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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Taughannock Falls - Finger Lakes, New York

Taughannock Falls State Park in Summer

At this point in the trip Lucy (my mom) had a lot to say about the trails I was picking.  Too many stairs, too long, they hurt her knee, and so on.  Truth be told, these trails had been relatively flat in my eyes.  We weren't hiking to any summits, just following gorges and waterfalls in the middle of Amish Country New York.  

With that being said, sometimes it's hard to step back and realize we all have different definitions of an "easy trail", molded by experience and fitness levels.  I run 2 days a week and do CrossFit 4 days a week.  She is not consistent with exercise and nutrition and had a knee surgery earlier in the year.  Our definitions of an easy trail are very, very different.  And that's okay.  

By Hike 3 in the Finger Lakes, we finally found a trail that was more her pace, and fit her definition of easy.  A short, flat, well maintained wide trail that after a 1-mile leisurely stroll, ended at a breathtaking waterfall.   It was one of those low effort high reward kind of hikes.  

Have someone in your group who appreciates easier trails?  Want to take the kids on an easy hike?  Or maybe you just want a nice little walk to stretch your legs and take a few photos.  Head to Taughannock Falls. 

Small waterfall Gorge Trail Taughannock Falls State Park
Smaller waterfall along the Gorge Trail 

Taughannock Falls State Park, named after its famous waterfall, is one of the more well known natural attractions of the Finger Lakes area. Taughannock Falls plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. It is the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls.

Trail and Streambed Taughannock Falls State Park
The trail and the stream bed side by side
There was something so relaxing about this hike.  You can choose to follow the wide flat trail (sort of like an old gravel/jeep road) or you can walk in the river bed.  Whichever way you choose, you have views of the high canyon walls, green forest, and creek rambling past you.  It's a simple hike, no elevation gained, just a walk in the woods, best done with people you love all around you, canine included.  We got out early and spent a perfect cool morning following the creek bed to the end of the trail where even after three days of waterfalls, we were a little star-struck by this one.  It's dramatic, one perfect stream of water framed by rock, falling into a pool of water before flowing out under the bridge and down the stream and into the lake.  Turkey vultures were flying overhead, at the top of the falls, hovering in the mist.  Not every hike has to be a challenging climb to the summit.  Sometimes, a quiet walk in the woods and wading in the stream is just what you need to start the day. 

Walking the streambed in Taughannock Falls State Park
Walking the stream bed 

Waterfall:  215' plunging waterfall
The Park:  The state park has "two sides".  On the north side of the road (facing the lake), you have your swimming areas, a playground, open fields, and fishing area.  On the south side of the lake, you can find the trails that follow the Taughannock Creek to the waterfall.  To access the gorge trail which will take you to Taughannock Falls, you will need to park on the south side parking area.  
History:  The region surrounding Taughannock Falls State Park was home to the Cayuga people until they were displaced during the Clinton-Sullivan Campaign following the American Revolutionary War. Taughannock Creek was used as a source of power for mills and a gun factory in the early 19th century.
Facilities:  Port-o-jons, bathrooms are located on the north/lakeside
Pets:  Yes! On-leash 
Fee:  $8 per vehicle
Trail MapLink to Trail Map
Gorge Trail:  0.95-miles one way, out and back trail 

Walking the streambed in Taughannock Falls State Park
Walking the stream bed

Walking the streambed in Taughannock Falls State Park
The bridge right before the waterfall

Waterfall Taughannock Falls in July
Taughannock Falls 

Waterfall Taughannock Falls in July
Adam, Olive and I at Taughannock Falls 
A bunch of happy hikers, a hot dog, and a waterfall.  Of all the waterfalls we saw this weekend, this one made it to the top of Adam's list.  I loved the eerie peacefulness of this waterfall, the dramatic single fall plunge, the turkey vultures flying overhead.  But I am not picking favorites.   If you want a high reward low effort easy hike, then this is the perfect one for you.  And I think you will find that everyone will be able to agree that this is indeed an easy hike, one that ends at the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.  

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