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Ithaca, NY: Buttermilk Falls

ny

Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 1.5 miles


A moderate 1.5-mile loop outside Ithaca, this Finger Lake waterfall trek ambles past swimming holes, sedimentary rock, and sunbathers.
  • Buttermilk Falls
  • First gorge view
  • The Gorge Trail gets really wet near the second waterfall
  • Second gorge view
  • Rock formations at second waterfall
  • Third waterfall
  • Turn off to rain shelter
  • Rain shelter
  • Footbridge
  • Fourth waterfall
  • Close up of fourth waterfall
  • Wet, crumbling sedimentary rock walls line the Gorge Trail
  • As you climb past the fourth waterfall, notice how deep the gorge gets.
  • Water meanders through the gorge
  • End of the Gorge Trail
  • You can cross the street and take the Bear Trail to Upper Buttermilk
  • Upper Buttermilk parking lot
  • Take the road east to the Rim Trail
  • Rim Trail
  • Vear left and you'll pass this access road on your right.
  • The only gorge view on Rim Trail
  • End of Rim Trail

Slicing through a deep gorge, Buttermilk Creek cascades down an enormous rockslide to form Buttermilk Falls, one of Ithaca’s premiere natural attractions. From the base of the falls, the Gorge and Rim Trails carry hikers and trail runners up this iconic waterfall, showing off Buttermilk Park’s extraordinary rock formations and cascades along the way.

This route kicks off on a long, winding stairway leading up from a swimming hole at the base of the falls: this is the most strenuous part of the hike. Once the trail flattens, tranquility engulfs the gorge. The surrounding deciduous forest is populated by maples, oaks, and a wide variety of conifers. Further up the gorge, high sedimentary rock walls drip cold water on hikers below. In the summer, the park’s primary attraction is its swimming hole (complete with diving board and life guard). Transitioning to fall, the Falls afford gape-worthy foliage, and in winter, the cascades freeze over to form utterly unique (and photogenic) ice spears.

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan and Tim Merrill

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