels we always see bookings for:

READ: Best hotels in Ithaca, from our sister site, Best Hotels Anywhere

Our Interactive Map

Click on our Ithaca waterfalls interactive map to zoom in or out and move around the area to find all the recommendation in this guide. You can also access our Ithaca waterfalls map via this link here.

Here is a key:

  • Light Red – Ithaca waterfalls
  • Blue – Hotel recommendations
  • Maroon – Restaurant recommendations

The Morgan Conclusion

With over 150 waterfalls in Ithaca, New York it can be hard trying to figure out the best ones to visit. We like Ithaca because you can see several stunning waterfalls without traveling too far. In this guide, we tried to narrow down the best waterfalls to help you make the most of your time. But below we’ll tell you our recommendations:

Easy to reach options:

  • Ithaca Falls – A very large cascade near downtown
  • Ludlowville Falls – Can be seen from the nearby park

The next few options will require more walking so here are waterfalls for those who like adventure:

  • Taughannock Falls – See it from the overlook at the gorge trail
  • Wells Falls – Our favorite waterfall near an abandoned pump house
  • Cascadilla Gorge – A walk through Cornell’s campus along an enchanting trail
  • Lucifer Falls – The biggest waterfall at Robert H Treman state park

If you want to see Ithaca waterfalls at their fullest, you should visit in the spring season during the month of April like we did. During this time of year, the snow pack melts in upstate NY and the waterfalls will be flowing at their heaviest.

But we also love visiting in the fall season because the Ithaca NY gorges come alive with beautiful fall foliage. However, despite the vibrant colors, the fall is the worst time to see flowing waterfalls in Ithaca because the water will be at its lowest levels. So it’s a trade off for what you want to experience.

More From The Finger lakes

More From Upstate New York

Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.

We hope this guide featuring the best falls in Ithaca helps you plan your visit to upstate New York!

Please let us know if you have questions about any of these waterfalls near Ithaca or traveling through the Finger Lakes in the comment below.

Happy Waterfall Hunting,

Mark and Kristen

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