Known for its ethereal beauty and for a vast array of vineyards that stretch out as far as the eye can see, the Finger Lakes region is an enchanting place that is brimming over with awe-inspiring beauty.
So, after exploring the wealth of long, narrow lakes that this area is named for, be sure to visit the many gorges and stunning waterfalls that are tucked away on some of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes.
Because regardless of whether you’re an expert or a total novice hiker, there’s a hike on this list that is perfect for you as you plan your next Finger Lakes getaway.
Trust me, I should know. I’ve been a New Yorker for well over 30 years and want to share all my insider tips with you so that you can quickly and easily visit all of the very best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes on this list.
So, what are you waiting for? Stop dreaming and start exploring the Finger Lakes like a real, outdoor-loving local!
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Table of Contents
Easy Hikes in the Finger Lakes
1. Gorge Trail through Watkins Glen
Without a doubt, this is my all-time favorite Finger Lakes hiking trail on this list.
I mean, not only does this trail in Watkins Glen take you past 19 (yes, 19) different waterfalls, but you also get to enjoy some pretty awesome views even before you enter the park.
So, be sure to take some sick photos of the epic waterfall at the entrance before hopping on the Gorge Trail and then taking that to the Indian Loop.
You’ll basically go right through the middle of the gorge as you climb 800 different stone steps along the way.
Therefore, this is one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that should take about 1.5 hours to finish – unless you want to try the South Rim Trail, the Indian Trail, and the Punch Bowl Trail too.
Also, even though there’s no specified entrance fee, you will have to pay $8 to use the pool and park your car in the designated lot here.
Pro Tip: Wear shoes with good grip since the stone steps along the trail can get slippery when wet. Shequaga Falls is also just a 7-minute drive down the road so be sure to stop to see one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes there too.
Location: Watkins Glen
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 682 feet
2. Keuka Lake Outlet Trail
Tucked in between Keuka and Seneca Lakes in New York’s famed Finger Lakes region, the awe-inspiring Keuka Lake Outlet Trail is built atop an old track that was once used by the Fall Brook Railroad.
Therefore, this is one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that is easily the ORIGINAL New York rail trail.
Accordingly, it’s an easy trek along the Crooked Lake Canal, with minimal elevation gain so that outdoor enthusiasts can fish, hike, bike, horseback ride, snowmobile, and cross-country ski their way through seven miles of pristine wilderness.
So, prepare for a gradual descent between the Elm Street baseball fields and Cherry Street (in Penn Yan) on a fully paved path.
And as you continue on this Finger Lakes trail from Cherry Street to the outskirts of Dresden, it will become a combination of dirt and gravel that is still easy to traverse.
Pro Tip: Keep your eyes out for Seneca Mills Falls near lock 17. The trail is also open daily from sunrise to sunset and is free to use.
Location: Dresden NY
Distance: 13.3 miles
Route: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 295 feet
3. Taughannock Falls State Park Gorge Trail
Easily one of the most famous hikes in the Finger Lakes on this list, the Gorge Trail through Taughannock Falls State Park offers visitors stunning views of the 215-foot tall waterfall here.
In fact, this waterfall is so tall that it’s actually bigger than the granddaddy of them all, Niagara Falls. I know, crazy but 110% true.
Therefore, enjoy the super low-key hike along this flat, well-marked, Finger Lakes trail before hitting the base of Taughannock Falls itself.
And once you’ve taken all the photos that your memory card can handle, be sure to check out the 400-foot tall cliffs on either side of this awe-inspiring natural landmark.
Also, not surprisingly, this is one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes that gets hella crowded. So, try to stop by on a weekday morning if you can.
Pro Tip: The best time to visit is in spring after the snow melts. You also may want to explore the South Rim Trail (about 1 mile) and the North Trail (about 1.5 miles) that takes you to the Upper Falls (aka Hidden Falls or one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes).
Distance: 2.0 miles
Route: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 183 feet
4. Grimes Glen
Located in the always awesome Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area, the trail to Grimes Glen is easy to follow but a bit chilly since the nearby stream routinely makes the ambient temperature between 10 and 15 degrees cooler than normal.
However, if you can handle the chill in the air then you’ll be rewarded with a leisurely walk on a Finger Lakes trail through a mixed hardwood forest – a stroll that culminates in a fantastic view of the area’s many magnificent waterfalls.
This is also one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that gets narrower as you continue along the trail and go around a bend. Eventually, though, the path will open up to reveal a view of a lovely waterfall.
Continue past the waterfall and the path will narrow once again as you move between the high walls of the glen. Be exceptionally careful since a fine layer of moss makes rocks here quite slippery.
