New York's Must-Visit Waterfalls
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New York State, often celebrated for the bustling streets of New York City and the historic landmarks that dot its landscape, holds within its borders some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the United States. Beyond the urban sprawl lies a world of serene beauty, characterized by vast forests, rolling hills, and an abundance of waterways that have sculpted the state’s terrain over millennia. Among these natural treasures, the waterfalls of New York State stand out as majestic highlights, offering spectacular views and tranquil settings that captivate visitors from around the world.

From the world-renowned cascades of Niagara Falls to the hidden gems nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes region, New York is home to a diverse array of waterfalls. Each tells a unique story of geological history and natural splendor. The state’s rich tapestry of rivers, lakes, canals, and streams feeds these cascades, creating stunning displays of water’s power and beauty across different seasons. Whether frozen into glittering ice sculptures in winter or flowing freely in the early summer months, these waterfalls provide year-round attractions for nature lovers, photographers, and adventurers alike.

“10 Must-Visit Waterfalls in New York State” is your guide to exploring these natural wonders. This article will introduce you to a curated selection of waterfalls, each with its own charm and set of attractions. From the sheer magnitude and force of some falls to the serene and mystical settings of others, New York’s waterfalls are as varied as they are beautiful. As we journey through the state’s scenic landscapes and the municipalities that these waterfalls call home, prepare to be inspired by the picturesque beauty and the captivating stories behind these must-visit destinations.

A panoramic bird's eye view of Niagara Falls as seen from the Skylon Tower.

1. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, located northwest of the City of Buffalo, is one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world.  Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, it offers a spectacular display of nature’s power. Comprising three separate waterfalls—Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls—it presents an awe-inspiring sight. Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the trio, lies mostly on the Canadian side and stands about 188 feet (57 meters) high, with a brink that measures approximately 2,600 feet (790 meters) wide. American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are located on the U.S. side, with the former standing roughly 100 feet (30 meters) tall. The volume of water cascading over the falls is just as impressive as its size, with more than 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water plummeting over the crest line every minute during peak daytime tourist hours. This massive flow makes Niagara Falls not only a stunning visual spectacle but also a significant source of hydroelectric power, contributing to the economy and environmental sustainability of the region.

The surrounding city offers numerous attractions, casinos, museums, and parks, such as the Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the United States, offering unparalleled views and experiences like the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist boat tour. The city’s vibrant nightlife, dining options, and cultural events make it a comprehensive tourist destination.

See our Niagara Falls Visitor’s Guide for more information.

Time: Plan for a full day or two.

A view of Taughannock Falls framed by trees.

2. Taughannock Falls

Located about 10 miles north of Ithaca, along the west side of Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls State Park is a centerpiece of natural beauty in the region. The park is most famous for Taughannock Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, which plunges dramatically from a height of 215 feet. Above this is another significant drop, the Upper Falls, at 100 feet tall. The Lower Falls, a mere 15 feet in height, is easily visible from the roadside. While the hike to see all three can take a few hours, the overlook off of Taughannock Park Road offers a quick and easy way to see the best view of them all.

The park is not just about the falls, and it’s highly recommended to take your time exploring. It offers a variety of hiking trails, camping, picnicking, and access to Cayuga Lake for views and swimming. It’s a perfect spot for both adventure and relaxation, with trails that cater to all levels of hikers.

The park is a part of the Finger Lakes region, known for its wine trails and scenic beauty. Trumansburg offers a quaint small-town atmosphere with local shops, eateries, and the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, providing a charming backdrop to the natural beauty of the falls.

Complete Guide to Taughannock Falls State Park

Time: Plan for 3-5 hours.

