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Ithaca, NY: Buttermilk Falls

A moderate 1.5-mile loop outside Ithaca, this Finger Lake waterfall trek ambles past swimming holes, sedimentary rock, and sunbathers.

Trip Tools

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

To Trailhead

From West State Street in downtown Ithaca: Head south on South Corn Street toward State Route 79/West Green Street. Turn right on State Route 96B/West Clinton Street. Turn left on State Route 13 and continue for 1.7 miles. Turn left on Buttermilk Falls Road East.

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