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Buttermilk Falls State Park Camping

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More About Trail Conditions

Trail conditions change frequently. You can help by reporting problems you see. But please read How to Report Trail Conditions before submitting your report.

Trail Conditions are posted when reported and verified. Conditions are rectified if and when volunteers are available.

The FLT is a primitive footpath. If you are looking for a smooth, easy walk in the park then you might prefer a park for your walking. On the other hand, if you are looking to challenge yourself and get away from engineered experiences, then come to the Finger Lakes Trail.

Nevertheless, we want the condition of the Finger Lakes Trail to be the best it can be. Every section of the trail is maintained by stewards and trail adopters who are members of the FLTC and affiliate clubs and organizations. These people volunteer their time because they care about the Finger Lakes Trail. They also care about your experience on the trail. They visit their section of trail several times each year to look for problems: trail erosion, litter, vegetation infringement on the trail, fallen trees and branches, blazes and signs that need to be replaced or refreshed, and infrastructure that needs repair. In short, they look for things that will interfere with your wilderness hiking experience.

Whether you are a new or experienced hiker, if you find a problem on the trail, let us know! Visit the Trail Condition Reporting page for more information.

How To Use This Map

The interactive maps may not display correctly in some browsers. For best results, use Firefox, Chrome, Edge, or Safari. If you are having trouble, try the segmented version of the map here.

This is an overview map of the Finger Lakes Trail System. It shows tracks of the main trail, branch trails, loops and spurs. The track colors represent the blaze colors for the branch trails, loops, spurs, and sections of the main FLT not blazed in white. Most of the main FLT is depicted in black & white for better visibility on various map backgrounds, but blazed in white on the ground. Trail closures and recommended bypass routes are depicted as shown at right. Hover over a track to display the name and length. Tracks colored magenta and labeled Non-FLT show approximate location only and may not represent the condition and location of the trail on the ground.

When you zoom in on a trail section, trailheads, notices, and important infrastructure such as lean-tos are also shown.

  • Pan and zoom with the mouse or by using the controls in the upper left corner.
  • Control the map background using the controls in the upper right corner.
  • Click on the main trail and branch tracks to display an elevation profile of that section of the trail.

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Bottom Half Of The Gorge Trail Descent

The bottom section of Gorge trail takes you past intriguing rock formations such as Pulpit Rock, which do make you wonder how they survived.

When a family with young kids who came hurtling around the stone staircase and gasped at the gorge, we guessed the rest of the trail might not be as impressive.

In truth, the bottom half is less dramatically and visually stunning as this top, so plan to spend more time at the upper section.

Although the gorge is slightly less dramatic, we dont want to do the rest of the trail an injustice. There are still lovely wispy waterfalls and ledges to enjoy as you descend the final sections.

Notice how much more smooth and rounded the creek is here when compared to higher up?

You will pass yet more waterfalls plunging softly into emerald green pools below.

In Spring and early Summer, these portions would be far more interesting as deeper and more powerful falls crashed through the creek.

The final few falls on Gorge trail cascade onto wide ledges which would certainly spray the path when in full flow.

When we visited, families with young children were wading out onto the ankle deep shelves at the bottom of these gentle ledge falls.

The trail finally ends with an overlook half way up Buttermilk Falls for you to appreciate its full size and angled slope from close up.

Hiking The Gorge Trail And Rim Trail

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There are several trails in the park. The gorge trail is a must-see. You really cant hike this park and not take advantage of the gorge trail. Sneakers are a must on this trail. The footpath can be extremely slippery and muddy at certain places, such as on the stairs, and unfortunately, I was wearing flip-flops, so I found certain areas a tad precarious.

It was a wet spring/summer, so its hard to tell if this is normal for the park or due to the unusually wet weather. The way the trail is designed, the water runs off the sides of the cliffs and onto the trail, so it will probably be wet any time it has recently rained. The rim trail and the bear trail are trails you want to make sure you have some water with you on a hot day. It is not as cool on these trails as it is in the gorge.

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Best Time To Visit Buttermilk Falls State Park

As weve mentioned many times, Buttermilk Falls State Park will be extremely busy on weekends between April and October, particularly during holidays. From experience, we recommend staying clear on these days unless its the only time you can make your visit.