Letchworth gorge with Middle Falls and Upper Falls as seen from from Inspiration Point on a summer day

3. Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park, near the towns of Castile and Mount Morris, is home to at least 30 sizable waterfalls. Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” the park spans over 14,000 acres along the Genesee River south of the City of Rochester. The park’s dramatic gorges and cliffs, which reach heights of up to 600 feet, are the result of thousands of years of erosion through limestone and shale left by an ancient shallow ocean. The Upper Falls, distinguished by a railway bridge spanning its crest, is a breathtaking sight, especially during the autumn months when the foliage adds a vibrant splash of color to the scene. The Middle Falls, the tallest of the three, offers a powerful display of nature’s force, with floodlights illuminating the falls at night and the historic Glen Iris Inn overlooking it. The Lower Falls, though smaller, adds to the park’s tranquil beauty and can be closely observed by descending a series of stone steps into the gorge.

Beyond its waterfalls, Letchworth State Park offers a wide range of recreational activities. Over 66 miles of hiking trails wind through the park, providing access to its scenic vistas and hidden gems. These trails range from easy walks to more challenging hikes, catering to outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. For the adventurous, the park offers whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities on the Genesee River, providing a unique perspective of the park’s geology and landscapes. The park is host to numerous events throughout the year, including “Balloons Over Letchworth,” when several hot air balloons of all varieties will launch from the park and glide over the canyon.

The nearby towns provide cozy accommodations, local cuisine, and a gateway to exploring the rural charm of western New York.

Complete Guide to Letchworth State Park

Time: Plan for at least a full day.

View of the Gorge and Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen State Park

4. Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park, a crown jewel nestled at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, is a testament to the natural beauty that defines New York’s Finger Lakes region. This enchanting park draws visitors into a world where water carves through ancient rock, creating a deep, narrow gorge that boasts 19 breathtaking waterfalls along its course. The park’s centerpiece, the Gorge Trail, winds its way over and under waterfalls, through the spray of Cavern Cascade, and alongside the serene stream that has sculpted this landscape over millennia. With over 800 stone steps and numerous bridges, the trail offers an intimate experience with nature, allowing visitors to feel the mist on their skin and hear the powerful roar of water in their ears, connecting them directly to the primal forces that shaped this land.

New York’s Finger Lakes Region, especially the village of Watkins Glen, is celebrated for its world-class vineyards and wineries that dot the landscape. The microclimate of the region, influenced by the deep waters of Seneca Lake, fosters the growth of a wide array of grape varieties, making this area a haven for wine connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Wine tasting tours offer a glimpse into the vinicultural heritage of the Finger Lakes, pairing exquisite local wines with stunning lake views. For those drawn to the water, Seneca Lake itself offers endless possibilities for boating, fishing, and leisurely cruises, ensuring that every visit to Watkins Glen is filled with memorable moments, whether you’re savoring a glass of local Riesling or basking in the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region.

Complete Guide to Watkins Glen State Park

Time: Plan for half a day or more.

Ithaca Falls in Autumn

5. Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls, located within the city of Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, is one of the area’s most magnificent natural landmarks. This stunning waterfall, standing at an impressive height of 150 feet, cascades forcefully into the gorge below, creating a breathtaking spectacle for all who visit. The falls are easily accessible, making them a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike. A short walk from the city center leads to a viewing area where visitors can marvel at the sheer power and beauty of the water as it flows over the rocky ledge.

The greater-Ithaca region is a haven for waterfall enthusiasts seeking to visit a number of gorgeous falls in a short time. Home to dozens of the state’s most poplar waterfalls, the area also features numerous parks, preserves and nature trails. Home to prestigious Cornell University and Ithaca College, the city boasts a lively, youthful atmosphere that blends academic excellence with a strong sense of community and environmental stewardship. Ithaca’s downtown area, known as The Commons, is a pedestrian-only zone filled with unique shops, restaurants, and galleries that reflect the city’s eclectic and inclusive spirit. Beyond its urban charm, Ithaca serves as a gateway to the Finger Lakes region, offering easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, boating, and wine tasting.

Complete Guide to Ithaca Falls 

10 Must-Visit Waterfalls in the Ithaca, NY

Time: Plan for 30 minutes.

