Best waterfalls in New York | NY waterfalls
Guides and Itineraries,  USA

18 MUST-SEE Waterfalls in New York

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The Empire State has some of the most beautiful waterfalls scattered throughout the state, with cascading streams and powerful rapids. From Niagara Falls to the Adirondacks, come explore New York’s many majestic waterfalls and see why they are some of nature’s most breathtaking masterpieces.

Take a journey through 18 of the most stunning waterfalls in New York and experience the thundering roar of these powerful wonders.

1. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls waterfalls in New York
Niagara Falls.

It’s impossible to talk about waterfalls in New York without beginning with the obvious Niagara Falls. Located on the border of the US and Canada, this stunning waterfall is one of the most iconic landmarks in North America.

It is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and it consists of three separate sections: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Measuring over 167 feet tall and 2,700 feet wide, Horseshoe Falls is the largest section and produces a thunderous roar as more than 650,000 gallons of water plunge down every second.

Waterfalls are formed through different ways, and Niagara Falls’ history is an interesting one. It started forming 12,000 years ago at the end of the ice age, when melting ice released large torrents of water into basins which then became the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes then poured water into Niagara River, which over the years carved a path through the cliff, down into the Atlantic Ocean.

No matter how many times you’ve seen it before, nothing compares to standing at the edge of Niagara Falls watching its power unfold before you.

2. Rainbow Falls (Watkins Glen State Park)

Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park

At Watkins Glen State Park, one of the most popular destinations in the Finger Lakes region of New York, lies the majestic Rainbow Falls, among 18 other Watkins Glen waterfalls and features along the Gorge Trail. From the bridge and walkways around the waterfall, you can get a truly unique perspective on this impressive sight.

The roar that Rainbow Falls produces is nothing short of stunning, making the Gorge Trail the most popular attraction in the park. Visitors often stop to take pictures and admire its beauty, so be sure to bring your camera. It’s one of the most picturesque locations in the Finger Lakes, especially during the fall.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just some time to relax and take in nature’s beauty, Rainbow Falls is definitely worth a visit.

3. Upper Falls and Middle Falls (Letchworth State Park)

Upper and Middle Falls in Letchworth State Park
Upper and Middle Falls.

While Letchworth is home to more than just these two, Upper and Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park are two of the most beautiful waterfalls in New York. Located near the “Grand Canyon of the East”, these majestic falls are fed by the Genesee River. Both falls are easily accessible from a single, large parking area, so it’s easy to see both in a very short amount of time.

The Upper Falls is particularly stunning, as it is located right under an active railroad bridge and visitors can watch trains pass over it if they’re lucky enough to visit at the right time. The roar that this waterfall produces is truly impressive and makes it a popular attraction within the park.

Middle Falls is also worth checking out – its wide array of cascading steps makes for a dramatic spectacle just below the Glen Iris Inn.

These are both easy-to-access waterfalls in the state of New York that you do not have to hike to see. They should both be on your bucket list!

4. Taughannock Falls (Taughannock Falls State Park)

Taughannock Falls - one of the best New York waterfalls
Taughannock Falls.

Taughannock Falls in the state park of the same name is a must-see natural wonder in New York. It holds the distinction of being the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, with a breathtaking drop of 215 feet.

Located in the Finger Lakes area, it’s easily accessible via a flat, accessible trail to the bottom and boasts stunning views from the observation deck situated on the rim of the gorge.

No matter what time of year you visit Taughannock Falls State Park, you’re sure to be impressed by its natural splendor. The autumn colors are stunning, but a frozen Taughannock Falls during the winter is particularly awe-inspiring.

5. Eternal Flame Falls (Chestnut Ridge Park)

Eternal Flame Falls is an iconic waterfall in western New York. Located in Chestnut Ridge Park, just south of Buffalo, this magical waterfall is unlike any other. Underneath its rushing flow of water lies an everlasting flame that flickers and dances on the rocks below.

It’s believed that there are only 9 spots in the world where you can find an “eternal flame” like this one in western New York. It’s fed by natural gas through a crack in the rocks, sheltered by one of the grottos. Despite its unearthly beauty, it’s surprisingly easy to access via a short hike through the forest leading you to its base.

When you do visit the Eternal Flame Falls, make sure you have a lighter with you. Occasionally, the flame does go out when wind and rain blow into the grotto. It’s nice to be able to easily relight it for you and others to enjoy.

6. High Falls (Rochester)

High Falls in Rochester New York
High Falls in Rochester New York.

High Falls is a stunning waterfall located right in the heart of the city of Rochester, NY. Towering at 96 feet high, it’s the highest waterfall on the Genesee River and an impressive sight to see. It’s easily accessible with several places to view it from.