You’ll know you’ve hit the end of the trail when you see a second waterfall and a pool where you can go swimming in the warm summer months.
Pro Tip: If there’s no space in the small lot, you can always park on Vine Street. There are also restrooms that you can use at the start of the trail.
Location: Naples, NY in the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area
Distance: 1.1 miles
Route: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 98 feet
5. Buttermilk Falls
If you should ever find yourself in or around Ithaca, run, don’t walk, to the Gorge/Rim Trail through Buttermilk Falls State Park.
Because this is one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that sits inside a 911-acre state park, offering outdoor lovers stellar views of Buttermilk Falls.
So, use this short and sweet loop trail to see one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes that sits at 165 feet tall and that cascades down into Cayuga Lake below.
Yeah, this is a supremely easy Finger Lakes hike since the trailhead sits near the entrance of the park and the base of the waterfall.
So, if you came here just to see this waterfall then definitely forgo the hike. You should also be extra cautious when climbing some steep stairs on the trail as you pass by some super cute, smaller waterfalls in the area.
And when you’re done, just take the Rim Trail back so that you enjoy some unique scenery en route to your car.
Pro Tip: Yeah, you’ll have to pay an $8 vehicle fee to get into this park.
Distance: 1.6 miles (for the Gorge and Rim Trail to the waterfall)
Elevation Gain: 462 feet
6. Cascadilla Gorge Trail
Serving as a connecting corridor between downtown Ithaca and Cornell, this is one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes that may be short but offers visitors stunning views of the area’s many waterfalls.
Because as you walk along this 0.5-mile path, you’ll see eight different waterfalls on the Cascadilla Creek that range in size from 8 to 80 feet.
Therefore, feel free to access this trail from either the lower trailhead at Treeman Triangle Park or the upper trailhead in the back of the Schwartz Center for Theatre Arts at Cornell. And if you can’t find street parking, you can always pay for parking at Dryden Road Garage.
Now, once you’re on the trail itself, you’ll make your way through the gorge and discover picturesque stone stairways and bridges about halfway into the trail. Be sure to stop for a photo (or ten) before continuing on with the rest of your hike.
Pro Tip: This is one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that is only open from sunrise to sunset, between early spring and late November since the ground gets really icy. Also, even though the trail is through a developed, urban area, the gorge can still be dangerous. So, be sure to stay on the trail and watch for routine closures.
Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 45 feet
7. Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls
Although not a trail per say, a visit to Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls is a must-see for anyone seeking out some of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.
Because even though you really only need to walk down a 0.1-mile “trail” to get to this waterfall, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of a stunning, 165-foot tall waterfall that is sandwiched in between two houses in the center of town.
Yeah, it basically sits on the edge of a small park and is super accessible from a small road that cuts through town. So, just park in the small lot (or on the street) and make your way to this breathtaking spot.
Pro Tip: Book a room overlooking the falls inside the Cook Mansion Bed and Breakfast which is right nearby.
Location: Montour Falls
Distance: 0.1 miles
Difficulty: SUPER easy
Route: Out and Back
Elevation Gain; 0 feet
8. Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail
If you are not hell bent on chasing the scenic waterfalls in the area (or if you have already seen them), you will find that the Cayuga-Seneca Canal trail is one of the most iconic trail experiences in the area.
It is a leisurely trail that allows you to take in your surroundings. You get to spot the natural flora and fauna in the area. In fact, the entire stone dust trail is lined with gorgeous trees on either side.
Interestingly enough, the trail hasn’t fully been finished yet. You can still use it though. The eventual plan is to connect Seneca Lake State Park and the gorgeous Montezuma National Wildlife refuge. At that time the trail will be 19 miles long and a pretty long walk. The current trail starts off at Waterloo and ends at Seneca Lake State Park.
One of the interesting highlights of this trail is that it uses the roadbed that was constructed in 1896! The trail is so easy that it can be used for jogging, walking and even cycling! So it is really a trail for everybody.
Location: Seneca Lake State Park
Distance: 5.2 miles
Route: Out and back
Elevation gain: 27m
Moderate Hikes in the Finger Lakes
9. Conklin’s Gully in Hi Tor
Located in the 6,800-acre Hi Tor Management Area, this Finger Lakes trail is best visited during October, when fall foliage is at its most vibrant and best.
After all, this area is well known for its large tracts of hardwood forests that consist of maples, oaks, beech trees, and more.
So, if you want to experience one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes for yourself, drive over to the southern edge of Canandaigua Lake and access the trailhead from the dirt lot at Route 245 and Rushville Road.
Once here, follow the steep trail upward until you come to a small meadow at about 0.5-miles in. From here, you can either walk through the meadow or veer left along a steep cliff.
