The Finger Lakes Region is known for some of the best waterfall hiking in the Northeast.
From Letchworth to Watkins Glen, New York’s Finger Lakes region is rich with some of the most breathtaking waterside trails in North America. You can walk alongside the gorge in Taughannock State Park and then stroll up to the base of the tallest free-falling waterfall in the northeast. Taughannock Falls is 30 feet taller than the famous Niagara Falls. Or you can take a break from all the waterfall trails and take in the incredible glacial lakes of Green Lakes State Park or head into the forest and hike along the plentiful streams.
The small college town, Ithaca is a great launching point for all of these incredible hikes and any number of the wineries and breweries located on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail or Wine Trail are wonderful places to stop after a long day of chasing waterfalls. A bonus, if you are traveling with a dog, most of the places offer dog-friendly outdoor seating and all the trails in this list are dog-friendly.
1. Letchworth State Park – Gorge Trail – 14 Miles – Moderate
Letchworth State Park should be the first or last stop on this list since it is a bit further west of the Finger Lakes but it is worth the drive. Letchworth is one of the most popular parks in the area it is sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the East. When you see it you’ll understand why, it has three different waterfalls and towering gorges that offer incredible views.
The trail provided might seem like a rather long hike but you won’t notice how long you’ve traveled because each step is a different, more breathtaking view. I highly recommend making a day of this and doing as much of the hike as possible but if you are limited in time you can always turn around at any point in the out and back hike.
2. Taughannock State Park – Combine the North Rim Trail and South Rim Trail, and Gorge Trail – 5.1 Miles – Moderate / Easy
Taughannock State Park is home to Taugannock Falls which is the tallest waterfall in the Northeast. You can follow the rim of the waterfall and then head up to get an overview of the waterfall from a hilltop, then you can head to very easy and relatively short gorge trail to get underneath the waterfall for some incredible views. For safety reasons you cannot get RIGHT under the waterfall or swim in the pool since rocks have sometimes fallen down into the pool at the bottom.
If you only have time for one trail or want to keep it more kid-friendly, just go with the Gorge Trail which is an easy, 2 Mile hike to the base of the waterfall.
3. Green Lakes State Park – Green Lakes Perimeter Trails – 10 Miles – Easy
Not normally on any Finger Lakes Hikes lists, I had never heard of this trail until a local mentioned it to me. The trail I chose for this park is rather long, and it’s not entirely necessary for taking in these gorgeous lakes.
It starts at a small parking lot outside the park but I really enjoyed hiking through the vast fields before coming into an overlook of the incredible turquoise green glacial lakes. You can shorten this visit by driving into the park and doing the easy trails around the two lakes. This trail also takes you by a swimming beach with a concession stand for snacks but keep in mind that the beach is not dog-friendly.
4. Robert H. Treman State Park – Rim Trail and Gorge Trail Loop – 4.3 Miles – Moderate
This is a moderate hike that is a bit of a workout so it could be rougher with smaller children but it was one of my favorite quick hikes in the area. The trail leads you right along the water through these intricate stone paths. There are a number of additional trails in the park if you’re looking for shorter or longer hikes to change your route. There are a total of 12 waterfalls at Robert Treman State Park but the main attraction is 115-Footer Lucifer Falls which this trail takes you past.
5. Sampson State Park – Seneca Lakeshore Trail – 3 Miles – Easy
If you need a break from all the waterfalls the Seneca Lakeshore Trail was a great trail for an easy walk alongside Seneca Lake and is perfect for a quick trail run while you’re traveling. A couple of miles into the trail there is a point where you can head down to sit right on the side of the water at a little beach. There isn’t much foot traffic at this trail since all the other hiking trails get all the attention but it was a great place to take a break from all the crowds
6. Watkins Glen State Park – Finger Lakes and Gorge Trail Loop – 2.6 Miles – Easy / Moderate
Hands down this is the most famous hike in the Finger Lakes Region. I would recommend trying to hit this trail in the off-hours, I went early in the morning on a weekday and had the trail practically to myself minus some morning trail runners and it was amazingly peaceful and serene and I really got to enjoy the beauty of this wonderful place. The trail takes you right through the falls and at a few points you walk underneath the water as it falls over the side of a stone wall. This is a short hike but it does include a bit of stairs so take your time to enjoy the trail. There are a number of trails that lead into Watkins Glen State Park and the falls if you want to make this a much longer hike.
7. Buttermilk Falls State Park – Lake Treman Loop via Gorge, Bear and Rim Trail – 4.5 Miles – Moderate
This gorge trail can go on for a good long while so you are welcome to extend your hike beyond the 4.5 miles of this trail. This is a similar hike to Watkins Glen with gorgeous stone steps and dividers as you hike alongside the smaller waterfalls and take bridges the criss-cross the gorge, still a wonderful hike that’s not nearly as busy as some of the more famous trails.
8.Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve – Trail – 4 Miles – Easy
Another great trail if you’re looking for a break from all the crowds at the waterfalls and just want to go for a nice evening stroll. This is another great place for a quick trail run. Some of the paths may be overgrown so you might be forced to take the primary path but its a flat route most of the way
9. Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail to Seneca Lake State Park – 10 Miles – Easy
Hike 5 miles in towards Seneca Lake State Park and stop at the lake shore for a quick picnic at the more developed park before heading back. There’s some cute artwork further in the trail and canal or luscious green views most of the way. This would be excellent for any longer runners or bikers but could admittedly get a little boring for a solo hike.
10. Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area – Van Lorne Hill Loop – 6 Miles – Easy
The name might be confusing but this trail is located in New York State in the Finger Lakes Region. Throughout the trail you’ll hear the bustling stream as you hike through the forest, a quiet trail, I didn’t see a soul when I hiked this early on a Sunday and appreciated a break from the busier hikes.
11. Geneva, NY – Generva Lakefront Trail to Seneca Lake Park – 4.5 Miles – Easy
Another great running route, this trail is a bit more developed than the others but its offers gorgeous views of Seneca Lake and you can also rent some kayaks and go out on the lake afterwards or stop for lunch in Geneva.
12. The Ithaca Waterfall Tour
I found a lot of waterfalls closer to Ithaca, NY had very short hikes and just made myself a Ithaca Waterfall Tour with stops at several of them. I suggest stopping by my favorite coffee shop in town, Gimme! Coffee (I recommend adding on of their homemade syrups to your coffee!) and then swinging by these waterfalls that require very short walks up to the base of the falls. When you’re done swing by the Cornell Dairy Bar for some incredible Ice Cream.
- Potters Falls
- Wells Falls
- Cascadilla Falls
- Ithaca Falls
- Triphammer Falls
Here’s a Map with the recommend route to check out the waterfalls throughout Ithaca