Finger Lakes Waterfalls: Top 18 Most Unique Falls To See | Stanton House Inn
A view of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes Waterfalls: Top 18 Most Unique Falls to See

The Veils of Enfield Glen, one of the many Finger Lakes falls in New York State, United States

Why are people so enamored with the Finger Lakes? It’s not just the wine. It’s the raw beauty, the sense of escape, and the Finger Lakes waterfalls. This guide will help you navigate:

 

  • The top waterfalls, from popular to hidden.
  • Tips for your adventure.
  • Itineraries for weekend or extended trips.

 

So, lace up your hiking boots. It’s time to explore the best Finger Lakes waterfalls! Let’s get into it:

 

Exploring the Best Finger Lakes Waterfalls

The Finger Lakes area is a spectacle of nature’s artistry in western New York State. In an area stretching from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario, you can find some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. Each waterfall is a unique show of water and rock to captivate the senses and leave you in awe.

 

Adventurers have the opportunity to explore trails and admire the cascading waterfalls in a relatively compact area. These natural wonders are all within the Finger Lakes region, centered around Seneca Lake and Ithaca. You could witness most of these majestic falls with just a day trip in the Finger Lakes.

 

And ask any local about the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes while you’re there. You’ll likely hear the same list we’re about to share, many of which also make the list of the best hikes in Upstate New York.

 

Because, waterfalls.

map for visiting Finger Lakes Waterfalls, like Buttermilk Falls, the Grand Canyon of the East, Taughannock Falls State Park, and Cayuga Lake
Map design by Stanton House Inn with elements from Flaticon

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls, an impressive waterfall

Imagine yourself at the base of a towering waterfall. It’s a colossal 215 feet high, and you’re standing right there, feeling the thunderous roar of the water and the cool, misty spray on your face. Welcome to Taughannock Falls, the tallest waterfall in New York. It outdoes more famous waterfalls by height, surpassing Niagara Falls by 48 feet. This grand spectacle of nature is tucked away in Taughannock Falls State Park, gracefully cascading into a deep chasm. And the view from its lofty peak to its humble base is just as impressive.

 

To reach Taughannock Falls, head north from Ithaca on Route 89 and follow the signs to Taughannock Falls State Park. Once you’re there, the Gorge Trail offers a gentle one-mile hike to the base of the falls. Suitable for all ages and abilities, it’s a must-visit on the west side of Cayuga Lake.

 

Taughannock Falls frozen at Taughannock Falls State Park, Ulysses, New York, USA

The park’s Upper Falls are the source of the water that feeds the famous Taughannock Falls below. Plunging 200 feet into a rock tunnel, they’re visible from an abandoned but easily accessible railroad bridge. The Upper Falls, while 100 feet shorter, are much steeper and can also be viewed from the bridge. To catch them at their best, visit in the spring or after a heavy rainstorm. The state park offers several hikes, like the Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail Loop. Less than 3 miles long, these trails may involve rock scrambling, depending on how close you are to the falls.

 

Watkins Glen State Park

The trailhead for the Watkins Glen State Park trail to a gorgeous waterfall

Watkins Glen State Park is a treasure nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. It’s an enchanting realm of 19 waterfalls, including the famed Rainbow Falls. A scenic gorge trail snakes through the park, offering a 1.5-mile moderate hike. This path brings you face-to-face with cascading falls and striking rock formations.

 

Rainbow Falls, a star attraction, is a thin sheet of water cascading over a wide ledge. It falls into three plunge pools below. To witness Rainbow Falls in all its glory, plan your visit in late spring or fall. It’s on Seneca Lake’s southern shore. The waterfall leads to the Glen of Pools, a unique spot where you can walk underneath this stunning waterfall and see rainbows dancing in the light.

 

Trailway along a stream

The Gorge Trail, less than 2 miles long, showcases nearly 20 waterfalls. It’s the main draw at Watkins Glen State Park and a popular spot to admire the Finger Lakes’ most spectacular waterfalls. Be prepared for crowds. The park also offers the South Rim (~1 mile) and North Rim (~1.5 mile) trails, with the North Rim Trail being less crowded.

 

One final note: Rainbow Falls in the Adirondacks is a separate waterfall in New York state. Each has its own unique charm.

