Visiting Taughannock Falls State Park For The First Time


Taughannock Falls State Park Where Are Those Morgans

Located in Tompkins County within western New York, Taughannock Falls State Park features a stunning 215 ft waterfall that plunges over a massive gorge. In addition to the beautiful waterfalls views, it’s also a popular spot for water activities due to it’s close proximity to Cayuga Lake.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to make the most of your time at Taughannock Falls State Park.

Our Taughannock Falls Experience

Man and woman sitting on a stone barrier and posing for a photograph at in a NY State Park
Mark and Kristen in front of the mighty waterfall

Kristen grew up in the New York Finger Lakes and we temporarily lived in the region when mark first moved to the US in 2019. We’ve visited Taughannock Falls multiple times in different seasons because it’s one of our favorite New York State Parks and we enjoy staying at the nearby Inn at Taughannock.

All of the photos in this guide have been taken by us from a September 2020 and April 2023 visit so you can compare the spring and fall season. During both trips, we arrived early in the day to avoid the crowds so we could take our time with photos. Read more about us.

What Is Taughannock Falls State Park?

Taughannock Gorge showcasing the very powerful Taughannock Falls in spring with lush green vegetation
Gorge view with the falls in the distance
  • State Park: Taughannock Falls
  • City: Ithaca
  • State: New York
  • Website:
  • Telephone: (607) 273-3440
  • Campgrounds: 68 and 16 cabins
  • Activities: Hiking, waterfalls, photography, camping, fishing
  • Open: All year
  • Visitors: ~500,000

Taughannock Falls State Park showcases the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains making this the most visually impressive waterfall in New York state. Picture a a bowl shaped depression in the Earth that resembles a gigantic amphitheater encircled by towering 400 ft high cliffs with the mesmerizing 215 ft tall single drop waterfall crashing right out from its center.

You can hike along the Gorge Trail which leads to an amphitheater and ends within a stones throw of the plunging water for mightily impressive up close views. Or you can opt for the popular scenic overlook to see the powerful waterfall from a distance, but with minimal walking.

It’s a popular state park in the summer because it offers direct access to Cayuga Lake through a marina and a boat launch. Other outdoor activities include swimming, fishing, camping, picnicking and playgrounds.

READ: How to find the best Finger Lake waterfalls

Directions To The Park

Taughannock Falls State Park is located on the western flank of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The popular college town of Ithaca is the perfect base for visiting when combined with Buttermilk Falls, Robert H Treman and Watkins Glen State Parks as part of a wider Finger Lakes road trip.

  • Address: 1740 Taughannock Blvd, Trumansburg, NY 14886
  • Location: Google Maps

From downtown Ithaca, simply follow the scenic route (NY-89 N) along Cayuga Lake for around 15 minutes until you see signs for the state park. Let’s take a quick look at driving distances and times from nearby major cities including the closest airports if you’re visiting from further afield.

Taughannock Falls distance from nearby major cities:

  • Syracuse NY – 65 miles (1h 20m)
  • Rochester NY – 79 miles (1h 25m)
  • Scranton / Wilkes-Barre PA – 130 miles (2h 30m)
  • Buffalo NY – 145 miles (2h 25m)
  • Albany NY – 175 miles (3h 10m)
  • New York City – 233 miles (4h 10m)

If you’re flying into the Finger Lakes region, search for your flight using Skyscanner. We love this platform because it compares prices on all flight platforms to find you the best deal. The same goes for renting a car, get a benchmark price using Rental Cars or Discover Cars and then see if you can beat it.

Here are the closest airports near Taughannock Falls State Park:

  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) – 73 miles (1h 25m)
  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) – 85 miles (1h 35m)
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) – 135 miles (2h 15m)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) – 230 miles (3h 55m)

READ: Cool places to visit in Ithaca

Entrance Fees

Main entrance with a pay station at the state park
One of the pay stations in the park

You don’t have to pay an entrance fee and you don’t need a reservation to visit Taughannock Falls State Park. However, you will have to pay $9.00 for parking your vehicle.

Most New York state parks charge a day-use vehicle fee to enter each facility. So while Taughannock Falls is free to enter, a vehicle fee is collected daily from sunrise to sunset. During peak hours, payment is taken at the gate and you must use a pay station when there is no gate attendant. Unlike other parks nearby, you must pay for entry into this park year round.

