Waterfalls are one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural wonders, and thousands of them cascade through New York State! These majestic beauties and their surroundings will take your breath away. But if you don’t take a break from the hustle of New York City life every once in a while, you’ll never see them. If you’re a local New Yorker like myself, you must explore these natural hidden gems to appreciate all New York has to offer fully. These are the most unique waterfalls you can’t miss.
Quick Tips for Visiting New York Waterfalls
If you’re new to the outdoor adventure lifestyle– welcome! Exploring New York is an unreal experience with endless natural discoveries. Before you start, here are a few things to consider:
- To make the most of your travel, rent a car to travel to more than one waterfall on your trip to Upstate New York.
- Carry out all garbage and items that you carry in. Respect for wildlife is crucial to protecting it– leave no trace.
- Bring a plastic garbage bag just in case the garbage bins are full or the trail does not have garbage bins available.
- Dispose of all your waste outside of the park or off the trail. Unlike New York City, most upstate parks do not have daily waste removal.
- Keep noise pollution down by playing your music low. Not everyone around you will appreciate your music (including wildlife). Be respectful of others, looking for the peace and quiet of nature.
- When hiking, stay on marked trails. Veering off the trails can be dangerous and destroy the local ecosystem and natural terrain.
- Be patient and have compassion for new outdoor adventure seekers. So many NYC residents are new to hiking in the outdoors and didn’t have the privilege of growing up around nature. Please show some empathy as they continue to learn and grow.
- Watch for ticks! Ticks in Upstate New York can transmit incurable diseases such as Lyme. Always tick-check yourself and your pets to remove any pests before they bite.
- Take a screen break. Put the phone away and reconnect to the world!
The Best Waterfalls in New York State You Have to Explore
Rainbow Falls (Watkins Glen State Park)
Rainbow Falls is settled in the majestic Watkins Glen, a masterpiece of upstate New York waterfalls. It looks like a fairy tale escape, especially when the leaves begin to drop. The water flows smooth and bright down dark rocks while an old, arched stone bridge stands proudly in the backdrop. There are 19 other waterfalls that can be seen from this gorge trail, including:
- Central Cascade
- Cavern Cascade
- Pluto Falls, and more.
The path winds in and out of the falls, up and down stairs, and follows the glen below and above the rim. Try riding the trolley that shuttles guests around the trail for a fun ride! Camping is also popular here. You can set up a tent for a rustic experience or book a room at the KOA nearby.
OK Slip Falls (Adirondacks)
Other than really loving the name of these falls, the view of this natural wonder is amazing. OK Slip Falls is the highest waterfall in the Adirondacks. Accessing the falls used to be extremely challenging, but a new 3-mile trail added in 2014 made this attraction more accessible to everyone (which we always appreciate).
These falls cascade from 250 feet high, with two viewing areas to sit back and take it all in. If you want to explore the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area, you must add OK Falls to your list. Because of its popularity among visitors and photographers, it can get a little crowded. Arrive early in the morning for the best viewing and photo opportunities without battling eager onlookers.
Cohoes Falls (Captial Region)
Ranking as the second largest waterfall in New York State, Cohoes Falls is located on the Mohawk River and stretches 1,000 feet wide! You can view the falls all year round from the viewing area near Harmony Mills or watch while you picnic at the falls-view park. While autumn is always the best time to see natural wonders in New York State, don’t discount the magic of this site in the winter when the falls become a frozen work of art.
There’s so much wonder to explore when searching for waterfalls in New York. Whether you’re searching for a rejuvenating afternoon away from the bustle of city life or planning an epic Adirondack adventure, hitting these waterfalls along the way is a must. These majestic waters will leave you relaxed and focused before heading back home. You’ll be glad you left your own backyard!
This is one of our favorite waterfalls in Upstate New York! Chittenango Falls is in Cazenovia Lake, cascading from 167 feet high at the center of the 194-acre Chittenango Falls State Park. These majestic plunges flow gracefully along mossy rocks and look like a picture out of a fantasy novel. The best way to see the falls is by hiking from top to bottom, with spectacular views from every angle.
Chittenango is known for having unique wildlife; keep a lookout. One of the most interesting local creatures is the ovate amber snail, which is only found in this area–nowhere else in the world!
