There are plenty of reasons why some people have an obsession with the Finger Lakes. The area is beautiful, with so many outdoorsy things to do. And a major draw to this natural wonderland are the many Finger Lakes waterfalls.
This blog post will guide you through:
- The best waterfalls to visit, from popular cascades to hidden gems.
- Tips for planning your adventure
- And recommended itineraries for weekend getaways or extended trips
So, put on your hiking boots and prepare to explore the world of Finger Lakes waterfalls!
Table of Contents
Exploring the Top Finger Lakes Waterfalls
The Finger Lakes is home to some of New York State’s most beautiful waterfalls. Each offer a unique experience and breathtaking scenery. These top waterfalls will captivate your senses and leave you in awe of nature’s beauty.
Visitors can explore the trails and admire the cascading waterfalls. All these waterfalls are in the Finger Lakes region of New York, specifically Seneca Lake and Ithaca. So if you only have one day in the Finger Lakes, you should be able to see the majority of them.
If you were to ask a local which are the best finger lakes waterfalls, they’d mention this list:
Taughannock Falls State Park
Imagine yourself standing at the base of a 215-foot waterfall, its thunderous roar filling your ears and misty spray cooling your face. This is the thrilling experience that awaits you at Taughannock Falls, New York’s tallest waterfall. It is, in fact, the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Taughannock Falls is 215 feet tall, while Niagara Falls is 167 feet tall. This magnificent cascade, in Taughannock Falls State Park, plunges into a deep depression. So you can score breathtaking views from both the top and bottom.
To get to Taughannock Falls, take Route 89 north from Ithaca and follow the signs to the state park. Once there, the Gorge Trail offers a gentle one-mile hike to the base of the falls that is suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities. Taughannock Falls State Park is on the west side of Cayuga Lake.
Taughannock Falls State Park’s Upper Falls are the Finger Lakes falls that feed into the famous Taughannock Falls below. The Upper Falls plunges 200 feet into a rock tunnel visible from an abandoned but easily accessible railroad bridge. Upper Falls, which is 100 feet shorter but steeper, can be seen from an abandoned railroad bridge. To visit, go in the spring or keep an eye on the weather after a heavy rainstorm. Taughannock State Park has several amazing hikes, such as the Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail Loop. They are less than 3 miles long and can involve rock scrambling depending on the proximity to the falls.
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, is a true gem. It boasts 19 enchanting waterfalls, including the iconic Rainbow Falls. And a beautiful gorge trail winds through the park. The 1.5-mile Gorge Trail is a moderate hike to get up close and personal with the park’s cascading falls and stunning rock formations.
Rainbow Falls, with its wafer-thin sheet of water cascading over a wide ledge and meeting three plunge pools below, is the highlight of the show. Rainbow Falls’ captivating beauty is best experienced by visiting the park in late spring or fall. That’s when the waterfall is at its most impressive. This fall is on Seneca lake’s southern shore. Rainbow Falls is unique in that it leads to the Glen of Pools, where you can walk beneath it and see rainbows reflected in the beautiful light.
The park’s famous Gorge Trail spans less than 2 miles and features nearly 20 waterfalls. The main trail at Watkins Glen State Park is a popular destination to see the Finger Lakes’ most spectacular waterfalls. That said, it is also one of the region’s busiest. The park has numerous hiking trails, including the South Rim (~1 mile) and North Rim (~1.5 mile) trails. The North Rim Trail is less heavily trafficked.
And just in case: Rainbow Falls in the Adirondacks is a different waterfall in New York state.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park offers a serene and peaceful waterfall experience. Here, you’ll find a series of small cascading waterfalls and plunge pools. Buttermilk Falls, the main attraction, is a gorgeous waterfall plummeting into a deep pool nestled in lush greenery.
Along the Gorge Trail, you’ll come across several other waterfalls as you explore the park, including:
- Shower Bath Falls
- Pinnacle Falls
- And Upper Buttermilk Falls
The trail follows Buttermilk Creek upstream. The stunning views and refreshing dips in the swimming holes make the uphill effort worthwhile.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Explore the enthralling beauty of Robert H. Treman State Park. This state park hosts the mesmerizing Lucifer Falls and Lower Enfield Falls. The park has several waterfall trails that provide stunning views of the cascades as well as the surrounding natural beauty.
Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park
The 115-foot Lucifer Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, is a pleasant surprise in Robert H. Treman State Park. The Rim Trail leads visitors to the base of the falls before continuing upward to take in the breathtaking view from above. The Gorge Trail, a 4-mile round-trip hike, is particularly beautiful, with its deep ravine at the start reminiscent of a scene from Avatar. Lucifer Falls is close to Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is one of the most beautiful New York State Parks in the region. The Lower Falls pool, while not suitable for swimming, provides a fun swimming experience with a man-made diving board.
Because of its proximity to Ithaca, the Lower Falls waterfall is also popular in the summer. If you don’t want to swim, there are some great hikes in the park, such as the Rim and Gorge Trails. Visitors can view the waterfall from a vista above or hike alongside it on an incredible stone staircase for $9 per vehicle.
Lower Falls, a smaller but equally captivating waterfall, is a short walk from the parking area. It also features a refreshing plunge pool for a summer dip.
Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” features three major waterfalls:
- And Lower Falls
The park’s deep gorge, lush forests, and dramatic cliffs make it a must-see for waterfall enthusiasts.
The park’s main attractions are Upper Falls, with its narrow horseshoe shape, and Middle Falls, which stands 107 feet tall. These waterfalls can be reached via a variety of trails. Options include the Gorge Trail for a more difficult hike and the Rim Trail for a more leisurely stroll. Don’t miss Inspiration Point for a spectacular view of Middle Falls and the surrounding landscape.
Ithaca Falls is a stunning 150-foot waterfall with a powerful drop. It is in the heart of Ithaca and is accessible via a short walking trail. The best view is from the Lake Street bridge. Although swimming is not permitted, the park surrounding the falls is ideal for a picnic. Fishing is popular in the plunge pool. There is parking on nearby city streets or in the small lot next to the falls.
Visitors can view the waterfall from the road or take a short hike to the waterfall’s base.
Aunt Sarah’s Falls
Aunt Sarah’s Falls is a fan-shaped waterfall just south of Seneca Lake. It’s a raucous and dynamic waterfall with a thin top, short cascades, and a fanning out ledge near the bottom. The falls, which are just off Route 14, can be seen from the parking lot or taken from the street. Aunt Sarah’s Falls is a must-see on any Finger Lakes road trip, and its 90-foot height makes it worthwhile.
Hector Falls, on the western shores of Seneca Lake, is a beautiful waterfall that requires no hiking. It is 165 feet tall and can only be seen from private property along Route 414. The falls are 165 feet tall, with 60% of their height below the bridge, which is visible only from private property. Standing on the bridge over the stream allows for a better view of the upper half of Hector Falls. The falls are stunning, with cascades flowing one after the other, with water from the Finger Lakes National Forest.
Visitors can safely park and walk closer to the falls to get a better look, but the top section of the falls is only visible from the road.
Eagle Cliff Falls
Eagle Cliff Falls is in Havana Glen Park, close to Watkins Glen. The base of this magnificent waterfall is accessible via a quarter-mile hike.
Eagle Cliff Falls carved a magnificent channel through the bedrock, with two stone walls jutting high above it. This ledge drops 40 feet into a cold pool at the base of the falls.
Seneca Mills Falls
Seneca Mills Falls, a three-tiered waterfall between Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake, is a popular hiking destination. The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail provides access to the Seneca Mill falls, and parking is available at the trailhead. The waterfall is set in a limestone gorge and contains ruins from old mills and power plants. It’s an excellent reason to go hiking in the Finger Lakes and explore the area’s historic structures.
Cascadilla Gorge waterfall
Ithaca is famous for its “Ithaca is Gorges” paraphernalia. And the old joke comes from, obviously, the breathtaking waterfalls. The Cascadilla Gorge Waterfall is a massive and beautiful waterfall seen from the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. The Cascadilla Gorge Natural Area connects downtown Ithaca to Cornell University. Local Cornell University students frequently walk the arduous uphill climb to the waterfalls. The waterfalls are loud, and as the water erodes and changes the landscape, small stones fall. There are massive rockslides in the winter, and parts of the trail may close, so plan ahead.
The 1.3-mile trail passes by six gorgeous waterfalls, including the main waterfall, on nearly 100-year-old historic steps. Although the trail is not as natural as others in the area, it is well worth the hike to see these stunning New York waterfalls.
