The Finger Lakes is one of the best regions in New York for waterfall hopping. Scratch that, in my opinion, the Finger Lakes is one of the best regions in the world to see waterfalls. This region is known for its 11 glacial lakes, its deep gorges, and waterfalls. There are more waterfalls than I can count in the Finger Lakes region, from well-known waterfalls in state parks to lesser-known local gems.
It can be a bit overwhelming to decide which waterfalls to visit in the Finger Lakes. There are just so many incredible waterfalls, it’s hard to decide where to start. I have actually visited this region on multiple occasions, finding new waterfalls on each trip and revisiting some of my favorites. I just can’t get enough of this region!
This guide breaks down the best Finger Lakes Waterfalls. There is no particular order for this list, each of these New York State Park and waterfalls has its own appeal. I don’t think I could rank them if I tried!
Finger Lakes Waterfalls in State Parks
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most well-known waterfalls in the Finger Lakes and for good reason. The Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen follows 19 waterfalls, ultimately leading you to Rainbow Falls, the most iconic and photographed spot in the park. Visually speaking, Watkins Glen is perhaps one of the most photogenic gorge trails in the Finger Lakes. Experience wise, one of the most fun, not only do you get to see the waterfalls along the gorge trail, you get to walk beneath veil-like waterfalls along your hike.
Keep in mind, that due to its popularity, Watkins Glen State Parks is one of the busiest in the Finger Lakes. The trail can become congested in the summer, especially in the afternoons when tour busses come through. Try to visit this park early morning or during the shoulder seasons.
Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park is one of my favorite places to see waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park feels very grand and different from the other waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.
While there are hiking trails, you don’t need to hike to see the major waterfalls in this park and won’t miss any iconic views driving. You can take a breathtaking scenic drive through the park, stopping at the waterfalls along the way. It is a relaxing way to see waterfalls year-round. Plus the waterfalls flowing into the deep gorge are stunning.
Taughannock State Park
This single drop waterfall is 215 feet high, making it the tallest waterfall in New York State. Visiting Taughannock State Park is an easy addition to any Finger Lakes waterfall road trip. The overview and hiking trail are just a quick detour off the main road.
You can get a view of Taughannock Falls from the drive-up overlook. This viewpoint gives you a sense of how tall Taughannock Falls is. After seeing Taughannock Falls from above, follow an easy 2 mile out and back trail to see this Finger Lakes waterfall from below.
Robert H. Treman State Park
There are so many reasons to visit Robert H. Treman State Park. The gorge trail left me speechless, the stairs followed a peaceful glen until suddenly you are cliffside overlooking Lucifer Falls below and a staircase leading down the side of the gorge. Not only is this one of the most beautiful parks in the Finger Lakes, but I also found the gorge trail to be one of the least trafficked ones I’ve hiked.
Robert H. Treman State Park is one where I suggest doing both the Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail offers a beautiful view of Lucifer Falls that you won’t see from the Gorge Trail.
Additionally, in the summer, Lower Enfield Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park is transformed into a waterfall-fed pool for swimming! This is one of the best swimming holes in New York State and is such a fun way to spend a hot day.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
While most of the waterfalls in Buttermilk Falls State Park are small in comparison to other waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, it is one of the most peaceful and beautiful. It has a very ethereal vibe to it. I felt like I was in a fairytale land walking through this park (similarly to Watkins Glen, yet much more peaceful). Along the gorge trail, the water cascades smoothly past plunge pools. The color of the pools ranges in shades of bluish-green depending on the depths of the water.
Likewise to Robert H. Treman State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park boasts a waterfall swimming pool in the summer. This pool as at the base of the largest waterfall in the park that gently cascades into the pool.
Lesser-Known Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes
Ithaca Falls is a large roaring waterfall in the center of the city of Ithaca. This waterfall is a great additional waterfall to visit when you are exploring the various state parks in Ithaca. It’s easily accessible and makes a great stop for lunch. There is even a picnic area overlooking the waterfall.
Eagle Cliff Falls
Set between two rock walls, flows the 40-foot high Eagle Cliff Falls. This is by far one of the most underrated waterfalls I have visited in New York. You don’t need much time to visit Eagle Cliff Falls, however, there are several other waterfalls located nearby, such as Watkins Glen State Park, to visit while checking out Eagle Cliff Falls.
