Five not-to-be missed winter waterfalls
Waterfalls in winter have a special icy beauty. Here are five waterfalls found in state parks that are especially striking in winter.
Taughannock Falls, Mine Kill, Fillmore Glen, Watkins Glen, Letchworth, and, of course, Niagara Falls State Parks boast not-to-be-missed winter waterfalls.
While many visitors enjoy viewing waterfalls in spring and summer, snowy scenes and glittering ice cascades transform these familiar landscapes into magical, other-worldly scenes in winter.
Always be prepared for icy conditions and wear traction devices on your footwear to avoid falls. Microspikes by Hillsound or Kahtoola are the best. Also, avoid wearing cotton and denim when hiking in the winter as they retain moisture and in dire situations, can lead to hypothermia. Always check for accessibility ahead of time before heading out as weather and unforeseen conditions may affect trails.
This 215-foot single-drop waterfall at Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg in the Finger Lakes can be viewed from a lookout above or by following a 0.6-mile trail in from the lower parking area. The towering gorge walls flank you as you easily follow the mostly-level trail that opens to reveal the massive falls.
A short walk from the southern parking area off route 30 brings you to the overlook for the upper section of the 80-foot Mine Kill Falls. Looking down from the deck, you can see how water’s erosive power has carved its path through the rock. A one-mile hike from the same parking area leads you to the lower falls which seem to burst forth from the gorge wall.
The “Grand Canyon of the East” is a treasure chest of waterfalls, with the stars of the show being Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. These massive waterfalls, the tallest at 107 feet, form as the Genesee River forges through the park. Millennia of erosion have left gorge walls as tall as 550 feet. Viewing areas are easily accessed from parking areas. Be cautious of snow and ice.
There is no denying the popularity of the waterfalls here. Steeped in a rich history, and graced with pure natural beauty, American Falls and Horseshoe Falls draw a staggering 12 million visitors each year.
Visitors are able to view the wintry American Falls from limited access to the Cave of the Winds area. A truly incredible sight!
At the convergence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers lies a small state park with several hiking trails and abundant history. A short distance upriver from the park on the Mohawk River side flows extremely water as it roars over Cohoes Falls. These falls top 90 feet high and 1,000 feet wide (to compare: Niagara Falls on the American side is 110 feet high and 830 feet wide). The best views of this spectacle are located just northwest of Peebles Island in Falls View Park and Overlook Park. The latter is open year-round and easily accessible by on-street parking. Falls View Park, with its closer and more impressive views at two different levels, is open May through November.
Waterfalls are one of New York’s most beloved natural treasures. The website, Dig The Falls, lists thousands of waterfalls across the state, while also educating the public on hiking safety, stewardship, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoors Ethics Seven Principles, and responsible use of natural areas.
Thank you to contributor John Haywood , a published author and photographer who has written a number of waterfall and hiking guides, as well as articles for publications and websites. He is the creator of Waterfalls of Upstate New York and a member of Dig The Falls.
Images courtesy of Donna L McCabe.