Whether you’re looking for an awe-inspiring spot to take pictures or just a peaceful place to relax, take some time to explore the area around High Falls.

While there may be taller waterfalls elsewhere in New York, High Falls stands out for its unique location in the middle of a fairly large city. You won’t get this kind of experience in many other places.

7. Buttermilk Falls (Buttermilk Falls State Park)

Buttermilk Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in New York and definitely worth checking out. Located in Buttermilk Falls State Park just outside Ithaca, it’s easily accessible with a short hike to its base. As you approach the falls, you might not be able to appreciate it right away but as you climb the trail, you’ll realize just how impressive this waterfall really is.

The best way to experience Buttermilk Falls is up close. You can take the gorge trail down to get closer views of the waterfall and climb up the edge, continuing on to see the other water features along the trail beyond the falls.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable day out, then add Buttermilk Falls to your itinerary. This 165-foot waterfall won’t disappoint.

8. Lucifer Falls (Robert H Treman State Park)

Lucifer Falls is an impressive waterfall located in Robert H Treman State Park, not far from Buttermilk Falls. Standing 115 feet tall, this is one of the tallest waterfalls in the area and boasts an incredible view that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

To get there, you have to make a bit of an effort – it’s a 4.5-mile hike roundtrip from the lower car park, largely uphill – but it’s worth it. Alternatively, you can hike from the upper lot to a viewing area, but you certainly miss out on the experience!

Bring some comfortable walking shoes and plenty of water to keep you going. Once you arrive, take in the stunning sight of Lucifer Falls. Although this one is beautiful to view, it’s extremely difficult to photograph in it’s entirety. The falls are tucked into a narrow slot viewed only from above or at an angle.

You can swim seasonally at the base of another waterfall, named the Lower Falls, near the parking area where you left your vehicle for this hike.

9. Ithaca Falls (Ithaca)

Ithaca Falls in New York
Ithaca Falls.

Ithaca Falls is one of the most spectacular New York waterfalls. Located just north of downtown Ithaca, it towers over 150 feet high and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. There’s free parking available on both sides of Lake Street, so you can easily access the area from your car.

There is a short “hike” to reach Ithaca Falls, but it is nothing strenuous. You’ll most likely be viewing the waterfall in less than five minutes after leaving your car.

You can spend some time exploring the rocks and the water below the falls, but take caution as they can be quite slippery and dangerous. You can also pack a picnic and enjoy a lunch by the falls, find a spot to read a book, or just enjoy the views.

10. Cascadilla Gorge Trail (Ithaca)

Cascadilla Gorge Trail waterfalls in New York
Cascadilla Gorge Trail waterfall.

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail is a beautiful hike located in downtown Ithaca, New York. It’s the perfect spot for anyone who loves nature and wants to experience stunning waterfalls up close without even having to leave town. The trail is actually part of the Cornell University campus.

The trail is only about 1.3 miles long, so it’s a relatively easy hike that can be done in no time at all. You’ll pass eight breathtaking cascading waterfalls as you make your way through the gorge. Some of these falls have impressive drops, and each has its own unique character.

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail also takes you past charming stone bridges and steps along this picturesque gorge. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking to take in some natural wonders, this Ithaca gem definitely won’t disappoint.

11. Chittenango Falls (Chittenango Falls State Park)

Chittenango Falls is a stunning natural wonder located just north of Cazenovia, New York.

There is a small fee per vehicle to enter the park, and then you and your group are free to explore as you’d like. This 167-foot waterfall is the perfect destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of nature.

There are numerous paths that surround the falls, so visitors can enjoy all its viewing angles, including the easiest to reach from the top and more strenuous hike to reach the base. The trails to the base of the falls are slippery when wet, so take extra caution when exploring these areas.

If you’re ever in the area or nearby Syracuse, put Chittenango Falls on your list of must-see stops!

12. Salmon River Falls (Salmon River Falls Unique Area)

Salmon River Falls is an impressive waterfall located in Oswego County, New York, north of Oswego Lake.

It stands at a staggering 110 feet tall and is part of the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, a 112-acre protected area. With its easy access from the parking lot via a nice, short trail, it’s no wonder that Salmon River Falls is such a popular spot. The trail is wheelchair accessible and just over 1,000 feet long.

There are three different areas to take in the falls from. Check out the view from the base for the most exciting experience. Salmon River Falls will leave you in awe and make for an unforgettable adventure without a lot of effort.