Best Place To Park

Empty parking lot with a few cars near the popular Gorge Trail
Main parking lot with a few cars early in the morning

There are a few different places to park at Taughannock Falls State Park. If you want to hike the Gorge Trail, the best place to park is at the smaller lot right at the main entrance along Route 89, but it fills up extremely quickly, especially in peak season.

If you can’t find a spot, don’t worry because there is a huge overflow parking lot located less than a one minute drive away on the opposite side of the main road. From this lot, it will take you less than 5 minutes to walk to the beginning of Gorge Trail.

Directly across the road from the main lot, you can also find several parking spaces near the boat launch, beach and kayak rentals. However, if you want to visit the Overlook or hike one of the rim trails, there is a separate parking location which we’ll cover later in our guide.


Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail Walkthrough

A dirt path featuring the South Rim Trail
Entrance to South Rim hiking trail

Hiking is one of the main attractions at Taughannock Falls and there are a total of seven hiking trails. Here are the seven official hikes with distances listed one way:

  1. Black Diamond Trail (BDT) – 8.4 miles to Children’s Garden
  2. Cabin Trail (CA) – 0.11 miles
  3. Gorge Trail (GO) – 0.95 miles
  4. Multi-use Trail (Mu) – 2.10 miles
  5. North Rim Trail (NR) – 1.44 miles
  6. South Rim Trail (SR) – 1.60 miles
  7. Unmarked Trail – 2.0 miles

The most popular hike is the Gorge Trail which is 0.95 miles in length one way. This is a very easy trail with minimal elevation gain. Most people only walk the Gorge Trail and visit the Overlook so if you want to avoid the crowds, you can hike one of the other trails in the park.

We’re going to show you exactly what it’s like to hike the Gorge Trail as an out and back hike. According to AllTrails, this hike should take about 45 minutes to complete.

  • Trail distance: 1.9 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Easy

Use this trail map to help you find specific points of interest in the park.

Without further ado, let’s hike the Gorge Trail to Taughannock Falls:

1. Lower Falls

Entrance to the Gorge Trail at Taughannock Falls State Park
Informational sign at the beginning of the hike

A few minutes after you begin walking up the Gorge Trail, you’ll find Lower Taughannock Falls, a 20 ft shelf-like fall with an incredibly flat rim. We always joke that you could put a level anywhere on the ledge and your bubble would be right in center. This is truly mother nature at her finest.

Small shelf like waterfall running dry near the entrance to an Ithaca state park in the finger lakes
Lower Falls running low after a summer drought

Our photo above shows Taughannock Creek running extremely dry in late summer. As you can see, there is very little water and the waterfall is barely visible.

Hiker admiring Lower Falls at Taughannock Falls State Park
Kristen in front of Lower Falls

But in late spring, Lower Falls is abundant with a heavy flow as water spreads across the flat surface and gently cascades from various points. This is just an appetizer for what’s about to come.

2. Taughannock Creek

Man walking along a dried section of Taughannock Creek
Mark walking along the sandstone bed of Taughannock Creek

You can choose to follow a gravel track flanking the creek or walk along the creek bed if it’s as dry as you can see here. Roughly half of all visitors we saw walked up the entire creek bed. The creek is completely safe to walk along when it’s dry but eventually you’ll see signs telling you to leave the creek and re-join the designated path.

3. Wooded Area

Easy dirt path section along the Gorge trail
An easy well marked and flat trail

Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail is very short, flat and easy. Basically no elevation is gained or lost which makes the trail perfectly accessible for families with very young children or those with mobility issues. The final stretch of path leads you through a forested area and eventually brings you out into an opening where you can see a wooden bridge.

4. Stream View

Wooden bridge and Taughannock Falls view
The stunning waterfall in spring as seen from the creek

Turn to the left for your first sight of Taughannock Falls from up close. You’ll cross the bridge from left to right as you look at the image above. Water will crash noisily out of the tree lined cliff top in late spring and early summer. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, follow the path as it turns slightly left and comes to a dead end.

