HIKE : Taughannock North Rim Trail & Gorge Trail (Ithaca, NY)

3 Apr

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As promised, before Spring is ACTUALLY upon us, I want to share a favorite, favorite hike when I go back to Ithaca, NY, my happy, hippie hometown.

Taughannock Falls State Park is located just down the road from my Mom’s house, on the outskirts of Ithaca proper. It’s on the west side of Cayuga Lake and ultimately the falls feed into the lake at Allan H. Treman State Park.

A couple weekends back Hardtack and I took a little trip to Ithaca and I finally got to introduce him to some of the waterfalls of “Ithaca is Gorges” fame. We hiked at Taughannock two days in a row because he was so impressed by the scenery.

North Rim Trail

On Saturday, my mom and family pooch Moose, AKA Macybean joined us for a short but beautiful trek. We parked on the turnoff on Gorge Road, just up the hill from the intersection with Willow Creek Road. You can see it in the bottom left quarter of this little map. Start hiking up the gorge from here (a left turn into the woods from your car).

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Then hike on and bear left (then right up and over) when you come to the old railroad bridge. This will cross over a smaller but still spectacular waterfall at Taughannock Creek (an appetizer to Taughannock Falls, the main event).

We stopped here for a few photo ops as we realized we’d brought the “good” camera.

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Maybe the Duchess wanted a better view..

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Keep on over the bridge and onto the official North Rim Trail.

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The Taughannock trails this time of year can be muddy or icy and are closed on a daily basis if the park rangers determine the conditions to be unsafe. Good news is, at every possible section of closure, there’s an alternate path or a road to walk to get you back to where you started. The views might not be as great but at least you can avoid doubling back.

IMG_0249  Such a cool view, and one many tourists don’t know to come for…the big falls are slightly down stream from this…leading to the lake.

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And eventually you’ll stumble upon a parking lot with (in season) restrooms, benches and the main event, Taughannock Falls. Lots of people get married here..for obvious reasons.IMG_0253

Taughannock Falls is narrow, as you can see, but taller than Niagara Falls by 33 feet at 215 feet at it’s highest drop point.

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One rebellious summer during a serious drought,  I swam under the falls with a best friend of mine. A boulder fell over 100 feet from the cliff face, landing so close to us that the splash rained down on everyone illegally swimming on the rocks at the bottom. Needless to say I have NEVER attempted that again. It is cool to say that once I looked up at the falls from the bottom, though.

IMG_0258These pals love good views almost as much as good workouts. Hiking on, the trail loops down past the lookout along the rim of the gorge, encountering sweet views like this one, of the lake below.

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For us, the last leg of the trail descending down to the waterfront was closed for icy conditions (if you ask me it was safe, but I am not always the rule follower in the group), so we took a slight detour through the campground and down Taughannock Park Access Road down to Rt. 89. Normally we’d take the South Rim trail up and through the woods back to the car along the South Rim of the gorge, but this was also closed for ice, so we walked Gorge Road most of the way until we decided to bushwhack a bit back to the trail from the road for the last quarter mile or so. This was about when Moose decided she wanted to bring home a souvenir (Mom says she always picks up the biggest thing in sight when she thinks she’s about to go home. Hilarious.)

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Miss P didn’t know what to think. She has no interest in sticks.

This little hike made for some pretty pics and happy hikers. We went home for a hot tub as the snow was falling…a pretty good day. Good enough, in fact, that we felt like repeating it again the next day…so on Sunday we took a slightly different route, as HT wanted to see the falls from another angle.

Gorge Trail

This trail is a really easy hike, almost handicap accessible at many points. You can park right at the base of the falls park in the lot (off season, for free without a park pass) and walk right into the well-marked trailhead.

The Cayuga Lake Triathalon course actually includes the Gorge Trail, taking runners to the base of the falls and back after a lake swim…pretty cool. The payoff for the relatively low exertion makes this a MUST SEE for all Ithaca visitors. I don’t care who you are or if you even like nature, just take this hike—you won’t regret it.
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The falls are spectacular all year round, but there’s something about the winter scene that is both dramatic and grand, and a little creepy. Mini icebergs float by and a freezing spray coats your layers and freezes on the ground all around the waterfall’s base. It’s a unique place. Check it out! It’s one of my faves.

Happy Hiking!

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