I just returned from another visit to Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca, a true gem among New York state parks. Situated in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region, this park offers so many surprises with its rugged gorges, cascading waterfalls, natural pools, and verdant forests.
I’m going to tell you what you can’t miss at Robert H. Treman State Park from the natural swimming pool to hiking up to the mighty 115-foot Lucifer Falls. This park’s unique ecosystem and landscape, along with its well-maintained facilities, make it an easy outdoor gem with big rewards.
Here is my full guide on what to do, how to get there, and much more! By the way, as a local New Yorker who adores the NY outdoors/Finger Lakes, I rank this park #7 out of my favorite New York State Parks!
Table of Contents
I. What is the History of Robert Treman State Park?
Over the past million years, glaciers from the Ice Age reshaped New York’s geography. As these glaciers moved and melted, they carved basins, formed lakes, and created waterfalls and gorges iconic to the Finger Lakes region today. These glaciers, part of the Pleistocene Epoch, significantly influenced the state’s landscape, creating its unique topographical features. Today, Enfield Creek, flows through Robert H. Treman State Park, feeding into Lucifer Falls and carving out the gorge and waterfalls that make this park so stunning.
So what exactly is a gorge? You’ll hear this word a lot here. A gorge is a deep, narrow canyon or hole with steep sides between mountains or hills, often carved out by a river or creek. In Robert H. Treman State Park, there are two famous gorges: the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ gorge.
- The ‘old’ gorge, found in the lower part of the park, was slowly formed by the constant flow of Enfield Creek over many years. This process gradually eroded the land, creating the gorge’s deep, narrow shape.
- The ‘new’ gorge, located in the park’s upper area, was formed more recently. It came into being when Enfield Creek changed its course and began to erode a new path through the hillside, cutting into the rock and earth to create another gorge.
For hundreds of years, the Cayuga Native Americans lived in the region. But after the European invasion and American Revolution, they were brutally forced out. The European invaders and their descendants started farms and mills in an area that became known as Enfield Falls.
In 1920, Robert and Laura Treman gifted 387 acres of this land to New York State, leading to the creation of Enfield Glen Reservation. This later became part of the Finger Lakes State Parks, overseen by Robert Treman. After he died, the park was renamed in his honor.
II. Map & Basic Information
- Check Park Information: Before your visit, check the official park website for any updates, alerts, or changes in operating hours, especially during different seasons.
- Trail Map: Download this official map with the trails. That, plus using AllTrails, will help you navigate the park’s various trails.
- Packing: Wear comfortable hiking shoes, especially since some areas are slippery when wet. Don’t forget your swimsuit if you’re entering the natural pool!
- Picnicking: The park has designated picnic areas, so consider bringing a picnic to enjoy amidst the beautiful surroundings. Remember, clean as you go!
- Swimming Safety: If you plan on swimming in the designated areas, be aware of water conditions and follow any posted safety guidelines. Swimming is NOT allowed without a lifeguard around!
- Address: 105 Enfield Falls Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850 (Finger Lakes Region)
- Phone Number: (607) 273-3440
- Operating Hours: Year-round, dawn to dusk
III. What to Know When Visiting Robert H. Treman State Park
1. Best Time to Visit Robert H. Treman State Park
While Robert H. Treman State Park is open year-round, the best time to visit for hiking is in the spring and fall. During these periods, the weather is nice and the park offers lush green or vibrant foliage, respectively.
But Summer is amazing for swimming! This is my favorite time! Just know that if you want to go hiking you may have to start early in the morning or deal with some sweat! However, what better way to cool off than jumping in the natural waterfall pool?! In the summer, they even have a lifeguard and jumping board.
While some trails are closed after November, in wintertime, you get to see the lower falls frozen over beautifully.
And if you seek a quieter experience, I strongly suggest avoiding weekends and holidays.
Lastly, keep in mind that the falls are dependent on rain for optimal water flow. So if it hasn’t rained, the cascade might be weak.
2. How to Get to Robert H. Treman State Park
The only way to get around the Finger Lakes and to Robert H. Treman State Park is by car. The nearest big towns are Ithaca (one of the cutest towns in Upstate NY) and Elmira.