A wide view of Buttermilk Falls, in autumn. someone is standing on the trail leading up the falls.

6. Buttermilk Falls State Park

Located at the south end of the city of Ithaca, the 811-acre park encompasses a 2-mile stretch of Buttermilk Creek. While the park is named after its cascading main attraction, the 160-foot-high Buttermilk Falls, there are approximately nine other sizable waterfalls to discover along the remarkable Gorge Trail that runs parallel to the creek. Be prepared for a workout to see them, though; the trail begins with sets of stone steps that ascend alongside Buttermilk Falls. Fortunately, if you work up a sweat hiking the trails in the park, the plunge pool below the falls serves as a public swimming area.

Buttermilk Falls State Park is not just for hikers and nature enthusiasts; it also caters to families and individuals looking for a peaceful retreat into nature. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are scattered throughout the park, providing perfect spots for a leisurely lunch or a relaxing break. For adventurers looking to extend their stay, the park features a campground with sites for tents and RVs, making it an ideal base for exploring not only the park itself but also the surrounding Finger Lakes region. Seasonal activities, including guided walks and educational programs, offer visitors deeper insights into the park’s natural and cultural heritage, ensuring that a visit to Buttermilk Falls State Park is both enjoyable and enlightening, embodying the diverse appeal of the great outdoors.

Complete Guide to Buttermilk Falls State Park

Time: Plan for 3-4 hours.

A wide-angle view of Lucifer Falls as seen from the adjacent Gorge Trail. Water flow is low and most of the clif-face is dry.

7. Robert H. Treman State Park & Lucifer Falls

Robert H. Treman State Park, nestled in the rugged terrain of the Finger Lakes region near Ithaca, New York, is a natural oasis that spans over 1,000 acres of breathtaking landscapes. This park is a testament to the power of water and time, showcasing deep gorges, dense woodlands, and the enchanting Enfield Glen. Within this natural paradise, visitors can explore 12 miles of trails that meander through scenic vistas and alongside the babbling Enfield Creek, which carves its way through the park. Among its most celebrated attractions is the historic Old Mill, which adds a touch of human history to the park’s natural wonders. The park’s facilities, including picnic areas, swimming pools fed by natural streams, and camping sites, make it a perfect destination for families, hikers, and anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature’s tranquility.

Lucifer Falls, the crown jewel of the Park, is a magnificent 115-foot waterfall that captivates visitors with its sheer beauty and power. Best viewed from the park’s Gorge Trail that winds up it via a series of stone steps, it offers several vantage points from which to admire the falls and the surrounding steep, rocky gorge. The sight of water cascading down the mossy cliffside, especially after a rain when the flow is at its peak, is truly awe-inspiring. The area around Lucifer Falls, with its lush vegetation and the constant mist from the falls, creates a cool, refreshing microclimate that feels worlds away from the summer heat. Whether you’re an avid photographer, a nature lover, or simply seeking a moment of peace, Lucifer Falls provides an unforgettable experience that highlights the natural beauty and geological wonders of the Finger Lakes region.

Complete Guide to Robert H. Treman State Park

Time: Plan for 3-5 hours.

A view of Downtown Rochester and High Falls with railroad bridge.

8. Rochester’s High Falls

High Falls, located in the heart of Rochester, New York, is one of the city’s most dramatic natural landmarks. This majestic waterfall, with a drop of 96 feet, is part of the Genesee River’s journey through the city, offering a stunning visual spectacle that contrasts sharply with the urban environment surrounding it. The area around High Falls, known as the High Falls District, has been revitalized to become a vibrant hub of activity, featuring viewing platforms, walking trails, and interpretive signage that tells the story of Rochester’s industrial heritage. The Genesee Brew House, overlooking the falls, provides an excellent vantage point for visitors to enjoy the view while, dining on local grub and learning about the city’s brewing history. High Falls not only exemplifies the natural beauty inherent in upstate New York but also serves as a focal point for Rochester’s ongoing efforts to blend historical preservation with modern development. Plans were announced in 2022 to develop the old industrial space below the falls into a State Park. It’s expected to open as early as 2032.

