New York

10 Best Hikes in the Finger Lakes for Adventure in the Gorges

by Holly Riddle
Updated April 04, 2022

best hikes finger lakes
Taughannock Falls. Photo: Shutterstock

New York’s Finger Lakes’ nature-rich area to the state’s west offers its own unique hikes away from its more mountainous neighbors in the Catskills or Adirondacks.

The 9,000-square-mile, 6-million-acre region provides waterfall and gorge hiking aplenty, with options for every skill level, whether you need something paved and easy (but still with gorgeous views!) or you want something that’s really going to challenge you.

Whatever hikes you choose while in the Finger Lakes, though, you’ll be well rewarded with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and beautiful water features — and when you’re done exploring it all, you can head back to your Finger Lakes cabin rental or resort for a bit of relaxation and some famous regional wine.

To help you plan your trip, here are 10 of the best hikes in and around the Finger Lakes area.

Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See New York’s Fall Foliage

1. The Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail

Taughannock Falls Gorge
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A quick and easy visit to one of the region’s most famous waterfalls.

  • Nearest Town: Jacksonville
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 183 feet

Taughannock Falls is likely the Finger Lakes’ most popular and picturesque waterfall. The 215-foot fall is actually taller than Niagara Falls to the north and sits deep within a tree-lined gorge.

The gorge trail is very easy — and that’s why it’s heavily trafficked — but if you can beat the crowds (or don’t mind ’em), you’ll be treated to a quick, two-mile hike that offers amazing views and photo opportunities. You’ll see a variety of hikers on this trail, many of whom aren’t even wearing hiking boots, the trail is so easy and well-maintained.

Related Read: 12 Gorgeous Airbnbs Near the Finger Lakes, New York

2. The Glen Creek Gorge Trail

Glen Creek Gorge Trail
Photo: Luis Boucault

Why you should go: Nearly 20 waterfalls on only one trail.

  • Nearest Town: Watkins Glen
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 393 feet

The Glen Creek Gorge Trail attracts day trippers from all around the region, including out-of-state travelers from Pennsylvania, for its abundance of waterfalls all in one small space. Watkins Glen State Park offers several hiking trails, but the gorge trail is where you’ll see the most waterfall action.

There, 19 waterfalls are viewable and/or accessible, including waterfalls that you can walk around and behind, as well as waterfalls featuring plunge pools or “potholes.” This hike is fairly short and there’s not much elevation gain, so most hikers of most fitness levels should be able to enjoy it with ease.

Related Read: 9 Incredible Cabins with Hot Tubs in Upstate New York

3. The Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park

Lucifer Falls
Photo: JW Cohen

Why you should go: Take a dip beneath these devilishly beautiful falls.

  • Nearest Town: Newfield
  • Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 282 feet

The Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park is easy enough, but its destination is the real prize. After you descend into the gorge, you’ll be treated to views of another favorite Finger Lakes waterfall, Lucifer Falls. The waterfall ends in a large, shallow pool, where you’ll frequently find swimmers and sunbathers during the summer.

This is definitely one hike where you’ll want to pack your bathing suit or swimming trunks and stick around for a while. Better yet, this trail isn’t as busy or crowded as some of the other trails on our list, like  Taughannock Falls gorge trail.

Related Read: 11 Pet-Friendly Cabin Rentals in New York State

4. Buttermilk Falls Gorge and Rim Trail Loop

Buttermilk Falls Gorge
Photo: Amnon Hazan

Why you should go: Find a healthy dose of nature right outside the city.

  • Nearest Town: Ithaca
  • Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 462 feet

The Buttermilk Falls Gorge and Rim Trail Loop within Buttermilk Falls State Park is a nice option for those who are visiting Ithaca and want to enjoy a bit of Finger Lakes nature without needing to drive too far out of the city.

Like many other Finger Lakes trails, this one is moderately easy and short, making it a good fit for most fitness levels. Additionally, if you arrive at the park and decide you’re not in the mood for hiking after all, the main waterfall is easily accessible without much of a walk, putting you in the perfect spot to just enjoy the view or even go for a swim.

Related Read: 6 Amazing Waterfalls in The Adirondacks You Don’t Want to Miss

5. Eagle Cliff Falls Trail

eagle cliff falls new york
Photo: Jon Bilous

Why you should go: One of the easiest waterfall hikes you’ll find.

