Hiking Buttermilk Falls State Park – Ithaca, NY

Another day, another hike!

After enjoying a lovely 4.5 mile hike at Robert H. Treman State Park, seeing Lucifer Falls + swimming {and diving!} in the Lower Enfield Falls the day before, we headed from Seneca Lake over to Ithaca for another day exploring waterfalls!

These waterfalls were a little easier to find, because the second you pull up to the park, BAM there they were –

Buttermilk Falls!

Buttermilk Falls State Park takes its name from the foaming cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake. The upper park has a small lake, hiking trails through woodlands and along the gorge and rim, picnic areas and playing fields. The lower park has a campground, natural pool and playing fields, beyond which is Larch Meadows. Larch Meadows is a wetland area through which a nature trail winds.

The Buttermilk Falls trail starts at the bottom of the falls, which also happens to be a swimming area that is monitored by lifeguards. On the day we went swimming was closed because they were testing the algae in the area – but the space looked really cool. And it was a nice spot for people that wanted to go for a swim, but maybe not for a hike!

Group photo before starting another hike!

This was a similar hike to Treman State Park as we hiked alongside the water the entire way up – and UP did we go!

It was really neat to start from the bottom at the base of the falls – I can only imagine how different this would look after a serious rainfall!


This trail was about 1.5 miles up from the base of the falls and then there are other trails you can continue on if you choose. There were lots of stairs up the entire way and it was all entirely along the water, which was beautiful.

As usual, the 3.5 year old was leading the pack.

Seriously, this kid has all.the.energy.

And again, Graham got escorted to the top in the backpack carrier we borrowed from a friend {similar version here} – worked out really well with all the snacks and seeing waterfalls right off the bat kept him entertained.


The steep climbs of stairs were broken up by short flat trails which began and ended with more falls.


You can see the stairs on the right hand side of this photo going up alongside the falls. It’s pretty typical of how the entire trail went up. Lots of handholding for Brooks to keep him safe because some portions of the stairs were slippery and wet, but he was really good about listening. There were also portions of the trail with the steps that were fenced in for safety, which was good when hiking with littles – Brooks could go up on him own a bit in those areas.

Seriously, it doesn’t get any more gorgeous than this:



And the rock formations alongside the trail up the falls were all sorts of amazing.

Brooks shown for scale – ha.

The trail kept going and the falls kept churning away – Buttermilk Falls features 10 waterfalls in total, with lots of mixing and churning of little falls along the way. The various gorges we walked through were simply stunning and we went first thing in the morning so the light peeking through the trees only added to the beauty of the area.


I really enjoyed this trail because you were right in on the action the entire way. We were only a step away from the water at any given time as it made its way down the mountain. And I loved how the stream would go from being super flat with only an inch or two of water, to completely cascading downstream.

This might have been Brooks’ favorite hike – he had a bit of freedom at points to run and explore and he got to see so many falls, right alongside us the entire way.

Doesn’t get much better than that!


Another day in the Finger Lakes & another beautiful hike in the books! I can’t wait to share the rest of our adventures with you!

Have you ever been hiking in Ithaca? 


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1 Comment

  • Reply Patty August 11, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Great recap – I too loved this hiking day, walking along the falls was just spectacular! Each hiking day had something different to add to the experience!

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