NOTE: there is more than one entrance.
- Upper Park Entrance – You can park at either, but the Robert H. Treman State Park’s upper entrance is closer to Lucifer Falls and all of the more iconic highlights, making it a better choice to avoid a long hike!
- Lower Park Entrance – However, if you want to swim at Lower Falls, you’ll need to park by the Lower Park Entrance which is just minutes from the natural swimming pool.
But if you do the entire loop hike (rim trail up and gorge trail down) you can enjoy it all while getting a nice hike in!
3. Park Entrance Admission and Fees
Like most New York State parks, Robert H. Treman State Park charges a vehicle entrance fee. These are priced at $9 for cars, $35 for non-commercial buses, and $75 for commercial bus and seasonal bus passes.
Us local New Yorkers can also get special passes like:
- Access pass: available to residents with qualifying disabilities.
- Golden Park Program: For residents aged 62 years or older for unlimited weekday and non-holiday access to the park.
- Empire Pass: unlimited vehicle access to NY state parks and recreation sites for $80.
Robert H. Treman State Park provides ample parking spaces at both of its entrances. However, these can fill up pretty quickly on the weekends during peak season or on holidays. So I highly recommend going on weekdays. If you can’t do that, then arrive early in the day to help secure a parking spot with ease.
IV. Things to Do at Robert H. Treman State Park
1. Hike the Robert Treman State Park Trails
Robert Treman State Park has 5 official trails that feature views of geological wonders such as rocky gorges and cascading waterfalls. Some of these are a combination of stairs, trails, gorges, woodland, and stone bridges. Tread carefully to safely enjoy the unique rock formations of Elfield Creek! The first two are some of my favorite hikes in Upstate New York.
- Lucifer Falls via Gorge Trail ★ (1.12 miles; moderate): This shortcut loop takes only a little more than 45-ish minutes to complete. It takes you from the Upper Entrance parking lot to the biggest highlights of the park. This is the perfect trail if you prefer only a short hike with big rewards!
- Enfield Falls Swimming Hole ★ (0.31 mile; easy): This easy trail is a popular spot. But expect a lot of people during the open season.
- Rim Trail AND Gorge Trail LOOP ★ (4.47 miles; moderate): This two-hour hike combines the best trails on a loop so you get to see almost everything. But don’t forget to pop into Enfield Falls Swimming Hole by Lower Entrance!
I don’t recommend only doing the Gorge Trail (2.12 miles; moderate) or only doing the Rim Trail (2.09 miles, moderate). Both of these are in-and-out. So if you want to hike both, you might as well make it a loop combining rim trail up and gorge trail down (or vice versa) plus adding the little walk to Enfield Falls.
★ The best trail: If you want a short but sweet experience, only do the first two bullet points I mentioned. Upper Entrance to Lucifer Falls + driving down to Lower Entrance for Enfield Falls.
Other lesser-known trails:
- Red Pine & Gorge Trail Loop (1.4 miles, easy): Beautiful forest above the gorge. While some people say this is an easy trail, it involves a short climb and a steep descent when you approach the Gorge Trail. Some parts can be very steep, too.
- Treman Park and Buttermilk Falls Park Trail (24.42 miles; difficult): For seasoned hikers who want to see beyond Robert Treman State Park, this trail also includes Buttermilk Falls Park. With some serious climbs, this will take you almost half a day!
- Lick Brook Falls (3.42. miles; moderate): This trail offers great views but requires you to cross a creek, so expect your feet to get wet! Downsides to this are the steep inclines, mosquitoes, and ticks in the area.
Before you visit the park, here are some basic information and important reminders to keep in mind:
- Throughout the year, some of the trails may be closed due to weather conditions. The Gorge and Red Pine trails are closed in winter until spring due to the risk of ice and falling rocks during these seasons.
- Bicycles are not allowed on any of the trails.
- You can also join history hikes.
2. Robert H. Treman State Park Waterfalls
Robert H. Treman State Park in New York flaunts 12 captivating and breathtaking waterfalls, two large and 10 smaller ones.
