Looking for Waterfalls to visit in Upstate New York? Try out These Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes!
The Finger Lakes region is famous for its excellent wine, hiking, biking, boating, and even fishing! Did you ever stop to think if there are waterfalls in the Finger Lakes? No? Well, think again! Stick with us and you’ll learn that the Finger Lakes is the best place for your future waterfall-hunting adventure!
With all of the state parks in this beautiful region, you have plenty of choices for enjoying scenic waterfalls. Whether you’re looking to book a family vacation, a day trip or a weekend getaway make sure to check out all that the Finger Lakes has to offer.
This stunning region is made up of eleven narrow, long lakes that generally go north to south in upstate New York. Plus, Cayuga and Seneca Lakes are among the deepest lakes in the United States. Cayuga Lake reaches 435 feet and Seneca Lake reaches an astounding 618 feet!
With that many water sources and glacial gorges, there are bound to be some stunning waterfalls. This region has been the home to the Haudenosaunee confederacy for more than 10,000 years! Specifically the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk people.
Do those names sound familiar? They should! With several of the region’s lakes named after some of those tribes, you should recognize all of their names. This is their land after all.
Both Toronto and New York City are near the Finger Lakes making this beautiful region an easy weekend getaway location!
Now, let’s talk waterfalls in the Finger Lakes!
Which Finger Lake Has the Most Waterfalls?
Are you looking for Waterfalls near Seneca Lake? Then Watkins Glen State Park is the place for you! Watkins Glen has the most waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. It’s just south of Seneca Lake which makes Seneca Lake the Finger Lake with the most waterfalls!
Watkins Glen State Park resides in Schuyler County and was open to the public in 1863. I remained a tourist resort until 1906 when it was eventually purchased by New York State–which gained full control in 1911.
This stunning park is 788 acres and is home to a 400-foot-deep narrow gorge that has been cut through the rock by Glen Creek. This gorge was created when glaciers during the Ice Age deepened the Seneca valley and created an extremely wealthy tributary system.
These vast tributaries (rivers or streams that flow into larger rivers or lakes), and deep glacial cuts have provided this stunning area with stunning rapids and waterfalls.
There are a total of 19 waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park! You have three trails to choose from that are open from May to November each year. You can even descend into the gorge itself if you want.
The Southern Rim and Indian Trails run along the wooded rim and the Gorge Trail is the closest to the stream as well as over and under the park’s waterfalls. This trail connects to the Finger Lakes Trail which is an 800-mile trail system that runs through upstate New York.
Let’s Talk About the Best Waterfalls to Visit in the Finger Lakes!
As we said, the region’s famous gorges and glacial history are a huge part of why the waterfalls in the Finger Lakes are abundant and beautiful. Here is a list of our favorites!
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen, NY
Stunning waterfalls, dramatic flumes, and gorgeous scenery and woodland walk! Throw in some stone staircases, arched bridges, and winding tunnels that provide you with a gorgeous outdoor walk through upstate New York. This is the perfect place to view Waterfalls near Watkins Glen!
Schuyler County, New York
Cavern Cascade is two waterfalls that you can walk behind. There’s a thin layer of shale rock underneath another layer of sandstone which has made this curtain waterfall possible. Cavern Cascade has eroded a narrow section of the gorge which creates deep pools of water below.
Watkin Glens, NY
The gorge around the Narrows has its own microclimate. It’s shady, cool, and similar to a rainforest most of the time. Since ferns and moss thrive in wet climates they grow abundantly around these falls.
Watkin Glens, NY
Keep walking past the next staircase to reach the Glen Cathedral area. Unlike The Narrows, Glen Cathedral is like a desert. The sun dries out the gorge walls beside the trails, and the ledges sport drought-resistant grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers.
Make sure to head for the rippled slab of stone where Lover’s Lane merges with the Gorge Trail–it’s literally an ancient seafloor! The ripples on the stone used to be sand on the floor of the ocean and it’s made their way all the way into this stunning gorge and fossilized as stone.
Central Cascade and Glen of Pools
Plunging more than 60 feet is Central Cascade. It’s the highest waterfall in Watkins Glen State Park! If you head above it, the trail crosses the creek via a bridge and you’ll get to discover and explore the “plunge pools” or “potholes” known as the Glen of Pools.
Walking past the Glen of Pools area you’ll find yourself at Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls is another fall you can walk under. Make sure you plan your trip to reach Rainbow Falls by the late afternoon if you’re walking the Gorge Trail on a sunny day. That way, you can see the rainbows reflected off the falls!
Once your pass the bridge above Rainbow Falls you’ll enter a dark, narrow passage that is full of dripping springs, sculptured pools, and Pluto Falls. These falls are named after the ancient Roman lord of the underworld.
These are just some of the stunning waterfalls that Watkins Glen State Park has to offer! Make sure to keep your furry friends at home though, for their safety they aren’t allowed on the Gorge Trail (although there are some places that do allow them).
Lick Brook Gorge, like most of North America, was blanketed by glaciers that were thousands of feet thick during the last ice age. Cayuga lake is fed by Lick Brook which includes a large waterfall and several smaller ones.
These two preserves have a moderate to the difficult-level hiking trail that is home to 3 waterfalls. This 2.16-mile trail cuts through 155 acres that are covered with Eastern hemlock and white pine trees.
This trail is open year-round and is dog friendly! But, a short leash is recommended for you and your dog’s safety.
The best time to visit these falls is in the spring. The tallest fall is 90-125 feet high. It’s a great hike for nature lovers!
Unlike the last hike, Labrador Hollow has a universally accessible quarter-mile path to the falls. This is one of the most popular places in Labrador Hollow!
