Toughing It Out With Tourism at Taughannock Falls State Park

Ever wanted to visit the Grand Canyon with your goats but you live in New York on a shoe string budget so that ain’t gonna happen? Visit Taughannock Falls State Park (pronounced “tog” as in Toggenburg, “ha” as in “haha”, and ending with “knock”) to experience a more temperate miniature version of what hiking the bottom of the Grand Canyon is like. However, while the bottom of the real Grand Canyon dissuades the casual tourist because it’s extremely hot, dry, and difficult to reach, Taughannock is an easy walk to a gorgeous waterfall.

So be prepared to meet the many exotic types of tourist you can find in New York state, (who will in turn unfortunately find your goat just as novel). Look out for the day tripping Amish, the tour bus riding orthodox Jews with the braids, massive family gatherings of Mennonites, and expensive camera toting Chinese that will force you to take a picture with them for the folks back home. In fact, if you see any Chinese at all, just run. I am serious about the picture thing.

Location: Taughannock State Park, starting at the end of the park on the edge of Cayuga Lake.

Is it goat approved? This is a great deep snow winter hike because its flat and the road to it plus the trail itself get plowed.  However, this park is second only to Watkins Glen in popularity in the region so it is very busy, very touristy, and it will test your goat’s temperament when it comes to people and dogs to the breaking point. Take no more than 1 goat on this trip. Goats are tolerated at the park, so long as they are on leash and you pick up after them.

How you get there: Getting here is easy. Google the park name for directions, and then take Hwy 89 (which runs along Lake Cayuga and is very scenic) to the down river end of the park that sits on Lake Cayuga’s coast. You want the  small parking lot next to the bridge that 89 crosses over the river on. This parking lot is on the side of 89 away from Cayuga Lake. Go early as this parking lot gets full.

Time for hike: The hike is about 2 miles round trip. This is an out and back hike.

Best season to do this hike: Winter or early spring. Not fall because the leaves attract too many people. Summer is again, way too many tourists. 

Trails to Take
The waterfall in spring
The waterfall in spring

There are several trails in the park, but since you want to get there early in the day then get out before the tourists reach critical mass and the park becomes a black hole of no escape, take the best trail only. The “best” in my opinion is the Gorge Trail. This is a 2 mile round trip hike, but it has its perks despite the short distance.

Start at the trail head at the parking lot and start walking down the big, flat gravel trail that winds into the gorge. This trail will run along the river and is very scenic. Check out the signs on the side of the trail too that talk about the area geography. Once you get down the trail a short ways start looking for steps or cut offs that let you go down to the river. When the water is low you can walk almost the whole way to the falls on the sheet rock the river runs across. Do this. It’s more fun and challenging and the number of tourists is much lower walking down the river bed.

Continue as far as you can, then get back up on the trail when you reach another set of stairs.

The gorge is pretty spectacular for not being the Grand Canyon and all.
The gorge is pretty spectacular for not being the Grand Canyon and all.

The trail dead ends at the waterfall at the end of the gorge. You’ll need to cross a bridge to get to the very end, but be patient and wait till the bridge is clear because people have a terrible habit of trying to cross with 3 uncontrolled dogs on leashes and a passel of kids just as you and your unassuming goat are half way across. In fact, just save up all your patience stores all week for this hike. The waterfall is beautiful, so plan on wasting some time snapping photos and selfies in front of it, then walk back.


  1. This is a major tourist destination. Enter at your own risk!
  2. You may have to pay for parking if you come at certain times of the year. Check the park’s website for more information.
Watch out for snakes in the river. Including the two pictured here.
Watch out for snakes in the river. Including the two pictured here.

In sum: Beauty is worth a little pain isn’t it? Thus a cool gorge and spectacular waterfall should be worth crawling through a few thousand tourists to see.

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