13. Rainbow Falls (Adirondack Mountain Reserve)

Rainbow Falls in Adirondacks Mountain Reserve
Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls is one of the most breathtaking attractions in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve near Keene Valley. This 150-foot-high waterfall boasts a stunning drop that often creates a rainbow effect when the sunlight hits it just right.

For those who are not members of the Club, you might as well make the most of the hike to reach Rainbow Falls and head up to the Indian Head & Fish Hawk Cliffs Overlooks for a hike of just over 10 miles. It’s one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks.

In addition to Rainbow Falls, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve offers ample opportunities for hiking and exploring in a stunning natural setting. Rainbow Falls isn’t the only waterfall you’ll see on the way, either. You’ll also make your way past the smaller Beaver Meadow Falls.

14. Roaring Brook Falls (Adirondacks)

Roaring Brook Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in the Adirondack Mountains. Lucky for you, the trailhead for Roaring Brook Falls is quite literally right across the road (NY-73) from the trail to Rainbow Falls, which we just talked about. You can actually see it from the road just past the trailhead if you look hard enough.

The trail to the lower viewing area for the falls is short and well-maintained, so it’s the perfect spot for an easy escape. You can also climb the trail to the upper lookout for a little more challenge, but the entire adventure is only about 1.5 miles long

Once you arrive, you’ll be awed by the beauty of this natural wonder! Roaring Brook Falls stands several hundred feet tall and makes for some incredible photos.

15. Rainbow Falls (Ausable Chasm)

Another Rainbow Falls? That’s right, but this one is located in the Ausable Chasm of upstate New York and is a beautiful sight near Lake Champlain. While this is certainly built up as a tourist destination and can become busy on summer weekends, the views are still beautiful.

This New York waterfall stands an impressive 91 feet tall. This majestic cascade is part of a private attraction, so there is an entrance fee to explore the area situated along the Ausable River.

The view of Rainbow Falls from any angle is breathtaking and visitors often find themselves mesmerized by its beauty. This stunning waterfall can be enjoyed from many vantage points.

You can also enjoy floating down the river on a raft or a tube while you visit the Ausable Chasm.

16. Awosting Falls (Minnewaska State Park, Catskills)

Awosting Falls - NY waterfall
Awosting Falls.

Awosting Falls is a stunning natural wonder located in Minnewaska State Park Preserve, part of New York’s beautiful Catskill Mountains.

Standing somewhere between 60 and 65 feet tall, Awosting Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Catskills. There are also gorgeous panoramic views of the lake on other hiking trails throughout the park, so don’t limit your visit to the waterfall here.

The waterfall is fairly easy to reach after hiking 0.6 miles. You’ll be treated to views of the single-drop cascade after navigating the wide, gravel route to the falls. The viewing area is pretty large, so you’ll have room to explore without being elbow-to-elbow with other travelers.

17. Kaaterskill Falls (Catskills)

Kaaterskill Falls is another one of the most impressive NY waterfalls and is definitely worth a visit. This one is quite popular to visit in the region.

Located in the Hunter area of the Catskills, this stunning double waterfall stands an impressive 260 feet tall over its two drops.

The best way to experience Kaaterskill Falls is by taking the 0.8-mile hike from the parking area, which will take you along a path with steep steps and plenty of tree roots through the forest before arriving at the base of the majestic falls.

Once there, you’ll be able to take in all its natural beauty – from cascading water over large rocks. Enjoy the views of the falls for as long as you’d like. Then, you’ll return the same way that you came.

 18. Bash Bish Falls (near the Mount Washington State Forest)

Bash Bish Falls is an amazing sight to behold, and it certainly has a fun name! While this one is technically located in Massachusetts, it’s right on the state line and you can actually begin your short hike in New York. It’s located about one hour south of Albany.

Located in the Taconic Mountains, this stunning sight consists of two tiers of cascading waterfalls that drop a total of 80 feet wrapping around a large boulder.

From the New York parking side, the entire hike is about 1.5 miles total roundtrip. There aren’t any significantly steep sections of the trail, but it is rocky. The access from the Massachusetts side is much steeper.

Whether you’re looking for a thrilling hike or just want to take in some gorgeous views, Bash Bish Falls will not disappoint.

Overall, there are so many waterfalls in New York to explore. The state is home to a diverse array of cascades, each with its own unique character and charm. Whether it’s the thunderous falls of Niagara, the tranquil cascades of Ithaca, or the stunning rainbow effect of Rainbow Falls, New York’s waterfalls offer a feast for the senses.

Hiking to and experiencing these natural wonders provides an appreciation of the beauty and power of nature that cannot be matched. With so many different spots to explore, a trip to see these wonderful waterfalls in New York is sure to be a memorable experience.

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