Best time of Year
  • Spring Best time of year for heavily flowing waterfalls and comfortable hiking conditions.
  • Summer Extremely busy and hot but the best time for swimming and more daylight hours.
  • Fall Perfect time of year for colorful foliage and comfortable hiking conditions.
  • Winter Gorge trail closes in Winter but the rest of the park is open.

Note: The only NY Finger Lakes State Park gorge trail open in Winter is Taughannock Falls State Park.

Best time of Day
  • Morning Best time to visit, trails are always much quieter right after the parks open.
  • Midday Busiest time of day, crowded on gorge trail and not recommended.
  • Afternoon Late afternoon good time to visit, cooler and fewer people around.

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What Else Is There To Do In The Area

This area of New York is beautiful and offers several close state parks if you want more hiking. I would highly recommend Watkins Glen State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park.

There is also a wonderful cidery in the area who specializes in sparkling cider. Check out Finger Lakes Cider House at their website. You have to try the Honeoye !

My husband and our beer-drinking friends also enjoyed the Ithaca Beer Company. We sat outside and the rolling green hills created a beautiful view for me while my husband drank a few beers of various flavors. .

Cayuga Lake is also RIGHT there. If you finish your hike and have some time, I highly suggest relaxing by the lake. We brought tubes to float in and a few adult beverages and had a relaxing afternoon one day we were there. Luna enjoyed swimming in the lake and we were able to kick back and relax!

The Finger Lakes Region is a beautiful place and I cant wait to return!

Until you get there, subscribe to my email list below so you can stay up to date on my travels!

Grind Out The Steep Rim Trail Ascent

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Begin your hike up Rim trail in the main parking lot not far from the block of restrooms.

Were going to upfront with you here, hiking up Rim trail is surprisingly grueling and not a huge amount of fun! Its only a short hike in total but you have to gain 600 feet in 3/4 mile.

Stick with it though, returning on Gorge trail is worth the initial effort.

It was hot and humid the afternoon we scrambled up Rim trail at Buttermilk Falls and those pools down in the gorge were looking mighty tempting!

You will walk along muddy dirt paths through sun blocking canopy as you gain elevation and follow the creekside. Be careful of tree roots and large stones sticking out of the ground.

The trail starts steeper and gradually flattens out as you get higher. There are a few areas you can see down into the gorge and people wading in shallow water but you cant really get any good photographs from the Rim trail. Poor angles, dim light and overgrown vegetation prevent clean views.

Note: There is a bridge you can cross onto Gorge trail to cut the hike short but you will miss the best section of Gorge trail.

Eventually you will reach a twisting road corkscrewing its way through the forest. Upper entrance is directly across the road but you will cross the bridge over Buttermilk Creek to your right instead.

Bear Trail to Treman Lake is to your left, but we will take the right onto Gorge Trail for the purpose of this walkthrough.

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Camping At Buttermilk Falls State Park

There are 25 tent sites, 18 cabins and 1 pavilion at Buttermilk Falls State Park. The 73 person Pavilion is located at Upper entrance and costs US$ 100 per day to hire.

Tent camping Reservations for campsites can be booked up to 9 months in advance and each site can be booked for up to 2 weeks. Campground season is mid April through mid October.

Nightly fee for camping is between US$ 18-28 per night .

Be aware that non NYS residents will pay a further US$ 5 per night.

More information about camping at the park.

Cabins During off season, cabins can be booked on a 2 nightly basis but in peak season cabins can only be booked a 7 night basis. Cabins are available between end of April and beginning of November.

Weekly fee for cabins is between US$ 238-400 .

Calculating nightly cost for cabins is challenging. You will pay 1/4 of the total weekly price per night, but you have to stay for minimum of 2 nights.

So for 2 nights you will pay half the price of a week.

In peak season you have to book for 7 nights but in off season you will pay US$ 119 for a 2 night stay.

We hope that makes sense!

Plus, non NYS residents will pay an additional US$ 7 per night / US$ 28 per week.

More information about booking cabins.

