The Best Hikes in the Finger Lakes

Nestled in upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region is a hiker's paradise with its scenic beauty, rolling hills, and picturesque landscapes. If you're an outdoor enthusiast looking to explore the best hiking destinations in the area, you're in for a treat. 

hiking shoes in stream

Here are our top 4 hiking spots in the Finger Lakes that will leave you awe-inspired and connected with nature:

  1. Watkins Glen State Park -- Gorge Trail: A gem of the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen State Park offers a hiking experience like no other. The Gorge Trail takes you on a mesmerizing journey through a series of 19 waterfalls, lush greenery, and enchanting stone pathways. As you hike along the trail, you'll be surrounded by the soothing sound of rushing water and be treated to breathtaking vistas at every turn. Insider tip: the Gorge Trail can be challenging with 800 stairs along the trail. While the view is the best starting from the bottom and walking up the trail, it can be challenging too. So park your car in the upper parking lot and walk down the trail, from the top to the bottom. There's a shuttle that will take you back to the top when you are done. Just make sure the shuttle is running when you go!
  1. Taughannock Falls State Park: Taughannock Falls State Park is home to one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains. The park's namesake, Taughannock Falls, cascades an impressive 215 feet down into a gorge. Hike the scenic trails that wind through the park, and be sure to stop at the overlooks for stunning views of the falls and the surrounding area.
  1. Robert H. Treman State Park: Located in Ithaca, Robert H. Treman State Park offers a diverse range of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. The park is famous for its 115-foot Lucifer Falls, which can be reached via the Gorge Trail. As you hike through the park, you'll encounter tranquil streams, towering cliffs, and lush forests, making it a perfect destination for a day immersed in nature.
  1. Buttermilk Falls State Park: Just a short drive from Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park is another must-visit hiking destination in the Finger Lakes. The park's namesake, Buttermilk Falls, tumbles down a series of cascades and pools, creating a setting you’ll love capturing in countless photographs. Hike along the Gorge Trail, and cool off in the natural swimming holes along the way. The park also offers other trails that take you through scenic woodlands and provide breathtaking views and here is where you can dive into the waterfall waters (this is our niece Jocelyn coming off the diving board), we can tell you from experience, it is a rush!
Okay, okay, so picking only 4 is very hard to do! Here are some other great hiking trails in the Finger Lakes that are worth exploring. 
Finger Lakes National Forest: For a more off-the-beaten-path hiking experience, head to the Finger Lakes National Forest. This hidden gem covers over 16,000 acres and features a network of trails that wind through woodlands, meadows, and along the shores of the region's lakes. Enjoy the peacefulness of nature as you hike, and keep an eye out for diverse wildlife and bird species that call the forest home.

Grimes Glen: Located in Naples, Grimes Glen is a lesser-known hiking spot that offers a unique experience. The main attraction of the park is a stunning waterfall and gorge that can be explored through a short and moderately challenging hike. Prepare to get your feet wet as you navigate the stream and boulders to reach the captivating waterfall at the end of the trail. Did you also know that the oldest fossilized tree in New York came from this spot? Incredible!

Watkins Glen State Park – South Rim Trail: If you're looking for a more challenging hike with rewarding views, the South Rim Trail in Watkins Glen State Park is a great option. This trail takes you along the ridge of the gorge, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape and the gorge below. The trail is steep in some sections, but the breathtaking views make it worth the effort.

Havana Glen Park: It's only minutes from the properties and downtown Watkins Glen, so we love that! It's also much less busy than Watkins Glen State Park, so another bonus. You'll find Havana Glen at the south end of the village of Montour Falls with Eagle Cliff Falls being the main attraction. A short, easy and beautiful hike gets you there and you can swim under the falls too. Fun fact for our bird and plant lovers, the park contains various species of rare native New York State plants, and has been classified as an important area for birding, as over 100 species have been documented here.

    When planning your hiking adventures in the Finger Lakes, it's important to check which trails are open (some close in the winter months), the trail conditions and park regulations. Summer weekends will be the busiest, so try and go mid-week in the off-season if you want some more privacy. Wear appropriate footwear, pack water and snacks, and practice 'Leave No Trace' principles to ensure the preservation of these natural wonders!