5. Trail End

Barriers at the end of Gorge Trail to keep visitors safe
The end of Gorge Trail with a large concrete wall

When there is little water in the landing zone and running through the creek, you may notice many visitors stepping over the wall and walking around the small stoned surface. But if water is crashing over, please don’t go out into this area. There is immediate danger of falling rocks and strong currents because the water levels can be deceiving.

Taughannock Falls waterfall running dry at the end of summer
A wispy waterfall at Taughannock

On our Labor Day visit, Taughannock Falls flow was like turning off a faucet 3/4 of the way but just about leaving a steady drip, drip, drip into the sink. That being said, it was still enough to appreciate the vast depression we found ourselves in. No matter how much water is crashing or trickling over the ledge, this is still a fascinating landscape.

After taking in the views of the major waterfall, you can make your way back down the Gorge Trail to the parking lot. Unlike other parks nearby, you can’t connect to the Rim Trails from the end of the Gorge Trail.

Taughannock Falls Overlook

Popular stone overlook at Taughannock in upstate New York
The beautiful stone overlook at the park in spring

After hiking the Gorge Trail, your next stop should be the Taughannock Falls overlook. It features a beautifully crafted stone staircase creating a postcard perfect image. We think the Taughannock Falls viewpoint is one of the best photography locations in the entire state park. But depending on the time of year you visit, the waterfall will look very different.

Stairs leading to the overlook with lust green foliage in summer
A very light Taughannock Falls at the end of summer

The photograph above is from our Labor Day trip in 2020. As you can see, the water levels are very low because there was a drought.

The overlook is part of both the North and South Rim loop trail or you can opt to drive Taughannock Park Road to reach the parking lot. There is a very small parking lot and visitor center, but you can expect this lot to fill up early every day between April and October.

Upper parking lot at a state park in upstate New York
Parking lot for the Taughannock Falls Overlook

If you’re visiting on a weekend or a holiday, this parking area will be chaotic all day. You can also park at Upper Falls near the Black Diamond Trail and walk 15 minutes back to the overlook along North Rim Trail.

Travel Tip: Parking at the overlook is free for 1 hour.

Upper Taughannock Falls

Birds eye view of the upper waterfall at Taughannock
The Upper Falls as seen from the bridge

After seeing Taughannock Falls from the beautiful overlook, we have one more waterfall in store for you.

But unfortunately, Upper Falls is more difficult to see compared to Taughannock and Lower Falls because it’s farther away from a viewing platform and partially obstructed by a bridge at a bad angle. You can reach Upper Falls by driving Park Road and take the left onto Jacksonville Road where you’ll find a smaller gravel parking lot.

You can also hike either North Rim or South Rim Trail and you’ll find Upper Falls where these two longer hiking trails meet. Use this map here to help you find all 3 waterfalls in the park.

Man taking a photograph of Upper Taughannock Falls near Ithaca, NY
Mark capturing a photo of Upper Taughannock Falls

Our photo above shows the bridge over Upper Falls. It’s a difficult angle, but it’s cool to see. This waterfall will eventually flow into the large waterfall you just visited along the Gorge Trail.

READ: Epic waterfall quotes

Photography Tips

Two people holding hands at Taughannock Falls Overlook
Mark and Kristen at the popular viewpoint

Taughannock Falls is an amazing place to shoot nature photography. After several visits to the park, here are a few tips we’ve learned to help you take the best photos at the overlook and waterfall:


  • The waterfall is west of the overlook, which means at sunset you’ll be shooting into the sun until it disappears. The sun is behind you at sunrise and it takes a while to light up the waterfall.
  • Once the sun rises, you’ll have shadows and blown out skies to contend with. One morning we visited was worst case, just a plain blank canvas of grey overcast cloud.
  • Focus stacking is an option even if you shoot with a narrow aperture for greater depth of field. Take 3 of the exact same image on a tripod but focus on foreground (the stairs), middle ground (the waterfall) and distance (clouds if there are any).
  • Use an ND filter to stop down the light on a bright day.
  • Try framing your image so the top of the waterfall is the top of your frame (ie cut out the sky completely).
Woman standing in front of Taughannock Falls on a wooden bridge
Kristen on the wooden bridge in front of the large waterfall


Close up photographs are much easier to compose. You have more freedom with framing and using subjects such as the bridge.

