How To Visit Ithaca Falls In Ithaca, New York


Ithaca Falls natural area in Ithaca NY close up of the tall waterfall in early fall with green leaves and wispy low flowing water

Ithaca Falls is a popular and extremely photogenic waterfall located in the heart of Ithaca NY. It’s one of the most powerful waterfalls in the area with a height of 150 ft and a width of 175 ft. You can see the falls from Lake Street or hike a short trail to the base of the waterfall.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to find Ithaca Falls and what to expect for your visit including the best photo spots.

Our Ithaca Falls Experience

Couple in a photo in front of Ithaca Falls in new york state on a cloudy and cold day
Mark and Kristen at Ithaca Falls on a cool and cloudy day in April

Kristen grew up in the NY Finger Lakes and we temporarily lived in the region when Mark first immigrated to the states in 2019. We no longer live here, but we return to the area every year to visit family. We’ve personally walked to Ithaca Falls on two separate occasions at very different times of year and the photos included in this guide were taken during both trips.

Our first visit was early in September 2020 when the leaves were still a deep emerald green color in upstate NY. The waterfall was wispy and the weather was warm. Our second visit to the waterfall was at the end of April 2023. We wanted to see the waterfall flowing powerfully with snowmelt and rainfall. The trees in Fall Creek Gorge were mostly bare and it was lightly raining. Read more about us.

What Is Ithaca Falls?

Ithaca Falls is a 150-foot tall and 175-wide cataract waterfall located close to Cornell University and downtown Ithaca. It’s the last and most powerful of the six waterfalls crashing down through Fall Creek Gorge before flowing directly into Cayuga Lake.

The waterfalls along Fall Creek were once used by settlers in the early 1810’s who built mills to harness the waterpower. By the late 1800’s, factories including the Ithaca Gun Company used the waterfalls to power machinery.

Today, the picture-perfect waterfall is one of the most visited Finger Lakes waterfalls and interestingly the deep pool formed at its base is also a popular fishing spot. It’s very common to see students, families and solo visitors at the waterfall any time of the year.

READ: Best places to visit in Ithaca

Where Is The Waterfall?

Ithaca Falls Natural Area trail access is located on the corner of Lake Street and E Falls Street. You’ll walk east into Fall Creek for a short time until you reach the waterfall.

Here are expected walking times:

  • McGraw Tower – Located on the Cornell campus, it will take around 15-20 minutes to walk to the trailhead.
  • Ithaca Commons – It will take between 20-25 minutes to walk to the trailhead.

We like Ithaca Falls because it’s incredibly easy to access from Cornell University or anywhere in the downtown area by car and by foot. Here is the Google Maps location for the trailhead.

Where To Park For The Falls

Cars in a rough parking lot on the corner of two streets
The parking lot on the corner of Lake and E Falls

Visitors can park in a rough parking lot on the corner of Lake Street and E Falls Street, directly opposite the trailhead. If there are no spaces available, you can park on the side streets nearby.

You do not have to pay for parking when visiting Ithaca Falls. It’s free to park in the lot and on the side streets. But just keep an eye out for no parking signs if you have to park somewhere on the street.

Ithaca Falls Trail Information

Hiker walking down a gravel path with trees to either side
Kristen walking down the short gradual descent to Fall Creek
  • Distance: 0.2 miles total out and back
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Time: 5 minutes return
  • Elevation: 10-20 feet

The hike to Ithaca Falls is easy, short and achievable for almost any visitor to the college town. Starting on the south side of Lake Street bridge and heading east, the gravel trail descends gradually into the creek and enters a grouping of trees.

You’ll quickly reach the shores of Fall Creek and views over the waterfall will open up to your right side. At this point the ground transitions to small stones and rocks so take care with your footing. Walk out into Fall Creek if the water level is low to open a better angle on the waterfall. Then walk straight at the mighty falls directly ahead of you.

Once you’re closer, a small trail hugging the underside of the cliff to your right will lead you as close to the waterfall and you feel comfortable.


Waterfall just about visible in the distance upstream and through trees filled with green leaves
A small portion of the waterfall visible from Lake Street bridge

Visitors with mobility issues can see Ithaca Falls directly from the middle of Lake Street Bridge during late fall, winter and early spring when the trees are bare. When the leaves are full, you’ll only see around one third of the waterfall as you can see in our photo above.

Due to the rocky nature of the creekside trail, those with mobility issues will unfortunately not be able to reach the bottom of the waterfall by scooter or wheelchair.


