Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY (Location)
May 6, 2012 – Traveling back from a trip to Pennsylvania, we took a bit of time to explore the lower section of Buttermilk Falls in upper New York State. Access to the falls is from Elmira Road (hwy #13) just south west of the beginning of the business section of Ithaca, NY.
The Falls cascades down the hillside over a number of stages until reaching a flatter section near the entrance to the park. Visitors can see the upper reaches of the falls by following one of two trails. The trail the follows the far side of the river is by far the most scenic of the two trails. There is a lake at the head of this series of falls but we chose to climb only to the level of a bridge that crosses from one side of the river to the other at a scenic crossing point. We chose to cross the bridge and come down the trail on the near side of the river. If I were to do it again, I would retrace my steps down the far side of the river since that trail offers far nicer views of the river and the multiple smaller falls along the way.
The trail is fairly steep at some points but quite easy to follow. It is not long before the trail takes you above the first falls and provides you with views of the river journey through the layered geology common to the Finger Lakes Region of upper New York State
After a few rather steep climbs, the trail tends to level off and it isn’t long before both hiker and river are back at the same level.
As one climbs through the canyon formed over time by this river it is interesting to see the layered formation and the multiple smaller falls as the river drops down through the canyon.
At this point along the trail we chose to take the bridge route across the river and head back to our car along the trail on the opposite side of the river. This was a rather disappointing choice since the trail does not offer many scenic views of the river.
The view from the bridge was very nice as two more levels of falls cascade into a pond before the water continues to rush downstream under the bridge.