Tinker Falls is a beautiful 50-foot waterfall in Labrador Hollow Unique Area, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) State Forest on the border of Onondaga County and Cortland County in Central New York. The base of the waterfall can be reached via Tinker Falls Trail on an easy half-mile round trip hike with 50 feet of elevation gain. It is also possible to hike to the top of Tinker Falls via another route for a 0.8-mile round trip hike with 200 feet of elevation gain. Combine the two for a 1.3-mile trek, or extend things farther by hiking up Jones Hill on North County National Scenic Trail to a scenic overlook at a Hang Glider Launch Site, adding a couple extra miles to the hike.
Get started with an easy stroll up Tinker Falls Trail. The wide trail begins from the east side of Route 91, just south of the Onondaga – Cortland County Line. Handicapped parking is on the east side of the road (Tinker Falls Trail is wheelchair friendly) and a larger parking area is on the west side of the road.
Hike east from Route 91 along the north side of Tinker Falls Creek. The gradual trail ventures up the level floor of the canyon between steep hillsides draped in a mixed forest of hardwoods and evergreens. After 0.25 miles, the trail ends abruptly along the creek just below Tinker Falls. Upstream, the water plunges about thirty feet in a single drop down a dark rock face before cascading to the canyon floor.
To get a closer look at the waterfall you can rock hop up the stream or take the trail to the brink of Tinker Falls. To reach the top of the falls, first backtrack down to the start of Tinker Falls Trail. Alongside the trailhead kiosk, you will find a single-track trail heading north, climbing above the parking area. Go a few hundred feet up this track where it will reach a T-junction with Onondaga Sky Line Trail, a wide dirt road. Turn right at the junction to hike above Tinker Falls Creek. (On the hike down, look for a wooden sign at this junction with an arrow directing you back down this path.)
Hike up the road, staying to the left past a connector trail on the right that descends back to Tinker Falls Trail. Hike 0.2 miles up Sky Line Trail, which is much steeper than Tinker Falls Trail, gaining 200 feet over that distance. Shortly before a split in the road (if you reach this, you’ve gone a bit too far), you should spot a single-track trail breaking off to the right between two trees with blue blazes painted on their trunks. Bear right down this track, which crosses the steep slope above the creek.
Soon you will see Tinker Falls through the trees and you reach the top of the waterfall, 0.15 miles from the junction on Sky Line Trail. Watch the frothing water drop over the edge into the rock amphitheater. Above the waterfall, Tinker Falls Creek slides down a crevice eroded into the bedrock.
After enjoying this top-down view of Tinker Falls, you can return the way you came for a 1.3-mile hike that includes both trails to Tinker Falls. After hiking 0.15 miles back to Sky Line Trail, you could turn right to continue up Jones Hill to a Hang Glider Launch Site that presents views over Labrador Pond and the surroundings of Labrador Hollow Unique Area.
Dogs are welcome on trails in Labrador Hollow Unique Area. For a short hike to the shore of Labrador Pond, check out nearby Labrador Hollow Boardwalk. No fee or permit is required to hike Tinker Falls Trail, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take I-81 to exit 14 in Tully. At the end of the offramp, turn east on Route 80 and drive 4.2 miles to Route 91 (Apulia-Truxton Road). Turn right and drive south for 3.3 miles. Just after crossing into Cortland County (and 1.2 miles past Labrador Crossroad) pull off and park in the turnout on the right. Walks across Route 91 to find the start of Tinker Falls Trail on the east side of the road.
Trailhead address: New York 91 & Tinker Falls Trail, Tully, NY 13159
Trailhead coordinates: 42.780094, -76.03589 (42° 46′ 48.33″N 76° 02′ 09.20″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding New York trails and campgrounds.
|Hang Glider Launch Site via North County National Scenic Trail|
This 2.5-mile hike (or 3.2 miles when combined with the trails to Tinker Falls) ascends Jones Hill to a scenic overlook in Labrador Hollow Unique Area.
|Labrador Hollow Boardwalk|
This 0.5-mile boardwalk loop takes your through evergreens and wetlands to the shore of Labrador Pond in the heart of Labrador Hollow Unique Area.
|Green Lake & Round Lake|
This easy 3.25-mile loop explores a pair of aquamarine glacial lakes in Green Lakes State Park in Central New York.
|Cliff Trail – Long Trail – Mildred Faust Trail Loop|
This 1.95 miles loop crosses limestone cliffs above a glacial lake and combines several trails to explore Clark Reservation State Park.
|Southern Exposure Snowshoe Trail|
This 2.2-mile snowshoe trail loops south through a winter wonderland from the visitor center at Beaver Lake Nature Center (where you can rent snowshoes).
|More hikes in New York|
Explore other hikes in the Empire State, including Central New York and the Adirondack Mountains.