Buttermilk Falls

Ithaca, New York, USA

About Buttermilk Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.6 mile loop
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2007-06-16
Date last visited: 2007-06-16

Waterfall Latitude: 42.4162
Waterfall Longitude: -76.52092

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Buttermilk Falls is a series of cascades said to total around 500ft in cumulative height.

The last 80ft is what we think the majority of visitors see as it shows itself to people entering the state park bearing the falls’ name.

Buttermilk_Falls_001_06162007 - One of the cascades comprising Buttermilk Falls
One of the cascades comprising Buttermilk Falls

During our visit, upon approaching the bottommost waterfall, it felt as if we walked into a recreational swimming pool as there were steps fringing the edge of the plunge pool as well as a lifeguard on duty.

Indeed, there was lots of activity at the base of the falls to offset the heat and humidity of a lazy Summer’s day in June.

As inviting as the pool was to cool off, we continued on the steep but well-developed trail that climbed alongside the stream responsible for the falls.

The higher we went, the more cascades we saw and the quieter it got (at least as far as number of people was concerned).

Each cascade had their own character with different ways of enjoying them.

Buttermilk_Falls_024_06162007 - A pretty creative way to beat the heat of Summer at Buttermilk Falls
A pretty creative way to beat the heat of Summer at Buttermilk Falls

In one instance, we saw a couple people lounging on lawn chairs in the middle of one of the cascades itself!

In one stretch of the trail, we entered a tight gorge area where we saw evidence of the power of the water that created such a chasm.

Such gorges seemed to be a common characteristic in the Finger Lakes.

We eventually walked probably 1/2- to 2/3rds of the 1.6-mile loop.

Had we done the entire loop, the signs here said we would’ve also seen formations like Pinnacle Rock as well as Pulpit Rock as well potentially more cascades comprising the Buttermilk Falls.

Buttermilk_Falls_036_06162007 - Still more cascades comprising Buttermilk Falls higher up in the gorge
Still more cascades comprising Buttermilk Falls higher up in the gorge

Even though we took the Gorge Trail, there’s certainly the option of returning on the other side of the stream via the Rim Trail.

Perhaps next time, we’ll do the whole thing.


Buttermilk Falls resides in Buttermilk Falls State Park near Ithaca in Tompkins County, New York. It is administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Buttermilk_Falls_011_06162007 - The busy swimming area at the base of the falls
Buttermilk_Falls_014_06162007 - Profile of the bottommost falls
Buttermilk_Falls_016_jx_06162007 - Looking down from the top of the bottommost falls
Buttermilk_Falls_029_06162007 - Context of the couple enjoying themselves in one of the upper Buttermilk Falls
Buttermilk_Falls_044_06162007 - Side view of cascades coming out of a narrow gorge
Buttermilk_Falls_038_06162007 - Focused on one of the cascades near our turnaround point

From the downtown Ithaca area, we headed south on Hwy 13 (Elmira Rd) for a couple of miles to the well-signed turnoff on the left for Buttermilk Falls. There was a toll and large (but busy) car park for the falls and recreation area.

For geographical context, Ithaca was about 156 miles (under 3 hours drive) east of Buffalo, 167 miles (3 hours drive) west of Albany, or 233 miles (4.5 hours drive) northwest of New York City.

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Tagged with: ithaca, tompkins, cornell, finger lakes, western new york, new york, central new york, waterfall, university, cayuga, swimming, pinnacle rock, pulpit rock, upstate

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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