Stony Brook State Park
The Gorge Trail at Stony Brook State Park near Dansville, New York, features three beautiful waterfalls. What distinguishes these waterfalls is that they all look very similar, which is unusual for nearby waterfalls.
This is one of the easier hikes in the Finger Lakes, making it ideal for the whole family.
Waverly Glen Falls
Waverly Glen Park, near the Pennsylvania border, is a small park with a beautiful waterfall. It’s great for a walk, especially in the fall, and a great place to stop in Waverly for a waterfall and a coffee. Waverly Falls, a Tioga County hidden gem, is just north of the Pennsylvania border and is 40 feet downstream of a reservoir. It’s a great place to stop if you’re traveling through the Finger Lakes on the Southern Tier Expressway.
Wells Falls is located on the outskirts of Ithaca and is also known as Businessman’s Lunch Falls and First Dam.
This 65-foot-tall waterfall is divided roughly evenly between a man-made dam and a natural waterfall. And yet, from the bottom of the falls, the dam is difficult to see, leaving only the natural part of the waterfall visible.
The abandoned pumping station next to it gives it a distinct appearance among Finger Lakes waterfalls.
Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Finger Lakes Waterfalls
While the Finger Lakes are well-known for its waterfalls, there are several lesser-known gems just waiting for you. Dive into the world of hidden waterfalls and explore these off-the-beaten-path cascades. They include some of the best Finger Lakes waterfalls.
Grimes Glen, in Naples, New York, provides a one-of-a-kind waterfall experience. Two 60-foot waterfalls are accessible via a creek wading adventure. This lesser-known location offers a welcome respite from the crowds.
To get to the waterfalls, you’ll have to hike along the creek, which can be slippery and wet, so wear sturdy shoes. The trail leads you through beautiful woodland, where you can spot wildlife and admire the lush vegetation.
Reward yourself at the end of your hike with a refreshing dip in the swimming hole at the second waterfall.
SheQuaGa Falls is a unique 165-foot roadside waterfall in Montour Falls, New York. It is the most accessible Finger Lakes waterfall in the area. Between two houses, you can see it from a small town road. Visitors can park in a small lot or on nearby streets. SheQuaGa Falls is visible from most of town and can be reached on foot. Many Finger Lakes waterfalls are seasonal, yet this waterfall flows all year. It also features a picturesque bridge at the top for scenic photos. It is less than five minutes from Watkins Glen State Park and reached via a charming residential street. Excellent sidewalks lead up to the falls’ base.
While not as well-known as some other Finger Lakes waterfalls, Shequaga Falls is a hidden gem worth discovering.
Carpenter Falls is an excellent destination for a strenuous hike. This 90-foot waterfall is hidden away and is difficult to find. However, the stunning views and secluded atmosphere make the journey worthwhile.
Carpenter Falls can be reached via two trails: a 1.5-mile loop and a 2.5-mile loop. Both trails wind through dense forest and up steep terrain. So you’ll get breathtaking views of the cascade and surrounding landscape. Prepare to put in some effort, but the reward of discovering this hidden gem will make it all worthwhile.
Triphammer Falls is a natural waterfall and dam located in the Ithaca area, just below Beebe Lake. Other incredible waterfalls in the area include Horseshoe Falls, which you can hike to the base of, and Forest Falls.
Tips for Planning Your Finger Lakes Waterfall Adventure
It’s super important to plan ahead of time for your Finger Lakes waterfall adventure. These tips will ensure a memorable experience as you explore the region’s captivating waterfalls.
Best Time to Visit
The best seasons to visit the Finger Lakes waterfalls are late spring and fall. That’s when the water flow is at its peak and the foliage adds a vibrant touch to the landscape. Summer brings warm temperatures and more opportunities for swimming, but it can also bring crowds.
Winter visits can be magical with ice formations. That said, check to see if the trails are open during this time of year, as few waterfalls are.
One of the best ski resorts near NYC will be open, though, at Bristol Mountain.
What to Bring
Pack essentials such as sturdy hiking boots, a water bottle, and photography equipment. Dress in layers for changing weather conditions, and bring a waterproof camera to capture photos near the waterfalls.
Don’t forget to bring a picnic to enjoy among the impressive waterfalls.