Bonus: Visiting Syracuse? Chittenango is only 25-minutes by car! Syracuse is one of the coolest cities in New York State. You can easily make a weekend out of this visit with easy access to both city and natural amenities, affordable Airbnbs, and tons of restaurants.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length 0.5 miles (loop)
Bash Bish Falls
Bash Bish Falls is one of the best waterfalls in New York, hidden right near the Taconic Mountains on the border of New York and Massachusetts. This double fall cascades side by side, creating a magical mirror image you have to see to believe.
Visitors can view the falls by starting at the lower parking lot on the New York side of the trail. The hike from the parking lot to the falls is a rugged 2.1-mile out-and-back trail, following a slow incline uphill to the falls along the Bash Bish Brook. A stunning forest creates a canopy over the trail, accompanied by local flora, boulders, and roots, with wooden and stone stairs to climb.
If you don’t want to hike, you can view the falls from several picnic areas or admire them from a distance. You can’t swim at this park for safety reasons, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t try. Please follow the rules to stay safe.
Fun Fact: Bash Bish Falls is the highest waterfall in Massachusetts. You won’t be disappointed with the view.
- Location: Copake, New York
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length: 1.5 miles (from Taconic State Park) or 2.1 miles (from Mt. Washington, MA)
- Type: Out-and-back
Letchworth State Park (Upper & Middle Falls)
This is one of the most accessible falls to visit in New York! Settled in Castile about an hour from Buffalo, Letchworth State Park expands across 14,350 acres of land. This park not only has some of the most spectacular falls to explore in Upstate New York, but you can also enjoy 66 miles of hiking trails and a host of additional recreational activities year-round, including:
- Cross-country skiing
- Horseback riding
- Whitewater rafting
- Hot air ballooning
Letchworth’s treasures are the Upper Falls & Middle Falls, both boasting stunning views. The Upper Falls rush under an old arched railroad bridge from the Gennessee River. The railroad is still active, so you may be able to catch a picture of a train zooming by!
If you really want to make enjoying the falls a magical experience, try watching them while enjoying dinner at Glen Iris Inn. This delicious restaurant has secluded views of the Middle Falls and is known for its variety of small plates and mouth-watering Filet Mignon. There are classic rooms and a cottage to book here if you wish to stay overnight. Plan your trip ahead so you don’t miss any of the other things to do in the Finger Lakes.
Don’t want to hike? View the falls from a nearby parking area! For a deeper look into the history of Letchworth Park, you can choose from several guided tours and lecture series or visit the William Pryor Letchworth Museum onsite. Art enthusiasts can also catch a performing arts show!
Awosting Falls (Minnewaska State Park)
Awosting Falls are near the charming town of New Paltz in Minnewaska State Park. This beauty plunges 60 feet into a natural pool, with a super easy walk down the main trail to view. It takes about 15 to 30 minutes to reach the falls, depending on where you are in the park.
If you have time, I highly recommend adding in a stroll on the Lake Minnewaska Trail, about 10 to 30 extra minutes of walking but worth it. Winter in this area can be very icy and slippery. Make sure to wear spikes on your shoes as the weather gets colder. Parking for this experience is $10 per car.
Ithaca Falls (Finger Lakes)
Ithaca Falls form a serene pool and creek below, tumbling down a towering wall of shale rock. You can view the falls all year round from a nearby bridge, but they are the most stunning in autumn with the changing landscape. To get a closer look, hike the half-mile path to the base of the falls and cool off in Fall Creek. This is also a perfect spot for fly fishing.
Ithaca Falls is in the Finger Lakes region of New York, part of Cayuga Lake. Traveling from New York City takes about four hours, so you may want to consider staying the night nearby. If you do, grab a morning cup of joe at the Botanist Coffeehouse, a fantastic brewer with coffee, baked goods, and a collection of flower and plant arrangements– the most unique coffee shop in the area!
Possibly one of the most famous falls in New York has to be Niagra Falls –who hasn’t heard of this monstrous beast? Niagra Falls is the ultimate waterfall experience, with access from New York and Canada. You can view the falls from paved paths and wooded hiking trails or take an adventurous excursion to the base while learning about the area’s history. You WILL get wet, so be sure to wear the provided poncho!
