Taughannock Falls State Park features one of the outstanding natural attractions of the Northeast – 215 feet Taughannock Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, even taller than Niagara Falls. The park’s stunning nature, combined with well-planned accessibility, makes the area a perfect playground for the entire family. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, and more. The Gorge Trail leading to the falls is the most popular attraction but do not stop there. Read on to learn more about this unique park.
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TAUGHANNOCK FALLS STATE PARK – FUN FOR ALL AGES
Just like many other top New York State parks, Taughannock Falls State Park is known for its natural beauty and as an excellent destination for the entire family to enjoy. Despite its dramatic feature, the 215 feel tall fall, the park serves as a safe and diverse playground for kids of all ages. Many park facilities are accessible to disabled visitors, including the beach, rustic cabins, food concessions, nature trail, picnic pavilions, and picnic tables, scenic viewpoints, showers, and campsites.
Location and Map
Taughannock Falls State Park is located in the Town of Ulysses in Tompkins County, northwest of Ithaca, near Trumansburg, NY. From Ithaca, take Route 89 North. The Gorge and hiking trails are on the left while lake and marina are on your right.
Taughannock Falls State Park
2221 Taughannock Park Rd.Trumansburg, NY 14886
Admission: The park collects an $8 vehicle fee for the entrances off of Rt-89, which includes access to the falls and a picnic area across the road. The fall overlook, and the rim trail are free.
Over 380 million years ago, the gorge area was at the bottom of an ancient sea. The floor of the gorge is a light gray limestone, the evolution of lime mud that was made from algae and other marine organism shells. You can see fossilized remains on the floor of the stream, and some of the massive stone blocks at the base of the falls. The limestone in the stream bed is pitted in spots, due to chemical weathering from slightly-acidic rainwater.
Taughannock Falls Overlook – the easiest way to see the falls
You can see the falls from the overlook without much walking, but you should be able to take a few steps. The overlook is located by a brand new visitors center. When coming from Ithaca on Route 89 North, pass the entrances to the park and then turn left uphill. Follow the road to the end and park by the visitor’s center.
Hiking in Taughannock Falls State Park
Hiking is the main activity in the park, but even if you are not a hiker, you will enjoy the park’s trails. Most of them are short and easy and lead to the most scenic locations.
Gorge Trail to Taughannock Falls
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
This is the quickest trail from the main entrance to the bottom of Taughannock Falls. It follows Taughannock Creek for approximately a mile before reaching the falls. The gorge walls tower above about hikers on both sides, and the creek serves as a fun path for those looking to wade in the water. Your first stop will be a 20-foot cascade, known as Little or Lower Falls. It is a beautiful area many visitors use for swimming and jumping to the pool of water below, but this activity is prohibited and looks dangerous. Stay safe!
You can hike the Gorge Trail in two ways, parallel to each other. One is a wide graveled trail. It is not fully wheelchair accessible but doable with support. Another one is the creek itself for more adventurous. You will get to hike on the flat slabs of rocks and in the water. Most of the time, the creek is very shallow, so no danger there. On the hot summer day, the creek path is much more fun but be careful, the rocks can be slippery. Also, remember, you will be walking on the ocean floor! Pay attention to the rock layers and look for fossils! Kids love this trail! You will reach Taughhannock Falls after about a mile of walking. Swimming is also not allowed at the bottom of Taughannock Falls, even though many people break that rule.
North Rim Trail and South Rim Trail from Jacksonville Road form about a 3-mile loop. The South Rim segment is a bit shy of 1.25 miles (430 feet elevation change), while the North is slightly longer at 1.5 miles (410 feet elevation change). Both trails have steep sections but are worth the effort. You get to see a lot of the twisting gorge and smaller waterfalls that lie upstream of the main waterfall.
Multi-Use Trail also called Rice Hill Trail.
This two-mile trail is open for hiking, running, or cross-country skiing. The path has a gentle grade with an overall elevation change of 150 feet. There is a small gravel parking area across from the Falls Overlook parking area off Taughannock Park Road. Most people park in the Falls Overlook parking area and cross the road to start the hike. Although you won’t encounter any waterfalls on this route, you can find a good view of Cayuga Lake.
Dogs in Taughannock State Parks
Dogs are allowed in the park, including hiking trails and a campground.
Picnicking is another very popular activity in the park. You will find a large number of picnic tables on the shore of Cayuga Lake. Grills are also available there. The area is perfect for a meal with the views. The concession stand also has covered seating if you’re looking to beat the heat in the height of the summer.
Even though swimming at the base of Taughannock Falls is hard to resist, you aren’t supposed to swim around the falls. Falling rocks create a great danger. Taughannock Falls State Park has a monitored swimming area off South Point, with lifeguards keeping watch over a roped-off area. If you’re adventurous, you can swim out to the dock and enjoy jumping off the springboard into the cool water. The beach is sandy, though once you enter the lake, you quickly encounter smooth rocks underfoot.
Camping at Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park is an excellent destination for a longer stay. It features a fully-equipped campground with 68 camping sites and 16 cabins. There are spots for tent camping and RV camping in the main camping area just north of the main park entrance. Cabins are clustered on the lakeside of Route 89 on the north side of the park. While there are not many views of the lake directly from most camping spots, it is a short walk to hiking trails, the marina, the waterfront, and the concession stand. Camping season runs from late March through mid-October.
Accommodations include restrooms, beach, campsites, picnic tables, showers, changing rooms, playgrounds, cabins, pavilions, boat launch, trailer sites, drinking fountains, snack bar. To find out more about the available campsites and reservation process, visit reserveamerica.com.
Hotels near Tuaghannock State Park
The park is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York known not only for its beautiful nature but also for wineries. You can combine a visit to the park with the wine tasting. Ithaca, just 8 miles from the park, is a perfect base to explore the area.
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