Lick Brook Falls and gorge is located just minutes from Ithaca, New York in the bountiful Sweedler and Thayer nature preserves and the adjoining Lick Brook Natural Area.During the last ice age, glaciers blanketed much of northern North America, scouring the land and sculpting much of the topography of the Finger Lakes region. The effects of the ice age left behind multiple waterfalls and cascades along Lick Brook.
After the Revolutionary War, much of the land along Lick Brook was used for timber and agricultural purposes. By the 1970s, much of the area had reverted to forest and then acquired by Moss Sweedler. Sweedler had left 128 acres of the “Lost Gorge” to the Finger Lakes Land Trust in his will. Still, owing to development pressures nearby, the Land Trust outright purchased the gorge and waterfalls at a fraction of the estimated value of the land, creating the Sweedler Preserve. Upstream, the Thayer family donated a conservation easement to the Land Trust in 1998, a continuation of the family’s commitment to land preservation in the region.
The preserve features three major waterfalls:
- Lower Lick Brook Falls, a 25-foot segmented fan waterfall along the Sweedler Blue Trail and Finger Lakes Trail.
- Middle Lick Brook Falls, a 50-foot fan waterfall along the Sweedler Blue Trail.
- Upper Lick Brook Falls, a 100-foot ribbon waterfall along the Sweedler Blue Trail. It requires some stream hiking to access the base of the falls.
There are four trails within the preserves:
- The Finger Lakes Trail crosses through the heart of it all, accessing the base of Lower Lick Brook Falls before climbing Jersey Hill.
- The Sweedler Blue Trail connects at the base of Lower Lick Brook Falls and sharply ascends Jersey Hill, closely paralleling Lick Brook. It connects to the Finger Lakes Trail at its west and east terminuses.
- The Buttermilk Spur Trail connects the preserve to Buttermilk Falls State Park.
- The Thayer Blue Trail follows Lick Brook along its southern edge east of Town Line Road.
- West Trailhead: From Ithaca, follow NY Route 13 south for 1.9 miles. At the point where southbound NY Route 13 diverges from northbound NY Route 13, as the highway crosses Enfield Creek, bear left into a small gravel parking area.
- East Trailhead: From Ithaca, follow NY Route 13 south and turn left onto Sand Bank Road just past Buttermilk Falls State Park. Follow Sand Bank Road for 1.6 miles and then turn right onto Townline Road. Park on the right side of the road before the bridge over Lick Brook.