17 Best Waterfalls in New York

Written by Shandley McMurray
Updated May 3, 2023

New York is known for its shimmering lakes, rugged mountains (hello, beautiful Catskills), and bustling metropolises (nothing beats the attractions of New York City). This East Coast state's most resplendent attributes, though, often lie hidden. We're talking about its waterfalls — beauties so picturesque, they're some of the best places to photograph.

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York
Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

New York's waterfalls are so spectacular that visitors embark on weekend getaways to traipse through verdant forests, ascend rocky terrain, climb craggy cliffs, and wander along roadways just to marvel at their magnificence.

If you're hoping to see the falls at the height of their splendor, the best time to visit is in early spring, when they're full of water from the snowmelt.

Ranging in size from trickling cataracts to gushing chutes, New York's waterfalls are worthy of a visit. Better yet, come back time and time again. Choose the top places to visit with our list of the best waterfalls in New York.

1. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is the obvious list topper for the best falls in New York. The largest waterfall in the state, and one of the most beautiful in the world, this impressive marvel is a bucket list destination for many.

Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three plunges that make up Niagara Falls. It measures a whopping 173 feet tall and nearly 2,600 feet in width. Over 150,000 gallons of water plunge over this phenomenal site every second. No wonder this has been deemed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America.

The best view of the falls is said to be from the Canadian side. A bit kitschy, Niagara Falls in Canada is home to Ripley's Believe it or Not!, as well as multiple wax museums. That said, the incredible Journey Behind the Falls, which allows visitors to explore tunnels that lie 125 feet below the falls, is a must-see.

On the American side, hitch a ride on the Maid of the Mist to get up close and personal with the falls. Wear one of the provided ponchos because you're guaranteed to get wet! The American Niagara Falls is quieter and more serene. Not surprisingly, it's been dubbed the "Honeymoon capital of the world."

2. Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park

Middle Falls in Letchworth State Park
Middle Falls in Letchworth State Park | Photo Copyright: Shandley McMurray

The Genesee River flows majestically through a giant gorge in Letchworth State Park, tumbling loudly over three impressive waterfalls along its journey. The most captivating of these cascades is the 107-foot Middle Falls, easily one of the best waterfalls in New York, and it's housed in one of the state's most spectacular parks.

Wider than it is tall, this watery wonder is a sight to behold. This is also a vista you'll want to capture in a zillion photographs, something that's easy to do from pretty much every vantage point due to the comfortable walking trails that wind throughout the area. Not a big walker? Follow Trail 1 (a.k.a. The Gorge Trail) from the Falls Area parking lot for a quick and simple path to this incredible beauty.

Insider's tip: For a more memorable experience, visit during a summer evening when the falls are lit up. Or better yet, soar above the falls in a hot-air balloon. This memorable experience will set you back a pretty penny (nearly $1,600 for a private, one-hour ride for five people), but the views it offers are priceless.

Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Letchworth State Park is a marvel of nature at its most awe-inspiring. You'll feel small and inconsequential while standing next to its towering trees, cliffs, and falls. It's also home to 66 miles of hiking trails, the Humphrey Nature Center, a pool, and white water rafting.

3. Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls
Buttermilk Falls

Old-school fun can be had at Buttermilk Falls. The most impressive of 10 cascades located in Buttermilk Falls State Park, near Ithaca, these beautiful falls are worthy of a photograph (or many).

Consisting of two segments, the falls plunge from more than 165 feet, twisting around a gorge as they run towards their final, ultra-fun destination: a swimming hole. Playing here is one of the best things to do in Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Unlike many cascades on this list, Buttermilk Falls are easy to see without a hike. You won't need to trek for miles to catch sight of this spectacular spot, set close to the parking area, which is great considering you'll want to have towels on hand to dry off after a cooling dip in the pool.

If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the park's other falls, wear good shoes and plan to hike through the trails for anywhere between one and three hours. It's easy to see why visiting this vast park and its stellar waterfall is deemed one of the best things to do to in the Finger Lakes Region.

4. Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls

It's impossible to feel big at Taughannock Falls. One of the most dramatic cascades on this list, and the tallest in the eastern U.S., this thundering beauty is breathtaking and super tall. Set in a massive gorge within Taughannock Falls State Park, the falls roar down 215 feet (that's 42 feet higher than Niagara Falls) from the 400-foot cliffs above.

You'll hear these beauties before you see them, and wow is it a powerful sound. The best vistas can be found along the park's Gorge and Rim trails, which allow visitors to get views from both above and below the cascade. Hiking here is a popular thing to do for families in the Finger Lakes.

Book a campsite, so you can enjoy the falls again the next day. While you're here, rent a canoe or kayak from within the park to explore sparkling Cayuga Lake, one of the best lakes in New York state.

5. Eternal Flames Falls

Eternal Flames Falls
Eternal Flames Falls

At only 30 feet in height, Eternal Flames Falls pales in comparison to massive Niagara Falls. However, the heart of the magical cascade will light your visit in a way that no other waterfall in the country, or likely the world, can. It may even blow your mind a little.

Located in a small cave to the right of the middle section of the falls lies a small flame (between four and eight inches tall) known as the eternal flame. This unique wonder is apparently caused by natural gas emitted from a spring inside the cave. Although it's usually lit, granting visitors an impressive photo opportunity, hikers can relight the flame if it has gone out with the help of a lighter.

The trek to Eternal Flame Falls, which flows from Shale Creek in western New York's Chestnut Ridge Park, is a bit cumbersome (we're talking tree roots and rocks that can easily trip you up). Visitors will have to hike a challenging 1.5-mile trail to marvel at this impressive, fiery feature, so be sure to pack comfortable shoes and water.

6. Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Mountains
Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Mountains

A highlight of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, Kaaterskill Falls knows how to put a person at ease, making it a must-see attraction in the area. The sight of the water dropping dramatically over the two tiers, the sound of it crashing along its journey, and the feel of the cool mist on your face is enough to melt every worry.

Between its two cascades, this phenomenal wonder crashes nearly 260 feet to the pool below, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in New York. It's also one of the loveliest, especially if you visit during the autumn, when the surrounding palette is brushed by bright red, orange, and yellow hues.

To get here, you'll have to hike. Don't worry, it's only about 1.4 miles there and back. Once you are surrounded by the area's natural beauty, you'll understand why hiking here is one of the best things to do in the Catskills.

Insider's tip: Unless you're super adventurous (and have a Spiderman-like grip), avoid walking the ledge to get to the falls' upper tier. The view from its base is spectacular, and you won't need to risk your life to appreciate it. Be warned: The rocks are super slippery!

7. Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park
Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park may be small (it's only two miles long), but it's filled with so much outstanding natural beauty and so many interesting things to do nearby, that you'll find it hard to leave. Towering, craggy cliffs; a deep gorge; and a verdant forest make this western New York spot unmissable, but its pretty Rainbow Falls is one of the area's most mesmerizing features and one of the best waterfalls in New York.

Expect to get wet as you walk behind the flowing falls on your way to cross the picturesque stone bridge.

Insider's tip: If heading here on a road trip from New York City, which lies four and a half hours northwest, time your visit right. An afternoon trip often rewards travelers with a rainbow, which is how the falls got their name.

The park's mainstream creates a total of 19 waterfalls (Cavern Cascade, Central Cascade, and Pluto Falls are also worth a visit) as it sweeps past the massive cliffs. Beside it lies the Gorge Path, an easy trail that takes visitors over, under, and behind waterfalls. The Rim Trail provides the best gorge vistas. The old stone steps and bridges make this area incredibly unique and up the charm factor tenfold.

8. Rainbow Falls, Ausable Chasm

Rainbow Falls, Ausable Chasm
Rainbow Falls, Ausable Chasm

Another Rainbow Falls graces our list of the best waterfalls in New York. This one resides in the resplendent Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks. A series of falls, these beauties flow from the Ausable River and are often the site of rainbows, hence the name.

