If you are planning an RV road trip to central New York, Buttermilk Falls State Park is a must-see destination! This state park is located in the Finger Lakes region, less than five miles south of the college town of Ithica, NY. This gorgeous state park will dazzle you with mystifying waterfalls, majestic wetlands, and enchanting woodlands. The park is named after its most popular attraction, the 165-foot tall Buttermilk Falls, the waters of which flow into the well known Cayuga Lake, just to the north of Ithica. Buttermilk Falls is just one of ten cascading waterfalls situated within the park, each of which is breathtaking.
There are plenty of activities to get you out of the RV and into the great outdoors. Buttermilk Falls State Park features miles of scenic hiking trails, as well as the opportunity to take a refreshing swim in a natural pool during the summer months. Anglers enjoy snagging bass and trout in these beautiful waters as well. You don't have to do it all in one day either since Buttermilk Falls State Park offers a well-maintained campground for smaller RVs, trailers, and tents that is pet and family-friendly. So whether you want to enjoy a peaceful summer picnic or explore the beautiful falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park is a perfect RV destination in NY.
Falls State Park is located just outside of Ithaca, New York. NY-13 leads straight to the park, making travel to the park easy enough for even larger vehicles or those towing trailers. Although it is simple enough to get trailers and big rigs to the camping grounds, only smaller vehicles, up to 20 feet, have enough space to park at the campsites themselves.
You'll also need to use caution driving inside the park since many of the local roads are narrow, hilly, and wooded. You could always opt to bring along a tow vehicle, which would make it easier to get around inside the park and the surrounding area.
You can enter the park in two places, at the Upper Park Entrance or the Lower Park Entrance. There are three parking lots available situated along Buttermilk Creek. The largest parking lot is located near Lake Treman and should have plenty of room for both larger and smaller vehicles. Once you park the rig, the best way to see all the waterfalls and amazing natural features the park has to offer is by traveling on foot along the hiking trails.
Buttermilk Falls State Park offers a cozy campground with 25 sites open to smaller RVs, trailers, and tents. Each site has a gravel pad that is shaded by the surrounding woodlands. Large rigs won't find enough room here since the maximum vehicle length is 20 feet, but there are several private campgrounds in Tomkins County that may be able to accommodate larger vehicles. This campground is the perfect rustic retreat for those wanting to get in touch with nature since no hookups are provided, but there are centrally located modern bathrooms and hot showers that service the campgrounds. Generators are allowed, but only between 9 AM and 11 AM and 5 PM and 9 PM. Your furry friend is welcome to accompany you to Buttermilk Falls State Park, but must be on a six-foot or shorter leash and attended to at all times. Dogs are prohibited from visiting designated swimming beaches.
Those who are interested in learning about the unique geology of the park can take a self-guided geology tour with an unusual origin. This self-guided tour was actually created in 2016 by a collaboration between local students from South Hill Elementary School and local scientific experts as a way to encourage sightseers to learn more about the natural features of the park. Over a dozen geological and historical points of interest are featured, including items like the masonry steps, Pulpit Falls, and Pinnacle Rock. You can ask park staff for more details, or simply access the tour by downloading the PocketSights Tour Guide app on your GPS enabled cellular device. While this activity is available year-round, some of the features may be easier to see during portions of the off-season, when water levels are lower and less plant coverage masks the ground.
There are several spots to enjoy a serene picnic during your RV trip near the Finger Lakes region, most of which have spectacular views of cascading waterfalls and rocky gorges. If you want to enjoy a quieter picnic close Lake Treman, there is a picnic area located just off the trailhead for the Lake Treman Trail. Another popular picnic area is nearby Buttermilk Falls, where there are several comfortable picnicking spots so you can grab a quick lunch before hitting the trail to the falls. All of the picnic areas at Buttermilk Falls State Park are equipped with restrooms, and there are several parking spots nearby for your convenience.
Individuals who enjoy spotting wild animals in nature will be thrilled at the variety of wildlife that can be found in Buttermilk Falls State Park. Many different types of wildlife call these majestic forests home. There are large populations of white-tailed deer, beavers, coyotes, and red and gray foxes, along with a variety of smaller animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and stoats (short-tailed weasels). If you stay up until after dark, you may even catch a glimpse of the brown bats that inhabit the trees. The Larch Meadow Trail is one of the best places to spot these woodland critters.
Don't forget to pack your best camera and binoculars in your rig since there are lots of things to photograph besides the waterfalls. The gorges and cliff faces in this area are a sight worth capturing on film, and the state park is teeming with all sorts of flora and fauna. The beech, sycamore, maple, and hemlock trees that grow here make fantastic subjects for photographs. If you remember to pack your macro lenses, you may be able to capture the perfect shot of a smaller subject. April is a particularly great time to get a shot of early blooming wildflowers such as the yellow trout lily or the Jack-in-the-pulpit. Spring is also a great time to get that flawless image of an interesting caterpillar, such as the gypsy moth caterpillar or the wooly bear caterpillar, which later develops into the Isabella tiger moth.
Anglers love the Finger Lakes region, and the fishing opportunities at Buttermilk Falls State Park can stand with the rest of them. Buttermilk Creek and Lake Treman are well-known spots in the area for trout. Every year more than 1,000 brown trout are stocked in these waters, which offers over four miles of public creekside fishing. If you're lucky, you might catch a trout that's over a foot long! Whether you're fishing for tonight's dinner or just for fun, this state park is a great place for anglers of all ability levels.
There's nothing like taking a dip in a natural pool nearby a towering waterfall to make your break from the summer sun spectacular. Buttermilk Falls State Park offers swimming in this natural oasis from June to early September, as long as lifeguards are available. The kids will love splashing in the cool waters, and you can follow it up with a serene picnic at the nearby picnic area. Don't forget to pack hats and sunscreen in your camper. You'd be surprised how much sun exposure you can get in this region even when woodlands surround you.
If you only have time to do one thing during your RV trip to Buttermilk Falls State Park, make it a hike to the waterfalls. The two most popular trails, the Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail, make a moderately challenging loop that leads adventurers to explore the park's many waterfalls. From the Gorge Trail trailhead, it's an easy jaunt to of less than a mile to reach the mystifying Buttermilk Falls. If you prefer to experience the solitude of the wetlands and woodlands, you can hike along the one-mile Larch Meadow Trail, a simple nature walk that is known to be one of the best areas to spot birds and other wildlife. The Larch Meadow Trail is also the best spot to view wildlife and go birding.
Birding enthusiasts who are visiting Buttermilk Falls State Park will have the chance to see a plethora of birds in this forest, particularly during the annual migration around mid-May. You are likely to spot many varieties of geese and ducks floating on the waters, as well as birds that dine on fish, such as herons, osprey, and even the double-breasted cormorant, a threatened species. The trees harbor a number of different songbirds, including juncos, goldfinches, and nuthatches, as well as several varieties of woodpecker, while wild turkeys, grouse, and pheasants scuttle along in the grasses.