No Swimming

No swimming sign with danger information
Swimming prohibited sign at the beginning of trail

Before walking the short path to the waterfall, you’ll walk past a large sign that says swimming is not allowed. The sign is pretty intense and it’s meant to be because the current is very strong and unfortunately, people have died here ignoring these warnings.

For the safety of yourself and those around you, swimming is outright prohibited. If you really must cool off, don’t go in the water anywhere near the waterfall. There is plenty of room further down creek well away from the dangerous plunge pool that can be 30-50 ft deep.

Photography Tips

Tall and wide waterfall flowing heavily behind small boulders in the foreground in Ithaca Falls NY
Our example using small boulders as foreground with the waterfall behind it

Ithaca Falls is picturesque from close up, middle distance and long distance. Remember, the waterfall is tall and wide, so if you want to get close you might need a wide angle lens or to switch your phone camera to wide angle.

The main issues you face are having a clear line of sight at the waterfall from afar, as well as the weather conditions when you visit. A perfect scenario would be a stunning sunrise or sunset or at least cotton wool clouds in the midday sky, along with vibrant fall foliage colors and a clear line of sight at the waterfall.

However, that is rare and you’d probably need a few goes at it.

It’s more likely you’ll visit on a grey and overcast day which won’t give you much contrast between sky and waterfall. So your foreground elements become more important. Use rocks, trees and people in the foreground if you have miserable weather conditions like we did in the photo above.

Best Photo Spots

There are three distinct photo spots you can use to capture Ithaca Falls in all its glory:

  • Distance shot – As far back down Fall Creek as you can get with a clear line of sight at the waterfall.
  • Money shot – As close to the waterfall as you can get while remaining central on the rocks.
  • Side shot – Very close up to the side of the waterfall (wide angle lenses work best here).

We like all three, but our preference is to frame the waterfall from further back down Fall Creek. This way we can easily frame the waterfall, use objects in the foreground and capture the clouds above in a single frame.

Best Time To Visit

In spring when the snow begins to melt and rain is frequent, you can see the most powerful water flowing over Ithaca Falls. However, the trees are bare and overcast days are common. So you want to see the waterfall at its best time, visit in the spring around early April.

Gradually throughout summer the water volume decreases, but the leaves turn a brilliant green. You can notice the difference in the season if you look at the photos in our guide.

In fall when the leaves transition into gorgeous earthy colors and the water is at its lowest flow of the year, not only is the scene more visually stunning but you can also get much closer to the waterfall because the water levels in Fall Creek are very low.

Our Ithaca Falls Photos

We loved hiking to this waterfall and took many photos. Here are two of our photos from the spring followed by two photos from the summer so you can see the easily see the difference between seasons.

Waterfall visible through bare trees and a gravel path
More waterfall visible through bare trees in early spring
Tall single drop waterfall as seen from the side along a curving cliff wall at Ithaca Falls NY
Side profile of Ithaca Falls with curving cliff wall
Close up of a waterfall in late summer with low volume of water flowing
Super close up of the waterfall in late summer with low flowing water volume
Popular waterfall flowing gently over a rocky cliff into a creek with low water and trees with lush green leaves at Ithaca Falls NY
Very low water levels in Fall Creek in September

More Waterfalls In The Area

Are you planning to visit several waterfalls on your trip to Ithaca?

We spent a full day hunting waterfalls around Ithaca in April 2023 and had a fantastic time. Not including the nearby state parks, there are plenty of awesome falls to find right in town.

Here are more falls for you to visit in town:

READ: 12 Unmissable waterfalls in Ithaca

Here are the best waterfalls near Ithaca:

READ: Stunning Finger Lakes waterfalls

The Morgan Conclusion

The hike to Ithaca Falls is very short and easy. A total of 0.2 miles roundtrip will lead you from a parking lot to the base of the waterfall in Fall Creek, which should take no more than 5 minutes each way.

Is visiting Ithaca Falls worth it?

Yes, we think Ithaca Falls is worth visiting because it’s a short hike to an extremely picturesque waterfall. It’s also located very close to town so you don’t even have to travel far. You can stand close to the bottom of a tall, wide and powerful waterfall for almost no effort at all. The trail is open year round without closing at any time. You can access the waterfall 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Check AllTrails for recent comments if you’re planning to visit soon.

More From The Finger Lakes

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 to visiting Ithaca Falls helps with planning your trip to Ithaca, NY!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting this waterfall or Ithaca in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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