Shequaga Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. This waterfall is situated between two houses in the town of Montour Falls, New York. I couldn’t imagine have a waterfall practically in my backyard!
Shequaga Falls is easily accessible, you can simply walk up to the small park in town to see the waterfall.
Where to Stay When Visiting the Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes
If your main goal when visiting the Finger Lakes is to see the waterfalls, I would suggest staying in either Ithaca or Watkins Glen. These are two of the most central towns in the Finger Lakes and are closest to the majority of the waterfalls on this list. If you’re staying for an extended time in the Finger Lakes, you could even stay a couple of nights in each location to have different scenery.
Ithaca is a small city at the base of Cayuga Lake. Home to both Cornel University and Ithaca College, Ithaca has more of a college town than a lakeside vibe, with a faster pace and tons of great bars and restaurants. This is the ideal place to stay if you want more food, beverage, and shopping options for entertainment after exploring the waterfalls.
Ithaca is home to three New York State Parks on this list; Robert H. Treman State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and Taughannock State Park. Additionally, there are other small waterfalls in discover in Ithaca. Check out where to stay in Ithaca:
La Tourell Resort and Spa
La Tourelle Resort and Spa served as the perfect retreat after chasing waterfalls all over the Finger Lakes. This boutique hotel in Ithaca allows you to enjoy the natural surrounding while experiencing the luxuries of this property. Plus enjoying the spa after a day full of hiking is perhaps the most rewarding experience ever!
Read all about my stay at La Tourell Resort and Spa here!
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ithaca
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on my most recent trip to the Finger Lakes. This was a nice budget-friendly hotel that was perfect for a full itinerary of waterfall hopping. The best part about this hotel is their quick buffet breakfast, which helped me get my day exploring started faster.
Watkins Glen State Park is located within the town of Watkins Glen and is nearby Montour Falls NY where you can find Shequaga Falls and Eagle Cliff Falls. This town, situated on Seneca Lake, has a lakeside resort vibe. Staying in Watkins Glen will allow you to truly disconnect during your Finger Lakes getaway. Check out where to stay in Watkins Glen:
Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is the place to stay in Watkins Glen. Located at the Seneca Lake Harbor, the lake is only steps away from the hotel. Not only does the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel have amazing views of the lake, but it also walking distance to Watkins Glen State Park. Aside from its prime location, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel offers great accommodations, food, and amenities.
Read all about my stay at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel here!
When is the Best Time to Plan a Finger Lakes Waterfalls Trip
If you are planning a multi-day trip to the Finger Lakes to visit the waterfalls, you should plan your trip from late Spring to early Fall. Most of the gorge trails at these New York State Parks are closed in the Winter. Winter would not be an ideal time to visit if you want to visit Watkins Glen State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and Robert H. Treman State Park.
If you are in the region during the winter, you can visit Taughannock State Park and Letchworth State Park. Keep in mind that snow can be heavy in the winter and inclement weather could deter you. Albeit cold, both of these parks are beautiful in the Winter!
If waterfall swimming is on your bucket list, be sure to plan your visit in the summer so you can swim at the epic waterfall-fed pool in Robert H. Treman State Park.
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Finger Lakes Waterfall Itinerary
If you’re looking to plan a Finger Lakes waterfall Itinerary, you can visit the major waterfalls in the region in a three to a four-day-long trip.
This is an itinerary jam-packed with waterfall hopping! This itinerary overview gives a sense of how to spend your time in the Finger Lakes. While it may seem really packed, there is time to grab lunch and have a sit-down dinner. If you start your days off early, there is room for other activities such as visiting wineries and spending time by one of the lakes.
If you’re traveling from a nearby, plan for two nights. If you’re traveling from farther away, plan three nights for this itinerary, in order to give yourself more time in the Finger Lakes. If time is restricted, cut out the day trip to Letchworth State Park. Letchworth is well worth a visit (It’s one of my personal favorites), however, you may not have an extra day to squeeze this day trip in.
Day 1: Ithaca
- Taughannock State Park
- Robert H. Treman State Park
- Ithaca Waterfalls
Taughannock State Park
Upon arrival in the Finger Lakes, head directly to Taughannock State Park. This will allow you to take a scenic drive along one of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake. The lake views will give you a taste of what the Finger Lakes has to offer.