The river's flow, and therefore the intensity of these falls, are regulated by a hydroelectric power company, which means you can't be sure what you'll see when you visit. You may be blessed to witness the falls in all their overflowing glory or see them in a more subdued light. Either way, they are a lovely sight to behold and one of the best places to visit in the Adirondacks.

Insider's tip: Want to see the falls without heading into the chasm? Drive to the bridge on Route 9, just outside Keeseville for a photo-worthy view. In fact, many would argue this is the best way to view the falls in their entirety. That said, a trip through the chasm is unforgettable and will offer you a view so close, you'll feel the moisture on your skin.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in the Adirondacks

9. Chittenango Falls

Chittenango Falls
Chittenango Falls

It's easy to forget which century you're living in while traipsing around Chittenango Falls. A glacial cascade, this 167-foot masterpiece is set among bedrocks dating back as many as 400 million years. Being in its presence feels both calming and energizing – the intense rush of water makes it almost impossible to resist the urge to cool off in the stream below.

Set within Chittenango Falls State Park (about 30 minutes southwest of the attractions of Syracuse), this pretty waterfall is looped by trails, making it easy to appreciate its glamor from all angles. A sweet footbridge further enhances the romantic backdrop. That said, some of the terrain can be quite steep, so beware, and wear hiking shoes.

Insider's tip: Bring bug spray to keep away unwelcome pests.

10. Lower Falls

Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park near Ithaca
Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park near Ithaca

Robert H. Treman State Park is home to 12 notable waterfalls in New York, the most scenic of which is arguably Lower Falls. Also known as Enfield Falls (after the rugged, wooded gorge of the same name), this lovely waterfall offers visitors a fun-filled locale overflowing with adventure.

Standing to the right of the falls, near the sparkling pool at its base, is a diving board. This fab feature literally adds a spring to your step as you launch yourself (via cannonball, swan dive, or front flip) into the cool water below. When you've dried off, hike along one of the park's nine miles of trails to enjoy the other falls and incredible views that will leave you breathless.

Insider's tip: Don't miss nearby Lucifer Falls, a 115-foot waterfall also located in the park. It, too, boasts a natural pool to enjoy at its base.

11. High Falls in Rochester

High Falls and downtown Rochester
High Falls and downtown Rochester

It's impossible to miss High Falls when visiting the top tourist sights of Rochester. One of multiple waterfalls that flow from the Genesee River (see Middle Falls, above), this large (just under 100 feet high), thundering mass adds a magical element to the city's skyline. It's the most striking of three falls (the Middle and Lower falls are the other two) in Rochester and is located in the historic district next to the downtown core.

Walk across the pedestrian Pont de Rennes Bridge for the best views of the falls and the rail bridge that runs behind it. You'll want your camera charged, especially if you're snapping photos at sunset.

Speaking of photos, head to High Falls Terrace Platform on the river's east side for a particularly rewarding view. Set farther away from, and off to the side of, the falls, you can snap a great panoramic photo of the city.

12. Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls
Ithaca Falls

While touring Ithaca, you'll notice a ton of bumper stickers and signs touting its tourist slogan: "Ithaca is gorges," a play on words to highlight the area's exceptional natural beauty (we're talking deep, craggy gorges and soft, flowing streams). The city's main waterfall definitely falls under this category, as does the city itself, which has been dubbed one of the best in New York State.

Of more than 150 waterfalls peppering 10 miles in this Finger Lakes region (including Taughannock and Buttermilk Falls), Ithaca Falls has earned a top spot on our list. The reason? It's gorges (sorry)! Tumbling down 150 feet to the popular plunge pool below, this lovely cascade spans nearly 175 feet.

Getting here is easy. Just cross the bridge over Lake Street. Take at least a few minutes here, as you'll be rewarded with an unsurpassable view of the falls. A small trail runs next to the creek, making it simple to get a closer view of this watery marvel.