Personally, I’d go through the meadow and continue onwards until you hit some of the best views of Conklin Gully in the region.
Just be exceptionally cautious here since there is a steep, abrupt drop that is hidden by the canopy of this heavily forested area.
Keep going until you pass over a wooden bridge. At this point, continue left and follow the path along the cliff’s edge. Just make sure you’re wearing shoes with good traction since the trail can get a bit precarious.
Eventually, you’ll discover a service road that you can then use to return to the parking lot as you complete one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes.
Pro Tip: If you want to try one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that is a bit more challenging, hit up the Conklin Gully 12 Falls Trail while you’re here.
Location: Naples NY in the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area
Distance: 2.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 521 feet
10. Abbott Loop In Danby State Forest
If you are looking for some quiet down time surrounded by nature then you really really should consider heading to Danby State Forest. The Abbott Loop is a quiet hike in Fingerlakes that I love and recommend. In fact, it is one that I would prefer to head out on alone because it gives me a chance to think! The only downside is that it is a moderately difficult trail so company is always better.
The trail is open all year round and it takes about 4 hours for a seasoned hiker to complete it. Despite the difficulty, you will find quite a number of hiking enthusiasts (and even their dogs) on the trail.
Another bonus is that the trail is a loop trail so you are likely to see something new at every turn. I’m a big fan of loop trails but then you probably already know that!
Pro Tip: One thing that you really need to be aware of is that hunting is allowed on this trail. Keep your eyes and ears open because you don’t want to accidentally wander into someone’s way.
Location: Danby State Forest
Distance: 7.9 miles
Elevation gain: 1574 feet
11. Gorge Trail in Letchworth State Park
Home to one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, Letchworth State Park is a magical place where you can hike along the super awesome, not too difficult, Gorge Trail.
Yes, it’s 14 miles long, but that’s because this leisurely stroll takes you along the east rim of Letchworth Gorge.
In fact, this natural landmark is so awesome that it’s locally known as the Grand Canyon of the East.
Plus, as you make your way along one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes, be sure to make pit stops at various scenic overlooks to see the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls of the Genesee River.
Also, don’t leave before taking in the awesomeness that is Inspiration Point, Wolf Creek, and The Tea Tables since these areas will all give you epic views of the canyon and waterfalls below.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to hike the entire trail you can always drive sections of it since the trail runs parallel with the park’s main road. You should also plan to visit in spring (when the waterfalls are at their most impressive) and bring money for the $8 day-use pass.
Location: Castile (an hour away from Buffalo)
Distance: 14 miles
Route: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 2,106 feet
12. Birdseye Hollow State Forest
The Birdseye Hollow trail is an absolute smashing trail to head out on. It is moderately difficult but you can finish it rather quickly if that is your intended purpose. Me… I prefer to take in the sights as I walk along as it is an oasis from the city and I come here for the peace that the park offers.
The trail is popular all year round and during the colder months you will find that a lot of people head here for cross country skiing. If that’s not your thing don’t worry. It is also a great spot for camping and bird watching!
One of my favorite parts about the park is the true glacier lake aka a lake that is formed by the melting glacier. If you haven’t been to Sanford Lake yet then be sure to add it to your bucket list. On a side note, just know that the glacial ice melted millennia ago.
The other pond namely Birdseye Hollow pond was formed after the dam was built on Mud creek.
Pro Tip: Fishing is a great idea here because boats with powerful motors are not allowed in Birdseye Hollow pond. The whole area is remarkably peaceful and I always recommend a pitstop here!
Location: Birdseye Hollow State Forest
Distance: 2 miles
Route: Out and back
Elevation gain: 13 feet
13. Rim and Gorge Trail in Robert H. Treman State Park
Located just fifteen minutes from Ithaca, NY, this is another one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes that feature waterfalls, waterfalls, and, oh yeah, more waterfalls.
And that makes sense since this popular hike takes you through the 1100 acres of glory that is Robert H. Treman State Park and to a stunning, 115-foot tall waterfall known as Lucifer Falls.
Therefore, if you want to try out this iconic trail for yourself, stop by between April and November and begin your journey with the 2-mile Rim Trail.
From here, you’ll meander your way through Enfield Glen and to Lucifer Falls itself. If you can, beeline it to the top for even better views of the waterfall below.
You’ll then need to descend via the Gorge Trail since this route only goes in one direction. It’s not bad though since the views on the way down are pretty dang awesome.
So, after all is said and done, you’ll go to the bottom of the gorge, ascend via a set of natural stone steps, and then continue to the top of the rim – marveling at 12 unique waterfalls along the way.
