Best Finger Lakes Hikes

15 of the Most Thrilling Hikes in Finger Lakes, NY

Hiking in the Finger Lakes region of New York is a magical experience. In this guide, guest blogger Polly Clover shares 15 of the best Finger Lakes hikes to help you plan your trip.

Bursting with natural beauty, the Finger Lakes region in New York is one of the most enchanting destinations I’ve ever visited. In fact, no New York itinerary is complete without visiting.

I discovered the Finger Lakes during one of my east coast road trip adventures, and I was instantly blown away. With its expansive vineyards, incredibly kind locals, stunning lakes, and breathtaking waterfalls, what more could you ask for?

There are 11 Finger Lakes, with five main ones. They expand over 9,000 miles, so a car is necessary to explore the entire area! That said, my favourite way to explore this natural slice of heaven is on foot and hitting the trails.

From leisurely, short strolls to long, challenging hikes, there’s something for all kinds of nature lovers! Many are pet-friendly, some are great for children, and a few are adequate for pro hikers.

Below, you’ll find 15 of my favourite Finger Lake hikes. I’ll also share some helpful tips for exploring these trails so that you can have an unforgettable adventure!

Let’s get to it and check out the best hiking trails in Finger Lakes.

Seneca Mills Waterfall
Don't miss number 12!

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Tips for Hiking in the Finger Lakes, NY

While it’s easy to enjoy the Finger Lakes hikes just as they are, here are a few more tips to make the best of your adventuring!

Seneca Lake Wine Trail Finger Lakes

Visit the Best Finger Lakes Wine Trail

Finger Lakes Wine Trails are one of its most iconic attractions. Three distinct trails allow you to enjoy the region’s best wines and attend wine and food pairing events. 

While these aren’t exactly hiking trails, you can find these wine trails close to many of the best hikes in Finger Lakes. And it allows you to continue appreciating the area’s amazing outdoors while enjoying delicious local wine.

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail is known as the best one. There are 27 member wineries that offer stunning tasting rooms and scenic views.

This adventure should be on everyone’s Finger Lakes bucket list and can be paired with one of these Seneca Lake hikes: 

  • Havana Glen Park: Eagle Cliff Falls
  • Watkins Glen: Indian, Finger Lakes, and Gorge Trail Loop
  • Watkins Glen: Glen Creek Gorge Trail
  • Keuka Lake Outlet Trail

Finger Lakes Hiking Safety

The Finger Lakes region is known to be very safe. As a solo female traveller myself, I never felt in harm’s way during my trip. 

With that said, it’s always a good idea to follow a few safety guidelines:

  • Plan your trip beforehand. You want to make sure you’re not hiking when it’s dark or if bad weather is predicted.
  • Don’t hike alone. If you’re travelling by yourself like I was when I visited, you can always hike one of the busier trails like the ones at Watkins Glen State Park.
  • Have appropriate hiking gear. Not only do you want to have supportive shoes that are slip and waterproof, but you should also prepare a hiking bag with items such as water, sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and a headlamp.
Finger Lakes Hikes
Expect endless beauty and adventure on these exciting Finger Lakes Trails!

Best Time to Enjoy Hiking in the Finger Lakes

I personally feel like the best hiking season in the Finger Lakes is fall. This time of year is also a great time to explore New York City, so you might want to combine the two.

During fall, the weather is pleasant, there’s little rain, and the colourful foliage is incredible. Most of the trails on this list are surrounded by trees and the autumn leaves are beautiful! 

If you’re considering checking out the best hikes in Finger Lakes during other seasons, here’s what to expect:

Spring can be an excellent time to hike as the rain results in cascading waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. With that said, the trails can get slippery, and you’re likely to encounter rain, so you’ll definitely want to dress accordingly.

The peak season for the Finger Lakes region is during summer. This is when the weather is warm, and you’ll find more crowds.

Many hikers also enjoy winters in the Finger Lakes as the snow can make for beautiful scenery. I personally don’t enjoy hiking in the snow, and many of the trails aren’t fully accessible during winter.

