Everyone has heard of Niagara Falls, and many of us have been there or even felt its spray. Historically, Thomas Jefferson always wanted to see them in person, and, in fact, had a painting of Niagara Falls in his home, Monticello. Although he made several trips to Europe, Jefferson never made it into the frontier to see the dramatic falls at the boundary of Canada. As impressive as Niagara Falls are, they take 2ndPlace to the highest vertical drop for a waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, which you can find right here in the Finger Lakes, Taughannock Falls on the shore of Cayuga Lake.
With a vertical drop of around 215’, Taughannock Falls is just one example of the amazing geology that can be found in the Finger Lakes region. Though not as tall, the combined effect of the 19 individual waterfalls within Watkins Glen State Park makes this park one of the top attractions in the State of New York. Watkins Glen is likely the most well-developed “waterfall” park with its 832 stone steps, newly established Visitor’s Center, renovated Gift Shop and restrooms, and larger parking area across the street from the entrance. If the parking lot is full, you can always find an on-street spot near the park entrance too. You will want to avoid Watkins Glen State Park on the weekends if you can, because the tremendous crowds may impact your ability to go at your own pace, and even keep you from getting that one-in-a-million photo.
So far, we’ve talked about individual New York State Parks that feature exciting waterfalls, but there is a fantastic surprise for you if you make your way over to Ithaca. At the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, and home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, Ithaca is the Finger Lakes’ largest city. But we’re not talking population, (though that’s the case too), we’re talking waterfalls! With more than 100 waterfalls within a 10-mile radius, it’s no wonder that Ithaca has earned the catchphrase, “Ithaca is GORGES”. Some of the waterfalls, like Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk Falls, are State Parks, while many others are free to visit with a variety of skill levels necessary to get to the falls.
Throughout the entire region, you can find waterfalls that are visually accessible by all, without even leaving your car. For example, Hector Falls on the east side of Seneca Lake, and Shequaga Falls in the village of Montour Falls offer spectacular views from the comfort of your vehicle. There are also some excellent waterfalls to be discovered in the western parts of the Finger Lakes, like Grimes Glen and Conklin’s Gully in and around Naples, NY, though if it’s a drought year, Conklin’s Gully will most likely be a dry streambed. At the north end of Keuka Lake, actually between Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake, you can find the remains of an old lock that is now a significant feature of the Keuka Outlet Trail. This trail is a favorite of ours, and not just because of its proximity to The Spotted Duck, a local ice cream joint where they make their ice cream from duck eggs and other local, organic ingredients. They even offer Ice Cream “flights”, if you can believe it? Stay tuned for a future blog about our very own Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail.
And, finally, though not technically in the Finger Lakes, no discussion about waterfalls would be complete without a quick mention of Letchworth State Park, that features an Upper, Middle, and Lower falls in what is considered the “Grand Canyon of the East”. Less than an hour from the Inn, many of our guests venture out to Letchworth to enjoy a hike and to see the falls, and some of them even extend their day of waterfalls with the extra hour drive to get to Niagara Falls, too. We’re always happy to suggest somewhere on the way to pick up lunch or dinner to keep you energized.
Be sure to bring your hiking shoes!