  • Take a lot of photographs from right underneath the waterfall to all the way back behind the bridge.
  • If you can, try standing 50 meters behind the bridge and zooming in to make the waterfall appear closer to the bridge.
  • You’ll have to be patient and wait for a clearing of people on the bridge or use photoshop.

READOur photography guides from around the world

Facilities And Swimming

Swimming prohibited sigh at a new york state park
No swimming sign along the Gorge Trail

In addition to the hiking trails, there are many other activities to enjoy in the park.

Swimming in Taughannock Creek is not permitted because it’s dangerous. The pool below the waterfall has a very strong current and rock fall from above is a very serious risk. Please remain on the marked trail near the waterfall because people have died here from not staying on the path.

If you want to swim, there is one designated area at North Point which is on the opposite side of the main road from the entrance to the Gorge Trail. It’s typically open late June to early September from 11:00am to 7:00pm daily.

Canoe and kayak rentals are also very popular in the summer months. These can be rented by Paddle N More from March to November, weather permitted. Head to the official website for more information.

Various picnic tables and restrooms are located throughout the grounds as well. Dogs are allowed at Taughannock Falls, but must be kept on a leash.

Best Time To Visit

Taughannock Falls flowing heavily in April after the snowmelt
The waterfall as seen from the Gorge Trail

Taughannock Falls State Park is extremely busy on weekends between April and October, particularly during the holidays. June to August is the peak season and it’s busiest from 10:00am to 3:00pm. So if you visit in the summer, we recommend arriving early in the day or later in the evening to avoid the large crowds.

That being said, the park is open year round and each season is unique. Here are the highlights:

  • Spring – April is the best month to visit if you want to see the waterfalls at their fullest. During this time, the snowpack is melting in upstate New York and the creeks are full. However, weather is unpredictable with both warm and cold days.
  • Summer – You can expect the park to be crowded from June to August and it might be difficult to find parking. This is our least favorite time to visit because the Gorge Trail is extremely crowded. However, it’s a great time for water sports and other outdoor activities because it’s warm.
  • Fall – Late September and early October is our favorite time to visit because the gorge is filled with beautiful hues of reds, yellows and oranges. However, the water levels are very low so it’s not a great time to see the waterfalls.
  • Winter – Taughannock Falls is the only state park in the Finger Lakes that keeps the Gorge Trail open during the winter season. We love seeing the falls covered in ice and snow, but we wouldn’t recommend it for a first time visit.

Where To Eat

Man eating dinner at Atlas Bowl in Trumansburg NY
Mark enjoying a meal at Atlas Bowl

There are no restaurants in the state park, but there is a Black Diamond Express food truck. This is a great option if you want a quick meal and it’s open on weekends near the main entrance of the park. All proceeds go towards the fireworks display provided by the Inn at Taughannock Falls July 4th celebration.

If you want a more substantial meal, the next best option is Trumansburg. This small village is 4 mile drive and it features a number of highly rated restaurants. Here are some of our favorites:

Travel Tip: The original Black Diamond Express train transported passengers between NYC and Buffalo from 1896 – 1959. This was the flagship passenger train of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

Accommodation Options

Man and woman sitting on chairs inside their room at the Inn at Taughannock
Mark and Kristen enjoying the Inn at Taughannock

Just visiting Taughannock Falls? Or do you plan to visit many NY state parks? If so, we recommend staying north of Ithaca one night for Taughannock Falls before moving southwest of Ithaca the next day for Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk. You could also set up base in downtown Ithaca for a long weekend.

Read our guide to the best hotels in Ithaca NY on our sister site or take a look at the top rated hotels in the area below.

Northwest Ithaca (best for Taughannock Falls):

Staying a night close to the park means you can enjoy the waterfalls and hiking, plus spend some time around Cayuga Lake and eat in Trumansburg. We’ve stay at both hotels below and enjoyed both trips.

  • Inn at Taughannock – A luxurious option, but our top recommendation with immediate access to the park and a delicious breakfast. However, it books up very quickly.
  • Glass Magnolia – Another beautiful B&B just a few miles away from the park.

Downtown Ithaca (best for nearby amenities):

Staying centrally in Ithaca works best if you’re staying in the Finger Lakes region for 3 or more days. Plus you’ll have several amenities on your doorstep.