 

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Waterfall near Lower Buttermilk in Ithaca, NY's Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Buttermilk Falls State Park is a serene haven among state parks where waterfalls cascade and plunge in a delightful dance. The main attraction is the eponymous Buttermilk Falls, a spectacular waterfall that drops into a deep pool amidst lush greenery.

 

The Gorge Trail of Buttermilk Falls State Park is a path of discovery, introducing you to a series of other waterfalls. These include Shower Bath Falls, Pinnacle Falls, and Upper Buttermilk Falls. The trail traces the course of Buttermilk Creek upstream, offering stunning views and inviting swimming holes. The climb may be challenging, but the rewards are worth the effort.

 

Robert H. Treman State Park

Get ready for Robert H. Treman State Park, a natural masterpiece. Lucifer Falls and Lower Enfield Falls are the stars here. They cascade in a captivating dance of water and rock. Robert H. Treman State Park boasts a myriad of trails. Each one is a pathway to a new display of natural beauty. The sight will quicken your pulse and lift your spirit. It’s a monument to nature’s relentless power and stunning beauty.

 

Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park

Robert H. Treman State Park houses Lucifer Falls, a 115-foot spectacle that ranks among the most stunning waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region. The Rim Trail guides you to the base of the falls. Then, it ascends to offer a breathtaking view from the top. The Gorge Trail, a 4-mile round-trip journey, is particularly scenic. The deep ravine at the start could easily be a scene from Avatar.

 

The Lower Falls pool is not suitable for swimming but offers a fun-filled experience with a man-made diving board. Its proximity to Ithaca makes it a popular summer spot. If you’re not into swimming, the park offers splendid hikes like the Rim and Gorge Trails. For $9 per vehicle, you can view the waterfall from an overlook or hike alongside it on an impressive stone staircase.

 

A short walk from the parking area will take you to Lower Falls. Though smaller, it’s equally captivating and features a refreshing plunge pool for a summer dip.

 

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park is a spectacle, earning its title as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” It is home to three major waterfalls: Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. Each nestled in a landscape of deep gorges, lush forests, and dramatic cliffs.

 

The Upper Falls, with its narrow horseshoe shape, is a sight to behold. Middle Falls, standing at 107 feet, is equally impressive. You can reach these waterfalls through a variety of trails. For a challenge, opt for the Gorge Trail. If a relaxed pace is more your style, take the Rim Trail.

 

And don’t miss Inspiration Point. It offers a spectacular view of Middle Falls and the stunning landscape that surrounds it.

 

Cascadilla Gorge waterfall

If you’ve stepped foot in Ithaca, you’ll have noticed their slogan: “Ithaca is Gorges.” It’s a clever pun, but it also encapsulates the city’s stunning natural beauty. The Cascadilla Gorge Waterfall, on the Cascadilla Gorge Trail, is a prime example of this. This trail connects downtown Ithaca to Cornell University.

 

Cornell students often take on the challenging uphill climb to reach the waterfalls. The rush of the waterfalls is a loud, constant presence. As the water erodes the landscape, small stones tumble and fall. In winter, rockslides occur, leading to potential trail closures.

 

The trail is 1.3 miles long and features six impressive waterfalls. The path includes nearly century-old steps. Although this trail is more developed than others in the area, it still offers a worthwhile hike.

 

Ithaca Falls

Fisherman in front of Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls is a captivating 150-foot waterfall right in the heart of Ithaca. A short, pleasant trail leads you up to it. The most stunning view is from the Lake Street bridge. Swimming is not allowed, but the surrounding park is perfect for a picnic. The plunge pool is a popular spot for fishing. You can park on nearby city streets or in a small lot next to the falls. Enjoy the waterfall view from the road or take a short hike to its base.

 

Wells Falls

Wells Falls, also known as Businessman’s Lunch Falls and First Dam, is on the outskirts of Ithaca. This waterfall stands at a height of 65 feet. It is a blend of a man-made dam and a natural waterfall. That said, from the base, the dam is almost invisible, revealing only the natural part of the waterfall. Adding a unique touch to the site, an abandoned pumping station sits adjacent to it. The setting distinguishes it from other waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.

 

Aunt Sarah’s Falls

Aunt Sarah’s Falls, located just south of Seneca Lake, is a sight to behold. This waterfall begins as a thin stream at the top. As it descends, it takes on a dynamic character, cascading and fanning out at the bottom. Conveniently situated off Route 14, it’s visible from the parking lot or even from the street. Standing at a proud 90 feet, Aunt Sarah’s Falls is a must-see on any Finger Lakes road trip.

