Hike And Swim In A Waterfall At This Beautiful Finger Lakes State Park

Hiking, being immersed in wilderness, swimming in a natural pool: For nature lovers, these activities all make for an idyllic, stress-free summer day. While New York is globally known for the glitz and glam of city life, the state also has some spectacular state parks with breathtaking water features. To hike and swim in a waterfall while you're in the state, visit the beautiful Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Buttermilk Falls State Park is nestled in the greater Finger Lakes region of New York. Carving through the lush, forested landscape of the park is Buttermilk Creek. In a series of cascades that flow through boulders, the waters of the creek descend more than 500 feet towards Cayuga Lake — another dreamy New York destination. There are 10 waterfalls in total at the park, with the most famous being Buttermilk Falls. The cascading waters tumble nearly 165 feet, and at the base of the foaming, frothy falls lies a gorgeous swimming hole created entirely by Mother Nature.

One of the best ways to explore the lush state park is by hiking. The Gorge Trail is a well-traveled path at Buttermilk Falls, and offers some epic nature viewing opportunities that are worth a trip before visiting the swimming hole. Here's how to make the most of your trip to Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Hiking the Gorge Trail

Though the Gorge Trail is only around .65 miles long, it is considered fairly challenging. As the moniker suggests, the hike runs parallel to a scenic gorge, and offers spectacular views of natural landmarks as it weaves through the park.

The route — which is open from April through October — begins at the base of Buttermilk Falls. You'll first pass the lower half of the cascading falls to your left. Soon after, you'll walk up a steep set of stone steps shaded by lush trees that will take you to the first outlook that offers spectacular views of both the lower and upper portions of the falls. As you continue your trek, you'll climb another steep staircase that leads to another overlook that offers a glimpse of a few thin cascades. After proceeding past more water-sculpted rocks and tiny punchbowls, you'll reach a double cascade that captures the beauty of Buttermilk Falls. Continuing along the right bank, you'll see another multi-tiered, picturesque waterfall before reaching Pinnacle Rock, a 42-foot natural stack that towers over a small, bright turquoise pool. After you snap a photo of Pinnacle Rock, you'll keep walking upstream until the creek calms. This is your sign that you've reached the end of Gorge Trail.

Swimming at Buttermilk Falls

After traversing the Gorge Trail, taking a dip in Buttermilk Falls is a welcomed treat. The cool waters can be quite refreshing on a summer day, but it's important to note that the water can be chilly year-round. The swimming hole at Buttermilk Falls is typically open from the last weekend of June through Labor Day in September. Unlike many other natural pools, there are lifeguards on site during the on-season. Since it is a popular destination, the swimming hole can become crowded during weekends and holidays.

If you want to skip the hike, the Buttermilk Falls swimming hole can be accessed through the park entrance. This may be a better option for families who are looking to still enjoy the falls without the trek. Once you're done swimming, find a bench at one of the pavilions to enjoy a packed lunch. While the journey to Buttermilk Falls State Park makes for a perfect day trip, you can extend your visit by making a reservation to stay at one of the park's campsites near the swimming hole. Camping in the park is available from mid-May through early October. While there, you can explore other hikes that weave through the landscape. Near the swimming hole is the popular Buttermilk Falls Larch Meadow Trail, an easy hike that weaves the nature-filled wetlands of Larch Meadows.