Fall Creek Gorge and Ithaca Falls

Fall Creek Gorge and Ithaca Falls

By: Len Dawson

Fall Creek Gorge is one of Ithaca’s prettiest gorges. Although it gets less attention than Ithaca’s other gorges because it is off the beaten path, there is plenty to see and do along the length of the gorge. Wharton movie studios, located where nearby Stewart Park is today, filmed silent movies in this gorge, including one with a real trolley car plummeting into the gorge from the Stewart Avenue Bridge.

Ithaca Falls Gorge

Ithaca Falls from the Lake Street Bridge by G. Knight

These directions sound tricky because the road signs are less than helpful, but those who persevere will be rewarded with breathtaking views. If you’re traveling south on Route 13, take the exit for Route 34 North, Auburn and Stewart Park. Follow the signs for Route 34 North, but instead, turn right (south) at the “T” onto East Shore Drive, which becomes Lake Street.

If you’re traveling north, take the exit for Route 34 North, Auburn, and turn right (south) at the end of the ramp onto East Shore Drive, which becomes Lake Street. No matter which direction you’re coming from, follow the road that goes behind the Ithaca schools.

Soon after you pass the Ithaca Junior and Senior High Schools, you will see Ithaca Falls on your left. To stop and see the falls, look for a gravel driveway on your left just after you cross the bridge. Be aware that the path from the parking lot to the gorge is a little steep. It may be easier to walk out to Lake Street and take the trail into the gorge that starts near the Lake Street Bridge.

To see the rest of the gorge, proceed south on Lake Street and up Gun Hill. Half way up the hill on the left you will see an old smoke stack on the former site of the Ithaca Gun Company, which made world-famous shotguns for over a century and was, at one time, powered by Fall Creek.

Continue up the hill, and turn left onto University Avenue and then left onto Stewart Avenue at the “T” in the road. You will pass over the Stewart Avenue Bridge. Immediately after the bridge, take a right onto Fall Creek Drive.

Beebe Lake

Sightseers looking for an easy and scenic stroll can proceed to Beebe Lake. To do so, continue up Fall Creek Drive, and turn right onto Thurston Avenue.

Beebe Lake and the West End Footbridge from the Thurston Avenue Bridge


Beebe Lake and the West End Footbridge
from the Thurston Avenue Bridge
by L. Dawson

There is limited paid parking on the left just before you cross another bridge over the gorge. From there, you can park and stroll around Beebe Lake.

There are footbridges on both ends of Beebe Lake, and the walking path around Beebe Lake is easy, pleasant, and picturesque.

For additional parking options, cross the Thurston Avenue Bridge and turn left onto Forest Home Drive. You may find parking available on your immediate left. Note, parking is restricted on weekdays, but you can park unrestricted for free on weekends.

Fall Creek Suspension Bridge

For a more ambitious walk, park in the small lot on Fall Creek Drive to walk the suspension bridge that spans the gorge. It is also worth the walk back to the Stewart Avenue Bridge for views of Ithaca and the gorge.

From the parking area, take the suspension bridge across the gorge above the old hydro plant. There is a walking trail on the south side of the bridge. It can be muddy and slippery at times, but the view is always scenic. If you exit the south side of the gorge from the suspension bridge, check out the fine collections at the Johnson Museum of Art, which is just across the road.

Downstream View of Fall Creek Gorge from Suspension Bridge

Fall Creek Suspension Bridge and Johnson Museum

View from Stewart Avenue Bridge

Looking downstream from the
Suspension Bridge by L. Dawson

The Suspension Bridge and
Johnson Museum by L. Dawson

Looking upstream from
Stewart Avenue Bridge by L. Dawson

From the museum, continue uphill along the south side of the gorge, turning left onto Thurston Avenue to cross another bridge. The Thurston Avenue Bridge affords views of Fall Creek Gorge to the west and Beebe Lake to the east. 

Beebe Lake by L. Dawson

Beebe Lake from the West End Footbridge by L. Dawson

As you cross the Thurston Avenue Bridge, you enter the campus of Cornell University.

If you’re hungry, look for Louie’s Lunch Wagon, a local landmark for nearly 100 years.If they’re serving that day, their van will be parked on Thurston Avenue near the bridge.

Botanical Garden and Arboretum at Cornell Plantations

 If you’re taking the tour when flowers are in season, be sure to see both the botanical garden and the arboretum at Cornell Plantations.

Take an immediate left onto Forest Home Drive after crossing the Thurston Avenue Bridge. Take your first right onto Plantations Road, then your first left onto Comstock Knoll Drive, where you’ll find the Cornell Botanical gardens and a gift shop.

Fall Creek near Cornell Plantations by Len Dawson
Fall Creek near Cornell
Plantations by L. Dawson

From there, you can take Plantations Road to the arboretum, but if you’d prefer a more scenic route, return to Forest Home Drive, turning right to follow it through the quaint little village of Forest Home.

After crossing a one-lane bridge, turn right at the “T” to stay on Forest Home Drive.

You will cross another one-lane bridge at the other end of the village. Stay on Forest Home Drive by taking an immediate left after crossing it. Turn right onto Weeping Willow Circle to explore the extensive Cornell Plantations.

Retrace your route back to Beebe Lake taking Forest Home Drive, which becomes University Avenue after it crosses Thurston Avenue. Continuing down the hill past the Johnson Museum, turn left onto Stewart Avenue. Note the original brick street paving. You’ll cross yet another bridge, this one over Cascadilla Gorge.

Eateries along the way

If you’ve worked up an appetite, there are many ethnic dining opportunities in Collegetown. Take a left onto Williams Street right after you cross the Stewart Avenue Bridge. Then, take a right onto Eddy Street and an immediate left onto Dryden Road. From there, it’s one block to College Ave. You’ll find both upscale shops and a variety of dining opportunities in the area between Stewart Avenue and College Avenue.

To get back to Route 13 from Collegetown, take Buffalo Street down the hill from either Eddy Street or Stewart Avenue. Buffalo Street intersects Route 13 on the west side of Ithaca.

You'll pass Moosewood Restaurant on the left on your way back to Route 13. This world famous eatery is located in the basement of the Dewitt Mall. Park downtown near the intersection of Buffalo and Cayuga Streets.

 

Header Photos by: G. Knight