The city of Rochester itself, situated on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, is a dynamic blend of culture, history, and innovation. Known as the “Flower City” and the birthplace of Kodak, Rochester boasts a rich array of cultural institutions, including the renowned Eastman School of Music, the Strong National Museum of Play, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The city’s vibrant arts scene is complemented by numerous festivals throughout the year, such as the Rochester International Jazz Festival and the Lilac Festival at Highland Park, which celebrate the city’s diverse community and artistic talent. Additionally, Rochester’s culinary landscape offers everything from cozy diners and bistros to high-end dining experiences, reflecting the city’s growing reputation as a foodie destination. With its combination of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and forward-looking innovation, Rochester invites visitors to explore its many layers and discover the unique charm of this upstate New York city.

Complete Guide to Rochester’s High Falls

Time: Plan for 30 minutes or more.

Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks

9. Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” is a stunning natural wonder located in the eastern Adirondack region of New York. This magnificent gorge, carved by the Ausable River over thousands of years, showcases towering sandstone cliffs, rushing waters, and a series of breathtaking waterfalls. Visitors to Ausable Chasm can embark on an array of adventures, from serene walks along rim trails offering panoramic views of the chasm to more thrilling experiences like rafting or tubing down the river through the gorge. The Chasm also offers unique attractions such as the Adventure Trail, which includes cable bridges, edge walks, and rappelling for the more adventurous. With its rich natural beauty and array of activities, Ausable Chasm provides an unforgettable experience for nature lovers, thrill-seekers, and anyone looking to explore one of nature’s most impressive creations.

Nearby Keeseville, NY, is a charming small town that serves as a gateway to the natural wonders of the Adirondack Park and the scenic beauty of Lake Champlain. This quaint community, with its historic architecture and laid-back atmosphere, offers a glimpse into rural Adirondack life. Visitors can enjoy local hospitality at cozy bed and breakfasts, dine at restaurants serving farm-to-table fare, and explore local shops featuring artisan crafts and goods. Keeseville’s proximity to both Ausable Chasm and the Adirondack Park makes it an ideal base for outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, kayak, and explore the region’s vast natural landscapes. The town’s rich history, including its role in the Underground Railroad, adds a layer of cultural depth to the visitor experience, making Keeseville not just a stop on the way to Ausable Chasm, but a destination in its own right.

Note that Ausable Chasm is a private attraction and admission is about $12/child, $20/adult.

Time: Plan for several hours.

A classic view of Kaaterskill Falls after a short rain

10. Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls, a majestic two-tiered cascade nestled in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, stands as one of New York State’s most splendid natural attractions. With a total height of 260 feet, it is the highest waterfall in New York, drawing visitors from across the globe to witness its breathtaking beauty. The falls are accessible via a well-maintained trail that provides stunning views of the surrounding Catskill Park, a testament to the region’s rich natural heritage and its inspiration to the 19th-century Hudson River School of painters. In warmer months, the area around Kaaterskill Falls transforms into a lush, verdant haven, ideal for hiking, photography, and picnicking, while the winter season offers a serene, frozen spectacle, showcasing the powerful beauty of nature in all its forms. The recent enhancements, including a viewing platform and improved safety features, ensure a memorable and secure visit for all, making Kaaterskill Falls a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Nearby Palenville, recognized as America’s first art colony, lies at the foot of the Catskills and boasts a rich cultural history, enchanting landscapes, and a welcoming community spirit. Artists and writers have long been drawn to Palenville’s idyllic setting, which continues to inspire visitors with its galleries, workshops, and the palpable creative energy that permeates the village.

Complete Guide to Kaaterskill Falls

Time: Plan for 3 hours or more.

New York’s must-visit waterfall map

More waterfalls in New York State

We cover the more popular and accessible falls above, but there are hundreds more around the state. Check out our full list of Waterfalls in New York.