 

Hector Falls

Perched on the western shores of Seneca Lake, Hector Falls stands as a 165-foot spectacle. This roadside waterfall doesn’t require a hike, as you can partially see it from Route 414. But it’s there that the plot thickens. Sixty percent of its height is hidden below the bridge, visible only from private property. For a better view of the upper half, stand on the bridge. Here, you’ll witness cascades flowing from the Finger Lakes National Forest.

 

And don’t trespass. Or mention me to anyone if you get caught doing so.

 

For the more adventurous, a closer approach offers a better look. But be warned, the top section of Hector Falls is a bit coy. It’s visible only from the road.

 

Eagle Cliff Falls

New York's Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, and Montour Falls

Nestled within Havana Glen Park, near Watkins Glen, stands the majestic Eagle Cliff Falls. Reachable by a short quarter-mile hike, this spectacle awaits at the end of your journey.

 

The falls have sculpted a grand channel through the bedrock, flanked by towering stone walls. From this ledge, water cascades 40 feet into a cold pool at the falls’ base.

 

Seneca Mills Falls

Clark Reservation State Park on East Seneca Turnpike in Jamesville, New York.

Seneca Mills Falls, a three-tiered spectacle, is tucked between Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake. This natural wonder is a popular destination for hikers. The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail provides the gateway to Seneca Mill & Falls. Parking is conveniently available at the trailhead. The waterfall, cradled in a limestone gorge, is a sight to behold. It’s surrounded by the ruins of old mills and power plants. A hike to Seneca Mills Falls is an exploration of the Finger Lakes region’s rich history and stunning landscapes.

 

Stony Brook State Park

Stony Brook State Park

Stony Brook State Park boasts the Gorge Trail, a path that introduces you to three beautiful waterfalls. What sets these cascades apart is their striking similarity, a characteristic uncommon among waterfalls in the vicinity. This trail is one of the gentler hikes in the Finger Lakes, making Stony Brook State Park an ideal choice for families.

 

Waverly Glen Falls

Waverly Glen Park faces the Pennsylvania border. And it’s so close to I-86, that it could pass for a quick pitstop on a road trip to Niagara Falls. Visit the waterfall and grab a coffee. Its main attraction is a beautiful waterfall. A stroll at this small park is a treat for the senses, especially in the fall.

 

Waverly Falls resides in Tioga County. It’s seriously just north of the Pennsylvania border and is merely 40 feet downstream of a reservoir. If you’re just passing through the Finger Lakes on the Southern Tier Expressway, it’s a sight worth your time.

 

Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Finger Lakes Waterfalls

One of the Watkins Glen waterfalls

The Finger Lakes are famed for their waterfalls. Yet, beyond the well-trodden path, are lesser-known falls. These less famous cascades are among the region’s finest spectacles. And, fewer crowds to get in your pictures.

 

Grimes Glen

Naples Memorial Town Hall in Naples, NY, near some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes

Grimes Glen, nestled in Naples, New York, offers a unique waterfall experience. Here, two 60-foot gorgeous waterfalls await, accessible only through a creek wading adventure. This hidden treasure offers a tranquil escape from the usual crowds.

 

The journey to the incredible waterfalls is an adventure in itself. You’ll need to hike along the creek. Beware, it can be slippery and wet. Sturdy shoes are a must. As you navigate through the beautiful woodland, you might spot wildlife amid the lush surroundings.

 

Upon reaching the end of your hike, a refreshing treat awaits. A swimming hole at the second waterfall invites you for a dip. It’s the perfect way to conclude your adventure.

 

Shequaga Falls

Informational sign for SheQuaGa Falls, the main waterfall in Montour Falls

SheQuaGa Falls, standing at 165 feet, is in Montour Falls, New York. This is the most accessible waterfall in the Finger Lakes. It’s tucked between two homes, visible from the town road. Visitors can park in a small lot or on nearby streets. Unlike many more seasonal Finger Lakes waterfalls, this is one of the few waterfalls that flow all year. It has a charming bridge at the top, perfect for photos. It’s less than five minutes from Watkins Glen State Park, reached via a residential street. Excellent sidewalks lead to the falls’ base. While lesser-known, Shequaga Falls is worth a visit.