Covid-19 guidelines may still be in place when visiting Niagra Falls. New York and Canada have different guidelines, which could affect which side you choose to visit. Check online before you visit, and bring your passport or enhanced license!
Eagle’s Cliff Falls (Havana Glen Park)
Eagle’s Cliff Falls is located in the gorgeous Havana Glen Park and is open from mid-May to mid-October. Havana Glen Park is near the famous Watkins Glen State Park, so add it to the list if you’re in the area. Thanks to the park’s private owners, park admission is low here–a nice perk!
The hike to the falls is about a half-mile and is mostly flat aside from some stairs. The views are spectacular, with Eagle Falls cascading 40 feet from above and cutting a rectangular shaft in the middle of the rock wall. Don’t forget to bring your suit for a swim when the weather is warm.
Love to camp? Stay at the Eagle Cliff Falls campground. This is a great opportunity to explore all the area has to offer 24/7.
Taughannock Falls State Park
Another gem found in the Cayuga Lake region is the Taughannock Falls, located in the popular Taughannock Falls State Park. These are the most popular falls to visit in the area, and the park is full of opportunities for outdoor adventures!
The falls rush down from 215 feet high, cutting through rocky cliffs nearly 400 feet tall. Hiking to the waterfalls will give you a beautiful picture from the upper viewing area. In the wet season, shale, sandstone, and limestone can get very slippery and unstable. Stay alert to where you place your feet, and consider wearing water shoes for better grip.
WARNING: Don’t enter the water from the viewing deck! Park rangers watch very carefully to avoid people getting injured by falling rocks. They will publically scorn you for violations (I saw this happen; it was pretty funny!)
You can bring your own accommodations to camp or rent a cabin with access to miles of trails. The beach and riverbed swimming area are perfect for cooling off during the summer; in the winter, bring your ice skates to skate on the frozen pond and your snow tubes to race down the sledding hill.
Buttermilk Falls State Park (Finger Lakes)
You have to add Buttermilk Falls State Park to your list of attractions when visiting the Finger Lake region. This has to be one of my favorite waterfalls in the United States, and for a good reason.
The falls can be seen immediately upon entering from the road, but the park itself is full of so many natural wonders and hidden gems; it’s simply spectacular. The water that cascades down the Buttermilk Falls also flows through several little waterfalls and swimming holes across the park.
There are four relatively short hikes to choose from that will lead you through the gorge, which is open from April to October. Camping is encouraged here, with campsites for tents, RV spots, and cabin rentals. If you like boating, rent a canoe or paddleboard upstream at Lake Tremain. Parking here is convenient, located right at the trailhead.
Kaaterskill Falls (Catskills)
The majestic Kaaterskills Falls cascades from 260 feet high over two massive plunges. It’s nestled in the Great Northern Catskills and is quite popular– sometimes, too popular to where the trail is closed. But don’t worry, you can still see the falls from the parking area. Get there early for the best view and follow all posted parking guidelines to avoid violations.
Remember to leave no trace and respect the wildlife around you. To do this, you must:
- Stay on the trail
- Never leave any garbage
- Take nothing by beautiful pictures
Salmon River Falls (Oswego County)
Salmon River Falls is a unique area in the Oswego Region of New York. The falls tower over 110 feet tall and cascade down in three separate drops when the water level is average or above.
Those wishing to visit will have no trouble parking with a large parking lot at the trail entrance. The trail is accessible to hikers of all abilities. It’s beautiful in the summer, but fall is by far the best season to take in the views. Winter hikers will love the natural ice forms when the water freezes, and the frozen falls are perfect for ice climbing.
High Falls (Rochester, NY)
The High Falls in Rochester are massive and powerful, a sight you must see with your own eyes to appreciate. They are one of many waterfalls along the Genesee River, just under 100 feet high. It almost seems unreal to see such a magical site in the heart of an industrial city, with historic brick buildings of the downtown lining the backdrop.
To view the falls, try walking across Pont de Rennes Bridge for a chance to snap a picture of them against the sunset. If you’re looking for a panoramic view, you can snap an amazing photo from the High Falls Terrace Platform on the river’s east side.
