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The Best Waterfalls for Families to Visit in NY and NJ

The Best Waterfalls for Families to Visit in NY and NJ

Find out the best waterfalls in NY and NJ to explore with your brood this spring.


Sure, Niagara Falls is a sight to be seen in upstate New York. You do have other options though. Both New Jersey and New York boast numerous waterfalls, offering breathtaking views and a welcome respite from the heat. Most falls sit near hiking trails or in state parks, making them great spots for a spring excursion with the family. See below for our picks of the best places to see these magnificent works of nature. Just always check with parks in advance for their COVID protocols.

The Best Waterfalls in NY for Families to Visit

1. Croton Falls

Croton Gorge Park, Route 129, Cortlandt

Approximate drive from NYC: 1½ hours

This 97-acre property at the base of the Croton Dam is one of the best waterfalls in NY. Get breathtaking views of the dam and its spillway. Fishing, picnicking, and hiking are also fun activities to do here. In the winter, you can go cross-country skiing and sledding.

Why we like it: This site also has a playground.

2. Letchworth State Park

1 Letchworth State Park, Castile
Approximate drive from NYC: 5½ hours

This 17-mile-long park is often called the “Grand Canyon of the East” thanks to the 600-foot, deep-river gorge that runs the park’s length. You’ll find three waterfalls along the Genesee River: Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and Upper Falls, which are all located close to one another.

Why we like it: Yes, it’s a New York state park. But it boasts amenities like lodging, fine and casual dining, and seasonal outdoor activities that make it feel like a national park.

3. Watkins Glen State Park

1009 N. Franklin St., Watkins Glen

Approximate drive from NYC: 5 hours
If your family enjoys camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking, you’ll love this park in the Finger Lakes. You’ll find plenty of trails and beautiful scenery. If camping isn’t your thing, the park is near the edge of town. So, you can enjoy the park by day and the town by night.

Why we like it: Swim in the park’s Olympic-sized pool. Smaller ones can enjoy the large wading pool. Plus, you’ll find showers and restrooms.

 

RELATED: Where to Go Fishing with Your Family in New York

4. Niagara Falls State Park

332 Prospect St., Niagara Falls

Approximate drive from NYC: 7 hours

America’s oldest state park brings you closer than you ever thought possible to the Niagara Falls. This famous waterfall is the result of four Great Lakes feeding into the Niagara River before all the water empties into Lake Ontario. In the spring, enjoy the more than 400 acres of landscape. Breathe in the smell of blossoming gardens and bask in plentiful sunshine. Take a hike or look for birds.

Why we like it: You can visit any time of year, making it a park for all seasons. Plus, you’ll find plenty of attractions and tours like Maid of the Mist, an aquarium, and an observation tower.

5. High Falls Gorge

4761 New York State Route 86, Wilmington

Approximate drive from NYC: 6 hours

High Falls Gorge is a 22-acre, privately owned nature park. You’ll find safe trail access for all ages to an otherwise inaccessible area, with four Adirondack waterfalls cascading over rocks into a deep crevice carved a billion years ago. In the shadow of Whiteface Mountain, take a nature walk to view the famous AuSable River as it cascades over ancient granite cliffs.

Why we like it: Sturdy bridges, walkways and groomed walking trails provide safe access to breathtaking Adirondack views and scenic photographic vantage points.

 



The Best Waterfalls in NJ for Families to Visit

1. Hacklebarney Falls

Hacklebarney State Park, 119 Hacklebarney Road, Long Valley

Approximate drive from NYC: 1½ hours

In the 19th century, this park was a mined iron ore site. Today, it’s a favorite spot for hikers, picnickers, and anglers—and you can see several waterfalls from the high trails. The park boasts rare and endangered plants, wildlife such as deer and fox, and more than 100 bird species.

Why we like it: Picnic tables are set in scenic spots along the ravine, so you can enjoy a nice view during your lunch break.

2. Paterson Great Falls

72 McBride Ave., Paterson
Approximate drive from NYC: Under an hour

The Great Falls of the Passaic River reaches heights of 77 feet. It’s the second-most-powerful waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The views here are so stunning that Great Falls inspired Alexander Hamilton’s vision of Paterson, America’s first industrial city. The park’s outdoor areas are open year-round.

Why we like it: An observation area in Mary Ellen Kramer Park takes you within a few hundred feet of the falls. Don’t worry; stone walls and metal railings keep you and the kids safe.

 

3. Boonton Falls

Grace Lord Park, Boonton

Approximate drive from NYC: 1 hour

Many people don’t realize that Boonton is home to an amazing waterfall. (Years ago, the falls generated power and attracted industry that is now gone). The picturesque spot sits off Main Street in downtown Boonton. You’ll find a small park, a river, and picnic benches as well as hiking trails along both sides of the river. You’ll encounter a large rock formation that’s fun to climb and offers a great view of the tumbling water.

Why we like it: This spot is somewhat of a hidden gem, so it doesn’t tend to get as crowded as more popular waterfalls.
 

4. Tillman Ravine

Tilman Road, Branchville

Approximate drive from NYC: 1½ hours

Tillman Ravine is a unique natural area that sits in Stokes State Forest. Take in the beauty of the forest, whether you’re at the top of a mountain ridge (the crest of Sunrise Mountain is one of its most frequently visited sites) or exploring Tillman Ravine’s rushing stream and steep cliffs. Several trails are near the ravine, giving you views of various waterfalls.

Why we like it: Most paths leading to the ravine are shady, making it a perfect outing for a sunny day. Plus, you’ll find two restrooms along the trail.
 

5. Hemlock Falls
South Mountain Reservation, 510 Route 510, South Orange

Approximate drive from NYC: Under an hour

South Mountain Reservation is 2,100 acres of public land that contains 50 miles of hiking trails. You’ll find hills, rivers, and woodlands, as well as the dramatic and scenic 25-foot Hemlock Falls. Travel the stone steps to climb to the top of the waterfall and then sit on the benches as you enjoy the beauty. On a clear day, you can even see New York City from the park.

Why we like it: The recreation complex includes hiking trails, the Turtle Back Zoo, adventure course paddle boats, fairy trail, paddle boats, miniature golf, and a playground.

RELATED: The Best Waterparks in the NYC Area


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Stacey Feintuch

Author: Stacey Feintuch is a freelance writer for print and online publications. She has written for ReadersDigest.com, BestofNJ.com, K health, The Boca Raton Observer magazine, The Bump, Care.com, Healthline, Highlights for Kids, HealthyWomen, and other outlets. She has a BA in journalism from The George Washington University and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She grew up in Morris County, NJ, and currently lives in Bergen County, NJ. A mom to two boys, you'll find her at the baseball diamond on the weekends. See More

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