First, stop at the scenic overlook of Taughannock Falls (GPS directions to Taughannock State Park will lead you directly there). The overlook is steps away from the parking lot and gives you an aerial view of the tallest waterfall in New York, Taughannock Falls. I would stop at the overlook first on your itinerary as it is immediate gratification, and allows you to see a waterfall as soon as you arrive in the Finger Lakes.
Once you’ve taken in the view from above, take the easy hike to the base of Taughannock Falls. This is a 2-mile out and back trail.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Head to Robert H. Treman State Park, stopping first at Lower Enfield Falls. Lower Enfield Falls can be accessed from the Main Entrance. If you are visiting during the summer, make sure to bring swimsuits and plan some time for swimming in the waterfall pool.
If you are up for a long hike, you can hike the Gorge and Rim trails from Lower Enfield Falls. This would be around a 5-mile hike.
Alternatively, drive to the Upper Entrance of Robert H. Treman State Park, where you can hike the Gorge Trail. From the Upper Entrance, the Gorge Trail is 0.62 miles. I suggest doing this trail as it highlights the most beautiful parts of the park and is better if you have limited time. Tip: Do the Gorge Trail in and the Rim Trail out. While the Rim Trail is a bit more difficult, it has a great viewpoint of Lucifer Falls.
Time permitting, check out some of the other waterfalls in Ithaca including Ithaca Falls and Businessman’s Lunch Falls. I spent awhile swimming at Robert H. Treman State Park and didn’t have time to do this on my summer visit to Ithaca. Both of these waterfalls would be a great spot to bring a picnic or takeout for dinner!
Day 2: Ithaca + Watkins Glen
- Watkins Glen State Park
- Eagle Cliff Falls
- Shequaga Falls
Watkins Glen State Park
Start your day at Watkins Glen State Park. This park can get busy during the afternoon when tour busses arrive, so try to arrive early. Follow the 800 stairs up the Gorge Trail, until you reach Rainbow Falls, the most iconic spot in the park. While there are a lot of stairs, chances are you will stop so many times during the hike that you won’t even notice it. This is one of the most well-known waterfalls in the region and should not be missed on a waterfall trip to the Finger Lakes.
Shequaga Falls and Eagle Cliff Falls
Next, head to nearby Montour Falls, NY to explore some of the smaller waterfalls in the region.
Shequaga Falls is a quick and easy stop, located in the center of town. This waterfall is located between two houses. Its unique location makes it well worth a visit.
Just outside of town is Havana Glen Park which is home to Eagle Cliff Falls. A short and sweet hike brings you to the base of Eagle Cliff Falls. It’s a small but very picturesque waterfall. I enjoyed visiting this spot because it is quiet compared to many of the well known Finger Lakes waterfalls.
Day 3: Day Trip to Letchworth
- Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park
While it is a bit of a drive from the other areas you are exploring on the Finger Lakes waterfall itinerary, it is worth taking a day trip to Letchworth State Park if you have an extra day. There are hiking trails in Letchworth State Park, however, you don’t need to hike to see the beautiful waterfalls and views.
Take a relaxing, scenic drive through Letchworth State Park, stopping to look at the views of the Gorge and the waterfalls.
*If you can only plan for 3 days in the Finger Lakes, you can cut out the day trip to Letchworth State Park and move up Day 4 in the itinerary.
Day 4: Ithaca + Drive Home
- Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Before departing from the Finger Lakes, spend your last day hiking the Gorge Trail at Buttermilk Falls State Park. The trail is 0.65 miles each way and gets more and more beautiful as it progresses. Make sure to continue along this entire trail, you will not be disappointed. The trail follows cascading waterfalls and plunge pools. It is a pretty and peaceful park to end your last day in the Finger Lakes.
If you have extra time before needing to depart, there is a swimming pool waterfall at the end of the gorge trail that you can take a dip on a hot day.
After a waterfall filled adventure in the Finger Lakes, it’s time to depart and make your drive back home.
Finger Lakes Waterfalls Map
To help plan your Finger Lakes waterfall trip, check out where all these waterfalls are located. This Finger Lakes waterfalls map can serve as a guide for helping you plan your trip.
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