© 2001 Jon Binder
Ratings (ratings explained)
Ease of Access: 10/10 for main falls, 7/10 for others
Buttermilk Glen, part of Buttermilk Falls State Park, is located just south of the city of Ithaca in the Finger Lakes Region. It contains 10 beautiful waterfalls, as well as countless flumes, cascades, and potholes.
A cascade in the lower portion of Buttermilk Glen
A small falls in the lower portion of Buttermilk Glen
A cascade in the middle portion of Buttermilk Glen
A small falls in the middle portion of Buttermilk Glen
Two-tiered falls in the middle portion of Buttermilk Glen
A falls in the upper portion of Buttermilk Glen
A cascade in the upper portion of Buttermilk Glen
From the city of Ithaca, travel south on NYS route 13/34/96 for about 1 and a half miles, to the main entrance of the park on the left (east) side of the road. There is a large sign here; it is hard to miss. A couple of trails begin here at the main parking lot, including the Gorge Trail, which is the one you should take. An admission fee is charged in season.
To reach the upper parking area, take NY 96B south of Ithaca, past Ithaca College, to King Road. Here, turn right, and follow the signs to the upper entrance, which is right before the bridge over Buttermilk Creek on your left.
The Gorge Trail leads three-fourths of a mile, and up 500 feet, from the main entrance to the upper parking area. With two cars, it is possible to make this a one-way hike, either ascending or descending the trail. This is a particularly attractive option when time is limited, or physical abilities are lacking.
Starting from the bottom, the trail begins at the foot of Buttermilk Falls. This falls (not pictured) is the highest and most visited of all the falls in the park. Only a few steps from the parking area, this long, inclined falls flows directly into a dammed up pool that is a popular swimming area in the summer.
Crossing a bridge below Buttermilk Falls, the Gorge Trail immediately begins climbing a set of stairs right next to the waterfall. The climbing stops briefly for a look at the top portion of Buttermilk Falls. This is followed by a nice view into the Cayuga Inlet valley, more climbing, and finally a nice little falls. A brief level section connects this little cascade with a beautiful small falls that is in a wonderful setting.
Climbing up more stairs next to this last falls, the trail passes several cascades that warrant frequent stopping. Before continuing your climb here, stray a little off the trail on a narrow footpath which leads to yet another, very beautiful little waterfall.
Eventually, a fairly large pool culminates in a wonderful, two-tiered falls. After this, an impressive spire of rock, called the Pinnacle, looms over the trail. Especially in this area, Buttermilk Creek is full of several interesting potholes and interesting eroded rock formations.
The last falls features water running along the surface of a sheet of rock, before plunging into the pool below. Finally, a flat section is traversed, featuring some beautifully sculpted little cascades, including the one at the top of this page. The end of the trail is reached by climbing a last set of stairs to King Road and the upper parking area.
Overall, Buttermilk Glen provides spectacular scenery and a great swimming hole. Of course, this also means it usually has very large crowds. Be aware that the trails in the park are closed from mid Novermber to early May, due to dangerous icy conditions.
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Page Last Revised: February 13, 2002