If hotels are too expensive or you’d prefer to be outdoors, there are 68 campsites and 16 cabins. You can camp from May to mid October with peak season prices increasing from end of June to the end of August. Campsites cost $18/night in the off season and $29/night in the peak season. You can book a campsite here.

Cabins require a 7 night minimum from Saturday to Saturday in the peak season. It costs $59.50/night in the off season and $66.50/night in the peak season. You can book a cabin here.

READCool things to see in Ithaca

Interactive Taughannock Falls Map

Click on our interactive map to find all the points of interest as well as our hotel and restaurant recommendations. Here is the map key:

  • Yellow – Parking lots at each entrance
  • Light Red – Points of interest
  • Purple – Restaurant recommendations
  • Blue – Hotels and camping

You can also access our interactive map via this link here.

The Morgan Conclusion

Woman sitting with a backpack on a wooden bench
Kristen on a bench with her Peak Design Backpack along the Gorge Trail

Taughannock Falls State Park features a beautiful waterfall 33ft taller than the famous Niagara Falls. And it’s hidden away in western NY in the gorgeous Finger Lakes region.

But is Taughannock Falls State Park worth visiting?

Yes, we think Taughannock Falls is worth visiting because it’s a lot of bang for your buck. You can see the stunning waterfall from an overlook that requires minimal walking. Or you can opt for the 1.9 mile Gorge Trail to see this massive waterfall up close. This is also a very popular spot in summer for swimming and water sports because of its access to Cayuga Lake.

Our Taughannock Falls Photos

We love visiting this state park and always take many photos. Here are a few of our favorites so you know exactly what to expect:

Waterfall overlook viewpoint near Ithaca ny
A very light flowing waterfall at the end of summer
Close up view of the upper waterfall near the bridge at Taughannock Falls State Park
Side profile of Upper Taughannock Falls
Night view with moon in the distance of the Inn at Taughannock
Night shot of the Inn at Taughannock
Hiker pointing to sign near the Gorge Trail in upstate New York
Kristen under the entrance to the Inn which is accessible by the Gorge Trail
Birds Eye view of Taughannock Gorge
Birds Eye view of Taughannock Gorge
Two people looking at a large waterfall in the NY Finger Lakes region
Mark and Kristen at Taughannock Falls Overlook
The powerful Taughannock Falls flowing heavily in spring time
Taughannock Falls in spring at its fullest
Woman walking along the stone section of the Gorge Trail
Kristen walking along Gorge Trail
King size lake view room view at a quaint B&B
Our Lakeview room from the Inn at Taughannock with Level8 Luggage
Brown wooden trail sign for the popular Gorge Trail
Brown wooden sign marking the popular Gorge Trail
Dock with picnic table at the end of Cayuga Lake
Dock access to Cayuga Lake
Gorge Trail along side Taughannock Creek
Gorge Trail side by side Taughannock Creek
Black Diamond Express food truck closed for the season
The Black Diamond Express closed for the season
Sign for the old Black Diamonds Luxury Train
Info about the Black Diamond Luxury Train

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 to hiking the Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!

Please let us know if you have any questions planning your visit to the park or upstate New York in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

Enjoy this Taughannock Falls guide? Pin it for later!

Note: This article contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All Rights Reserved © Where Are Those Morgans, LLC. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, maps, graphics, etc.) in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.

4 thoughts on “Visiting Taughannock Falls State Park For The First Time”

      • Great article. Being a local you really hit on all the wonderful points of Taughannock Falls State park. I’m actually forwarding this to my good friend who owns the Inn at Taughannock. A quick side note, the path where he built the sign for the Inn at the base of the falls, no has a food truck the the Inn has set up (late summer 2020). At the Black Diamond express you can grab a wonderful sandwich, iced coffee, and many other great treats. Check it out next time your in the area. Great article and I’m a new fan!

        • Hi Jamie, thank you very much for getting in touch and we’re glad we did Taughannock Falls justice! It’s such a stunning part of the Finger Lakes and we will definitely be back this Spring to see the waterfall in full flow. Thanks for letting us know about the food truck, we will be sure to add that in to the post so people are aware they can grab a sandwich and coffee at the trailhead. We will for sure book into the Inn on our next visit – it was fully booked last time but looks perfect. Thanks again and we’ll be in the area soon!


Leave a Comment