Dan and Hannah Hike to Taughannock Falls in Ithaca, New York

Tau Ithaca map

Hannah and I have come to New York to spend the weekend in Ithaca with our son Will and his wife Laurel.  While the others sleep in this Saturday morning in late April, I awake to begin my Daily Morning Routine: an hour of stretching and meditating.   Ommmmm.   You see, at the age of 68, years of casual inattention to my posture and overall poor body flexibility have finally caught up with me.

tau max and owen

Owen (3 5/6) supporting Max as Max turns 2

You see, four weeks ago, I picked up our grandsons Owen and Max while they stayed with us for four days while Molly and Tip went hiking in Zion National Park.  By the fourth day I awoke with a stiff neck.  Unable to move my neck right or left without pain, I sought out my friend/physical therapist, Corky Thomson, for some relief.

While reasonably healthy with decent cardio fitness, I have the flexibility of a dining room chair.  It seems that my lack of flexibility was an accident waiting to happen; it wasn’t just lifting the boys but years of neglect to maintaining my flexibility.   Amazing how the pain and the possibility of not being able to be physical active (especially to play Pickleball) gets my attention and calls me to wake up and smell the coffee.

Tau Sadie

Sadie supporting me during my morning stretching

After learning stretching exercises with Corky, I begin each day with neck and shoulder stretches, arms and legs stretches.  Amazingly within a week of her instruction and my commitment, I am indeed more flexible.  It’s becoming my yoga, my California Mellow.  I get it that I have a lifetime of such morning stretching ahead.

ATM 8A  W and L at falls

Will and Laurel at Taughannock Falls

Tau trail map

Ithaca, New York is blessed with fantastic waterfall hiking at its doorstep.  On previous trips to central New York, with Will and Laurel, Hannah and I have hiked the Buttermilk Falls and Treman State Park Trails right in town.  (Go to the categories link to the left of this blog, then click on New York Ithaca area to read those blogs.)

Tau 1AA H at TF sign

It’s a twenty-minute drive from their place to the southern reaches of their own personal Finger Lake, Cayuga. Today we’ll hike in Taughannock Falls State Park (pronounced Ta-gan-ick).  On this last day of April, we have two distinct hiking advantages.  One, the park is happy with people but not mobbed.  Two, the trees have not leafed out so we can see views from above to the Taughannock River and later to the Taughannock Falls themselves that we wouldn’t see in May.

Tau 1A  steps up as trail begins

Parking at the trailhead is limited to 30 cars, but across the street there are many more spaces.  Beginning the climb to the gorge rim on granite steps, we find the climbing easy and invigorating.  Pairing off, Hannah talks with Will in front while I talk up our daughter-in-law Laurel.  We’ve hiked and spent so much time with Laurel over the past few years that the conversation flows and life is good when your child marries well.


Very shortly, we are at the top of the gorge on the South Rim Trail, paralleling the cliff to our right.   At the rim the hike is on level, hard packed dirt, such that our nearly four-year-old grandson Owen could hike most of it while his two-year-old brother Max would not be far behind.

ATM 2B  D and H at falls with blue elephant

Rocking along the wide trail we come to an overlook to check out the Taughannock River below.  The 52F morning of bright sun makes it shorts weather.  The South Rim goes past the 215 foot falls nearly two miles from the trailhead to a walking bridge that crosses to the other side.   At the turnaround we are at a country road parking area that allows folks a full view of the waterfall, no matter how little or much they want to hike.

ATM 5 H looking out to Cayuga Lake

Hannah on the Rim Trail looking out to Cayuga Lake

Hikers are protected at the steep sides of the gorge by four-foot fencing on a trail that today can only be described as delightful.  At the falls, we descend some 30 feet to a full frontal view of the Taughannock Falls.   Here at the falls, there is again ample parking for folks who just want to take in the view.


Paired off again, we four descend the descending trail back to the trailhead. Nearly four miles after our start, we arrive back at the river bottom.

Tau 1  H W L at sign at start of trail

From this point at the trailhead, we now head on the nearly level twenty-foot-wide Gorge Trail along the river to the base of the Taughannock Falls.   The Gorge Trail is far busier than the Rim Trails but in an early spring way.  Walking three quarters of a mile to the falls we are dwarfed by the high slate and shale cliffs above us.

ATM 8C  D H W at falls

Crossing the river, we are within 200 yards of the end of the trail.  There we are happily rinsed by the mist from the falls.  This video captures the falls in action.

The gentle walk back to the trailhead ¾ of a mile away gives us a six-mile morning of hiking joy.

By the way, you may have noticed a blue elephant in some of our pictures.  Having forgotten Owen’s stuffed animal Woodstock, we have at least brought Max’s Blue Elephant to travel with us as our Flat Stanley (click on this link to learn more about the young man of children’s literature) to document our travels.

tau flat stanley

Parents with school age children will know Flat Stanley (a cardboard cutout) as a young man who sees the world and has his picture taken at the various spots when his handlers (anyone who travels) see the world.  We plan to take Woodstock and Blue Elephant to the waterfalls, mountaintops, and bluffs of these our United States to take a part of Owen and Max with us when we travel.