One of the surprising things about New York State is just how much natural beauty you can find here. If you’re new to the place, you may think of New York City as its highlight—without realizing that there are about 2,000 waterfalls in the state! And we’re talking about epic, breathtaking natural wonders that you can drive up to anytime.
The most beautiful and famous waterfall in New York State is Niagara Falls. Contrary to common belief, it’s not just one waterfall but three—American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. It is the world’s fastest-moving waterfall, where over 3,000 tons of water flows every second.
Let’s get to know the majestic Niagara Falls and seven other beautiful waterfalls you can see in New York State in the rest of this article.
1. Niagara Falls
If you only have time to see one waterfall in New York State, you should see Niagara Falls at Niagara Falls State Park. It has been touted as a natural wonder and draws the attention of many tourists yearly because it is as beautiful as it is powerful.
If you’ve never been, you will surely be captivated by how much water flows through this three-in-one wonder which includes the following:
- American Falls
- Bridal Veil Falls
- Horseshoe Falls
A whopping 3,160 tons (2,866,704 kg) of water per second plummet down a vertical drop of over 50 meters (164.42 ft). This staggering figure is why this numinous fall is such a draw to people worldwide.
There are several ways to view Niagara Falls:
- From Cave of the Winds in the Niagara Reservation
- Through a Maid of the Mist boat ride
- Via aerial view on a helicopter
- By walking along Prospect Point Park
- From viewing platforms on the Canadian side of the falls
But however you choose to view Niagara, you will be amazed at this waterfall’s magnificence.
To make the most of your visit, you may allot at least two days at Niagara Falls. There are plenty of things to do here, whether you’re a family, a couple, or a group of friends. Activities also range from leisurely to those that will satisfy those looking for an extreme adventure.
However, by no means should you go into the water at Niagara Falls. The current is treacherous, making it extremely dangerous for swimming. For a safe and fun time, you can do these instead:
- Ride the Niagara City Cruise early in the morning for a great view of the falls
- Get on the Whirlpool Aero Car
- Try the Wildplay zipline
- Visit the Botanical Gardens
- Enjoy a Maid of the Mist boat ride
- Enjoy a 360-degree view of the falls on the Skylon Tower
- Go to the Cave of the Winds
For the best experience, try to visit Niagara Falls in the summer. But if you want to avoid a thick crowd of tourists, you can still choose to go in winter, when you can expect to see an icy Niagara that can appear almost frozen from afar. It will also be chilly, with ice-cold water sprays from the falls.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want the typical waterfall experience, Eternal Flame Falls in the Shale Creek Preserve is a destination that will surprise you. It’s an almost magical, unique place where you can see a flame behind a water curtain, hence its name. It’s a truly epic experience to witness it for yourself!
You will see this flame can at the base of the waterfall, where there is a small cavern naturally shaped by the crashing of the water against the rocks. This tiny opening releases methane gas, which people light to create a flame.
Despite the name “Eternal Flame,” the fire can go out with strong winds. So if you decide to visit, bring a lighter with you so that if the flame isn’t going when you arrive, you can start it yourself!
To see Eternal Flame Falls, you need to go on a 30-minute hike, which is easy even if you don’t have much hiking experience or want your kids to come along. You can even take your dog hiking with you if you wish to bring your furry companion.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that because the ground around Eternal Flame Falls emits natural gas, you will notice a pungent sulfur-like odor as you approach.
Aside from enjoying a leisurely hike going to Eternal Flame Falls and back, there are plenty of other outdoor activities for families and even solo travelers. Make sure to plan your itinerary carefully to make time for all of these exciting activities:
- Hiking and sightseeing at Chestnut Ridge Park
- See exotic flora at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical
- Take part in exciting games at Hamburg Gaming
- Take a tour of Graycliff Estate
- Go on a stroll and birdwatching at Tift Nature Preserve
Eternal Flame Falls is an excellent destination for those who are looking for a quick, easy hike that’s kid-friendly. With a wide variety of other activities available nearby, you’re sure to have something fun to do for everyone.
