Hike The Amazing Trails Of Fillmore Glen State Park

Fillmore Glen State Park
Image on Wikimedia Commons

Among all neighboring parks in the state of New York, Fillmore Glen State Park is the most rustic, and closest to its natural state. Its hiking trails offer wonderful views and exceptional geological and botanical formations. Also, along with its beauty, it includes five spectacular waterfalls. The interesting hiking trail and waterfalls lie in the west of the park.

Situated here is also a dam that creates a refreshing natural pool for hikers, tourists, and New Yorkers to cool off. Most exploratory visitors can hike upstream, passing several beautiful falls and moss-covered stonework of the gorge trail. With multiple miles of trails within the park, the possibilities for hiking and photography are amazing.

Fillmore Glen State Park
Image on Wikimedia Commons

Location Of The State Park

Named after the 13th United States President, Millard Fillmore, it is located in the Finger Lakes Region, Route 38. It is one mile south of Moravia and south of Owasco Lake, Cayuga County, New York. The Fillmore Glen State Park is a 941-acre (3.81KM2) haven of calm and a gathering of dense woods into a long, narrow gorge.

Facilities That Will Keep You Comfortable

Fillmore Glen has 60 campsites with dumping stations and showers, a beach, a stream-fed swimming pool, pavilions, picnic tables, a playground, and playing fields. In the winter, the park is often used for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Anglers will enjoy fishing in the Owasco Lake inlet.

Feel At Home With The Provided Accommodations 

If you are planning to spend a night or more at Fillmore Glen State Park, you can make a reservation to stay on campsites or in cabins. Fillmore Glen State Park has 60 campsites. These campsites are a 2-night minimum stay. However, if you are looking to stay for just a night, you will have to make a reservation within 7 days of your arrival. This can be done through the call center. Their cabins can accommodate 4 people. Each cabin includes bunk beds, a gas stove, and a refrigerator.

Also, these cabins are a 7 to 14 days stay during peak season. Peak season runs from the end of June to the end of August. Note that cabins do have a 2-night minimum stay outside of peak season.

Let’s explore the numerous trails available in one of the most amazing parks in the United States.

Cowshed Falls Trail

The Cowshed Falls Trail is the first trail you will encounter in Fillmore Glen Park. The trail is accessible quarter of a mile from the parking lot and opened all year round. The Cowshed area houses the lowest and biggest waterfalls in Fillmore Glen Park and includes a parking lot. The Cowshed in Fillmore Glen State Park is a water-carved stone amphitheater encompassing the Cowshed Falls; the waterfall that’s situated along the trail.

Cowshed Trail/Cowshed Falls
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

In the amphitheater, you can see a hard and erosion-resistant limestone capstone that sits above softer shale layers that have been carved away underneath. Cowshed Falls is about 30 feet high. Its amazing amphitheater can be accessed by crossing the stone bridge and walking a couple of minutes to your left towards Cowshed Falls. Reputedly, cattle would shelter against the cliff to the left on hot summer days in years past. Hence, the reason why it is called Cowshed.

The Cowshed Trail is the shortest trail in Fillmore Glen Park, but certainly not the least exciting scenery you will encounter. Being the biggest waterfall in Fillmore Glen State Park, Cowshed Falls provides a beautiful photographic view. Also, in cold weather, the Cowshed Falls becomes completely frozen over.

Gorge Trail

Gorge Trail is the most popular trail in Fillmore Glen Park. The trail stretches 2.5 miles, leading to all waterfalls outside Cowshed area. Filled with dense woods and amazing scenery, Gorge Trail gives hikers magnificent views. You definitely want to hike these trails if you are a true hiker that seeks adventure, fun, and an awesome view.

Gorge Trail
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

The starting trail is a 150-feet climb up a wooded hill. Once above the Cowshed area, the trail becomes a flat stone walkway. It meanders around gorgeously unique cascades along moss-covered stonework. Additionally, there are steps to get you above each of the falls. Also, wooden bridges can take you across the creek where necessary. In autumn, this trail blooms with beautiful colors, it is the best trail to hike during this season.

The Gorge Trail is opened from April to November every year. There are multiple things to see on the Gorge Trail. This includes unique cascades and exceptional botanical formations. Hiking the mossy stonework trail of the gorge, you are sure to see many gorgeous waterfalls. The Gorge Trail is highly populated with dense woods gathering up to form the narrow gorge. Interestingly, it is these unique botanical formations that actually gave the Gorge Trail its name.

