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Finger Lakes / New York

7 Best Finger Lakes Hiking Trails + Waterfall Views

Updated July 17, 2023

The Finger Lakes draws visitors near and far to enjoy its beautiful lakes, but the region is also a hiker’s paradise! Thousands of miles of trails throughout the region lead past dramatic gorges, plunging waterfalls, and through dense forests of pine, oak, and hickory trees. 

Before visiting the Finger Lakes, I had no idea it was this gorgeous (or gorges, as they might say) — it’s a hidden gem in the US!

Peppered around the eleven unique Finger Lakes are a literal ton of trails and state parks (you might want to consider checking out this NY Waterfall Hiking Guide) — honestly, you will probably drive down the road and pass ones you never found researching for your adventure (it’s always worth a stop). But, unless you’re planning on moving there, you don’t have all the time in the world to hike your heart out, so in that case, make sure you don’t miss these gorgeous hiking trails in the Finger Lakes — all of them have waterfall views!

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Taughannock Falls

One last note, you might want to consider packing multi-purpose hiking shoes, an insulated water bottle, sunscreen and if you’re new to hiking, be sure to review some hiking tips before you go!

Gorgeous Finger Lakes Hiking Trails with Waterfall Views

#1 Robert H. Treman State Park

Ithaca, NY
Just 15-minutes outside of downtown Ithaca (which is a great spot to find vegan food in the Finger Lakes) is this terrific NY state park. The park is home to nine miles of hiking trails that meander along Enfield Glen. In the summer, bring your bathing suit and jump into the swimming pool under the Lower Falls — it’s complete with a diving board! 

For the most scenic hike, check out the Gorge and Rim Trails. Both trails wind next to the Enfield Glen, up stone staircases, past multiple waterfalls, and ultimately to the park’s showstopper, the 115-ft. Lucifer Falls. The entire hike is just under five miles.

Key stats for hiking and visiting Treman State Park:

  • Level of difficulty: Moderate – strenuous depending on the trail.
  • Trails not to miss: The 4.5-mile Gorge and Rim Trails.
  • Can you camp onsite: Yes, there are rustic campsites and cabins.
  • Are dogs allowed? Yes, they must remain on a leash — don’t forget compostable poop bags!
  • How much is it to enter the park? $10 per car. 

#2 Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen, NY
If you can only make it one Finger Lakes hiking trail, I would prioritize Watkins Glen State Park — it’s mesmerizing. The park has a reputation for being drop-dead gorgeous, and because of that, it is really popular! I suggest visiting during the week and arriving right when the park opens. If you can, avoid visiting on the weekend — the crowds might make you want to turn around. 

Watkins Glen State Park is home to just under five miles of hiking trails but for the most spectacular experience, hit the 1.5-mile Gorge Trail. The trail descends 400 feet, past 200-ft. cliffs, 19 waterfalls, over stone bridges, and up 832 stairs (be careful, the stairs are generally wet). It is incredibly photogenic; you’ll want to take a picture everywhere you turn! 

Key state for hiking and visiting Watkins Glen State Park:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate due to the number of stairs.
  • Trail not to miss: The Gorge Trail
  • Can you camp onsite? Yes, there are rustic campsites and cabins. 
  • Are dogs allowed? Two dogs are allowed at the campsites, but they are not allowed on the Gorge Trail.
  • How much is it to enter the park? $10 per car. 

#3 Seneca Mill Falls, Keuka Outlet Trail

Penn Yan to Dresden, NY
This 7-mile (one-way) trail is built on the former Fall Brook Railroad and starts in Penn Yan (Keuka Lake) and follows the Keuka Outlet Creek to Dresden (Seneca Lake) — you can also start in Dresden. The trail gradually descends from Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake, but otherwise, it is generally a flat, easy Finger Lakes hiking trail. 

This hike has two impressive highlights — Seneca Mill Falls and Cascade Falls. Seneca Mill Falls is about three miles from Penn Yan and approximately 1 mile to Cascade Falls. If you’re not interested in hiking all 7 miles (or 14 miles if you have to turn around), you can park at one of the falls and walk a little over a mile to the other (it’s worth it) or just park at each if you’ve had your fill of hiking. 

Aside from hiking, this is also a popular spot for bikers and snowmobiling in the winter. 

Key stats for hiking the Keuka Outlet Trail:

  • Level of difficulty: Easy
  • Trail not to miss: There is only one trail, Keuka Outlet Trail.
  • Can you camp onsite? No, there isn’t any sanctioned camping.
  • Are dogs allowed? Yes! Don’t forget compostable poop bags!
  • How much is it to enter? FREE! 

#4 Letchworth State Park 

Castile, NY
Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of The East,” this state park is a show stopper — even if you don’t have time to hike, make sure you stop for a quick visit. The park is home to 66 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous — something for every type of hiker! 

Through the center of the park, the Genesee River roars through a deep gorge creating three major waterfalls — the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls — the highest is 600 feet! The most popular hiking trail in the park is the seven-mile (one-way) Gorge Trail which takes visitors along the gorge to see each of the waterfalls and the highest spot in the park, Inspiration Point. You don’t have to hike the entire trail; you can park at the Upper Falls and hike to the Lower Falls, which will be just over four miles one way. 

Aside from hiking, visitors can learn about the diverse nature at the park at the nature center, go white water rafting, kayaking, or even take a hot air balloon ride.

One important note, you probably won’t have much of a cell signal while in the park. If you’re not familiar with the area, download a Google Map of the area and/or directions before you go. If you forget, the Nature Center has free WIFI, I ran in there to get directions home!