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Where to Stay in the Finger Lakes

It’s easy to want to stay in this memorable part of New York for as long as possible as there’s so much to see and do! And that’s exactly what I did when I went.

The good news is that there are tons of places to stay. 
You can find countless hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds to fit your needs. I was in my self-converted campervan when I visited, so I primarily utilised various campsites.

Here are some of my favourite accommodation options in the Finger Lakes:

You can also check out many other accommodation options in Finger Lakes here. Or use the Map below to see all your options​:

The Best Hikes in Finger Lakes, NY

Now we will look at my favourite hikes in the Finger Lakes region. I’ve ordered them from east to west to make planning your itinerary easier.

We’ll start at Skaneateles Lake and make our way over to Canandaigua Lake.

Skaneateles Lake

1. Hinchcliff Family Preserve

Location: Skaneateles Lake
Distance: 1.43 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Pets Allowed: yes

As you approach the Finger Lakes, you’ll come across the Hinch Cliff Family Preserve at the southern tip of Skaneateles Lake.

This is one of the best Finger Lake trails for taking photos and for children with a lot of energy.

While it has some hilly areas, it’s somewhat easy for the most part and takes under an hour to complete.

The preserve covers 303 acres and offers jaw-dropping lake scenery, diverse habitats, and a hiking trail that winds past the forest, streams, and waterfalls.

Although the loop hike is relatively short, you’ll see various sights that keep it interesting.

The creek offers a peaceful vibe, and depending on the time of year, a field of wildflowers makes for stunning photos.

As you make your way through the trail, you’ll also find signs that share pieces of local history. An old fireplace and truck are also cool to check out.

Filmore Glen Hike Finger Lakes

2. Filmore Glen: North and South Rim Loop

Location: Owasco Lake
Distance: 3.8 miles
Difficulty: easy
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

Fillmore Glen State Park is a large, densely-wooded state park below Owasco Lake. You can find various trails that offer scenic views, including this one and the next one on this list.

The North and South Rim loop trail is considered easy and is great for hiking and trail running. You’ll find some stairs on your route, but they’re well maintained and manageable to navigate.

One of my favourite parts of this trail is stopping at the waterfall to enjoy the surroundings and take a rest. There’s plenty of space to have a seat, get comfortable, and enjoy nature for a while.

Owasco Lake NY

3. Fillmore Glen: North and Gorge Loop

Location: Owasco Lake
Distance: 3.48 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge than the previous Fillmore Glen State Park trail, the North and Gorge Loop is the one for you!

It’s also ideal for hiking and trail running while enjoying peace and quiet.

As you begin the North and Gorge Loop, you’ll take some stairs that offer a bit of a challenge.

Although the beginning is a little work, the stairs are well-maintained, and it’s well worth the scenery that awaits you.

Along the trail, you’ll pass waterfalls and come across unique bridges. This loop is often quite wet, so I recommend wearing appropriate hiking shoes for the best experience.

Emilie Jonas Trail Finger Lakes

4. Emilie Jonas Falls Nature Trail

Location: Cayuga Lake
Distance: 0.69 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: no

Here is one of the most unique Finger Lakes hikes on our list as it runs through a local’s private property. They’ve kindly opened it up for public access so that visitors can enjoy this slice of natural paradise.

This trail is also in one of my favourite East Coast hidden gem cities, Ithaca.

Although the hike is pretty short, there’s a steep incline and slippery stone steps. Wearing shoes with a good grip is definitely suggested, and you’re sure to appreciate your journey!

Once you make it to the end of the trail, you’ll find a waterfall and a small swimming area.

Tip – It can be somewhat tricky to find the Emilie Jonas Falls Nature Trail. The parking area is just along the side of the road. Then, you’ll make your way through a field to the trailhead.

Cascadilla Gorge
Don't miss the Cascadilla Gorge trail in Finger Lakes!

5. Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Location: Cayuga Lake
Distance: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: easy
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

Cascadilla Gorge is one of the best hikes in Finger Lakes for a leisurely stroll along a serene creek. Its convenient location close to the downtown area makes it the perfect escape from the hustle.

The trail is situated close to Cornell University, so it’s not only popular for visitors but also for college students. With that said, it’s not often too busy and offers a peaceful vibe.

On this walk, you can appreciate views of the gorge and waterfalls. If you visit after there’s been rain, it’s also one of the best Finger Lake waterfall hikes.

Buttermilk Falls Hike NY

6. Buttermilk Falls: Gorge and Rim Trail Loop

Location: Cayuga Lake
Distance: 1.62 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

Buttermilk Falls State Park is an expansive park that boasts 10 incredible waterfalls.

It’s a popular spot for camping and swimming, and is also home to some of the best Finger Lakes hiking trails. In fact, it’s one Ithaca’s must visit attractions.

The Gorge and Rim trail loop is moderately challenging, with steep areas that provide elevated panorama.

Just about every corner offers views, and you’ll want to have your camera ready for the breathtaking waterfalls.

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7. Buttermilk Falls: Gorge, Bear, and Rim Trail

Location: Cayuga Lake
Distance: 4.47 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

While you can do the shorter hike shared above and enjoy almost all the waterfalls that Buttermilk Falls State Park offers, the Gorge, Bear, and Rim Trail is a bit more of a challenge.

This loop trail is moderately difficult with elevation and stairs, all worth it for the views. There are also plenty of spaces to take a break on this trail to take photos, take in the scenery, and relax.

Tip – Bridges can be difficult to cross over after a lot of rain or snow, so I definitely suggest wearing appropriate shoes.

Taughannock Falls State Park
One of the best waterfall hikes in Finger Lakes!

8. Taughannock Falls via Gorge Trail

Location: Cayuga Lake
Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: easy
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

The Gorge Trail to Taughannock Falls is in Taughannock Falls State Park, and it’s one of the most accessible hiking trails in Finger Lakes.

The first half-mile of the trail is wide and flat and the terrain is smooth, so it’s great for all hikers, including children.

This easy hike is great for walking, trail running, and birdwatching. It’s highly trafficked, so you’ll likely have other hikers joining you.

After following this creekside trail to the end, you’ll have the 215-foot tall Taughannock Falls awaiting you. Best of all, the views from the foot of the trail are unmatched!

Havana Glen Park

9. Havana Glen Park: Eagle Cliff Falls

Location: Seneca Lake
Distance: 0.31 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

Havana Glen Park is a peaceful area just below Seneca Lake. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic, camping, and exploring the creekside trail that takes you to small but picturesque waterfalls. 

Although the trail is very short, there are some difficult areas of metal grate steps and narrow rocks. Because of this, it may not be the best place for pets or children unless they’re pretty agile.

The waterfalls at the end of the trail offer an ideal area to hang out for a bit to rest, take photos, and go for a swim.

finger lakes waterfall trails

10. Watkins Glen: Indian, Finger Lakes, and Gorge Trail Loop

Location: Seneca Lake
Distance: 2.6 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: no

Watkins Glen State Park is the most popular state park in the area due to its awe-inspiring beauty. It features various nature trails, 2 of which I’m sharing on this list. 

Since the park is so popular, these trails are best for those who enjoy exploring alongside other hikers. This was great for me since I was hiking solo!

The Indian, Finger Lakes, and Gorge Trail loop is moderately challenging for most hikers.

You’ll come across several steps that can be slippery and have a sharp incline, making for good exercise rewarded with stunning views.

Tip –  I visited Watkins Glen State Park in the fall and saw fantastic foliage. However, I’ve heard going in the spring treats you to cascading waterfalls like you’ve never seen before.

Watkins Glen Trail Finger Lakes

11. Watkins Glen: Glen Creek Gorge Trail

Location: Seneca Lake
Distance: 1.43 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: no

To experience the incredible waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park on a shorter hike, the Glen Creek Gorge Trail is perfect for you.

