Short Walk – Big Payoff

by Sue Freeman

OK, so not everyone thinks going for a long walk is the epitome of fun. Some folks need a bit more incentive to leave the comfort of their home or car to venture down a wooded path where who-knows-what might lurk behind the next bend. A hike might be viewed as boring – especially by the wee ones you’re attempting to extricate from the TV, computer or cell phone. Maybe it would work better if you found a short walk with a big payoff?

Who can resist a waterfall? Actually, “a waterfall” makes it sound like it’s a singular thing. In actuality, waterfalls come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and moods. No two waterfalls are alike. And, the same waterfall changes as the seasons of the year unfold. Some waterfalls are a challenge to reach. But, luckily for the hike-averse out there, many waterfalls in this region are simple to reach by just a short, easy walk.

Of course, start with the ones right in Rochester. Any Rochester area resident who hasn’t walked the Ponte de Rennes Bridge to view the High Falls of the Genesee or strolled through Lower Falls Park to view Lower and Middle Falls, isn’t fit to call themselves a Rochesterian. These torrents are what made Rochester a city, powering early mills and factories. They certainly qualify as short walks with a big payoff.

Only a little further afield, brings some great diversity. A short walk along the paved Erie Canalway Trail in Medina brings you to Medina Falls where Oak Orchard Creek flows under the canal, rounds a bend and plummets 40 feet over a ledge. You get a perfect view from the former canal towpath. Or, pack a lunch and enjoy a meal at the picnic table in the community park where Conesus Creek forms Paper Mills Falls in Avon. Hunt for the millstone that dates back to this area’s paper mill days.

In Honeoye Falls, you can view the town’s namesake as Honeoye Creek forms the Upper Falls. Behold the spectacle from a small parking area along West Main Street. Once enticed by the grandeur of this noisy waterfall, walk the short Zebulon Norton Trail that parallels Honeoye Creek to find Lower Falls. Another Main Street waterfall is in the heart of Phelps. Here, Old Mill Falls still shows remnants of its gristmill days that date back to 1792. More secluded, is Wolcott Falls, where Wolcott Creek leaves an old mill pond, flows under Route 163, then drops about 50 feet from an overhanging ledge.

Scattered across the Finger Lakes region are some other favorites. Ithaca Falls, in Ithaca, is an impressive wall of water. The same goes for Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls. At Tinkers Falls in Truxton you can actually walk behind the waterfall. And finally, a favorite due to its moss and fern-covered, wispy beauty, I have to end with Bucktail Falls in Spafford.

So, drag yourself or that hike-averse other person along on a short walk with the payoff of a beautiful waterfall. Before long you’ll number among those of us who go for walks even when there’s no natural attraction at the end of the trail.

Maps to these waterfalls, and many more, can be found in the Footprint Press guidebook “200 Waterfalls in Central and Western New York – A Finders’ Guide.” Order a copy at or by calling 1-800-431-1579.

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