Hot Sun, Cool Waters

A quarter mile into Grimes Glen in Naples, the trail leads straight across a ledge on the lower portion of French Hill Falls and then ends, forcing you into the streambed to reach the next falls. Photo by Gary Whelpley.

Paris has its outdoor cafes, Switzerland its Alpine peaks, New Jersey its boardwalks, beaches and hordes of sunbathers, and New York its throngs of tourists pacing the pulsating streets night and day.

Here in the Finger Lakes, what do we have? We have waterfalls galore. And the knowledge that none of those other, seemingly more sophisticated experiences can exceed the simple pleasure of waltzing through a waterfall on a hot summer day.

Do you doubt this? Well, don’t until you’ve tried it. Whether you stand, sit or walk under the waters, it’s a feeling unlike any other. To become one with the stream, as the water curls around and envelops you like an ancient rock, is a sensation that’s hard to describe. Having a partner by your side makes the experience even more memorable.

The act of immersing one’s self in a waterfall could be called ineffable, so beyond words that you may need the help of a thesaurus to describe your encounter to others. Depending on the waterfall you choose, you may find the experience: effervescent, intoxicating, invigorating, sublime, exhilarating, blissful, heavenly, delightful, tranquil, transporting, tingling, or even tickling. But, above all – refreshing.

Important precautions: don’t climb on the falls

In the Finger Lakes, it’s almost a constitutional right that you can befriend a waterfall. But not everybody agrees, most notably the state. State parks may offer a few swimming areas near or beside waterfalls, but discourage people from having waterfall fun in non-designated areas. So on a hot summer day in a regulated area, if you can’t resist the lure of an off-limits waterfall, don’t be surprised if you’re shooed away – or worse, ticketed.

Still, you can enjoy many other waterfalls with a clear conscience. When you do find a waterfall to enjoy, make sure you do it safely. Avoid climbing on them, as their slipperiness can send a person plunging to injury without warning (and especially keep your daredevil kids off them). Even dry rocks coated with algae can suddenly become slippery if you step on them with wet shoes. And do wear shoes, as you never know when you’ll encounter broken glass or an old fish hook. Avoid streams or falls swollen by heavy rains, and don’t venture into narrow gorges when thunderstorms threaten. (Every few years, someone drowns when surprised by a flash flood that started some distance away.)


Best local waterfalls in the Finger Lakes Region

Letchworth State Park
1 Letchworth State Park
Castile, NY 14427

Watkins Glen State Park
1009 N Franklin St
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Robert H. Treman State Park/Lucifer Falls
105 Enfield Falls Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850

Ithaca Falls Natural Area
399 Lake St, Ithaca, NY

Taughannock Falls State Park
2221 Taughannock Park Rd
Trumansburg, NY 14886

Buttermilk Falls
112 E. Buttermilk Falls Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850

Fillmore Glen
1686 St. Rte. 38
Moravia, NY 13118

Pratts Falls  
County Rd 218
Onondaga County, NY

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