Travel Ideas

Waterfalls Are the Ultimate Summer Destination—Here Are 5 in NY Worth Visiting

Photo: Stocksy/Alexander-Grabchilev
There are beach getaways, camping adventures, and far-flung retreats, but the one summer hotspot you may be overlooking? One of nature's most magical creations: the waterfall—and in New York, there are a great many worth exploring. Not only do waterfalls serve as a great reminder of the power of the natural world, but they're also a wonderfully serene and often secluded place, which makes them an ideal space for diving into refreshing water and also practicing meditation.

While New York City is may be a concrete jungle associated with towering skyscrapers, New York state has many natural wonders to offer including awe-inspiring mountain ranges, hiking trails galore, lush forests, scenic sites in all their spellbinding glory, and yes, many cascading waterfalls, too.

With that, read on for 5 waterfalls in NY that are worthy of the trek.

1. Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York

Photo: Getty Images/ Jeremy Saltzer / EyeEm

Located in Castile, New York, Letchworth State Park is widely regarded as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” and it’s easy to see why: The views, verdant forest, and the park’s three major waterfalls are beyond gorgeous, but that’s just where the adventure begins. The park features 66 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, biking, and snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter. Plus, there are many other activities you can partake in, including camping, guided tours, kayaking, and even hot air balloon rides.

2. Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, New York

Photo: Getty Images/Orchidpoet

A roundup of waterfalls in NY is not complete without the crown jewel of Niagara Falls, which has historically impressed and captivate visitors from near and far. The popular destination straddles the United States and Canadian border and is made up of three distinct waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls—also known as the Canadian Falls. Aside from taking in the waterfalls’ beauty, there are many other things to do here if you’re up for activities, including a visit to the aquarium, navigating the hiking trails, trying the restaurants, and if you want to see the falls up close, taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist tour boat. To get there, you can either fly into the Buffalo Niagara International Airport or drive in on Interstate 90.

3. Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, New York

Photo: Getty Images/ Walter Bibikow

Taughannock Falls State Park’s famous waterfall dives down a 215-foot drop over rocky cliffs towering almost 400 feet, making it the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi. Fun fact: This waterfall is actually 33-feet higher than Niagara Falls, but with less water volume. Gorge trails allow you to take in the views from above the waterfall and below. Overlooking Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes, there are campsites and cabins available if you want to stay awhile and enjoy all the park has to offer, including hiking, cross-country skiing, and natural skating ponds.

4. Watkins Glen State Park in Watkins Glen, New York

Photo: Getty Images/Luis Henrique Boucault

Situated in the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen State Park is a fan-favorite for its not one, but 19 mesmerizing waterfalls that descend off 200-foot cliffs. There’s even one waterfall, called the Cavern Cascade, where you can walk directly behind the waterfall. The park also features an Olympic-size swimming pool and picnic facilities, as well as nearby fishing in Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek known for its rainbow trout. Pro tip: Download the Park’s Explorer app for useful tips on things to do there, directions, hours, trail maps, and more.

5. Kaaterskill Falls in the Northern Catskills of Greene County, New York

Photo: Getty Images/Diana Robinson Photography

Kaaterskill Falls, which many describe as a spiritual experience, is known as the highest cascading two-tier waterfall in New York state with a 260-foot drop. The hike to the falls off Route 23A in Haines Falls is a very doable 1.4 mile roundtrip excursion. So, it’s a great waterfall in NY to head to when you don’t want to trek too far to arrive at the main attraction. However, Kaaterskill Falls is known for getting crowded, so if you’d rather hike solo, consider checking out other waterfalls in the Catskills. Also, the parking situation at this popular NY waterfall is subject to change so be sure to check its site for updated information before heading out.

So whether you’re looking for a summer adventure or just want to immerse yourself in nature year round, adding waterfalls in NY to your itinerary is a definite must. No matter what type of experience you’re craving, there’s a waterfall that will surely satisfy.

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