Taughannock Falls: Highest of Them All

May 1, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Taughannock Falls State Park

The falls and gorge create a natural amphitheater

At 215 feet, Taughannock Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the northeastern United States, and one of the highest waterfalls of any kind east of the Rocky Mountains. (33 feet taller than Niagara Falls!)

Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock gorge was formed through erosion

The Taughannock Gorge was formed through the erosion of more than 400 feet of shale which was depositied in a broad delta on the west side of Cayuga Lake. The lawn, beach and marina areas of the park now occupy this delta.

How to pronounce Taughannoc — tah-GAH-nick which rhymes with mechanic

The name “Taughannock” most likely originates from the Algonquin word “Taconic,” translated as “In the trees.” Another possible origin of the name comes from the story of a Lenape (Delaware) Indian chief named Taughannock.

New York Stat parks

First falls view from the main road across from the lake

Taughannock Falls

View of the lake from the trail

On a sunny April day we took an easy 3/4 mile hike from the lower parking lot, across from the lake, which carries you through a rather flat, broad, very high-walled gorge. This shape is in marked contrast to the more stair-step form of many of the other gorges. The Gorge Trail is wide and flat and negotiable by people in wheelchairs with assistance. It would make a nice cross country ski trail in the winter, and the shaded area keeps its snow longer than most.

Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannoc — tah-GAH-nick which rhymes with mechanic

The falls and gorge create a natural amphitheater with dense spray rising from the bottom often shrouding the lower part of the cataract in mist. On the day we were there the mist was shrouding the walled-in overlook area safely in front  of the falls, to the delight of the many children enjoying the hike.

Taughannock Falls State Park

At 215 feet, the highest free-falling waterfall

There is more than one entrance to the park. Heading south from the Thruway (above), the first entrance, Park Rd, leads to a spectacular overlook of Taughannock Falls. Follow the signs and park in the parking lot adjacent to the overlook. The Rim Trail is accessible from this overlook. It can be somewhat challenging yet very rewarding with many great views. The rim trail does not open until all the snow and ice melt.

If you continue south on Rt. 89 you will find the main entrance to the park with access to the flat trail described above. Rt. 89 cuts through the park and has parking on both make the east and west side.

There is a fee for parking in the lower area.

The Park is open all year Mon-Fri, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM; nights and weekends during summer with camping from March to mid October.

Taughannock Falls State Park

Trail map for Taughannock Falls State Park

The Park size is 783 Acres with 76 Campsites (16 electric, 60 with no utilities), and 10 cabins. Also available is boat launching, tie-up docks, (seasonal berths), beach swimming on Cayuga Lake, and bathhouse.

Swimming is available only in designated life guarded area

Bikes are not permitted on the hiking trails but there is a bike path just outside the park

Picnic areas have tables and fireplaces

Pay telephone is available

Hot Showers and flush toilets are available

There is a concession stand

Picnic shelters are on the premises

Permitted activities are posted in park office

The park offers summer music concerts

There is Fishing in the creek and the lake

Boat rentals are available

Contact Information 
(607) 387-6739
For camping call: 1-800-456-2267

For more information about the geological wonders of this park, visit the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca.


Entry filed under: Activities, Cayuga Lake, Finger Lakes, Hiking, New York State Parks, Watwrfalls. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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