Initially, I had planned to call this post "Ithaca is Gorges." That's a popular t-shirt and bumper sticker slogan praising the awesome town of Ithaca, NY, for its gorgeous gorges. But then I discovered that the subject of this post, Taughannock Falls State Park , is actually in Trumansburg, NY, a few miles away from the border of Ithaca. I hadn't paid attention to that fact when I was there this past weekend and locals seem to regard Taughannock Falls as if it's their own. Oh well. Trumansburg is gorgeous/gorges too, even if it doesn't sell a lot of t-shirts.
Ithaca has several wonderful gorges — as does the Cornell campus — but if you're looking for a really tall waterfall in the area then you must check out Taughannock Falls. At 215 feet high, it's one of the highest located east of the Rockies and truly is quite impressive. If you don't want to pay the $6 per car fee to enter the state park, you can drive around to the Falls Overlook, which is free. But as long as you have time for a beautiful three-quarter of a mile walk on an easy trail (people were pushing baby strollers on it) to the waterfall, you should enter the park to get the experience of walking through the high-walled gorge to reach the main event.
As soon as you enter the park, you're greeted by a small waterfall (pictured right). It's the perfect way to start the "hike".
Then, you can walk along the path or you can walk right in the gorge — it all depends on how much water there is and whether you mind getting your feet a little wet. The gorge has the most water in the springtime due to the melting snow. As you can see on the picture on the left, This past weekend, the gorge was quite dry in parts. Luckily the main waterfall still looked great although I'll admit we were a bit worried in the beginning.
We spent time both in the gorge and on the path next to it. Being in the gorge, you really feel the majesty of nature like you're in the American Southwest, albeit a smaller version. As a sign pointed out (the trail was lined with very informative signs), the trees that grow along the walls of the gorge are similar to the ones you'll find in Utah.
When we went back to the path, we thought at first that it was covered in leaves. But then upon closer inspection, we realized that what we thought were leaves were actually pieces of shale (pictured left). The entire area is constantly eroding and the landscape is forever changing. In fact, the appearance of the main falls will probably change a good deal as the water wears down the rocks.
If we had more time, we would have also gone to Buttermilk Falls State Park and Robert H. Treman State Park, both of which actually are in Ithaca. I have been to both years ago and remember enjoying them very much. The admission fee we paid for Taughannock Falls would have covered us for any NY state park that day. If we had a ton of time, I would have wanted to visit Watkins Glen State Park, which is only 30 miles from Ithaca but according to Google Maps is an hour drive. But alas, that shall have to wait for next time. I also didn't get to have my favorite deep-dish pizza at The Nines, so I have yet another reason to return.