One day in Niagara Falls: A Visit to America’s Largest Waterfall

Last Updated on April 9, 2021

The Niagara Falls has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those scenic attractions that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. While touring the country on our Great America Road Trip, my husband Daniel and I drove through upstate New York specifically so we could see America’s largest waterfall. Even though were only able to spend one day in Niagara Falls, it was enough time to get a good introduction to this scenic wonder.

This article shares our experience visiting Niagara Falls and also camping at nearby Four Mile Creek State Park. Since we visited Niagara Falls during the COVID-19 Pandemic, we were limited to viewing the falls on the American side since we couldn’t cross the border at Niagara Falls into Canada.

Niagara Falls as viewed from Goat Island. American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are visible from this vantage point.

Niagara Falls State Park

I always thought that Niagara Falls was just one single waterfall. In fact, it is comprised of 3 different falls: the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls (also called the Canadian Falls). These waterfalls are located on the American-Canadian border and both countries have fantastic views of Niagara Falls.

On the American side of the border, the Niagara Falls are managed by Niagara Falls State Park. The oldest state park in the United States, Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885 to protect the falls from private exploitation and provide public access.

While entrance to Niagara Falls State Park is free, expect to pay for parking and visiting any of the nearby attractions and tours. A Scenic Trolley is available to shuttle visitors around to various points of interest in the park.

Welcome to Niagara Falls State Park!

One Day in Niagara Falls: Itinerary

Our visit to Niagara Falls was a brief one since we only had an afternoon available for the visit. Plus, it started raining while we were there and we wasted some valuable time hiding out under a bus shelter. Eventually the rain clouds passed, however, and we had a lovely afternoon walking around Niagara Falls State Park.

Here’s a suggested afternoon itinerary for visiting Niagara Falls:

  • 1:00 pm – start at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center for maps and information
  • 1:30 pm – walk to Prospect Point for your first glimpse of Niagara Falls
  • 2:30 pm – cross the bridge to Goat Island and then to Luna Island to view the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
  • 3:00 pm – continue walking across Goat Island to view Horseshoe Falls
  • 4:00 pm – take the Niagara Scenic Trolley back to the parking area

If you have more time, you may also want to visit the Cave of the Winds and go on a Maid of the Mist Tour to the base of the falls. We didn’t get a chance to do either one but I’d love to if we ever make it back.

Viewing Niagara Falls from Prospect Point

When Daniel and I visited Niagara Falls, the Visitor Center was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So we began our one day in Niagara Falls at Prospect Point. Located only a few minutes walk away from the Visitor Center, Prospect Point is the easiest place to get a view of Niagara Falls and a prime viewing location.

From Prospect Point we got a great view of the American Falls. There were lots of people taking selfies here so we had to do some maneuvering to keep socially distant. For those wanting a better view, an observation tower at Prospect Point is also available for visitors who have purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist Tour.

As we took our photos at Prospect Point, dark rain clouds filled the sky. Daniel and I managed to get in a few good photos before the rain started in earnest. Neither of us felt like braving the rain so we hid under a shelter.

View of Niagara Falls from Prospect Point
Selfie from Prospect Point: a must-do when spending one day in Niagara Falls
Niagara selfie! This is a pretty popular spot. It was hard to get a photo without anyone else in it.
Niagara Falls, Ontario is visible across the river. The view must be pretty spectacular from over there.
Walking along the pathways in Niagara Falls State Park
We waited out the rainstorm at a trolley stop. The trolley is a popular way to get around the park.

American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

After waiting out the rainstorm, Daniel and I continued our one day in Niagara Falls itinerary by walking across the bridge to Green Island. This cute little island has picnic tables and a nice lawn for hanging out on. We were in a hurry, though, so we continued past Green Island to Goat Island. From here, we followed a path to a viewing platform on Luna Island.

This is the best vantage point to view both Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. It was pretty spectacular.

The bridge to Goat Island. Plus, a seagull!
Crossing the bridge to Goat Island
A little mini waterfall above Bridal Veil Falls
View of American Falls from Luna Island
The top of Bridal Veil Falls

Horseshoe Falls

Daniel and I continued our one day in Niagara Falls itinerary by heading to Horseshoe Falls. Rain clouds darkened the sky as we walked across Goat Island to the waterfall. The biggest waterfall of the three, Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful extant waterfall in North America (as measured by flow rate).

As we approached the falls, a huge spray of mist showered me and some nearby onlookers. I put away my camera and snapped some photos with my phone before scurrying away. Then I realized that it was raining again. It wasn’t just waterfall spray that was drenching the area. The rain was back!

Daniel and I decided that we’d had enough for a day so we headed back to the parking area. I would have loved to spend more time, however, if the weather had cooperated. I hope to come back some day and see the falls from the Canadian side.

Horseshoe Falls as viewed from Goat Island
Horseshoe Falls viewing platform
Upriver from Horseshoe Falls

Niagara Falls Accommodation: Four Mile Creek State Park

Daniel and I camped at Four Mile Creek State Park due to its proximity to Niagara Falls but ended up loving the park in its own right. Located only 15 miles north of the mighty Niagara, Four Mile Creek State Park makes the perfect base from which to explore the falls and surrounding area. We lucked into a campsite with a waterfront view and it was incredible. Plus there weren’t many other people around since we camped mid-week.

Trails along the Lake Ontario shoreline offer spectacular panoramic views across the lake and all the way to Toronto on a clear day. A marshy area near the mouth of Four Mile Creek is a fun place to explore and home to a variety of animals including great blue herons and white tail deer. While there is no swimming available at Four Mile Creek State Park, beach swimming is available nearby at Wilson Tuscarora State Park and pool swimming at Fort Niagara State Park.

Advanced reservations for Four Mile Creek State Park are recommended and can be made on the Reserve America web site. (Note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campground is currently only accepting reservations made in advance. No walk-ins or same-day reservations are permitted).

Our campsite at Four Mile Creek State Park. The lake is just on the other side of the road.
A cool marshy area where Four Mile Creek meets Lake Ontario
The sandbar at Four Mile Creek
Lake Ontario
Photo bomb!

Where are we now?

Selfie from a Niagara overlook: a must-do when spending one day in Niagara Falls
We are at Niagara Falls!

Date: October 8, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 95
Location: Four Mile Creek State Park – Youngstown, NY

Miles Traveled: 38.3
Total Trip Mileage: 6371.5

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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2 thoughts

  1. Pretty cool! I haven’t been to Niagra Falls and didn’t know that there was so much to it. Thanks for sharing! I hope that you and Daniel are feeling better now.

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