Review of Taughannock Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes Region of New York: The tallest waterfall in the state!


Taughannock Falls State Park, NY

During the month of October, my wife and I were very lucky to have stayed in the famous Pennsylvania Poconos region, thanks to a good friend of mine who agreed (again) to let us stay at his place.  We were really thankful and excited to be able to see incredible fall foliage that is the region’s calling card for generations of people.

While we lived in the state of Pennsylvania, we made frequent trips to the above mentioned area with our trusted little furry creature, our Pomeranian Toby.  We would explore places like Jim Thorpe, hike the beautiful Pocono Environmental Education Center, and see the awesome Grey Towers.  We had so many great memories out there in the Poconos, our pack spending time together in the great outdoors.

We still remember the happy smile of our dog as soon as he would get out of the car realizing he was in a new environment with all new smells, sights, and sounds.  He, just like myself, loved new environments, always looking to explore new worlds.  

The time we spent lazily eating our take out lunch at one of these places, while being surrounded by nature was one of the best things about our time in the state.  Just about every time, our dog would beg us for food as soon as we would start to eat.  We would give him his own treats (and sometimes our foods) just to appease him, but he would always seem to want more, like every dog seems to do!  Ah, good memories…

When we found out we would be staying in the Poconos area again, we knew we were in for a treat, especially during the month of October when it’s the peak of fall foliage.  We were right about the fall foliage, and it absolutely made our stay so much more enjoyable.  

We would get up to see the ever changing foliage surrounding our place with ever increasing shades of intense reds, oranges, yellows and pumpkins.  It was spectacular while it lasted, but like all good things, it too ended, so soon…

Before the end of fall foliage in the Poconos, we managed to visit several places, of which, one of these places was Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, NY.  Taughannock Falls State Park boasts the highest free-flowing waterfall in the state of New York at 215-foot plunge, dwarfing even the mighty Niagara Falls which sits at 167 feet tall.

One of the most unique features of this park is the availability of a lake and a beach right across the street from the entrance to the park.  The beautiful Cayuga Lake, one of the famous Finger Lakes, is the longest of these lakes at around 37 miles long and has the second largest in both the volume and the surface area.

We were excited to explore this park for those impressive traits and we picked a nice and sunny fall day to visit it.  Our drive out to the park took us through idyllic countryside of the northern Pennsylvania with plenty of farms with rolling hills along the way.

Besides our residence in the state for over 14 years, we chose Pennsylvania as a frequent AirBnB destination ever since our early retirement in August 2020.  Since that date, we’ve chosen to stay at 3 different locations: Claysburg, Indiana, and Altoona.  

We’ve always loved coming back to the state, as it truly feels like our second home.  We certainly have an affinity for the state thanks to so many unforgettable memories all those years…

We took the familiar I-81 north, then NY-26 north.  The drive would take under 2 hours passing through New York farm country during peak fall foliage season.  Drive was absolutely therapeutic as we winded through serene country roads, passing cute little villages and towns along the way with homes displaying Halloween decorations.

The air was crisp, as it should be, during the month of October.  We noted a familiar smell of burning logs, kind of like what you would smell at ski resorts in the winters.  It was totally refreshing to drive on upstate New York countryside, and it was indeed one of the best things about traveling after retiring early.

We were traveling on a weekday when most everyone else was working.  Was it a bit indulgent and carefree?  Sure, but we also worked hard to get here.  We planned for early retirement and executed the plan to get here.  Most anyone can, if you’re willing, committed, not afraid of hard work and willing to sacrifice for a better future.

We lament the fact that most Americans still live paycheck to paycheck and have under $1000 saved for emergencies.  Wow.  That is not going to work if you’re planning to retire, not to mention retiring early

When we were about 20 minutes away from our destination, we stopped over at a Chili’s Restaurant in the city of Ithaca, for some grub before doing some hiking.  We thoroughly enjoyed our foods and walked out of the restaurant fully satisfied.

We drove on for the next 20 minutes on NY-89, and arrived at Taughannock Falls State Park.  For a mid-week sojourn, the parking lot was fairly full, humming with activity.  We paid the $10 parking fee, then found a spot on second try around the lot.

After parking, we put on our hiking boots and started our exploration, at last!  