If you’re not impressed by Niagara Falls, you might want to see Taughannock Falls, which stands 33 feet (10.06 m) taller than Niagara Falls. Its surrounding gorge walls are awe-inspiring at 400 feet (121.92 m).
Unlike Niagara Falls, however, Taughannock has a much lower water volume. But no one can deny the natural beauty of this waterfall. Being one of the tallest single-drop waterfalls in North America, it’s a mesmerizing, peaceful, awe-inspiring sight.
And if you are an avid hiker, you must have heard about this place. It has several hiking trails that differ in difficulty. If you are a beginner hiker, start with Gorge Trail, an easy hike of less than a mile by Taughannock Creek.
Taughannock Falls is an outdoor enthusiast’s haven where visitors can enjoy different leisure activities or go on adventures. If you’re not a hiker, you will still have plenty to occupy you right within Taughannock Falls State Park.
Don’t fail to make time for these activities;
- Hiking (Gorge Trail, South Rim Trail Hike, and North Rim Trail)
- Go on a picnic with your family
- Let kids play at the playground
- Have a dip at a nearby beach
- Enjoy accommodations at rustic cabins overlooking Cayuga Lake
- View the Taughannock Falls from the Overlook Visitors Center
- Swimming at the Falls’ swimming area
- Jump off the springboard at the dock
Are you in New York City and looking for a quick escape from the constant rush of the urban jungle? Why not drive up to Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park? It’s only a short distance from NYC, and you’ll be more than glad you took the trip when you get there.
Middle Falls is dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East” for a reason. Fed by the Genesee River, water cascades over 100 feet (30.48 m) of layered rock, creating a spectacular view from whichever vantage point you encounter the marvel.
This natural wonder is the largest and most beautiful of the waterfalls within Letchworth State Park, and all you have to do to get there is take a short, relatively easy hike. But if you don’t want to go into any trails, you can see Middle Falls from walking paths very close to the parking area.
The best place to view it (aside from hiking up to it) is from a lookout called Inspiration Point. You can get close to the falls without going in the trails–so close that you’ll feel the sprays of water as it cascades down.
Any nature lover will have a blast at Letchworth State Park. There are many different waterfalls, but the view here is also spectacular. You can go exploring, go on a stroll, or enjoy the beautiful scenery.
If you’re looking for ideas for activities to do at Middle Falls, here are some that you might want to include in your list:
- Go on a sunrise viewing of Middle Falls (It’s the best time to see it!)
- Explore other waterfalls nearby (Letchworth State Park has three prominent waterfalls–including Middle Falls–that are pretty close to each other)
- Drop by the Glen Iris Inn
- Choose from among Letchworth State Parks’ 20 trails, and go hiking!
- Visit the Humphrey Nature Center and Autism Nature Trail
- Have a family picnic by Wolf Creek
- Take a look at Mt. Morris Dam
- Go whitewater rafting
- Ride a hot air balloon over the waterfalls
- Go birdwatching and wildlife viewing
- Enjoy camping
5. Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park is a must for those who want to experience the beauty of nature without having to go through rough trails. Here, you will see nineteen different waterfalls with large rock walls as their backdrop.
It’s also an excellent destination for those not keen to hike or want to go with young kids. There are steps and bridges throughout Watkins Glen State Park, making exploring easy and fun. The stairs are excellent vantage points to appreciate the waterfalls even better.
And if you think these conveniences make the view here less than spectacular. Once you’re on the trails, you will feel far away from the city.
Rainbow Falls is a short distance from Watkins Glen, adding charm to the place. It can be surprising how you can feel like you’re transported to a different place when you’re there. But if you think that all you can do around here is hike and watch waterfalls, you’re (fortunately) wrong.