13. Upper Falls, Letchworth State Park

Upper Falls, Letchworth State Park
Upper Falls, Letchworth State Park | Photo Copyright: Shandley McMurray

The smaller sibling of Middle Falls, this Genesee River waterfall is just as captivating. While it only drops about 70 feet, as opposed to Middle Fall's 107-foot plunge, the backdrop is unbeatable in this Letchworth State Park marvel. It's surrounded by massive rock cliffs and verdant forest, as well as a picturesque bridge (a.k.a. the Portage High Bridge). Your camera will quiver in anticipation of the phenomenal shots it's about to take.

If you don't have a lot of time to spare, you're in luck. Getting to these falls takes only a few minutes of walking along a path from the parking lot. Along the route, you'll be rewarded with stunning vistas of the falls and surrounding gorge. If you've got more time and energy, follow the path farther up towards the bridge, which is another of the park's main attractions.

The beauty in this park is unbeatable, so don't be surprised if you're tempted to stay for hours. It's one of the best places to visit in the state for good reason, especially for those hoping to be awed by Mother Nature's most magnificent show of kaleidoscopic fall colors.

14. Bash Bish Falls

Bash Bish Falls
Bash Bish Falls

Technically in Massachusetts, Bash Bish Falls lies so close to the border of New York that it has a parking lot in both states. Set within the Taconic Mountains in Bash Bish Falls State Park, this beauty consists of multiple drops that fall a total of about 200 feet. Not quite as tall as New York's Buttermilk Falls, Bash Bish has been deemed the highest single drop falls in Massachusetts.

A series of multiple cascades, the lower falls are perhaps the most picturesque. They run around a giant boulder, being split into two smaller falls as they flow 80 feet to the pool below. To see the falls from within New York, enter at the lower parking lot. A short hike (about two-thirds of a mile) will get you to the base.

15. OK Slip Falls

OK Slip Falls in the autumn
OK Slip Falls in the autumn

Prior to 2014, accessing the OK Slip Falls was quite challenging. Once an official three-mile trail was added that July, viewing one of the highest waterfalls in the Adirondacks became much easier.

Falling 250 feet, this impressive waterfall is one of the best places to visit in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. Once you arrive at the falls, you can choose between two viewing areas or, better yet, visit both.

Tip: If you're planning to take stellar photos (and who wouldn't when the scenery is this spectacular), arrive in the morning. During the afternoon, shade can sweep in to darken your pics. This time is also the best for avoiding crowds.

16. Salmon River Falls

Salmon River Falls
Salmon River Falls

Salmon River Falls lies within the 112-acre Salmon River Falls Unique Area, in Oswego County. Set within a stunning gorge, these 110-foot falls are the most popular attraction in this area.

To get to the falls, you can expect a short (about a quarter mile) trek from the parking area along a wide trail. Those who'd like to get a better view can tackle The Gorge Trail, but be warned, it is steep and dangerous, recommended only for well-seasoned and very fit hikers.

The Upper Falls Trail runs for a mile, on the north side of the river to Dam Road. This is also a bit of a strenuous trek. The River Bed Trail leads to the base of the falls and offers what some argue is the best view. It is short and steep and involves some stairs.

The fun doesn't stop during summer. Ice climbing is one of the best things to do in winter at Salmon River Falls. Registration is a must before you ascend, just drop your form in the kiosk box before entering the gorge.

17. Indian Brook Falls

Indian Brook Falls
Indian Brook Falls

Indian Brook Falls may not be the biggest falls on our list of the best waterfalls in New York, nor will they be the easiest to find. They will, however, be more than worth your time. These pretty falls are located in the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, near the adorable small town of Cold Spring, in the stunning Hudson Valley.

To get to the falls, we suggest walking along Indian Brook Road from the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary, a phenomenal tidal marsh estuary worthy of a visit. It should only take about 10 to 15 minutes, and the sound of rushing water may help guide you.

Be warned: The trail isn't well maintained, so you may have to do a bit of "bush-whacking" and climbing over fallen branches. Avoid visiting right after a rainfall, as the trail can become treacherously slippery. These falls truly are a hidden gem.

Map of Waterfalls in New York

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