The two major falls include the Lucifer Falls, which stands at an impressive 115 feet and draws visitors with its impressive beauty, and the scenic Gorge Trail that leads to its base. This is one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes!
The other one is Lower Falls (Enfield Falls), which is a 70-foot cascade within the green forest of the state park. Featuring a swimming hole, this is one of the coolest waterfalls in the United States because you can legally enjoy a swim here!
3. Enjoy Camping at Robert Treman State Park
Camping at Robert Treman State Park offers a serene escape into nature. The well-maintained campsites provide a perfect blend of tranquility and outdoor adventure, allowing campers to take in the beauty of the Finger Lakes region.
You can enjoy the company of 6 people per campsite. While only a maximum of 2 sleeping tents or 1 trailer and 1 tent are allowed per site, additional vehicles can be parked in the designated parking lots for a fee. Alternatively, you can also use the 14 cabins at Robert Treman State Park, 2 of which have vehicle access.
As for fees, campsite use is for $18 to $28 per night with an additional $5 fee for non-New York State residents. For cabins, rates range between $238 and $400 per week while the daily rate is a quarter of that price. An additional fee of $7 per night or $28 per week is charged to non-NY state residents.
Note that these facilities are available only by reservation. Also, depending on the season, they may not be available. This is a gentle reminder to check in with the state park’s office before you go!
4. Old Mill Museum with CCC Exhibit
Once the center of the former hamlet of Enfield Falls, the Old Mill at Robert Treman State Park now serves as a little museum. It offers a glimpse into the park’s history. You can also see an exhibit about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp here. This is right next to the bathrooms, on your way to Lower Falls.
5. Archaeology in the Park: A Walking Tour
If you want to learn more besides exploring the Old Mill Museum, you can also do the “Archaeology in the Park: A Walking Tour” with this pamphlet as a guide.
Offering a captivating journey through the area’s cultural heritage, this provides insights into the history, lifestyles, and artifacts of the early inhabitants. Don’t miss this to enhance your appreciation for the park’s significance!
6. Swimming at Robert Treman State Park
Swimming at Robert Treman State Park’s Enfield Falls (aka Lower Falls) offers a uniquely refreshing outdoor experience surrounded by lush greenery and impressive rock formations. This is only available in the summertime when they raise some levies to make the water rise into a fresh-water swimming pool. Swimming here is only allowed if weather permits and in the presence of a lifeguard. Note – There is a shallow area for kids!
However, swimming in the gorges (outside of Enfield Falls) is prohibited. A park ranger might pop out of the woods and give you a ticket if they see you. I know it’s tempting because the park features a beautiful stream-fed pools all around and on a sunny day, they’re an inviting crystal-clear emerald green. And you might even see others swimming and think it’s allowed. I learned later the awkward way (social media comments) that it’s actually not allowed!
7. Picnic Areas
The Robert Treman State Park’s well-maintained picnic areas offer a cute setting for a relaxed meal with yourself or loved ones. Picnic areas have picnic tables and BBQ grills. Picnic pavilions, on the other hand, are available for a minimum rental of 2 days and require a reservation 11 months in advance.
V. Other Facilities & Experiences in Robert Treman Park
Aside from the trails, waterfalls, museum, walking tour, picnic areas, and playground, the Robert H. Treman Park also offers play fields. There’s also a bathhouse that features changing rooms and bathrooms for the convenience of campers and visitors who wish to stay and/or swim.
VI. Frequently Asked Questions About Robert Treman State Park
1. How long is the Robert H. Treman trail?
The trails at Robert H. Treman State Park vary in length:
- Gorge & Rim Trail Loop = 4.5 miles
- Lucifer Falls via Gorge Trail short-cut = 1.1 miles
- Lick Brook Falls = 3.4 miles
- Enfield Falls (aka Lower Falls) Swimming Hole = 0.3 miles
2. Is Robert H. Treman State Park accessible?
While the gorge trails and some viewpoints of Robert H. Treman State Park may pose challenges for individuals with physical limitations. The loop trail is kind is not rocky but it does go upwards (low-intermediate steep) and there are some steps in most trails.