Where to Stay
Finding the ideal lodging is critical to making the most of your Finger Lakes waterfall trip. Ithaca, which is close to several popular waterfalls, is an excellent starting point for exploring the region. Consider staying at The Estate at Glenora Falls, which is close to Glenora Falls and offers a more unique experience.
Finger Lakes Waterfall Activities
There are plenty of activities to enhance your Finger Lakes waterfall experience while visiting the region. A few ideas to help create unforgettable memories on your stunning waterfall adventure include:
The Finger Lakes has a plethora of hiking trails for exploring its stunning waterfalls. You’ll find easy walks and more difficult hikes at the various state parks. So you’re sure to find something to your liking.
Accept the challenge and discover the best trails for viewing the region’s captivating cascades.
Swimming and Wading
Nothing beats the sensation of cooling off in a waterfall pool or wading through a creek on a hot summer day. The Finger Lakes, known for its breathtaking waterfalls, provides numerous opportunities for swimming and wading in waterfall pools, including Buttermilk Falls State Park and Grimes Glen.
Always use caution and double-check local regulations before diving in.
Tips for taking great photos of Finger Lakes waterfalls
Capture the magic of the Finger Lakes waterfalls in stunning photographs that you’ll treasure for years. Experiment with various angles and perspectives to create dynamic images, and keep lighting in mind for the best results.
Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path to find hidden gems and unique viewpoints. And always be aware of your surroundings while photographing the region’s waterfalls.
Finger Lakes Waterfall Itineraries
There are plenty of itineraries to help you make the most of your Finger Lakes waterfall adventure. And that goes for whether you only have a weekend or an extended vacation. These itineraries will guide you through the best of the region’s waterfalls.
You can begin your journey in Ithaca, the Finger Lakes’ gateway. Explore the beautiful Cayuga Lake, one of the region’s most popular destinations, from here.
Weekend Getaway for Finger Lakes waterfalls
Begin your journey in Ithaca by hiking the Cascadilla Gorge Trail, and don’t miss out on the beauty of Ithaca Falls. Then, continue to Taughannock Falls for a breathtaking experience.
On day two, continue your adventure by visiting the enchanting waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park.
This short itinerary allows you to visit the major waterfalls of the region. That said, there’s still plenty of time for other activities like wine tasting and lakefront relaxation.
Extended Adventure for more Finger Lakes waterfalls
Take an extended adventure that takes you off the beaten path for a more in-depth exploration of the Finger Lakes waterfalls. Begin your journey by visiting Seneca Lake and Ithaca’s popular waterfalls. Then continue on to find hidden gems like Grimes Glen Park, Fillmore Glen State Park, and the Keuka Outlet Trail.
Be sure to visit some of the cute towns in the area for great antiquing and other classic activities.
This longer itinerary allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the region. You’ll discover lesser-known waterfalls and engage in more activities like visiting local wineries.
Enjoy your hike up Finger Lakes waterfalls!
The Finger Lakes area is a waterfall enthusiast’s dream, with cascades to suit every taste and skill level. There is no shortage of breathtaking experiences waiting for you, from:
- Popular spots like Taughannock Falls
- To hidden treasures like Grimes Glen and Carpenter Falls
Your Finger Lakes waterfall adventure is sure to be an unforgettable journey with the right planning, gear, and itinerary. So, what are you holding out for? Dive into the world of the Finger Lakes waterfalls and let their magic inspire your next adventure!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Finger Lake has the most waterfalls?
Watkins Glen has nearly 20 waterfalls in 2 miles, making Seneca Lake the Finger Lake with the most waterfalls.
Hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts flock here in droves. The trails are well-kept, and the views are spectacular.
How many waterfalls are in Finger Lakes?
The Finger Lakes region is breathtaking, with over 50 waterfalls in over a dozen different locations. There’s something here for everyone to discover!
Does Seneca Falls have waterfalls?
Yes, Seneca Falls has three man-made waterfalls that formed when the canal locks on the Seneca River were built in 1815.
How many waterfalls are in Watkins Glen State Park?
Watkins Glen State Park has 19 waterfalls, making it one of the most beautiful Finger Lakes destinations.
The Glen’s stream descends 400 feet over 200-foot cliffs along its two-mile path. It creates a stunning cascade of Watkins Glen Waterfalls.