10 Best Backpacking Trails In Finger Lakes State Park

Finger Lakes State Park
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The Finger Lakes Trail System stretches 950 miles from the Pennsylvania-New York border to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. Many of the hiking trails offer gorgeous views of ancient glacial lakes. They take you through historic towns, hardwood forests, deep gorges, beautiful waterfalls, and flourishing valleys. Join the adventure here where some of the best backpacking trails in Finger Lakes State Park reside.

Finger Lakes State Park
Image by Jim Chesek on Unsplash

Old Mill Falls Via Flint Creek

Among the many trails in Finger Lakes State Park, you will find several pleasant waterfalls on the Flint Creek Trail. The creek originates in Naples, New York and runs through Flint to the Canandaigua outlet. To reach the upstream cascades you’ll want to start from the parking area north of Williams Street Bridge. Also, the trail leads you through a forest along the creek as you reach a small cascade.

Continuing on, you’ll reach the railroad bridge where you get a view of Old Creek Falls. The trail is a moderate hike taking around 30 minutes to reach all of the cascades. For your convenience and limitless adventures, the trail is illuminated at night and available to hike all year round.

Waterfalls, Finger Lakes State Park
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Watkins Glen State Park

The most popular park in the Finger Lakes is the Watkins Glen State Park. Reachable from a series of hikes including the Gorge Trail. The hike is about 2 miles and takes you past 19 amazing waterfalls. The trail winds you through gorgeous stone tunnels, staircases, and bridges, showing exceptional views of cascades.

Additionally, the park was nominated by USA Today as the Reader’s Choice Poll for being the best state park in the United States. There are several areas of swimming holes, campsites, and picnic facilities within the park. Pets are allowed in this park. However, they must be held on a leash or something similar at all times.

Grimes Glen Park

Located in the village of Naples, New York, you will find Grimes Glen Park. Here, you will see great features such as the amazing waterfalls. Also, it is known to have the oldest fossilized tree in New York. Starting at Cleveland Hill, you will follow a trail with several stream crossings. This forces you to walk inside the creek. About a half mile in, you will reach the first waterfall; French Hill Falls.

Also, about a quarter-mile further, you will reach the top of a 60-foot waterfall. From here, you have to climb along the walls using ropes. These are made for more adventurous climbers as it can be dangerous for some. Once reaching the bottom, you will have plenty of opportunities for swimming.

Finger Lakes State Park
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Taughannock Falls State Park

One of the tallest waterfalls in the area is the Taughannock Falls, which stands at 215 feet high. This waterfalls is also three stories taller than Niagara Falls. The falls carve a 400-feet deep gorge through sandstone, limestone, and shale. They are reachable from the Gorge Trail among other trails starting from Cayuga Lake. This is also where you can enjoy picnicking, swimming, and camping. Additionally, shoes are recommended when hiking the trails as rocks on trails get very slippery. During the summer, you can enjoy the Summer Concert Series, which offers a diverse range of music altering each week.

Chimney Bluffs State Park

Situated on the southern shore of Lake Ontario near the town of Huron, NY is the Chimney Bluffs State Park. Featured on the trails at the park are the large clay formations at the edge of the shoreline, resembling the shape of a chimney. The bluffs were formed from eroded drumlins, shaped from glacial hills during the ice age. Interestingly, these bluffs are along the longest hiking trail in Finger Lakes State Park. They take you along the shoreline and gives you a view of the bluffs; stretching 4 miles long. Also, the beach is covered in flat stones and water remains shallow for many feet.

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Ontario Pathways Trail

Built on abandoned railroad beds in Ontario County, you’ll find the Ontario Pathways Trail. This is a family friendly trail. It stretches 23 miles of narrow pathways composed of grass and stacked cinders leading you to smooth flowing streams and cascades. There are two sections, one starting from Stanley heading to Phelps. The other one heads to Canadaigua. The Ontario Pathways Trail is also rated as an easy hike as it is mainly flat with some rolling hills. For bird and nature lovers, it is also a highly acclaimed trail for birdwatching. This trail has over 200 species that can be found.

Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Ithaca, Finger Lakes State Park
Image on ithacafingerlakes.com

Located in the heart of Ithaca, you can find the beautiful hike of Cascadilla Gorge Trail connecting to Cornell Campus. Constructed in the late 1920s, the trail climbs about 400 feet through a gorge formed from ancient bedrock, sandstone, siltstone, and shales. It takes you past six waterfalls over stone walkways and bridges. Also, the total distance is three quarters of a mile. Furthermore, it features eight stunning waterfalls along Cascadilla Creek. The trail is open from early spring to November and closed during night hours as conditions become icy.

Hi Tor Trail

A popular trail near the town of Haverstraw, the Hi Tor Trail runs through the Conklin Gully. It is a 9-mile round trip out and back with many additional trails connected. Several activities can be enjoyed as it runs into the West River, the Hudson River, and the Leah Valley Rail Trail. The scenery of the hike includes ponds, waterfalls, gorges, mountains, forests, and fields with wildflowers. Also, it offers many outdoor activities.

The hike is rated as moderate with about 600 feet incline reaching the summit of Hi Tor. Here, you will get spectacular views of the town, the rivers, and Harriman State Park. Remains of a beacon’s anchor from an aircraft unit are visible at the summit. Blue Trail and Bristol Hills Trail are connected, making available options for a loop.

Image By Michael C. Rygel on Wikimedia Commons

Fillmore Glen State Park

Near the village of Moravia, New York is the 941-acre park of Fillmore Glen State Park. Also, the main features of the park are five major waterfalls along with several smaller cascades, plunges, and chutes. The upper falls at the end of the gorge is the tallest waterfall at 40 feet. The hike is easy, taking you through narrow gorges and green forest.

It connects with the Gorge Trail, which would take about 2-3 hours to complete. There are over 60 campsites throughout the park available from May to November, all of which can be reserved in advance. The park caters to all ages, allowing for fishing, swimming, hunting, birdwatching, and swimming. Also, there are trailer sites and cabins available all year for those who want to take advantage of winter activities like snowmobiling and cross country skiing.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Buttermilk Falls State Park, Finger Lakes State Park
Image by RattBoy on Wikimedia Commons

South of Cayuga Lake is the beautiful area of Buttermilk Falls State Park. The name is derived from the frothy appearance made from the water’s churning at Buttermilk Falls. Buttermilk Creek contains a series of cascades and rapids, descending over 500 feet with a natural swimming pool at the base. Several trails including the Gorge Trail wander through the extraordinary landscape.

Another noteworthy trail is Larch Trail, which encircles a marsh near the main parking area. Moreover, it is about a mile long. Much like other parks at the Finger Lakes, there are several campsites for tents and RVs along with cabins to rent.

Cumming Nature Center

Located near Naples, NY is the 900-acre park of the Cumming Nature Center, where you can find six miles of uniquely themed hiking trails along with numerous seasonal events. On the Beaver Trail, there is an observation tower overlooking the 35-acre beaver pond among other forest habitats. The Helen Gordon Trail features an outdoor art gallery on birds and other animals relevant to the park.

The Pioneer Trail is designed to teach people of the early settlers, including an 18th century reconstructed house. There are guided hikes and several programs like education classes, woodsman competitions, and wild flower treks. Wildflower treks entail identifying rare plant species found at the park. A popular seasonal event includes a maple sugaring fundraiser, where visitors learn about the process converting sap into maple syrup.

Keuka Outlet Trail

Seneca River, Jordan, New York
Image by MTBradley on Wikimedia Commons

Built on an old railroad track bed connecting Penn Yan and Desden, you’ll find the Keuka Outlet Trail. The trail traces a former canal dug along natural drainage from Keuka Lake Outlet from Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake. Additionally, Keuka Lake is unique as it is the only lake that drains into another. Also, it is forked like a “Y,” giving it the title the crooked lake. Moreover, the trail is six miles long offering serene streams, waterfalls, and lush woodlands.

Furthermore, a great viewing place for Seneca Mill Falls is located about three miles with a pavilion near Lion Bruce Henson Memorial Park. Additionally, if you walk another mile, you’ll reach Cascade Mill Falls. It also offers another picnic area to view the falls. Lastly, the masonry walls along the edges of the trail are over 10 feet high. Although, they are already deteriorating. So, it is advised to stay clear of any falling debris.


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