Tinker Falls are stunning “hanging” falls. The shale underneath the fall has crumbled away through many years of erosion which has left a deep crevice behind the cascade.
These falls are 100 feet wide, 30 feet deep, and 30 deep high! You can bravely walk behind it if you are agile enough to climb the steep, stone staircase that resides in the crumbly shale behind the fall.
This state park is a favorite among tourists and locals alike! Especially during the summertime. You can see why right when you enter the park!
Right there across the large lawn past the entrance to the park is a frothy waterfall with a deep swimming pool below. These gorgeous falls have two distinct drops past the striated gorge rock.
The first drop reaches about 90 feet in height while the second is visible just above the first. The gorge leaves the trail cool and moist. There are many stone steps which can be difficult for some visitors.
Ithaca is famous for its gorges, and the gorge that calls itself home to Taughannock Falls is the biggest of them all! A more accurate name than “gorge” would actually be a canyon because it’s so large.
The falls at the end of the lower portion of the gorge is called the Taughannock Falls. These falls are the highest waterfall in New York. These falls are 215 feet high…do you want to know how high Niagara Falls is? 167 feet high!
That’s right! Taughannock falls are higher than Niagara Falls! I’ll do you one better, it’s the tallest single-drop waterfall on this side of the Rockies!
I’ll do you one even better! The mile-long trail is easily accessible for grandparents, toddlers, and everyone in between. There is nothing gatekeeping these stunning falls in the Finger Lakes.
This nature preserve resides nearby Skaneateles Lake. The Finger Lakes Land Trust gave 36 acres of the preserve to New York State in 2008 which has created the Carpenter Falls unique area!
The water drops about 90 feet into a deep ravine at Carpenter Falls. If that doesn’t satisfy your waterfall palate then you can head down the trail through Bear Creek Swamp Gorge and see several other waterfalls.
This nature preserve has recovered nicely since its ancient trees were lost to logging 20 years ago. These trees are home to large, crawling, old grapevines that wind themselves around all the trees they can. It’s a great place for kayaking, canoeing, or just sunbathing during the summer!
Unlike parks like Buttermilk Falls where you walk into the park and are hit with waterfalls, you have to work a little to find the wow factor at Robert H. Treman (also known as Enfield Glen). Don’t let that scare you though! I said a little work…not a lot.
After meandering along the, relatively, flat gorge trail for about a mile and three-quarters you’ll start to hear the first signs of reaching Lucifer Falls. The 115-foot drop that makes Lucifer Falls well worth the easy trundle through the woods is easily spotted along the handsome stonework and sheer cliff that it falls over.
It really is a stunning sight and impossible to miss!
Like all of the Finger Lakes gorges, Grimes Glen carries runoff from down into the ice-carved valleys below. The Finger Lakes Land Trust holds an easement of the park and is therefore responsible for the future of this remarkable gorge!
French Hills Falls
There are three falls in Grimes Glen. Two of the falls are very easy to access, the third is extremely difficult. They are all about 60-feet high and the two accessible ones are just a 1/2 mile walk upstream from the parking lot. Just make sure to bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet!
Throughout the summer and fall, besides when there are heavy rains, the creek bed is easy to navigate. The gorge narrows and does force hikers into the rocky stream bed. However, during the spring it becomes much more turbulent and strong.
The third waterfall requires some climbing. There are ropes that will help you climb up the steep slopes next to the falls but they are precariously placed and a bad slip could prove fatal. This is only recommended for advanced climbers.
This is another set of falls that is both difficult in places and easy in others. After torrential downpours or long periods of heavy rain the late spring and early summer is the ideal time to visit these falls.
Autumn is another beautiful time to visit so that you can enjoy the bold foliage surrounding the falls. Plus, the fallen leaves expose parts of the gorge that are often hidden behind the leaves.
The falls in Fillmore Glen State Park has easy to access falls and some more difficult hiking spots. The first falls are universally accessible. After that, it can be a little more difficult because of the brief, steep climb. There are several small cascades and waterfalls along the trail.
You’ll pass by Dalibarda Falls and then Upper and Lower Pinnacle Falls. The last two falls reside in a stunning square-cut section of the gorge near the end of the gorge trail.
Last on our list of fabulous waterfalls in the Finger Lakes are the falls at Letchworth State Park. This impressive gorge is commonly labeled the Grand Canyon of the East. The Genesee River roars through the gorge and provides 3 major waterfalls flowing over the cliffs. However, there are as many as 50 waterfalls and tributaries that flow into the gorge!
The Upper Falls are the southernmost waterfalls in the Genesee River. It’s the second tallest of the main 3 and is about 70 feet in height.
The falls are a horseshoe shape which gifts its viewers a lot of beauty! There is a beautiful, 200-foot train bridge above the river which is great for viewing and photography. It is an active railroad bridge so make sure to stay long enough to watch a train pass over!
Middle Falls is the tallest waterfall on the Genesee River at 107 -feet tall. It’s just a few hundred yards downstream from the Upper Falls and is adjacent to the Falls Area parking lot making it easily accessible.
Last on the list of the 3 main waterfalls of Letchworth State Park is Lower Falls. There is a 125-step descent to get to the stream level. There are two site-seeing spots to see the falls. One is easy to reach, and the other requires walking down the stairs.
The falls reach 50 feet and is well worth the little bit of a hike to enjoy the views!
Which is Better Letchworth or Watkins Glen?
At the end of the day, the answer to that question is up to you. Letchworth is covered in about 50 small waterfalls and tributaries along with the 3 big ones and resides in Castile, New York.
Watkins Glen State Park in Watkins Glen, New York is full of 19 waterfalls that are stunning. Some are hard to get to it and some are easier. It’s up to what kind of experience you’re trying to have!
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