South Rim Trail

The South Rim Trail is around 2.82 miles. There are a lot of trees that offers shade and make it a trail for a sunny day. The South Rim Trail is primarily used for hiking. However, it is steep, so you have to be careful on a rainy day. To hike the South Rim Trail, turn around at bridge 7 from Gorge Trail and walk back to the steps that lead up to the intersection of the Gorge Trail and South Rim Trail.

Here, you would then have to walk straight ahead and turn left up the South Rim Trail. Also, the initial part of the trail ascends at a 13% grade but this lasts for only a quarter of a mile. After the mile hike upwards, the trail then levels out. There is an amazing view just before the descent to the gorge.

Also, watch for a small “detour” on your left that takes you to a bridge and a viewpoint! To the right of the viewpoint is “The Pinnacle,” where a vertical piece of rock is pulling away from the walls of the glen. It’s a sight not to be missed.

Fillmore Glen State Park
Image by Doug Kerr on Flickr

North Rim Trail

Walk downhill to Bridge 8 from South Rim Trail and notice the lean-to on the left side of the trail. You will need to cross the bridge to hike the red-blazed North Rim Trail. Over 0.2 miles, the trail gains about 150 feet on a 14% grade. At the top of the climb, there’s a bench to relax, catch your breath, and take in the scenery. At one point, the trail meets a small stream that has gutted a gorge of its own perpendicular to the main glen.

Also, as you get nearer to the end of the trail, you will come to a series of steps. These steps are wooden boxes filled with dirt and gravel. These wooden boxes may not last as long as stone. However, they are much smoother and better looking. Also, you can descend the steps to the swimming area where there’s also a small lawn for a picnic.

Note: The North Rim Trail also gains a little elevation in some spots but is primarily downhill.

Five Falls Loop Trail

These are four waterfalls and cascades that serve as the gem and major attraction of Fillmore Glen State Park. The first waterfall is known as Cowsheds Falls or “First Falls.” It can be easily accessed from the Cowshed Trail. However, to see the other amazing waterfalls and cascades, you must hike up the Gorge Trail. Hiking further along the Gorge Trail, there are several stunning smaller cascades and waterfalls that culminate with the tallest waterfalls in Fillmore Glen; the Dalibarda.

The Dalibarda separates the Upper and Lower Pinnacle Falls which you can access by crossing short bridges along the trail. Also, these last pair of waterfalls lie in a virtually striking square-cut section of the gorge near the terminus of the Gorge Trail.  The total trail length is 7.3 miles.

Late spring, early summer, and/or after periods of heavy rain are the best time for you to see the waterfalls in their most torrential states. However, autumn is also a considerably beautiful time for you to hike these trails, either when the leaves are adorned with contrasting colors or just after fallen leaves reveal parts of the gorge previously hidden from view by the dense undergrowth.

Lower Falls, Fillmore Glen State Park
Image by Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr

Snowmobile Trail

Fillmore Glen State Park is an excellent place for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. After a major water storm, you can use the campground as your starting point to explore trails throughout the region. There is also a dedicated snowmobile trail located within the park. The snowmobile trail is a 2.75-mile trail starting in the playground situated in the lower park region. The trail is connected to the North Rim Trail at the trailhead located in the lower park region, and exit to Cloverleaf Road.

As the snow begins to fall, the roads in Fillmore Glen State Park turn into a perfect course for cross-country skiing. If you are planning a winter trip to the park, you can bring your skis along, and explore the beautiful white woods as they completely transform into a winter paradise. Although, it is hard to plan in advance if you want to cross-country ski at the park because there isn’t always snow on the ground.

Owasco Lake Inlet Trail

There is a waterway in Fillmore Glen State Park, Dry Creek, which is a tributary to the Owasco Inlet, with empties into Owasco Lake. In open season, the Anglers enjoy fishing in the Owasco Lake Inlet. The Inlet Trail can be hiked as a loop by following the fishermen’s footpath along the inlet’s western shore and then returning to the fire lane access road via a short section of the old Lehigh Valley Rail Bed. This loop totals 1.6 miles. Though the Inlet Trail starts along a boardwalk, many sections of the trail are muddy. It’ll require a bit of hopscotching around the muck during wet conditions.

Fillmore Glen State Park is a secluded gem with some of the finest natural wonders in the state. It’s the perfect destination for an RV vacation at any time of the year. So, go for a visit and be sure to make Fillmore Glen State Park your next hike or vacation arena.


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