This Northeastern State Park Boasts A Magnificent Waterfall Taller Than Niagara Falls

When it comes to waterfalls, it's hard to fathom a natural wonder that could rival the grandeur of Niagara Falls. Yet, in Ulysses, New York, a waterfall does just that. Towering at a majestic 215 feet, this cascade surpasses the renowned Niagara Falls by 33 feet and stands as the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Its name is Taughannock Falls (pronounced Tuh-GAN-nick), and it awaits you at Taughannock Falls State Park

The park's unique name, Taughannock, comes from Algonquian Taconic, which translates to "in the trees." The falls could have also been named after a slain Lenape chief thrown into it by the Cayuga tribe. The surrounding area was once inhabited and fought over by the Native American tribes, who valued the land for its natural beauty and bounty. It wasn't until 1794 that the two Goodwin Brothers settled there, and eventually, it was made into Taughannock Falls State Park in 1927. Since then, the park has expanded from 64 to approximately 750 acres, attracting visitors with its spectacular scenery and many recreational activities.

Taughannock Falls is one of the coolest hidden waterfalls in the world due to its vertical plunge. Unlike the expansive curtain of water at Niagara Falls, Taughannock Falls features a slender cascade that gracefully free-falls over a cliff of sedimentary rock, primarily sandstone, shale, and limestone. This geological marvel, formed over millions of years, is a model of the Earth's ancient processes sculpted between a 400-foot gorge.

What to do in Taughannock Falls State Park

Visitors to Taughannock Falls State Park can enjoy a variety of activities. The park offers numerous hiking trails, the most popular being the Gorge Trail. This easy, 1.5-mile trail provides an up-close view of the falls and leads directly to the base, where the impact of the water creates a refreshing, misty ambiance after the 42-minute hike.

The North Rim Trail and South Rim Trail Loop circle the gorge's spectacular scenery from above. This hike is a bit more challenging, taking about 80 minutes to complete the 2.9-mile route with some steep sections, but the reward is the surrounding landscape, a new vantage point, and the falls! Each of these popular trails is well-maintained and accessible for visitors of all ages. Keep your eyes and ears open for wildlife, like great horned owls, great blue herons, or other woodland birds, along with several plant species, from sugar maples to wildflowers like the ones in the park brochure

In the park, you can explore Cayuga Lake, one of North America's deepest lakes at 435 feet. It is a rejuvenating retreat, ideal for cooling off or enjoying a picnic by the water. However, it's important to note that swimming is only permitted when a lifeguard is present. Fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, and boat rentals and launches are also available. For those planning a longer stay, the park features a campground with tent and RV sites, the perfect setting for an extended escape.

Tips for your visit

New York's Taughannock Falls State Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, and each season has unique perks and beauty. Generally, the most colorful experience can be found during autumn, whereas winter transforms the park into a snowy, picturesque wonderland. Summer and spring are ideal for enjoying the widest range of activities, from swimming to hiking. Ultimately, the best time to visit depends on personal preferences and what one hopes to get from the experience.

The park offers educational programs about the region's history and the natural forces that shaped the landscape to help visitors understand the importance and conservation of the area. If you are a group of 10 or more, you can book a free tour. In addition, Taughannock Falls State Park has historically hosted a series of events throughout the year, including summer concerts since 2013, set against the stunning backdrop of Cayuga Lake. However, since 2022, the park has faced complications that have prevented the planning of further events — perhaps more visitors can help revive this.

Another compelling reason to visit is its relative obscurity compared to Niagara Falls, which sees 20 million tourists yearly compared to Taughannock Falls' 560,000 visitors. That's 97% less crowded! Coming here instead will quite literally and statistically be a more peaceful and relaxing visit. So, if you're a nature enthusiast or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Taughannock Falls State Park is a destination worth exploring.