Verkeerderkills Falls (Minnewaska State Park)
Verkeerderkills Falls is another Minnewaska State Park gem, home to Sam’s Point on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge. It’s the most notable of many waterfalls in the area and one of the tallest in New York State, towering at 200 feet. Rock climbers will love the exciting climbing conditions on either side of the falls, and the winter months are an excellent time to explore the chilly ice caves that form here. Sometimes you can still see the ice in the summer because of the cave’s ability to hold the chill!
Indian Brook Falls (Hudson Valley)
If you’re in the Hudson Valley, you must visit Indian Brook Falls. The hike to reach this beauty is just over a half-mile, crossing through the Constitution Marsh– a protected bird area. You’ll find a scenic marsh boardwalk nearby that can get pretty buggy. The best time for this hike is April to September. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
Eternal Flames Falls (Orchard Park)
This is one of the most amazing and unusual phenomena you will find in New York. Eternal Flames Falls is a small waterfall in Orchard Park with a cozy grotto behind the cascading water. Due to the natural gas that escapes from the rock, you can light a flame about four to eight inches tall for a site that makes you feel truly magical!
You used to be able to reach the falls from the forge, but the Eternal Flame is such a popular attraction the gorge trail is now closed. You can now access the falls by parking at Route 277 and walking the 1.5-mile trail through the pine groves. Early spring is the best time to visit when the muddy terrain has had time to dry.
Mine Kill Falls (Northern Catskills)
This beauty in Mine Kill Falls State Park is a natural treasure you have to experience. Mine Kill Falls sit on the edge of the Catskills and central New York. There are three different drops that cascade about 80 feet down, all unique in their own way.
You can view the falls by parking off the highway and taking the short 5-10 minute walk to the viewing area. If you want a longer hike, try exploring the connecting trails in the southeastern portion of the park. There’s no swimming allowed here, so don’t expect to take a dip (as tempting as it may be!) Mine Kill does have a free swimming pool you can stop by if you need to cool off.
Rainbow Falls (Keene Valley, NY)
Yes, there is another Rainbow Falls! These stunning double falls are at the end of a milestone hike, not for beginners. You’ll start at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve parking lot and end with an amazing view of two waterfalls: Wedge Brook Cascade Falls and Beaver Meadow Falls. A permit/reservation is required for this hike.
- Location: Keene, New York
- Difficulty: Hard
- Length: 10.8 miles (loop)
Fawn’s Leap Falls (Catskills)
Fawn’s Leap Falls is near the iconic town of Woodstock. These falls cascade from a high cliff above a rustic swimming hole, which is especially good for groups and families to take a dip. This is a popular attraction, so arrive early enough to find a spot and avoid overcrowding. You’ll want to pack a lunch and drinks to picnic by the beautiful Kaaterskill Creek– try grabbing something at a local cafe!
Vernooy Kill Falls (Catskills)
Vernooy Kill Falls is another must-see waterfall in upstate New York. You can take a rocky 3.5-mile trail to the falls with a steady incline or opt for a shorter 2-mile path. Once at the falls, the only way to get super close is to go up a slippery flight of stairs. Be very careful when exploring, but this place is a blast!
Plattekill Falls is a perfect spot to cool down on a hot summer day after hiking on Huckleberry Point Trail. There are at least 15 waterfalls you can view by the time you reach the private land sign by the cove. Please note: The trail is only a half mile, but it’s steep. The rocks can get very slippery in the wet season and are sharp. Be sure to bring proper footwear.
- Location: Catskills, NY
These beautiful falls are only 60 miles from NYC! Beacon Falls is one of the closest waterfalls city-goers can find, located in the town of Beacon and set against Mt. Beacon. This was a major industrial area in the 20th century with a ton of cool old buildings. It’s since blossomed into a vibrant art community with a fun vibe that’s perfect for a weekend getaway or a day trip from NYC. If you love art, buy a ticket to the DIA Beacon Museum during your visit!
The falls themselves plunge about ten feet, offering tranquil views all year round. The best way to view the falls is from the Roundhouse Restaurant. This fantastic eatery is built within a historic property with a stunning hotel that gives guests fantastic views of the falls. Other features include:
- Picturesque outdoor dining against the falls (perfect for brunch with friends).