Key stats for hiking at Letchworth State Park

  • Level of difficulty: Easy to strenuous
  • Trail not to miss: The Gorge Trail
  • Can you camp onsite? Yes, rustic campsites and cabins are available.
  • Are dogs allowed? Yes, dogs are permitted just about everywhere except in cabins or certain camping areas. Don’t forget compostable poop bags!
  • How much is it to enter? $10 per car.

#5 Conklin’s Gully

Naples, NY
This is a unique hike and also potentially a confusing one! Conklin’s Gully is located in the High Tor Wildlife Management area and features a deep gorge hike with several waterfalls. But, the confusing part is which trail to take! 

From the parking lot on Parish Road, you will reach two trails, one on the right and one on the left. The one on the right literally goes straight uphill into the High Tor Wildlife area — it’s great if you need cardio but not great if you want to see waterfalls (you’re probably guessing I made this mistake — sure did!). So, make sure you take the trail on the left that follows along the creek bed; once you find a clearing, you will want to go down into the creek.

Unlike other Finger Lakes hiking trails, this one is entirely in the creek, so depending on the weather, it could be impassable unless you want to get really wet. When I was there, it was reasonably dry or dry enough that you could get around most of the water. 

This hike is definitely for the adventurous — what’s unique about this might not be attractive to everyone. After wandering through the creek bed, you will come to a couple of small waterfalls; to keep going, you will have to climb up them. The first isn’t too bad, but it does get more technical after that. While you’re hiking, try and stay away from the cliff walls. If rocks fall from above there is a chance it could hit you!

To safely continue through this hike, you need to bring a rope. We got lucky and met a prepared family, but once they stopped, so did we — it was too dangerous without climbing rope. The largest waterfall you can climb is about 50 feet; there are five large waterfalls in total. The hike is about a mile one way. 

Key stats for hiking at Conklin’s Gully:

  • Level of difficulty: Difficult and technical — make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring a climbing rope if you want to climb the falls. 
  • Trail not to miss: The creek bed on the right (the left-hand trail just takes you into High Tor)
  • Can you camp onsite? Yes, but you need a permit.
  • Are dogs allowed? Yes, but I would leave them at home. This trail would not be well suited for dogs. 
  • How much is it to enter? FREE! 

#6 Grimes Glen Park

Naples, NY
Tucked off of Main Street in downtown Naples is this fantastic park — if you weren’t looking for it, you would definitely miss it (it’s not heavily trafficked). This is another mostly creek bed hike. The hiking trail starts on a dirt path and then gets narrower to the point that it forces you into the creek bed. 

Unlike Conklin’s Gully, I didn’t find navigating this creek bed as complicated, but there was more water, so choose your shoes carefully. The creek bed trail leads to two large waterfalls, the first is the largest, but the second has a more powerful “roar.” 

The trail is short, only about a mile round-trip, but it will take you a little longer to navigate the rocks and the water. Make sure you take your time; the wet rocks are slippery! Supposedly you can climb the second falls, but I would only advise that if you have experience and rope. Also, you can swim in the pool below the second waterfall when there is more water. 

Key stats for hiking at Grimes Glen Park:

  • Level of difficulty: Difficult and technical — ensure you wear sturdy shoes.
  • Trail not to miss: There is only one.
  • Can you camp onsite? No.
  • Are dogs allowed? Yes, but they must remain on a leash — don’t forget compostable poop bags!
  • Make sure you have sturdy hiking shoes for this adventure.
  • How much is it to enter? FREE! 

#7 Taughannock Falls State Park 

Trumansburg, NY 
If you’re looking for a leisurely Finger Lakes hiking trail that leads through towering cliffs (over 400 feet above the gorge) to a 215-ft. waterfall (one of the tallest east of the Rocky Mountains, it’s 33 feet taller than Niagara!), then you need to come here! Taughannock Falls is on one side of Taughannock Blvd., while the rest of the park and Cayuga Lake are on the other — a great place for multiple adventures.

There are a few trails within the park, but the most popular is the Gorge Trail (accessible right off the parking lot; it follows Taughannock Creek). It is a flat dirt trail about 1.5 miles round-trip and perfect for just about anyone, including strollers. 

Key stats for hiking at Taughannock Falls State Park:

Level of difficulty: Mostly easy, The Rim Trail has stairs.
Trail not to miss: Gorge Trail 
Can you camp onsite? Yes, there are rustic campsites and cabins onsite.
Are dogs allowed? Yes, but dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. Don’t forget compostable poop bags!
How much is it to enter? $8 per car.

Which Finger Lakes Hiking Trail Has the Most Waterfalls?

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your hiking buck with waterfalls, head to Watkins Glen State Park. The gorgeous park is filled with 19 picture-perfect waterfalls and you don’t have to hike 20 miles to find them all! The park has approximately five miles of trails, including the scenic Gorge Trail which is 1.5 miles. Your camera is sure to get a workout here!

Need More Finger Lakes Planning Help?

I’ve got you covered! Be sure to check out my Vegan Travel Guide to The Finger Lakes which is full of great vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants (perfect after conquering all of those hikes) , vegan hotels, things to do, and more!

Other Vegan Travel Guides to Check Out!

The Best Washington DC Vegan Travel Guide
The Complete Toronto Vegan Travel Guide
Vegan-Friendly Hotels in NYC
The Best Vegan Travel Guide to Philadelphia

About Author

Rebecca is the founder of the vegan travel company Veggies Abroad. In 2021, she bid her 15-year career goodbye and ventured into the world of ethical business with the launch of a vegan travel blog (the one you’re reading!). As the blog flourished, Rebecca expanded her vision to encompass personalized travel planning services and launched Veggies Abroad's inaugural vegan tour to Thailand, marking the beginning of many more eco-conscious, plant-powered adventures to come. Follow her adventures on Instagram or Facebook @veggiesabroad