Adirondacks and Finger Lakes waterfalls offer a cascade of adventure in autumn
- You probably know that New York is home to one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, but did you know that the Empire State has hundreds of other spectacular cascades? Many of these waterfalls are located along hiking routes and make excellent stops during an autumn outing.
If you're looking for an autumn waterfall adventure amidst spectacular peak foliage, your first stop will be in the Adirondacks region, which generally peaks around the beginning of October. The waterfall-rich Finger Lakes region comes into peak foliage on average around the third week of October.
Adirondack Mountain Majesty
The play of light on brilliantly colored foliage and cascading water makes an autumn tour in the Adirondacks unforgettable. With more than 6,000 miles of rivers and streams, there are sparkling waterfalls throughout the Adirondack Park.
Start at Ausable Chasm (open daily through mid-October) 12 miles south of Plattsburgh on Rt. 9, where waters tumble between 150-foot cliffs. Walk from Rainbow Falls to Grand Flume on the Promenade Trail .If you want more excitement, take a whitewater raft ride. (www.ausablechasm.com/
Continue south on Rt. 9 to the hamlet of Jay, with its quaint churches and village green. Just north of the green, turn left (opposite turn for Rt. 86) and within half a mile you'll see Jay Falls on your right. Follow Rt. 86 into through the Wilmington Notch along the Ausable River, passing late season fly fisherman and mighty Whiteface, the Olympic Mountain. Just beyond the entrance to the Whiteface Ski Center is High Falls Gorge (www.highfallsgorge.com/
), where you can feel the spray from a 700 foot waterfall as you wander along the gorge's paths and catwalks. Spend the night in Lake Placid and take your pick of a rugged 12-mile (6 hour) round trip hike leads to Wanika Falls, found on the northernmost stretch of the Northville-Placid Trail.
Other options include proceeding 22 miles north on Rt. 86 through Lake Placid and Saranac Lake to Paul Smiths and the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center (www.apa.state.ny.us/vic/index.html
). The center features natural history exhibits inside and a self-guided trail system outside. It's a pretty half-mile walk beneath scarlet and ye3llow-leafed hardwoods to the bridge over Shingle Mill Falls.
To complete your day of leaf-peeping and waterfall watching, take a scenic half-hour drive north on Rt. 30 from the Visitor Interpretive Center to Malone, and then northeast on Rt. 11 to Chateaugay. The Falls at High Falls Park (open through mid-October from 9 a.m. to dark) plunge a spectacular 120 feet. (http://www.highfallspark.com/
Waterfalls: Gorges and Wine Country
The Finger Lakes region is one of the latter stops on New York State's fall foliage progression. Here's a waterfalls adventure that starts southeast of Syracuse and eventually takes you to Rochester. Along the way, you'll see many spectacular waterfalls. Also woven into your trip are stops at leading attractions such as the Corning Museum of Glass, and a side trip into the heart of some of the finest wine producing country in the world - New York's Finger Lakes region.
Your first destination is Chittenango Falls, a picturesque 167-foot waterfall locate in Chittenango Falls State Park (http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/130/details.aspx
) near Cazenovia.
Your next waterfall is a 10-mile drive away, in Manlius. Scenic trails leading to the 137-foot Pratt Falls beckon you to bring a well-stocked picnic basket and a sense of adventure. Go south on Rt. 13, west on Rt. 20 and north onto Rt. 92. In Manlius, take Rt. 173 through town. A little more than a mile past the last light, watch for the Pratt Falls signs.
Next, you're off to Moravia and Fillmore Glen State Park (http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/157/details.aspx
), an oasis of cool, dense woods crowding into a long, narrow gorge. The park's trails offer spectacular views and access to five waterfalls. From Pratt Falls, take Rt. 92 south to Rt. 20 west. At Skaneateles, head south on Rt. 41A, to Rt. 38A south, and then to Rt. 38. The park is one mile south of Moravia.
The next leg of your waterfalls adventure takes you to Ithaca, the "City of Waterfalls" (dozens are within its limits and hundreds more are within several miles). Just a little further south on Route 13 is Robert H. Treman State Park (http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/135/details.aspx
) with the rugged gorge called Enfield Glen as its scenic highlight.
While in Ithaca, don't miss Cornell University. Deep ravines, waterfalls, winding paths and lush gardens set off the stonework on the campus. Also, Ithaca's annual Apple Harvest Festival, which celebrates the apple and its many uses, is Oct. 1-3 at Ithaca Commons, an outdoors pedestrian mall in downtown Ithaca.
About 8 miles north of Ithaca is Taughannock Falls State Park (www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/62/details.aspx
). The park's waterfall is the state's highest, dropping 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. Gorge and rim trails offer spectacular view of the falls from above and below. Take Rt. 89 north along the shore of Cayuga Lake. If your time allows, visit some of the wineries along the Cayuga Wine trail.
Your next destination is Watkins Glen State Park (www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/142/details.aspx
), which is known for its scenic hiking paths and natural pools formed by the age-old waterfalls tumbling into stone basins. Within 2 miles, the glen's stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course.
From Watkins Glen jump on Rt. 14 south to the town of Montour Falls, where you can see Chequaqua Falls and visit Havana Glen Park, with a short walk to Eagle Cliff Falls. Continuing south on Rt. 14 will take you to Elmira, home of the Mark Twain Study and Exhibit (www.cityofelmira.net/history/mark_twain.html
); Woodlawn Cemetery, where author Mark Twain is buried. Next, take Rt. 17/Interstate 86 west to Corning, where at the Corning Museum of Glass (www.cmog.org/
) you can explore 3,500 years of glassmaking.
From there, it's a scenic ride to Letchworth State Park, the "Grand Canyon of the East." The Genesee River roars through the park's gorge between cliffs - as high as 600 feet in some places - surrounded by lush forests. The park has three impressive cataracts - the Upper, Middle and Lower falls - and a score of small waterfalls. Letchworth offers whitewater rafting, kayaking and hot air ballooning. (www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/79/details.aspx
High Falls is located in Rochester's Brown's Race Historic District. To get there from Letchworth, exit the park through the northern gate in Mt. Morris; turn right and follow the signs to I-390 north. Take Interstate 590 north to Interstate 490 west. Exit at Broad Street/Plymouth Avenue (Exit 14), follow the signs to Plymouth Avenue, and turn left onto Plymouth Avenue South and right onto Platt Street. (www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589936495
Take a cruise on Rochester's waterways on the Sam Patch Tour Boat (http://www.samandmary.org/
) or attend Rochester River Romance, Oct. 8-10. The annual celebration features historical events plus hiking and boating. No visit to Rochester would be complete without a stop at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film (www.eastmanhouse.org/
For more great autumn adventures, visit iloveny.com
About New York State
New York State features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York's attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls, to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it's wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family like fishing, hiking and boating, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York State offers diverse activities for all travelers. For more information, including fall foliage updates, visit http://www.iloveny.com/. Press releases and more are available at thebeat.iloveny.com.
Photo caption: The 215 foot high Taughannock Falls, which is the middle of three falls, located in the gorge of Taughannock Falls State Park about 8 miles north of Ithaca. (Credit: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation)
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