Where to start? Close to home? Overseas? At a good local bistro? Perhaps at one of the Finger Lake’s many cideries. I have lived here all my life, and never knew that so very many brands of hard cider are made within a few miles of here.
I think that the best way to start is with the icon of the Finger Lakes, the 215’ Taughannock Falls and the gorge the river has carved since its beginnings near the end of the Ice Age. You can visit the falls from the base, drive to the overlook or take one of the many trails on both sides of the gorge. No matter what your choice, you are assured of views that can only be found here.
The weather determines the falls’ mood and can range from a trickle in the driest parts of summer to a rushing torrent after the remnants of a hurricane blast through. The falls are never the same twice. It is also notoriously difficult to photograph due to the shadows from the sun cutting their way diagonally across the gorge. Careful attention to the weather and the time of day you visit will help you a lot. More on this later.
The walk to the base of the falls is not stressful – about a half mile on a path with fairly level footing. Cross a small bridge, and there it is – over 200’ of beautiful, narrow waterfall in a grand circular canyon of its making. The roar of the water lets you know it means business, even though it looks fairly benign. People have not taken the falls seriously and have been pulled out from 55’ deep. under the falls. Swim somewhere else.
Another place to view the falls is the overlook. You can find lots of free parking in addition to the spectacular view of the falls. A trail leads up from the overlook via the north canyon wall for a closer look. Watch your step!
Further up the canyon is the stone bridge that marks the upper end of the state park. The canyon above the falls is also a sight worth taking in. It swerves left and right along with the water that carved it over the eons.
This is only one of the Finger Lakes State Parks. Watkins Glen is probably the most famous because of the racetrack, but the glen came first. Steep steps, a spiral cave staircase, a walk under the falls – they are all fascinating to see and marvel at.