  • Nearest Town: Montour Falls
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 29 feet

But if you’re looking at some of the other hikes on our list and you’re just thinking that they’re still more effort than you want to put in (I get it, sometimes you just want to relax on your getaway with no sweating required), I have just the trail for you.

The Eagle Cliff Falls Trail waterfall hike is as easy as it gets, at just over a quarter of a mile and not even 30 feet of elevation gain. The trail, inside Havana Glen Park, takes you to Eagle Cliff Falls, a small, but still picturesque, waterfall surrounded by moss-laden rock face and ending in a shallow pool. It’s just what you need if you’re looking for that nature-heavy Instagram pic, but you’re not up for a true hike.

Related read: 10 Glamping Spots Near NYC for a Wooded Escape

6. Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve Loop

Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve
Photo: Andy Zepp, fllt.org

Why you should go: Enjoy a bit of nature, all to yourself.

  • Nearest Town: Newfield
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 177 feet

If, though, all of these waterfalls are attracting too many crowds for your liking, opt for a waterfall-less, lightly-trafficked hike in the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve.

This loop trail sits on a large nature preserve that takes you through old-growth forests owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and subject to an easement for the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Marvel at the centuries-old maples and don’t forget to snap a few pics at the overlook with views of the Enfield Creek Valley.

7. The Abbott Loop Trail

abbott loop finger lakes
Photo: Chris Waits

Why you should go: Challenge yourself with this difficult, longer hike.

  • Nearest Town: Spencer
  • Difficulty: Moderate / Challenging
  • Distance: 7.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,574 feet

For a comparatively much longer, more difficult hike in the Finger Lakes region, look to the Abbott Loop Trail in Danby State Forest.

Since there are much, much easier hikes in the area, this trail doesn’t attract quite as many inexperienced tourists as the others. While most of the hike is forested, you will enjoy a lookout that shows you the Cayuga Inlet Valley and Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve.

Related read: 8 Cozy Cabin Rentals Near Lake George, New York

8. Conklin’s Gully (12 Falls) Trail

Why you should go: A challenging, shorter option with waterfall views.

  • Nearest Town: Naples
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 659 feet

Conklin’s Gully ticks a lot of boxes. It offers waterfall views, water crossings, steep terrain, gully views, rock scrambles and more — all within the span of less than four miles. However, even for its somewhat short length, it packs a lot of challenges in that space, so make sure to pack your hiking boots and hiking poles.

If it’s been raining, expect a lot of mud and higher water, too. If you’re not experienced in hiking steeper, slippery trails, this hike might not be right for you, but if you’re an experienced hiker who finds some of the other options on this list a little boring, you’ll love what this trail offers.

9. Morgan Hill Loop Trail

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Brittany Marie (@bmwentworth)

Why you should go: An all-day hike for more serious hikers

  • Nearest Town: Fabius
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 12.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,139 feet

For something longer, and with more elevation gain, look to the Morgan Hill Loop Trail, within Morgan Hill State Forest.

Typically preferred by more serious hikers who are looking for either an all-day or an overnight hike (there’s a shelter on the trail), you’ll be treated to few fellow hikers on the trail, great views and lots of up and down trekking.

Beware of mud if it’s mud season or has been raining — but as long as you’re wearing your hiking gear, it shouldn’t bother you.

Related read: 10 Gorgeous Cabin Rentals Near Lake Placid, New York

10. Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nadia Petcov (@nadiapetcov)

Why you should go: A hiking experience literally in the heart of the city

  • Nearest Town: Ithaca
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 45 feet

If you don’t have much time in your travel itinerary to hike, but you do want to get in a bit of nature during your trip to Ithaca, look no further than the Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail.

The trail starts quite literally just steps away from the Cornell University campus and is a quick, half-mile jaunt into what feels like a forest escape miles from the city. The well-marked, well-maintained paved paths make the journey easy, but do note that this trail isn’t open during the winter months or overnight. When you’re done with your little hike, you can walk just a few blocks to find plenty of restaurants in downtown Ithaca.

Explore New York

Get epic travel ideas delivered to your inbox with Weekend Wanderer, our newsletter inspiring more than 10,000 readers every week.


Seen in: Hike, New York, Northeast

Find your next adventure

Sign up for Weekend Wanderer and join thousands of readers getting epic travel ideas weekly.

Related Posts