Taughannock Falls

Cayuga Lake / Ulysses, New York, USA

About Taughannock Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

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

Waterfall Latitude: 42.5356
Waterfall Longitude: -76.61051

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Taughannock Falls (rhymes with “mechanic”) is one of the signature attractions of the Finger Lakes area.

Indeed, it was certainly one of those waterfalls where it seemed like we saw it many times before actually coming here in person!

Taughannock_Falls_056_06162007 - Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls

We managed to experience this waterfall in a couple of ways.

Taughannock Falls via the Gorge Trail

The first way was via the Gorge Trail, which started from a car park right near the western banks of Cayuga Lake.

The trail was 3/4-mile in length (1.5 miles return) and was mostly shaded and flat, which was welcome considering the heat and humidity of our early Summer visit.

We even saw some people decide to walk inside Taughannock Creek itself instead of the trail to beat the heat.

We also noticed some interpretive signs discussing the ecology and geology of the gorge, which seemed to have glacial origins.

In addition, we passed by an attractive smaller cascade near the beginning of the trail at the car park, which conspired to keep us on the trail a bit longer.

Taughannock_Falls_074_06162007 - Direct view of Taughannock Falls
Direct view of Taughannock Falls

The trail ended right at the falls where fences and railings were put in to discourage people from getting closer to the falls (probably due to the fragile nature of the cliffs surrounding the amphitheater which were prone to rock falls).

Given the harsh lighting of the day, we actually did this trail twice on the same day.

In the morning, the sun cast some pretty harsh shadows and bright zones wreaking havoc on our photos.

So we came back in the late afternoon to redo this trail under better lighting conditions.

It was under that second visit that there was a whole bunch of chairs all lined up as if the falls was the center of attention to a captive audience (though the show or seminar was well over when we showed up).

Taughannock Falls Overlook

The other way we experienced this waterfall was from the rim of the amphitheater overlooking Taughannock Falls itself.

Taughannock_Falls_104_06162007 - Descending towards the upper viewpoint for Taughannock Falls
Descending towards the upper viewpoint for Taughannock Falls

From this vantage point, we appreciated better the spot where the gorge came to its dramatic and abrupt end.

This was a drive-to viewpoint so it got to be pretty busy here, but it was still definitely worth checking out.

As a matter of fact, the cover of our coffee table book about Waterfalls and Gorges of the Finger Lakes was taken from here.


Taughannock Falls resides in Taughannock 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.

Taughannock_Falls_001_jx_06162007 - Sign greeting us at start of the trail
Taughannock_Falls_040_06162007 - Cascade near the beginning of the Gorge Trail
Taughannock_Falls_029_06162007 - Different look at that cascade
Taughannock_Falls_003_06162007 - Julie staying in the shadow while hiking to Taughannock Falls
Taughannock_Falls_008_06162007 - Further along the trail
Taughannock_Falls_009_06162007 - At the falls, but in suboptimal lighting
Taughannock_Falls_028_06162007 - Julie walking back alongside Taughannock Creek
Taughannock_Falls_049_06162007 - Approaching the crowded upper viewpoint
Taughannock_Falls_060_06162007 - Missed the show
Taughannock_Falls_065_06162007 - Back at the end of the Gorge Trail
Taughannock_Falls_088_06162007 - Zoomed in look at Taughannock Falls from the upper viewpoint

We got to the car park for the Gorge Trail by taking route 89 north of Ithaca for about 8 miles as it follows alongside the western bank of Cayuga Lake. The parking area (fee required) is on the left.

For the upper lookout of the falls, you can leave from the car park mentioned above, then go across the bridge heading north a short distance before turning left onto Falls Rd (my map says it’s Taughannock Park Rd). Then follow this road a little under a mile to another car park area where a short walk down some steps leads to a nice overlook of the falls and gorge amphitheater.

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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Direct view of the falls from its base

Focused on a cascade near the start of the trail

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...

Taughannock Falls June 16, 2010 4:50 pm by Gary G. - Taughannock Falls is my number one, located near Ithica NY. It is the highest falls in the Eastern U.S. I spent 3 years at Seneca Army Depot in the Fingerlakes region of Ny. That is where God put the best falls in the world. Watkins Glen Gorge is another must see. ...Read More

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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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