 

Carpenter Falls

For the adventurous spirit, Carpenter Falls is a treasure. This 90-foot natural spectacle is tucked away, making it a challenging find. But those who dare to seek it are rewarded with breathtaking views and a serene atmosphere.

 

Two waterfall trails lead to this gem. One is a 1.5-mile loop, and the other is a more challenging 2.5-mile loop. Both wind through a dense forest and steep terrain, offering stunning panoramic views of the waterfall and surrounding landscape. It’s a rigorous journey, but the sight of the falls makes every step worthwhile.

 

Triphammer Falls

Triphammer Falls sits just below Beebe Lake in Ithaca, a curious mix of man’s handiwork and nature’s artistry. Nearby, you’ll find Horseshoe Falls, a spectacle of water dancing down rocks. Further along, Forest Falls awaits, offering a serene retreat. Each of these sites in the Ithaca area, makes a compelling case for the region’s allure to waterfall enthusiasts.

 

Tips for Planning Your Finger Lakes Waterfall Adventure

A woman meditating on waterfalls in the finger lakes, surrounded by trees in Ithaca

Preparation for your Finger Lakes waterfall adventure is crucial. It’s as important as the expedition itself. A few tips follow to equip you for the journey, one of the best road trips from NYC. You’ll be ready to face the region’s awe-inspiring cascades on your next trip visiting Finger Lakes waterfalls.

 

The Best Time to Visit Many Finger Lakes Waterfalls

Finger Lakes Falls near Ithaca, NY

Plan your visit to the Finger Lakes waterfalls in late spring or fall for the most spectacular displays. During these seasons, the water flow is at its peak and the foliage adds vibrant colors to the landscape. A summer road trip from NYC also offers warm temperatures and opportunities for swimming, but be prepared for crowds.

 

If you’re considering a winter visit, it can be a magical time with ice formations. That said, it’s essential to check if the trails are open during this season as not all waterfalls are accessible year-round.

 

What to Bring to see Finger Lakes Waterfalls

Don’t hit the trails without your sturdy boots. Keep a water bottle at your side; hydration is key on any hike. A camera (or phone, like this writer) is a must-have to capture the majesty of the waterfalls. Dress in layers, prepared to adapt to the unpredictable whims of the weather. For those not afraid of a little splash, a waterproof camera will serve you well.

 

And remember, a picnic amidst the waterfalls is a gourmet experience like no other. Pack a basket and savor your meal against the backdrop of cascading waters.

 

Hotels, Inns, & Places to Stay near Finger Lakes Waterfalls

Choosing the right place to rest is crucial for your Finger Lakes waterfalls journey. Ithaca is a prime base close to several popular waterfalls.

 

Some fantastic inns and bed and breakfasts to consider in the area include:

 

The Inn at Gothic Eves

Surrounded by wineries, waterfalls, breweries, and fine dining, the Inn at Gothic Eves in Trumansburg, NY is a feast for the senses. The inn offers eight luxurious suites. Start your day with a locally sourced breakfast. Spend your day exploring the outdoors. Unwind with a spa massage, then dine at a nearby restaurant.

 

Geneva On The Lake

A year-round boutique resort, restaurant, and historic gardens in Geneva, NY, is how Geneva On The Lake describes its property. Enjoy extraordinary hospitality, delicious cuisine, and impeccable service. This landmark villa, lying on 10 acres by Seneca Lake, is an oasis in our busy world.

 

BrickInn

BrickInn is a grand 1915 Brick Colonial. This historic bed and breakfast stands proudly on a five-acre woodland parcel. Located in the Historic village of Mt Morris, NY, towering trees and seasonal flower gardens grace its front yard. Inside, you’ll find a world of modern comfort. Bright and refreshed, it maintains a touch of vintage flair, honoring the home’s original charm.

 

Chalet of Canandaigua Bed and Breakfast

A secluded haven tucked into the wooded hills of Canandaigua, New York, is where you’ll find the Chalet of Canandaigua. This luxury boutique bed & breakfast has earned its stripes. For five years running, it’s been named the top B&B in the Finger Lakes and one of the top 25 in the U.S. A pond and walking trails invite you to explore the grounds. And yet, the allure of wine country and the Finger Lakes’ stunning waterfalls and state parks are just a short journey away.