For a shorter hike, head to upper park entrance and do the shortcut I mentioned above. Or only see Enfield Falls (aka Lower Falls) which is less than half a mile flat.
Other more accessible options include cabins, campsites, picnic areas, pavilions, restrooms, and playgrounds.
3. Is Robert H. Treman State Park nice for kids?
Yes, Robert H. Treman State Park is considered a safe and cute destination for kids. It features family-friendly trails and picnic areas. However, parents should always exercise caution by supervising kids more closely to prevent accidents, especially when approaching waterfalls and gorge areas.
Children can take breaks at the designated nature-inspired playground, too! It features play structures suitable for 2- to 5-year-old and 5- to 12-year-old kids.
4. Are pets allowed at Robert H. Treman State Park?
Yes, pets are allowed in some parts of Robert Treman State Park, but only under certain conditions. Visitors can enter with a maximum of only 2 pets, which must always be supervised. To safeguard all visitors’ safety, including pets’, the latter must be crated or kept on a leash of not more than 6 feet.
Areas pets may enjoy include the campsite and day-use areas. Unfortunately, they are not allowed access to certain areas such as the Gorge Trail, swimming areas, playgrounds, buildings, and boardwalks. I also advise pet parents to bring proof of rabies inoculation in case the staff requests it.
Call the park ahead of time to triple-check since things can change.
VII. Where to Eat Near Robert H. Treman State Park
- The Rook: This restaurant serves the perfect cocktails and Southern comfort food you’ll need after a day of hikes!
- Maxie’s Supper Club & Oyster Bar: If you’re a fan of seafood, don’t miss out on the impressive and fresh delights served at this restaurant and pair these with cold beer or wine!
- Simeon’s American Bistro: Enjoying the immaculate burgers and sandwiches and the relaxing atmosphere of this bistro is a rewarding experience after a tiring hike!
VIII. Where to Stay Near Robert H. Treman State Park
- Argos Inn ★: Find a temporary home in this charming 13-room boutique hotel that is housed in a historic mansion and with a very cute craft cocktail bar!
- Canopy by Hilton Ithaca Downtown: Only 5 miles away from Robert H. Treman State Park, this centrally located hotel is not only a convenient stay, but also offers superb amenities, including a restaurant, fitness center, and free bikes!
- Firelight Camps ★: If you cannot get enough of the surrounding nature, stay at one of the best glamping spots in NY. This is the perfect choice for its impressive amenities, such as elevated tents, big beds, campfire opportunities, hammocks, yoga, a cocktail bar, and free breakfast!
IX. Other Cool Parks Near Robert H. Treman State Park, NY
- Buttermilk Falls State Park: Located in Ithaca, this beauty enchants visitors with its cascading waterfalls, lush greenery, and scenic trails, offering a lovely retreat.
- Watkins Glen State Park: This renowned state park boasts a breathtaking gorge trail, which weaves through towering cliffs, moss-covered rock formations, and captivating waterfalls.
- Taughannock Falls State Park: Situated near Cayuga Lake, this NY waterfall features the impressive Taughannock Falls, which is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by scenic trails and a remarkable gorge.
- Allan H. Treman State Marine Park: Located at the southern part of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, this attraction offers boating enthusiasts a lovely setting with marina facilities, boat launches, and stunning views of the lake, providing a peaceful and accessible spot for water-based recreation.
- Newtown Battlefield State Park: Preserving the historic site of the Battle of Newtown during the American Revolution, this state park offers visitors a serene landscape with trails and monuments that commemorate this significant chapter in American history.
X. Related Blog Posts
- 27 Beautiful New York State Parks to Visit
- 17 Stunning Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes
- 43 Best Waterfalls in the United States
- 37 Beautiful Best Hikes in Upstate New York
- 31 Charming Small Towns in Upstate New York State
- Things to Do in Ithaca
Author’s Bio: Gerry Isabelle
Gerry Isabelle is a Dominican New Yorker, full-time blogger, and content creator. When she’s not filming educational and cultural content or writing travel guides, she loves art, books, hiking, and exploring the world from New York State to around the world.