- Unique dining in a lounge-style setting.
- A spacious event space with historic meets modern decor for up to 200 guests.
- Cozy hotel rooms featuring exposed ceilings, rolling barn doors, and stand-alone tubs for soaking.
- Location: Beacon, NY
- Difficulty: Very easy
Diamond Notch Falls (Catskills)
Diamond Notch Falls is situated near Lanesville, NY, just over a two and half hour drive from New York City. These are beautiful twin falls that cascade from about 15 feet high. You can cool off in the water at the base in the summer or do some rock climbing to a small viewing bridge above.
Hikers will love taking any of the multiple trails to the falls deep into Catskill State Park, with lush forests all around. The Diamond Notch road trail is a 4-mile out-and-back hike, while the Spruceton Road is a shorter path at 2 miles. You can also hike the entire 12-mile loop off State Highway 214 if you feel adventurous.
On the trails, hikers will come across a few old wooden bridges that were first known to be used by the Mohawk Indians. These are perfect hiking trails to bring your pets or go snowshoeing during winter.
Carpenter Falls (Skaneateles)
Carpenter Falls are some of the most breathtaking falls in New York State, settled in the Bahar Nature Preserve near Skaneateles. The falls have a unique, high half-moon cliff, jutting out over the Bear Swamp Creek Ravine (this ravine is deep and somewhat treacherous, so be careful).
You can take the main trail through Bahar Nature Preserve to get to the falls. On the way, you can spot a few other waterfalls and catch the views of Skaneateles Lake. Try renting a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard after your hike to enjoy the lake.
Lower Falls (Finger Lakes)
Lower Falls is the most sought-after waterfall at Robert H. Treman State Park, located in the Finger Lakes region near Ithaca. There are 12 notable waterfalls that can be seen at this location, all beautiful in their own way. You can also view Enfield Falls, named after the nearby wooded gorge, and Lucifer Falls, which drops 115-feet.
The Lower Falls is an amazing spot to cool off in the summertime, featuring a diving board! You can launch yourself into the natural pool in a way you can’t anywhere else in the state. There are nine miles of trails in the park you can hike before, after, or in between taking a swim.
Rainbow Falls, Ausable Chasm (Adirondacks)
If you’re looking for photogenic waterfalls, Rainbow Falls is not the best. HOWEVER, they are still beautiful and located in the well-known Ausable Chasm, a private attraction with a ton of unique recreational activities, such as:
- Viewing Rainbow Falls.
- Adventure Trail (a guided ropes course about the falls).
- Riding the waters by raft or tube.
- Lantern Tours into the chasm with a campfire and marshmallow celebration to follow.
- Climbing the chase with experienced guides.
The falls themselves are 91-foot tall, tumbling over several segments of rock and nestled up to the historic hydro house. You can drive along Route 9 and see the falls from the road or walk over a bridge with the churning falls below. The walking paths can be accessed near the parking lot, past a visitor center, before getting closer to the falls.
- Location: Keeseville, New York
- Difficulty: Very easy
Packing List for Waterfall Explorations
Don’t forget to pack these essential items on your hike:
- Bear spray
- ECO Bug spray
- Hiking boots (buy a half size up for hiking down slopes)
- Water (lots of it)
- Travel towel
- Snacks (including protein)
- Eco sunscreen
- Sun umbrella
- Poncho (for rain)
- Hiking poles
- Battery pack
- First-aid kit
- tampons/pads (just in case)
- Day pack (to fit it all in!)
Our Other New York Travel Guides
We’ve explored some of the most exciting and majestic sites across New York State! If you’re looking for more NY travel guides, check out our other articles covering our adventure from Long Island to the Adirondacks!
- 42 Best Things to Do in Upstate New York
- 34 Amazing Best Restaurants in Upstate New York
- 27 Charming Lakes in New York
- 14 Wonderful Beaches in Upstate New York
- 27 Amazing Winter Getaways in Upstate New York
- 14 Beautiful Finger Lakes Towns
- 13 Lovely Resorts in the Catskills for Your Next Getaway in New York