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Buttermilk Falls State Park Map

  • Dark Green Hotel recommendations in and around Ithaca, NY
  • Light Red Restaurant recommendations in and around Ithaca, NY
  • Purple On site tent / RV / cabin accommodation and pavilion
  • Blue Gorge / Rim plus Bear & Lake Treman trails begin and end
  • Brown Bathroom location at main entrance
  • Parking lots at each entrance
  • Orange All points of interest for hiking, waterfalls and swimming
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Notes On Other Gps Brands

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Delorme Units: These data also work with the Delorme GPS units PN-20 and PN-40, if you also have Delorme Topo software. However, expect loss of track and waypoint attributes with these and other GPS units that are not in the above recommended list.

Other Units: These GPX files may be compatible with other GPS units, but we have tested these files only with the recommended units listed above. If you are using another unit, it is up to you to determine that your GPS unit can use this GPX data. Before ordering the digital download map files, try downloading this sample GPX file, M09.gpx , to ensure that it is compatible with your hardware and software.

PDF map files available for download from the FLTC On-line Store are geospatial-enabled. This means that the files can be imported into mapping software available for many Apple and Android smart phones and tablets, and soon for Windows Phones.

We have tested our PDF maps with the Avenza PDF Maps Mobile App. Once you have installed this app on your device, you can import the FLTC PDF map into the application.

Then, when you are hiking within the boundaries of the map, you can see your location acording to your devices GPS. You can also do things like:

  • Add placemarks
  • Orient the map using your compass
  • Measure distance and area
  • Search for places on the map

Many of our Local Work Crew members also have their own trail section they maintain.

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Hiking / Walking Trails

Difficulty: The Gorge Trail is moderate to difficult . The Rim trail is longer and as equally challenging.

Standard brown and yellow state park markings, some colored blazes. The trails are clearly defined.

Distance: Our recommended walk covers about 1.5 miles, mostly uphill.

The lower waterfall is located directly adjacent to the North parking lot. It has paved trails and can be accessed by anyone.

To access the Gorge Trail, enter the lower entrance to the park and cross the bridge to the steep gorge trail on the right-hand side of the waterfall. The gorge trail has numerous stairs and quickly rises in elevation from the parking area. It winds around the numerous waterfalls and passes the Pinnacle Rock, eventually reaching the upper park entrance ¾ of a mile down the trail.

From there, the gorge trail either continues across the road to the Bear Trail, which follows Buttermilk Creek and eventually leads to Lake Treman or crosses the creek onto the Rim Trail which loops around the top of the gorge and leads back to the lower parking area .

The Larch Meadow Trail is a self-guided loop of about one mile. It begins near the ball fields at the lower park. A detailed trail guide is available at the park office.

A Finger Lakes spur trail also ties into the upper reaches of the Lake Treman trail in the north of the park.

Hiking The Other Trails

There are two other trails outside the gorge area, the Lake Treman Trail and Larch Meadow Trail. The Lake Treman Trail takes you around a small lake north of the park, and the Larch Meadow Trail travels through a wetland area. Both areas are excellent for seeing various types of wildlife. The trails in this park offer varying types of sceneries to trek through, offering unique views.

Buttermilk Falls State Park is not really a good place for strollers. You would probably do better with a frame pack child carrier. I also wouldnt recommend having small children running freely in front of you. There are a lot of places they can fall or leave the trail. This park is best for children who have a bit more sense of self-preservation. The trails are not long, but they can be difficult to traverse for people who arent in great shape, as you are climbing in and out of a gorge and there are many steps. Again proper footwear is a must.

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Northwest Ithaca For Easier Access To Taughannock Falls

Staying a night closer to Taughannock Falls means you can drive 20 minutes after Buttermilk Falls and beat the crowds more easily than driving up from Ithaca the next morning.

The Inn at Taughannock Falls is the obvious and most convenient accommodation for Taughannock Falls. The Inn is stunning and located right at the entrance to Taughannock Falls Gorge trail! This has to be your first choice if your budget can stretch.

Dont worry if not, there are other options, including a historic bed & breakfast we stayed at called Glass Magnolia in Interlaken just a few miles from Taughannock. The owners are fantastic and extremely welcoming, plus the homemade breakfast was excellent.

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