The 10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes is one of the best places in New York State to see the Fall foliage. The landscape of this region is what makes the Finger Lakes such a picturesque place to go leaf-peeping. With the eleven lakes this region is named for, the rolling hills and vineyards, and beautiful waterfalls, it comes as no surprise that there are ample spots to see the changing leaves. Whether hiking for the view or taking a scenic drive, these Finger Lakes Fall foliage spots are unbeleafable. 

Discover the best places to see Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes, including some of the best New York State Parks and scenic views. Peak Fall foliage typically lands in early October. Yet, keep an eye on the official Fall Foliage Report to see updates on the changing leaves.

Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

Letchworth State Park

Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes - LetchworthLetchworth State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the East and is incredible in the Fall. Letchworth has three major waterfalls and an impressive gorge. Letchworth is a driveable park; its main road, Park Road, runs through the length of Letchworth State Park. Park Road is an incredible winding tree-lined road where you can stop to take in the scenic gorge overlooks and waterfalls. 


The vibrant Fall foliage at Letchworth State Park intensifies the already gorgeous views. The leaf-peeping opportunities at this New York State Park are abundant, and there are also plenty of hiking trails to see these views. Letchworth State Park is hands down one of the best places to see Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes.

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most popular parks to visit in New York. The beautiful Gorge Trail in Watkins Glen State Park should be included in any Finger Lakes itinerary and is a great place to see in the Fall. This trail follows the gorge and ultimately leads to the most photographed spot in the park, Rainbow Falls.

Due to its popularity, Watkins Glen State Park gets extremely busy, especially in the Fall. Be sure to arrive early in the morning if you’d like to experience the trail without as many crowds.

Taughannock Falls State Park

Fall at Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls State Park is one of the best places to see Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes. With a 215 foot drop, Taughannock Falls is considered the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Mississippi. This waterfall is perfectly nestled amongst the trees, which is especially beautiful with changing leaves. 

For the best view, stop at the Taughanncok Falls overlook. There is free parking at the overlook, and the view is incredible! To get an up-close view of Taughannock Falls, hike along the tree-lined path of the Gorge Trail, which is an easy 1.9-mile roundtrip hike. P.S. There is a hidden waterfall at Taughannock Falls State Park that is beautiful with the Fall Foliage.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

Buttermilk Falls State Park is located in Ithaca, New York, and features a picturesque gorge. This park offers various hiking trails to see the Fall Foliage. One of the most well-known trails is the Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail, which is especially beautiful in the Fall. The trees that line the Gorge Trail turn vibrant shades of oranges and reds in the Fall, and there are often fallen leaves along the trail.

Consider hiking the lesser-known Lake Treman Trail in the upper portion of Buttermilk Falls. This trail offers unique views that are stunning with the Fall foliage, and the views are pretty dramatic and unique to that what you will see on other trails in the Finger Lakes.

Robert H. Treman State Park

Robert H. Treman State Park is another New York State Park located in Ithaca, NY, that you must see in the Fall. Featuring the impressive Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park is a great spot to see Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes. The gorge trail at Robert H. Treman State Park follows the rugged gorge and various waterfalls until reaching Lucifer Falls. The Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park is a beautiful spot to take in the ever-changing colors of the Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes.

If you’re up for a bit more strenuous hike, follow the Rim Trail on your way out of Robert H. Treman State Park. The Rim Trail offers a unique vantage point of Lucifer Falls and allows you to hike along the treeline. 

Carolabarb Park

Carolabarb Park is one of the best scenic overlooks in the Finger Lakes and a fantastic spot to see the Fall foliage. Carolabarb Park is located north of Naples, NY, and offers an incredible view of Canandaigua Lake. To get to this park, take Country Road 12 and look for a small parking lot. On Google Maps, Carolabarb Park is labeled “ Lake View Point Scenic Overlook- Naples Rd.” 

This park is relatively small, so it is more or less a quick place to stop on a scenic drive through the Finger Lakes. Picnic tables are available at this park, making it a great spot to stop for lunch and Fall foliage views. 

Finger Lakes National Forest

Forest Finger Lakes

Surround yourself in the trees at Finger Lakes National Forest. Finger Lakes National Forest is located in Burdett, New York, and is a great place to visit if you want to hike or camp in a forest full of Fall foliage. This forest has over 16,000 acres of woodlands, making it the perfect spot to see the Fall colors in the Finger Lakes. 

Whether hiking, biking, or on horseback, there are plenty of ways to experience the 30 miles of trails and the dense foliage at Finger Lakes National Forest.

Bristol Mountain

Bristol Mountain is a ski resort located in South Bristol in the Finger Lakes. While you might consider a ski resort a Winter destination, this particular ski resort is a must-visit in the Fall. In the Fall, you can enjoy the beautiful foliage from the scenic Sky Ride at Bristol Mountain. The Sky Ride allows you to ride the chair lift to the summit of Bristol Mountain, where you get an incredible view of the Fall foliage.

