Exploring Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County

Buttermilk Falls on a summer morning in Indiana County Pennsylvania.

Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County (not to be confused with Buttermilk Falls in Beaver County) is one of the tallest waterfalls in western PA.

It was also part of the summer estate of Fred McFeely, grandfather of Fred Rogers.

Fred Rogers AKA Mister Rogers spent many childhood summers at his Grandfather Fred McFeely's house at Buttermilk Falls.
Fred Rogers AKA Mister Rogers spent many childhood summers at his Grandfather Fred McFeely’s house at Buttermilk Falls.

Yes – THE Fred Rogers of “Mr Roger’s Neighborhood” fame.

A sign about Fred Rogers connection to Buttermilk Falls.
A sign near the parking area about Fred Rogers connection to Buttermilk Falls.

In 1996 this property was donated to Indiana County, and it is now a 48 acre natural area / park.

Sign at the entrance to the Buttermilk Falls Natural Area in Indiana County.
Sign at the entrance to the Buttermilk Falls Natural Area in Indiana County.

So if you want to literally follow in the footsteps of Mr. Rogers, read on as I show you exactly how to find Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County, and what you can expect to see once you get there.

Mister Rogers most famous quote along the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.
Mister Rogers most famous quote along the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.

For up-to-date information on the open/closed status of this Indiana County park, please visit the Indiana County Parks and Trails official website.


Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County FAQs

How do I get to Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County?

Buttermilk Falls is located 1.8 miles south of Route 22 in Indiana County, just west of Armagh. Turn off of Route 22, follow Clay Pike Road for 1.4 miles, then left on Valley Brook Drive for 0.4 miles to the park / falls.Map to Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County, PA.

Can I navigate to Buttermilk Falls by GPS?

Yes – the GPS coordinates for Buttermilk Falls Natural Area parking lot are in Indiana County are: 40.419244, -79.067663.
You can also use the street address 570 Valley Brook Rd, New Florence, PA 15944.

What are the park hours at Buttermilk Falls?

8 AM – sunset.
Signpost at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area

How tall is Buttermilk Falls?

45 feet tall.
View of Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County from the top of the stairs.

What body of water is Buttermilk Falls on?

Hires Run, a tributary of the Conemaugh River.

Was Buttermilk Falls ever known by another name?

Yes – it was once known as Aurora Falls, the “Miniature Niagara of Indiana County”.
Looking down on Buttermilk Falls from the Eclipse Bridge.

Can I swim at Buttermilk Falls?

No – swimming and wading are expressly prohibited in the park rules.

Are there restrooms at Buttermilk Falls?

Yes – located right next to the parking area.
Restrooms next to the parking lot at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area in Indiana County.

How far is Buttermilk Falls from the parking area?

The upper observation area, which is wheelchair accessible, is located 0.2 miles from the parking area along a part concrete / part crushed stone path.
Walkway leading to the viewing platform above Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.

What can I see from the upper observation area?

You have a panoramic view of Buttermilk Falls and the Hires Run Valley it cuts through.
View of Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County from the viewing platform above it.

How do I get below Buttermilk Falls?

Follow the crushed stone path past a gate, across the Eclipse Bridge, and down the stairs. This part of the trail IS NOT wheelchair accessible.
Handrail along the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.

Is there anywhere to eat at Buttermilk Falls?

There are no vending machines, but there are picnic pavilions for you to use when you bring your own food.
Picnic pavilion at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area in Indiana County.


Exploring Buttermilk Falls

As you approach the entrance to the Buttermilk Falls Natural Area, you’ll see the main parking area directly in front of you.

Entrance to Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County, PA
Entrance to Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County, PA

Off to your right is an overflow parking area, next to the McFeely Trail (a short hiking trail also located in the park).

The overflow parking lot and McFeely Trail at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.
The overflow parking lot and McFeely Trail at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.

The main parking area is large enough to hold maybe a dozen vehicles.

You’ll also see remnants of foundations from the McFeely estate next to the lot.

The parking lot at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.
The parking lot at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.

Getting down to the falls is a simple matter of following the plethora of signs pointing you in that direction.