Again, I don’t recommend these trails if you like to steer clear of touristy destinations and crowds. With that said, it’s an iconic attraction for great reason.

Though the Glen Creek Gorge Trail is somewhat challenging with slick areas and steps, it’s well worth it for the scenery. 

As you meander past Glen Creek, you’ll come across over a dozen waterfalls, big and small. And the Gorge looks like something out of a movie!

Seneca Mills Waterfall

12. Keuka Lake Outlet Trail

Location: Seneca and Keuka Lake
Distance: 12.48 miles
Difficulty: easy
Pets Allowed: yes

The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail is one of the best waterfall hikes in Finger Lakes for a more extended adventure. 

You can expect to hike for almost 5 hours without stopping. However, there are plenty of benches and picnic areas to rest on along the way as you enjoy the rapids.

This easy, flat trail offers a fun experience as you hike, bike, or run between Keuka and Seneca Lakes. You’ll pass two large waterfalls: Seneca Mills Falls and Cascade Mills & Falls.

If you prefer, you can park between the trailhead and foot for a shorter walk as there are various parking locations. However, I would suggest taking the entire journey to see all of its beauty.

13. Clark Gully

Location: Canandaigua Lake
Distance: 0.99 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: not pet-friendly

Clark Gully is a more secluded trail that offers picture-perfect views. Although this exciting trail is relatively short, it can be challenging due to its slippery and steep areas. 

If you’re up for an adventure, you’ll love Clark Gully! However, it’s probably not ideal for beginners, children, or pets.

I appreciate Clark Gully most for its relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty. It’s full of untouched wonders to explore, including a gully, waterfalls, and rock formations.

Conklin's Gully

14. Conklin’s Gully 12 Falls Trail, Canandaigua Lake

Location: Canandaigua Lake
Distance: 3.42 miles
Difficulty: hard
Pets Allowed: leashed pets welcome

If you’re looking for the best hikes in Finger Lakes for thrill-seekers, I definitely recommend checking out Conklin’s Gully 12 Falls Trail.

It’s challenging, there’s do doubt about that. But it’s rewarding and exhilarating at the same time!

Some extra effort leads you to some of the most impressive waterfalls in New York. However, you don’t have to hike the entire trail for a fantastic experience.

Alongside the epic waterfalls, the trail provides excellent views of the valley and creek below.

Although you don’t have to, some parts of the hike require pulling up on a rope to explore even more of the area.

You can throw on waterproof hiking boots and explore the creek for the ultimate excursion.

Canandaigua Lake

15. Stid Hill Launch Site Trail

Location: Canandaigua Lake
Distance: 2.30 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Pets Allowed: yes

The Stid Hill Launch Site Trail offers a more leisurely hike around Canandaigua Lake that still provides an adventure. I would recommend this one as one of the best for a sunset hike!

While much of the Stid Hill Launch Site Trail is flat, there are relatively challenging areas of inclines. It’s an excellent destination to get away from the crowds and enjoy nature.

Tip –  This trail isn’t maintained and offers a very natural atmosphere. I recommend enjoying this hike with someone else and being mindful of your route as it’s not marked very well.

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Enjoy the Best Hikes in Finger Lakes, NY

There you have it – my favourite Finger Lakes hikes! I hope you’re ready to explore this incredible region on foot. 

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast who loves long, challenging excursions or you find joy in taking short strolls to appreciate gorgeous scenery, there’s something for everyone.

If you have any to add to the list, feel free to share them in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

Stay adventurous and Happy travels. 

Check out the rest of our New York articles in our East Coast USA Series to help you with your travel planning.

Charlotte & Natalie
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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the list. I think I’ll try a few out this week and next. I’ll be starting west to east

    Thanks again

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Charlotte & Natalie

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We’re Charlotte & Natalie, a British lesbian couple with a passion for travel and adventure.
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