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6 Best Waterfall Trails in the Fingerlakes, NY

July 22, 2019

If you like waterfall trails, then upstate NY should most definitely be on your bucket list to visit. And I don't mean upstate NY as in Rockland County. I mean the real upstate - the other huge part of the state that has nothing to do with New York City!  I grew up in the Fingerlakes area which is about 3 hours from NYC, and about 2.5 hours from Buffalo, so it's right smack in the middle. Many of the local state parks here have some of the most stunning waterfalls you'll find in the region! I've yet to visit them all, but here's 6 of the most majestic and lush looking waterfall trails that I've explored, and you can find them all within an hours drive of each other.

 

1. The Gorge to Indian Trail Loop - Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen NY

Length: 2.5 mile loop | Level: Easy - Moderate due to several steps | Duration: 2 hours | Elevation: 574 | Dogs: No | Camping: Yes

Parking: $8 per vehicle

Directions, full hike and camping info here

The most popular state park in the Fingerlakes region and it's easy to see why. This beautiful gorge trail has 19 waterfalls, and gives you the feeling of walking through an ethereal fairy tale forest. It's lush, majestic, and the perfect trail to do in the summer as you'll get a little wet walking underneath the waterfalls and from the mist. The warmer months draw huge crowds, but despite that, this beautiful adventure through the gorge is doable for any level hiker and worth every one of those 800 or so steps.

 

 

2. The Gorge Trail to Bear Trail - Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca NY

Length: 3 miles out and back | Level: Easy- Moderate due to some steps | Duration: 2-3 hours | Elevation: 462 | Dogs: Yes on-leash Camping: Yes | Parking: $8 per vehicle

Directions, full hike and camping info here

I love this park! Buttermilk Falls is one of the better places to spend an afternoon while visiting Ithaca. Another magical forest vibe, this one also has lots of waterfalls and is is very similar to the Watkins Glen gorge trail including an ascent through several stone steps. Here you'll find more bridges and a couple of offshoot trails that make exploring all around this place another perfect adventure. On a hot day, you'll find plenty of people swimming in the natural pool area, and even in spots along the trail. The full-service picnic and camping facilities make it a great way to spend a full few days here.

 

 

5. South Rim to North Rim Trail - Taughannock Falls State Park, Ithaca NY

Length: 3.1 Loop | Level: Moderate | Duration: 2 hours | Elevation: 180 | Dogs: Yes on-leash | Camping: Yes Parking: $8 per vehicle

Directions, full hike and camping info here

Another super popular and iconic waterfall, you can't take a trip to Ithaca and not visit Taughannock Falls. The trail to the falls is super easy and flat making it accessible for all, even baby strollers. If you are looking for more of a challenging trail, the loop to the north rim provides an ascent which will get you the view from the visitor's center at the top of the falls. If you don't feel like hiking at all, driving through the park up to the falls overlook will get you just as good of a view. Coming in at 215 feet, these falls are higher than Niagara Falls making them one of NY State's tallest waterfalls, so it's a must-see!

 

 

4. Gorge Trail - Letchworth State Park, Castile NY

Length: 14 miles out and back | Level: Moderate | Duration: 4-6 hours | Elevation: 2106 | Dogs: Yes on-leash | Camping: Yes 

Parking: $10 per vehicle

Directions, full hike and camping info here

Renowned as the "Grand Canyon of the East", Letchworth State Park has over 66 hiking trails and several waterfalls that make this another great place to explore. This park is huge, operating the most like a national park with a nature center, guided walks, tours and several other activities and programs. You can choose to hike any of the trails to get up close to many of the falls, but much like Yellowstone, it's easy to drive through the park and stop off at all of the points of interest. Pictured here are the iconic Middle Falls, one of the most popular spots- this shot here, can be taken from a short walking path right from the road.

 

 

5. Rim & Gorge Trail Loop - Treman State Park, Ithaca NY

Length: 4.5 mile loop | Level: Easy-Moderate | Duration: 2-3 hours | Elevation: 820 | Dogs: Yes on-leash | Camping: Yes 

Parking: $8 per vehicle 

Directions, full hike and camping info here

This one is a frequent favorite of mine that I've done several times, and it never gets old! Just a few miles from the above Buttermilk Falls, you can find Treman State Park. Another beautiful trek through a gorge with 12 different waterfalls, Lucifer Falls featured here is the largest (115 ft) and iconic to the park. In the summer you'll find this trail lush, green and hot. Many will be swimming in the natural water pool powered by Enfield Glen. In the fall, the colors here are stunning with all shades of orange, yellows and reds. Open all year round, this park is a spectacle of nature in any season.

 

 

6. Eagle Falls Gorge Trail - Havana Glen State Park, Montour Falls NY

Length: .3 miles out and back | Level: Easy | Duration: 1 hours | Elevation: 29 | Dogs: Yes in park only, not on trail | Camping:Yes Parking: $2

Directions, full hike and camping info here

The easiest and shortest of all the trails, this park is a summer hit for swimming as it's the cheapest natural swimming hole around! With the beautiful falls as your backdrop, this short trail up a few steps into this cavern make for another fun day out in nature. 

 

Hope you enjoyed this list and it inspires you to explore more of upstate New York! The Fingerlakes region is so pretty, and is famous for more than just it's gorgeous parks. The area is most known for its robust wine country, boasting over 100 great ones along the lakes. So if you like wine they've got some of the best around! Wine and waterfall day, who can complain?! If you have any favorites (waterfalls, or wine) send me a DM or leave me a comment with more suggestions. See you out on the trails!

 

 

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