Just try to bring plenty of water and snacks – in addition to wearing a pair of decent shoes – since this hike will take about 2.5 hours to complete. Also, have some money handy since you’ll need to pay $8 for a day-use pass.
Pro Tip: Be sure to make a pit stop at the Lucifer Falls Overlook for a stellar panorama of Enfield Creek below. This is also one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes that isn’t too difficult but that does require you to ascend stone steps, creating 500+ feet of elevation gain.
Distance: 4.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 820 feet
14. Interloken Trail in Finger Lakes National Forest
Without a doubt, the Finger Lakes National Forest is easily one of my favie fave natural areas in the region. I mean, not only is it home to 30+ miles of trails where you can hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, and horseback ride, but the park even connects with the legendary Finger Lakes Trail along its southern perimeter.
Additionally, the best hikes in the Finger Lakes here are incredibly diverse and include everything from well-worn paths to dirt roads to painted stones in fields.
However, the real highlight of any visit is a walk along the Interloken Trail, which has tons of switchbacks and takes you through the center of the forest, eventually meeting up with several side loop trails.
You’ll also find tons of wooded glens to explore, in addition to several pastures where farmers graze cows on federal land.
Pro Tip: This trail is muddy on the best of days so try not to visit after heavy rain. It’s also best used between May and October.
Distance: 11.3 miles
Route: Point to point
Elevation Gain: 705 feet
15. Ontario County Park at Gannett Hill
Believe it or not, Ontario Country Park at Gannett Hill is home to more than 600 acres of woodlands and vast meadows that provide visitors with some of the best views in the Finger Lakes.
And although there are upwards of 12 multi-use trails that are just waiting to be explored, the Ontario County Loop is easily my fave and one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes.
After all, this somewhat up and down hike takes you to the single highest viewpoint in all of Western New York – the “Jump Off” overlook at Gannett Hill – and features unparalleled panoramas of the Finger Lakes and all of Ontario County.
You’ll also love that all of the best Finger Lakes hikes in this park are well-marked and color-coded to denote difficulty based on intensity in elevation gain.
So, take some time to explore the incredible network of loop trails here that occasionally interconnect with one another.
Pro Tip: You can also use one of the best hiking trails in the Finger Lakes to catch the intense, 50+ mile, Bristol Hills Trail through the region.
Location: Naples, NY
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 374 feet
16. Indian, Finger Lakes And Gorge Trail Loop
There are so many amazing hikes in Finger Lakes that it can be hard to choose. The Indian, Finger Lakes and Gorge Trail loop is one of the moderate trails that is pretty popular because it takes you through some of the top highlights of the region.
This route takes you through Watkins Glen State Park which means that you will see other hikers in the area. It is after all a popular hiking spot. The best part about this trail? At just two miles in, you will start to catch some spectacular views. The 19 pretty waterfalls on the glen’s stream is just one example.
There are a couple of things that set this trail apart from the other hikes in Finger Lakes. For one thing, dogs are not allowed on the trail.
Pro Tip: Another important thing to realize is that the trail is a seasonal one and is subject to closure during bad weather.
If you don’t want to be disappointed, I would suggest traveling between May and October. This is considered the best time to visit the trail.
Location: Watkins Glen State Park
Distance: 6.8 km
Elevation gain: 267m
Best Hikes In Finger Lakes FAQ
Which Finger Lake Has The Most Waterfalls?
We all know that the Finger lakes region is known for its amazing waterfalls. Some regions have more waterfalls than others. If you are chasing waterfalls, then I suggest heading to Watkins Glen State Park. The Gorge Trail alone has 20 waterfalls!
Can You Walk Around Seneca Lake?
Yes! You definitely can. The Finger Lakes Gorge Trail is a trail that is open all year round and is pretty easy. It is an out and back trail. As it is an easy trail, you will find yourself walking along with a lot of other people.
A while back dogs were not allowed on this trail. That has changed now. Dogs are allowed provided they are on a lead.
What Is The Most Scenic Finger Lake Routes?
If you want some absolutely stunning views then head to Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. It gives you an unparalleled view of one of the most scenic Finger lakes aka Cayuga Lake. This is in case you aren’t planning on hiking though.
Map of the Best Hikes in the Finger Lakes
Additional New York Resources You’ll Love
- Best Hikes on Long Island
- Best Hudson Valley Hikes
- Best Hikes in the Catskills
- Best Hikes in the Adirondacks
- Best Winter Hikes in New York
- Best Hikes in New York State
- Best Hikes in Upstate New York
- Best Things to do in Jamestown NY
- Best Things to do in Geneva NY
- Best Seneca Lake Wineries
- Best Wineries in the Finger Lakes