Top 5 Waterfall Hikes on the Finger Lakes Trail

The Finger Lakes region of New York State is known for its array of stunning, cascading waterfalls – some even call it a ‘waterfall mecca.’ Whether you’re thru-hiking the trail and want a place to pause for some meditation and reflection on how far you’ve come on your long-distance hiking journey, or you just want to cool off in a natural-fed swimming pool at the base of one of the area’s many falls, these are the top five waterfalls to visit along the Finger Lakes Trail:

 

Upper, Middle + Lower Falls in Letchworth State Park 

The Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park is home to three of the largest and most stunning falls you’ll find along the Finger Lakes Trail, in addition to 50 smaller cascades scattered throughout the park. Traverse the park’s Gorge Trail to take in all of them from scenic overlooks and bask in the take-your-breath away landscape of this ultimate waterfall location along the trail. If you’re into photography, this is one location where we suggest you bust out your camera.   

Watkins Glen Waterfalls via Stone Stairs

The ultimate spot in the Finger Lakes region for hiking among towering falls, thundering chutes, and beautiful cascades, Watkins Glen State Park is home to 19 waterfalls accessible via the park’s iconic stone stairs. Climb over 800 steps, connect with nature and revel in a moment of introspection as you take in the vista before you. It would be blasphemous not to stop here and take stock of Watkins Glen’s sheer awesomeness when it comes to waterfalls. Seriously. 

Shequaga/Montour Falls South of Watkins Glen

Just south of Watkins Glen and the southernmost point of Seneca Lake, hikers can take a detour off of the trail to the village of Montour Falls with little difficulty. Accessible via the Catharine Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Queen Catharine Marsh Loop, travel a bit further and you’ll find the Montour Falls Historic Loop, highlighted by Montour or Shequaga Falls, ‘Tumbling Waters’ in Seneca – a towering, frothy, and beautiful cascade. See our interactive map for directions.  

Lucifer Falls + Lower Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park

Among waterfalls along the Finger Lakes Trail, an image of Lower Falls or Lucifer Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park might elicit the most anticipation among hikers. Towering Lucifer Falls provides the perfect panorama to take in from its overlook accessible via the park’s Gorge Trail, and Lower Falls, fed by Enfield Glen, offers one of the region’s most iconic natural swimming pools at the base of the falls, complete with supervision from lifeguards in the summertime.

Buttermilk Falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park

Getting to Buttermilk Falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park requires a brief side trip along one of the Finger Lakes Trail’s spur trails, but spending a day or two in this waterfall-filled park is absolutely worth it. Hike the park’s Gorge and Rim Trails to take in the view of cascading Buttermilk Creek, enjoy a soaring cliff jumping adventure, and cool off in the natural-fed swimming pool at the base of Buttermilk Falls, the largest of the park’s 10 falls. 

 

Reap the health benefits of a quick day hike with a waterfall as your reward, or make a few stops to take in the beauty of cascading falls while hiking the trail end to end. Whatever your reason for hiking the Finger Lakes Trail, be sure to enjoy some of New York’s most beautiful waterfalls along the way.