Best Parks near Ithaca, New York

The Ithaca area has a number of excellent parks for you to explore. In this article, we discuss three of our favorites: Taughannock Falls State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and Robert H. Treman State Park. While each of these parks is unique, they are all characterized by great hiking trails and stunning waterfalls.

Taughannock Falls State Park

  • Location: Ulysses, NY
  • Distance from downtown: 9.8 miles
  • Hours: Daily, 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
  • Main attraction: Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls State Park is located in Ulysses, just northwest of Ithaca. It covers 750 scenic acres and allows access to Cayuga Lake. At the park you can enjoy a variety of activities, including swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking, and picnicking. In the winter you can enjoy cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice skating. The park is also the location for a concert series in the summer.

The main attraction of the park is Taughannock Falls, a 215-foot high waterfall in Taughannock Gorge. Taughannock Falls is the tallest single-pitch waterfall east of the Rockies. The gorge is also impressive, with walls almost 400-feet high, and the rim that circles it provides fantastic views of Cayuga Lake and the surrounding areas.

Taughannock Falls State Park has a number of excellent hiking trails that provide great views of the gorge and falls. Gorge Trail, South Rim Trail, and North Rim Trail are especially poplar. Gorge Trail is definitely one you don't want to miss. It's an easy trail, (less than a mile long) that runs to the base of Taughannock Falls. The two rim trails are a little longer and more difficult, but are certainly worth the effort.

Cayuga Lake is a very popular part of the park, especially in warmer months. The lake area a a marina, boat launch, and public beach and swimming area. Note that swimming in not allowed in the gorge.

Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed. You can swim in Cayuga Lake, but not in the gorge.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

  • Location: Ithaca, NY
  • Distance from downtown: 2.5 miles
  • Hours: Daily, 8:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. (Trails close in winter.)
  • Main attraction: Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls State Park, located on the south end of Cayuga Lake, is about 2.5 miles south of downtown Ithaca. It covers 811 scenic acres, and has 10 waterfalls, a small lake and beach, playing fields, and plenty of nature trails to explore. At the park, you can enjoy fishing, hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and even bow hunting.

Like the name suggests, the main attraction of Buttermilk Falls State Park is Buttermilk Falls. You can see this foaming, frothy waterfall near the entrance to the park. The falls has two distinct drops, with the first falling almost 90 feet.

Buttermilk Falls State Park has a half-dozen trails that provide a variety of hiking experiences. For instance, Buttermilk Falls Rim Trail runs along the top of the surrounding gorge and offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas. Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail, on the other hand, follows Buttermilk Creek as it drops 600 feet into the gorge.
Leashed dogs are allowed in most of the park, but not along the gorge trail or near the swimming area.

Robert H. Treman State Park

Location: Ithaca, NY
Distance from downtown: 5.0 mile
Hours: Daily, 8:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Main attraction: Enfield Glen

Robert H. Treman State Park is about five miles southwest of downtown Ithaca. The 1,100-acre park covers parts of Ithaca, Newfield, and Enfield. This rugged park is known for its numerous waterfalls, great hiking trails, and the massive gorge called Enfield Glen. You can enjoy a number of activities at the park, such as fishing, hunting, picnicking, swimming, and hiking.

The highlight of the park is definitely Enfield Glen. Enfield Creek has a 500-foot drop through this 2.2-mile gorge. Enfield Glen features a dozen waterfalls, one of which is the spectacular Lucifer Falls, with a 115-foot drop into the heavily wooded gorge.

Trails in Robert H. Treman State Park tend to be short, but difficult. For example, both the Rim Trail and Gorge Trail are around two miles long, but both are strenuous hikes. A less difficult, but still enjoyable, hike is the Finger Lakes Trail. It's only about two miles long, is considered to be moderately difficult, and offers great views of the park.

Dogs are welcome in the park, but must be leashed. Note that some of the trails are quite steep, and may not be appropriate for pets.