Ithaca Falls

Ithaca, New York, USA

About Ithaca Falls

Hiking Distance: 0.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 15-30 minutes

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

Waterfall Latitude: 42.45293
Waterfall Longitude: -76.49246

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Ithaca Falls is probably our favorite waterfall of the Finger Lakes region of Western New York.

We think it could very well be the largest of the waterfalls in the region with a reported 75ft height and a 100ft width.

Ithaca_Falls_036_06162007 - Ithaca Falls
Ithaca Falls

The year-round flow on Fall Creek draining into Cayuga Lake also ensured there was longevity to back up the waterfall’s impressive size.

That said, there are conflicting numbers regarding its dimensions as we’ve also seen it reported to be as much as 150ft high and 175ft wide.

Accessing Ithaca Falls

Nevertheless, despite its impressive dimensions, the access to the falls was strangely not well-signed nor did it feature well-developed infrastructure (e.g. a well-defined trail leading to it).

Instead, we kind of winged it as we managed to follow some people towards Fall Creek from a parking area with limited space.

Then, we followed the creek upstream along a wide trail of use flanking until we made it up to the front of Ithaca Falls.

That said, I’m pretty sure that when in doubt, after leaving the car, you could always look for Fall Creek from the road bridge (on Falls St; see directions below).

Ithaca_Falls_023_06162007 - Someone sitting in front of Ithaca Falls for a sense of scale of its size
Someone sitting in front of Ithaca Falls for a sense of scale of its size

Once you find the creek, you could just walk along its banks like we did to make it upstream to the falls.

It only took us about 5-10 minutes or so of walking.

Other Ithaca Falls Attributes

From what we could tell, this was still a popular waterfall given its ease of access (once you know where to look).

Its proximity to Cornell University probably also helped its popularity.

Yet despite this, we felt it retained some degree of tranquility and peace often lacking in such waterfalls so close to a developed town or city.

Like many of the waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region, the underlying bedrock of the falls was a thin, flaky rock known as shale.

It was because of this property that the falls possessed a ripply appearance that was friendly to long exposure photographs with a tripod (with the proper lighting conditions, I might add).

Lighting at Ithaca Falls

Ithaca_Falls_007_06162007 - Someone cooling off from the hot and muggy day at Ithaca Falls
Someone cooling off from the hot and muggy day at Ithaca Falls

Julie and I visited this waterfall twice on the same day.

The first time, we saw Ithaca Falls at the height of day on a gorgeous sunny day.

At that time, there were a handful of people cooling off in its waters or just chilling out in the shade caused by the nearby overhanging shale cliffs.

The bright sun also made the scene very bright making it tough to take that long exposure shot, which was the reason why we decided to come back later in the day.

In the late afternoon, I was able to get that long exposure shot.

The scene was also much quieter, but this time around we saw locals fishing right at the base of the falls.

Ithaca_Falls_066_06162007 - People fishing at the base of Ithaca Falls in the late afternoon
People fishing at the base of Ithaca Falls in the late afternoon

Clearly, this was a waterfall that can be enjoyed in all kinds of conditions.

Indeed, I can imagine students at Cornell University could easily get into waterfalling simply by checking out the area around their campus and the college town of Ithaca itself!

Although we didn’t do this, I understand there was another smaller waterfall further upstream of Ithaca Falls.

But we’ll have to wait to say anything more about it until the next time we actually get a chance to see it.


Ithaca Falls resides in the Ithaca Falls Natural Area in the city of Ithaca in Tompkins County, New York. It is administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Ithaca_Falls_002_06162007 - Approaching the falls in the early afternoon
Ithaca_Falls_013_06162007 - People staying cool in the shade
Ithaca_Falls_028_06162007 - A father and daughter enjoy the falls from its other side
Ithaca_Falls_031_06162007 - Now approaching the falls in the late afternoon
Ithaca_Falls_043_06162007 - Now the entire amphitheater is under shadow
Ithaca_Falls_057_06162007 - Some folks trying their luck at fishing
Ithaca_Falls_074_06162007 - Last look at the falls before we left

In order to get to the falls from downtown Ithaca, I recalled we had to go northbound on Hwy 13. But just before the 13 became a freeway as it was about to leave Ithaca, there was a street light on either Lincoln or Dey Street (I forgot), where we turned right.

Once we were off the main highway, we could have followed Lincoln all the way to Lake St (though I think we followed Falls St, which was just one block north of Lincoln Street, and took Falls St all the way to Lake St). The obscure car park was along Lake St between the intersection of Falls St and Lincoln St.

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, upstate

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

Concerns August 18, 2019 8:16 pm by Sarah Montgomery - Ithaca Falls is absolutely gorgeous, but I'm not sure it's a safe place. When I got there, I was greeted by a warning sign from the Department of Environmental Conservation, informing me of lead contamination. Apparently, the falls are just downstream from a closed gun manufacturing site, and this is apparently an ongoing problem. ...Read More

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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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