The Sky Ride operates Saturdays and Sundays throughout Fall (plus Colombus Day). Be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time from Bristol Mountain’s website. Tickets are likely to sell out as the dates get closer and Fall foliage peaks in the Finger Lakes.

Harris Hill Soaring

Gliding Experience Finger Lakes

For a unique and thrilling experience, head to Harris Hill Soaring in Elmira, NY. Harris Hill Soaring offers Glider rides, which allows you to glide over the treeline on a motorless aircraft. You can read all about this incredible bucket list experience here. 

Soaring is an incredible way to take in the scenery of the Finger Lakes. As your motorless plane glides through the air, you get a birds-eye view of treetops and rolling hills of this area of the Finger Lakes. Soaring is one of the most epic ways to see the Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes.

Finger Lakes Wineries

The wineries in the Finger Lakes are an integral part of this region, and it is not a proper trip to the Finger Lakes without stopping at a winery (or two). Some of the best spots to see the Fall foliage in this region happens to be from the vineyards. 

Many of the Finger Lakes wineries are set hillside above the lakes, offering great views. While sipping on a glass of Finger Lakes wine, you can take in the magnificent views of the changing trees below. The Fall foliage paired with the sweeping vineyards makes for a beautiful and quintessentially Finger Lakes view.  

Where to Stay to See Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

If you’re planning to check out some of these spots in the Finger Lakes, your best places to base yourself would be Ithaca, Watkins Glen, or nearby Letchworth State Park.

Ithaca is probably the best spot to base yourself in terms of proximity to various state parks and the plentiful hotel options. There are a lot of hotels in Ithaca, so chances are you will be able to find a hotel that available during your visit.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

If you’re looking for a relaxing and luxurious stay, check out Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. This hotel is nearby Watkins Glen State Park and is situated on Seneca Lake, offering stunning views. Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is one of the best hotels in the Finger Lakes and is likely to sell out during peak Fall Foliage. Be sure to book your stay at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel ASAP. You will not regret it!

To see the Fall Foliage in Letchworth State Park, book a night at the Glen Iris Inn, located in Letchworth State Park and steps away from the waterfalls. If this property is sold out during your stay or you’re looking for a more modern hotel, I would suggest staying in the nearby towns of Mount Morris or Geneseo, both of which have various hotel options.

In Mount Morris, I would recommend The Country Inn and Suites by Raddison. And in Geneseo, the Hampton Inn and the Quality Inn both have excellent reviews.

Wherever you choose to stay, book your hotel now!’s cancelation policy allows you to cancel your reservation if your plans do change. However, hotels will likely sell out during peak Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes. 

Finger Lakes Fall Foliage Peak 2021

To see peak fall foliage in the Finger Lakes, be sure to check the official New York State Fall Foliage Report. The report is updated every Wednesday and is pretty accurate on the date it is published. Currently, the leaves are just starting to change in the Finger Lakes. Yet, once the Finger Lakes start showing they are near peak, check the location tags on Instagram for all these locations. Sometimes, a particular park or area will be vibrant and worth visiting, even if it is not technically at its peak.

The Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that peak Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes for 2021 will be the week of October 18th. 

Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

Tips for Seeing Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes

If you’re planning to visit these destinations if the Finger Lakes this Fall, be sure to follow these tips:

Visit on the Weekdays

Plan your Fall foliage trip on the Weekdays, if possible. The Weekdays allow you to experience the parks without intense crowds and be sure that you get into the parks.

Many people take day trips on the Weekends and plan Weekend getaways to the Finger Lakes when they are off work. This means that the parks get extremely busy on Weekends, especially during peak Fall Foliage. As soon as those leaves change, people will hop in their cars to experience the beauty of Letchworth State Park or Watkins Glen. Due to this, the parks tend to reach capacity on Weekends when the foliage is at its peak. 

Arrive Early

If you absolutely must visit during the weekend, plan to arrive at the State Parks on this list early in the morning. Arriving at the parks at opening ensures that you beat the crowds and get into the parks before they reach capacity.

Plan Ahead

Fall can be a busy time in the Finger Lakes, so you should book your hotels ahead of time. Hotels tend to sell out on the weekends in the Finger Lakes, so booking ahead of time will put you at ease that you know you have a place to stay. If your plans change, you can always cancel your hotel if you cannot visit. 

Visit Before/Past Peak

While a visit at peak will offer an unparallel experience, visiting before or past peak can still be worthwhile. Visiting off-peak will let you avoid crowds and allow you to see more spots in the Finger Lakes in the Fall. 

Best Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes: Wrap-up

The Finger Lakes is one of the best regions in New York to see Fall foliage. There are endless ways to experience Fall in the Finger Lakes and scenic spots to see the foliage. The Fall foliage truly makes the waterfalls and wineries this region is known for incredibly picturesque. While this list compiles the best places to see Fall Foliage in the Finger Lakes, other areas in this region are worthwhile to visit. 

Let me know in the comments if there is a spot you think I should add to this list.

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