 

Finger Lakes Waterfall Activities

The best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes are near Ithaca

While visiting the Finger Lakes, don’t just limit yourself to marveling at the cascading water. There’s a lot more to the adventure. Here are a few suggestions to make your journey unforgettable:

 

Hiking Trails

Indeed, the Finger Lakes are a haven for the footloose wanderer. They boast an array of waterfall hikes throughout the Finger Lakes, from easy ambles to vigorous treks. Each state park packs a story of cascading water and rugged terrain.

 

So, summon your adventurous spirit. Lace up those trusty hiking boots for some of the best hiking trails Upstate New York. The Finger Lakes are calling, promising a spectacle of water and rock that’s nothing short of breathtaking.

 

Swimming and Wading

Sure, the Finger Lakes are a paradise for those who relish the thrill of a cool dip in a waterfall pool or enjoy wading through a creek on a hot summer day. The region is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls, and places like Buttermilk Falls State Park and Grimes Glen offer numerous opportunities for swimming and wading. But caution is key. Always double-check local regulations before you dive in. It’s all about having a good time, responsibly.

 

Finger Lakes Waterfall Itineraries

Fall at one of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, close to Hector Falls

Ready to plot your course through the Finger Lakes’ waterfall wonderland? We’ve got itineraries to fill a weekend, a stop on one of the best road trips through America, or an entire vacation. Each one guarantees you’ll see the best of these cascading marvels. Kick off your adventure in Ithaca, the gateway to the Finger Lakes. From here, you’re a stone’s throw from the stunning Cayuga Lake, a must-see in the region.

 

A Weekend Getaway to see Finger Lakes Waterfalls

Let’s kick off this adventure in the town of Ithaca, NY. First, we’ll tackle the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. Ithaca Falls is our next stop, a sight that’s sure to impress. Next on the agenda is Taughannock Falls, a spectacle that promises to be breathtaking.

 

As dawn breaks on day two, we set our sights on Watkins Glen State Park. Here, enchanting waterfalls await our arrival.

 

This itinerary may be short, but it’s packed with the star attractions in the Finger Lakes. But don’t worry, there’s still room for wine tasting and lakeside lounging. After all, we’re here to enjoy life, aren’t we?

 

Extended Adventure to see Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes

Embark on an extended adventure that delves deep into the heart of the Finger Lakes waterfalls. Start your journey with the popular cascades of Seneca Lake and Ithaca. Then, venture off the beaten path to discover such falls as Grimes Glen Park, Fillmore Glen State Park, and the Keuka Outlet Trail.

 

This itinerary is not for the faint-hearted. It offers a thorough immersion in the region’s beauty, unveiling lesser-known waterfalls. Along the way, enrich your experience with visits to local wineries.

 

Tl;dr

The Finger Lakes region is a paradise for waterfall enthusiasts. Here, cascades of all sizes and types abound. Among them, Taughannock Falls is a star attraction, drawing admirers with its grandeur. And yet, the region also harbors less known treasures like Grimes Glen and Carpenter Falls. These hidden gems offer a unique spectacle for those willing to venture off the beaten path. To fully enjoy this adventure, proper planning, appropriate gear, and a well-thought-out itinerary are essential. So, gear up and get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of the Finger Lakes waterfalls. Your unforgettable journey awaits!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Which Finger Lake has the most waterfalls?

Seneca Lake, where Watkins Glen resides, wears the crown in the Finger Lakes’ waterfall kingdom. It boasts nearly 20 cascades within a compact, two-mile radius.

 

This hotspot draws a diverse crowd. Nature enthusiasts, adventurers, hikers, and photographers all converge here. The trails are well-groomed, and the views are intoxicating.

 

How many waterfalls are in Finger Lakes?

In the Finger Lakes region, over 50 waterfalls grace more than a dozen spots. Each location promises a unique discovery, a hidden gem waiting for you!

 

Does Seneca Falls have waterfalls?

Indeed, Seneca Falls boasts three man-made waterfalls. These cascades owe their existence to the canal locks, built on the Seneca River in 1815.

 

How many waterfalls are in Watkins Glen State Park?

Watkins Glen State Park is a spectacle with nineteen waterfalls. This display makes it a crown jewel in the Finger Lakes region.

 

The Glen’s stream plunges 400 feet within a two-mile stretch. It cascades past 200-foot cliffs, birthing the renowned waterfalls of Watkins Glen.

 

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