Chasing Waterfalls

Hike to these hidden gems

By Kyra Mancine

Grimes Glen, Naples.
Grimes Glen, Naples.

Tired of the same old boring walking route? Switch it up and get your exercise on a walk with a view. Last year’s drought brought many waterfalls to a trickle, but the rain this year has most falls fuller than ever — making August the perfect time for a visit.

Here in Upstate New York, we are fortunate to be a short drive away from hundreds of waterfalls. There are so many in fact, it can be overwhelming to know which ones to see. Commonly visited waterfalls include Niagara Falls, Watkins Glen, the falls at Letchworth State Park and Stony Brook, to name but a few.

Looking to visit a few others that are lesser known, off the beaten path and not as crowded? Give these trips a try. As always, obey all park rules and signs, respect Mother Nature, carry in/carry out what you bring with you and remember — safety first.

Waterfalls are breathtakingly beautiful, but it can be easy to get caught up in the moment — taking that selfie or wading through a stream. Enjoy the scenery, but proceed with caution, wear appropriate footwear (hiking shoes or water shoes with traction are ideal), bring plenty of water and a bite to eat, wear your sunscreen and bug spray and please — leave your pets at home. Many falls are free to see — others require a fee if they are in a state park. Some are on the honor system. Bonus tip: If you visit more than one state park in a day, you only have to pay one park fee.

Here are some of the waterfalls I recommend:

Eternal Flame Falls, Orchard Park, Buffalo area

This is one of the most unique waterfall experiences you will ever have. Located near Buffalo in Chestnut Ridge Park, the waterfall has a small cave at the base that emits natural gas, which is usually lit up, producing a small flame. The effect of the flame against the waterfall cascading over it is mesmerizing. Some people bring a lighter to reignite it on the rare occasions it goes out. The hike itself is short — a little over a mile out and back. Flame markers on trees direct you to the falls. Note: there are stairs and it’s a bit of a descent to get to the bottom of the path, but it’s doable for most ages. You do have to climb over tree limbs and branches to get to the waterfall. It can also get slippery based on rainfall and time of year. It’s well worth it though. This waterfall has become more popular as of late due to social media. It’s a definite must-see!

Grimes Glen, Naples, Finger Lakes area

The path to these waterfalls is located at the end of small residential street. Parking is somewhat limited, so get there early.  It’s a short, half-mile hike to get to the main falls on the path. You will get wet on this hike, as there is no choice but to wade through the water on the way to see the falls. However, that’s all part of the fun! Amenities include picnic tables and restrooms, which makes this trip a family-friendly adventure. Note: you will see ropes to climb to get to the top of one of the falls. This is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted. Always stay on the main trail.

• For more information check out these sites: or TripAdvisor and Instagram are also good research tools prior to your trip.

Other Upstate New York Waterfalls Worth a Visit

• Double Drop Falls — along Flint Creek on the Ontario Pathways, Phelps

• Holley Falls — a man-made 35-foot high waterfall in a small park in Holley

• Paper Mill Falls — a 12-foot high waterfall near a small park, Avon

• Akron Falls — a 40-foot waterfall in a park, Akron, between Rochester & Buffalo

• Chittenango Falls —167-foot waterfall in a state park, Cazenovia

• Pratt’s Falls — 137-foot waterfall in a state park, Manlius

• Fillmore Glen State Park — five waterfalls and a stream-fed swimming pool, Moravia

• Carpenter Falls (90 feet) and Angel Falls (60 feet) — a short hike to the left to the one falls, a longer hike to the right for the other. Located on a ravine, so extra care and caution is a must here. Located in Skaneateles

• Taughannock Falls — hard to pronounce and spell, but this picturesque beauty is, at 215 feet, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. They recently opened a visitor’s center here near the scenic overlook. If you want a closer view, travel to the state park down the street — it’s a short, flat hike to the base. Town of Ulysses in Tompkins County next to Cayuga Lake

• Robert H Treman State Park — Over a dozen falls here! There are lots of stairs to climb, so it can be challenging. Cool off after your hike in the natural pool at the base that even includes a diving board. Near Ithaca

• Cascadilla Falls — a scenic trail (with many stairs) that connects Cornell University to downtown Ithaca and has nine falls along the route

• Buttermilk Falls — 10 falls, lots of stairs and gorgeous views of falls that plunge up to 600 feet into the valley. Ithaca

• Ithaca Falls – 150 foot waterfall, right in downtown Ithaca off Lake Street.