The trail is part concrete, part crushed stone, and then wood and metal stairs down to and behind the falls.

The crushed-stone Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.
The crushed-stone Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.

As you make your way downhill towards the falls, you’ll encounter many of Mister Rogers’ most famous quotes along the Buttermilk Falls Trail.

A quote from Mister Rogers along the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.
A quote from Mister Rogers along the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Indiana County.

A sign on a fence lets you know that an accessibility project took place here in 2017.

Sign near Buttermilk Falls.
Sign near Buttermilk Falls.

Prior to 2017, very little infrastructure existed here, and the falls certainly had a more “natural” appearance.

A downstream view of Buttermilk Falls, prior to the construction of staircase.
A downstream view of Buttermilk Falls, prior to the construction of staircase.

Whether it was out of a desire to make the falls more “accessible” or to head off potential liability lawsuits (or a bit of both), a major amount of materials and labor went into making Buttermilk Falls what it is today.


The Eclipse Bridge

One of the big expenditures was on what is known as the “Eclipse Bridge”.

The Eclipse Bridge directly above Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.
The Eclipse Bridge directly above Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.

The Eclipse Bridge is named for the time period in which it was built.

Sign on the Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area
Sign on the Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area

Stairway to the Falls

Across the bridge, you peer down a long flight of wooden stairs, flanked by chain link fence.

Stairs leading to Buttermilk Falls.
Stairs leading to Buttermilk Falls.

As you round the first curve in the stairs, the falls come into view.

Summertime view of Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County Pennsylvania
Summertime view of Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.

Once upon a time, prior to the steps, you could catch sight of rainbows in the mist around the base of the falls when the sun was at just the right angle.

A rainbow in the mist around Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County
A rainbow in the mist around Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County, prior to the steps/fence being installed.

The walkway extends behind the falls, allowing more folks to experience what the adventurous have for decades.

View from behind Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.
View from behind Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.

In the days before the fence, you could also experience great views of the falls from the stream bed itself.

A stream level view of Buttermilk Falls prior to construction of the staircase.
A stream level view of Buttermilk Falls prior to construction of the staircase.

Now that is forbidden, and honestly the view just wouldn’t be the same with the fence cutting across the face of the falls anyway.


The Old Swimming Area

Heading back up the stairs, there is still more to see near Buttermilk Falls.

Brilliant blooms near the Eclipse Bridge above Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.
Brilliant blooms near the Eclipse Bridge above Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County.

Located just upstream from the Eclipse Bridge, you’ll see the remnants of a man-made dam that was the spillway for a swimming area built during the McFeely era.

Remnants of old swimming area above Buttermilk Falls.
Remnants of old swimming area above Buttermilk Falls.

Young Mr. Rogers no doubt spent many hours swimming here.

Once you’ve checked out the old swimming area and the remnants of foundations surrounding it, simply backtrack up the crushed stone trail to your vehicle.


Still not convinced you need to visit Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County?

Then check out this video!


Nearby Attractions

Exploring the Covered Bridges of Indiana County will introduce you to the 4 remaining covered bridges closest to Buttermilk Falls.

Harmon Covered Bridge in Indiana County Pennsylvania
Harmon Covered Bridge in Indiana County, PA.

7 Must-See Waterfalls in Western Pennsylvania will introduce you to even more waterfalls on the “west coast” of PA!

Rusty Glessner at Alpha Falls at McConnells Mill State Park
The author at Alpha Falls at McConnells Mill State Park

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

10 COMMENTS

    • Yea not a fan of the chain link fence in particular. Wish if they had to do anything they would have kept it more natural like say Ricketts Glen.

    • Nope – closed for the duration of the COVID outbreak though, as it’s a county park and they don’t want to put their staff at risk cleaning it up. Similar to PA State Parks closing facilities.

      • it is a remarkable waterfall – one of the tallest in western PA, and certainly unique with the stairway behind it.

    • Coordinates are 40.419205, -79.067666. Plug those into any navigation system and it will take you right to the parking area. Or use street address 570 Valley Brook Rd, New Florence, PA 15944.

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