Taughannock Falls State Park, NY

We took the Gorge Trail on right to see the most famous attraction at the park, Taughannock Falls.  The short trail (.75 mile one way) is a flat terrain trail that is suitable for just about anyone.  We liked the trail, the way the Taughannock Creek meanders along the gorge and the way the walking trail follows the contours of the creek.  

We encountered what looked to be a mini waterfall of sorts soon as we passed that sign for Gorge Trail on right.  The fall foliage colors were in full swing and we took a moment to take it all in…

First stop along the Gorge Trail

We followed fellow hikers along the trail until some of them ventured out to the creek.  We duly followed them so we can walk along the creek on the left hand side.  It was a very cool vantage point from there.

We walked about 5 minutes enjoying the views by the creek when our path suddenly stopped thanks to the narrowing creek.  By that point, the creek had reclaimed most of the land we were able to walk on as its own, filling it up with water.  We hopped back on to the proper trail like most hikers to continue on.

The stretch of the trail with trees surrounding it was amazing.  It felt like a luxury automobile commercial where a car is driven with fall leaves coming down, in slow motion, like snowflakes.   It was magical!

We marveled at the magnificent beauty of the Finger Lakes region and took in nice lungful of fresh autumn air.  It’s moments like these that remind us how awesome life is.  Being retired early doesn’t hurt either!

We arrived at the Taughannock Falls after another 10 minutes or so, and it was a beauty!  The cliffs looked impossibly tall, almost like the cliffs we had encountered on the West Coast.  We crossed a short wooden bridge to get closer to the falls.

Even though the waterfall wasn’t wide, it sure was tall!  We stood still taking in the sights while listening to the crashing of the waters.  Very therapeutic…

We were still fairly energetic after this short hike, so we decided to hike one more trail, the South Rim Trail.  This trail branches off to the left, from where the Gorge Trail starts, taking it all the way to the top of the gorge.  

Hike was strenuous as it easily climbed 5 stories in the first 2 minutes of the hike.  This trail was much more challenging than the placid Gorge Trail, as we were sweating profusely by the time we made it to the top of the stairs.

A great leg workout on the South Rim Trail!

Looking back at the stairs we had just climbed

We took a break when the trail flattened out somewhat at the top of the ridge.  By then, we needed some water, fast!  We gulped that down in a second, then rested, trying to catch our breath.

We saw why not many people took on the challenge of hiking this trail.  It was hard!  

We chugged along after a short break and noticed the trail climbed some more.  At least by then, the views of the Cayuga Lake in the distance opened up, as well as the gorge below.  Nice!

Chugging along the South Rim Trail 

Views of the Gorge Trail and the Cayuga Lake in the distance 

The entire hike on the South Rim Trail took roughly 20 minutes.  It wasn’t a long trail as it basically mimics the Gorge Trail below, but it is much more challenging thanks to the steep and uneven terrain.

We made it to the top, but we were a bit disappointed to see that the top of the South Rim Trail didn’t reveal the waterfall the way we thought it would.  The trees were hiding most of the view, so the view was actually better from the bottom, via the Gorge Trail.  Oh, well.  At least we got some exercise…

We made it down the same way to get the parking lot.  We decided to cross over to the lakeside to check out the Cayuga Lake before heading home.

It was a great decision to do that as the lake was absolutely stunning.  With colorful fall colors in full display along the lake, we couldn’t ask for a better place to rest after hiking the South Rim Trail.

We picked a bench along the lake and sat down listening to our surroundings: waves crashing the shore, seagulls gawking and crying nearby, and of trees swaying in the wind.  It was marvelous…

Relaxing by the lake…

Cayuga Lake, NY

We were amazed that a nice park that has the Taughannock Falls has something just as nice across the street in Cayuga Lake!  It was an unbeatable combination to have the gorge with waterfall and the lake so close to each other in the same park.  Just awesome…

We rested for good 10 minutes before making our way back to our car for the drive home.  Wow, what a day!

In conclusion:

Finger Lakes Region is famous for so many reasons.  Taughannock Falls State Park, just like its fellow Finger Lakes state park, Watkins Glen State Park nearby, is a marvelous place to explore the great outdoors of upstate New York.

We were in awe of the falls and the lake, and we think everyone who is a lover of nature, should visit this park.  It is highly recommended!

Thank you for reading and happy trails!


Wandering Money Pig 

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