Here are some of the things you can enjoy doing at Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park and nearby:
- Go biking at the state park
- Enjoy a boat ride or go kayaking at Seneca Lake
- Go racing at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Circuit
- Drop by all 30 wineries at the Seneca Wine Trail
- Chase waterfalls
- Check out local produce at the farmers’ market
- Camp at Finger Lakes National Forest or Seneca Harbor Park
- Try the restaurants and shops on Franklin Street
- Visit the International Motor Racing Center
Buttermilk Falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park is a beautiful waterfall that you can access literally from the roadside. It’s easy to get to; you can see the falls from your car as you approach the park.
Buttermilk Falls State Park has ten different waterfalls in total, but Buttermilk Falls, after which they named the park—is its highlight. And if you do come up to see the falls up close, you will see the water foaming and looking like buttermilk as it cascades down the base toward Cayuga Lake.
Buttermilk Falls is quite popular among tourists and locals alike because of how accessible and beautiful it is. But people come here to jump into the cool water of the falls.
At the base of Buttermilk Falls is a natural pool where people love to dive on warm, sunny days. So don’t be surprised when you meet other people once you get to the pool and go on its trails.
But there are other things to do here aside from swimming. Make your visit count by doing all these fun activities:
- Go on the nature trails, such as the Gorge Trail, Rim Trail, Bear Trail, and Finger Lakes Trail
- Stop by Lake Treman Falls and Lake Treman
- Have a dip at the beach in the state park
- Go fishing
- Hunt deer
- Have a go at the playground
- Spend the night at the cabins
Chittenango Falls, a Central Region State Park, is a favorite among nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. This site is a fulfilling destination for those who want to not only go on hikes but also for those who want to relax, listen to the sounds of nature, and take in beautiful views.
Here, you can enjoy lush forests and valleys, but you can also take in the fantastic glacial sculpting of 400-year-old bedrock. And did you know that Chittenango Falls is just as tall as Niagara Falls? Standing tall at 167 feet (50.9m), Chittenango Falls is a sight to behold.
It is also home to some fantastic wildlife, including the Chittenango ovate amber snail (Novisuccinea chittenangoensis), which you cannot find anywhere else in the world. The state park is also home to some endangered species.
If you are into wildlife conservation or want to support the preservation of endangered species, visiting Chittenango Falls is something you will no doubt enjoy. Sure, rules here are a bit stricter than in other state parks, but that’s a small price when you know you’re protecting endangered species and animals endemic to the area.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the place! Here are fun things to do at Chittenango Falls:
- View the falls from the top of the park or the footbridge
- Go wildlife viewing (Other than animals, you can see lots of wildflowers that grow around here)
- Go fishing with your family
- Enjoy a leisurely hike or walk along winding trails
- Spread out a blanket and have a charming picnic with friends
It may be tempting to go in the water at the waterfall’s base, but remember that this is not allowed for safety reasons and to protect wildlife. Another essential thing to remember is to keep your voice down and refrain from making loud noises so that the wild animals do not get disturbed.
Prepare to be amazed when you see Kaaterskill Falls. This 260-feet (79.2m) waterfall is way taller than Niagara and is one of the tallest in New York State. Its water cascades over a two-stage bedrock, and viewing it up close, you will notice that it has an almost other-worldly quality. No wonder it has been the subject of local folklore and a favorite among artists.
However, because Kaaterskill Falls is so popular among tourists, you can expect to meet other people when you visit. Still, regardless of how many people view it with you, there is no denying that Katerskill is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in NY state.
Kaaterskill Falls is an excellent destination for solo tourists as well as families. There are many options for attractions and things to do not only at Katerskill Falls but also nearby. Try these exciting activities that you can do when you visit:
- Take a dip at the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls
- Hike 1.4 kilometers (0.93 m) to and from Kaaterskill Falls
- Go skiing at Windham Mountain
- Visit the Olana State Historic Site and the Thomas Cole Historic Site
- Go on a tour of the Mountaintop Arboretum
- Explore Tannersville