Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York

Visit Taughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Shequaga Falls and Hector Falls 

Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

Exploring The Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York

We enjoyed the Finger Lakes region for waterfalls on a visit to Upstate New York.  On our visit to the Finger Lakes region for tasty treats we could not miss the great outdoor sights on our stay in Geneva.

The Finger Lakes are composed of eleven long, narrow lakes in New York.  These geological features are over-deepened glacial valleys.  On this visit we explored the area around Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake.  But we knew there was much more to explore on repeat visits. 

Finger Lakes Map.jpg

Much of the Finger Lakes area lay upon shale rock.  There was not a lot of rain when we visited so we found the water levels were quite low.  But even without thundering flows, we were glad we visited some of the waterfalls in the area.  The lower water levels provided great views of the underlying shale rock structure.

We drove around the Finger Lakes region as we searched for waterfalls.  Along the way we found Taughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Shequaga Falls and Hector Falls.  Each had a little something different to offer.

We Always Chased Waterfalls On Our Travels

On our travels, we often headed out and explored the waterfalls.  The waterfalls of Iceland were a major draw.  And we loved the variety in the waterfalls we found cruising in the Norway Fjords.  The Rhine Falls in Switzerland were a delightful treat on a day trip from Zurich in Switzerland.  

At home in Ontario, Niagara Falls was a wonderful day trip in any season.  And when we headed to Northern Ontario in the Fall, we found fall colours on the waterfalls.  As a Canadian, we learned how beautiful frozen waterfalls can be.  

On travels to the West Coast in British Columbia, we found raging waterfalls in the mountains around Revelstoke.  And waterfalls on great hikes from Whistler.  When we visited the Sunshine Coast, waterfalls and parks around Sechelt captivated us for weeks.

So we were not surprised that our stay in Geneva in the Finger Lakes brought us more waterfall stops.

Our First Waterfall Visit To Watkins Glen

When we did a road trip from Toronto to Philadelphia for the July 4th, we planned our route through New York State.  We travelled down through the Finger Lakes and really had no stops planned.  But when we saw the Watkins Glen State Park right on the highway, we could not resist a road trip stop at Watkins Glen.  

We were not sure what to expect.  But we set out on a hike along the Watkins Glen gorge.  And we were delighted with the rock formations.  The waterfalls tumbled down the interesting rock formations.

Watkins Glen Waterfalls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Watkins Glen Waterfalls.jpg
Watkins Glen Waterfalls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

Our first visit to the Finger Lakes region for waterfalls showed us the interesting geology in this area of the Appalachian Mountains.  

Views Over The Taughannock Falls

The first waterfall stop on this visit to the Finger Lakes region was at Taughannock Falls State Park.  Our research showed us a broad thundering horseshoe waterfall that was 215 feet (66m) high.  It was the highest single drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.  And was in fact, 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls.

As we drove south, we saw the sign for the Taughannock Falls Overlook.  This spot was not inside the state park gate.  We were happy when we found lots of parking and several trails.  And we were pleased there was no cost for parking and no park fee.

Taughannock Falls Overlook Trails.jpg

The overlook platform was right by the information centre at the parking lot.  It was the perfect spot for a first view of the Taughannock Falls.  Far below in the valley we saw the Gorge Trail with a platform at the base of the falls.

Taughannock Falls Overlook - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

We wanted a closer view from the top so set off on the North Rim Trail.  This path wound through the woods. The cliffs on the side of this waterfall were as high as 350 feet.  Several times we looked down but the dense trees blocked a view.  We passed a lovely bench that looked like it had a view but a couple already had that spot.  So we kept walking higher along the path.  

Taughannock Falls North Rim Trail.jpg

Following The North Rim Trail At Taughannock Falls

We finally reached the end of the North Rim Trail at a bridge over the water.  When we looked downstream, we saw the gorge that led to the Taughannock Falls.  And on the other side we saw another waterfall and a more gentle set of falls over shale ledges.

Taughannock Falls Bridge View - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Taughannock Falls Bridge View - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Taughannock Falls Bridge View.jpg

At this point we could join the South Rim Trail and head down the other side of the falls.  But we backtracked along our original path.  When we reached the bench with a view, we were surprised when we got the much closer view of the Taughannock Falls we looked for.  But we were glad we did not stop here first or we might not have done the full hike to the bridge view.

Taughannock Falls North Rim Trail.jpg

When we got back in the car we debated entering the Taughannock Falls State Park for a view of the falls from the Gorge Trail on the bottom.  But we still had several more stops planned on our day trip in the Finger Lakes region for waterfalls.

Buttermilk Falls South Of Itaca

We continued south along Cayuga Lake and went through Ithaca.  The GPS was programmed for Buttermilk Falls.  But as we found as we drove around the Finger Lakes region, the signage was often not great.  We had to make a fast turn to get into the Buttermilk Falls State Park.  The entry on Hwy 13 put us at the lower park entrance.

At the entrance gate, we asked the attendant about the water level at the falls.  We learned at Taughannock Falls that the water levels in the area were pretty low.  The attendant was really honest and said the falls were mostly a trickle.  He did not think it was really worth a hike up along the Buttermilk Creek.  Unless we just wanted a hike on the Gorge Trail or RimTrail.

There was no parking in the area outside the gate at this entrance.  But we saw the Buttermilk Falls right there.  David took the car for a short drive while I hopped out for some photos.

Buttermilk Falls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail.jpg

We were happy we got a view of the Buttermilk Falls. And if we wanted a long park hike, this still would have been a great stop.  When the spring thaw is on, we are sure that Buttermilk Falls would be a great waterfall stop in the Finger Lakes region.

Shequaga Falls Over Montour Falls

We headed next for the small town of Montour Falls for the Shequaga Falls.  When we did the research, we read that the waterfall was visible over the main street of the town.  But we were still surprised when we drove through town and immediately saw the falls high above the town.

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We found two on-street parking spots in front of the park at the waterfall.  The trellis bridge at the top perfectly framed this waterfall.  Unfortunately the sun was right behind the waterfall and the falls were in shade.  This was yet another great waterfall formation with a low flow when we visited.  

Montour Falls Shequaga Falls.jpg
Montour Falls Shequaga Falls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

When we left we took the road that went up the hills and found the bridge over the waterfall.  It was fun to get a view of the Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls from the top.  Another fun stop wandering around the Finger Lakes region for waterfalls.

Montour Falls Shequaga Falls From Bridge.jpg
Montour Falls Shequaga Falls From Bridge - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

Surprise Stop At Hector Falls In Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls

We really had no more waterfalls on the list for our stay to the Finger Lakes region.  But sometimes we got surprised.  When we finished our wine tasting day trip, we headed back north to Geneva up the east side of Seneca Lake.  And we no sooner got on Rte 414 before we quickly pulled over when we saw the sign for Hector Falls and the falls right off the road.  There was parking on the shoulder for about 5 cars.  

Hector Falls.jpg
Hector Falls Parking.jpg

We expected a small trickle but were amazed when we saw Hector Falls from the bridge.  The water cascaded down in multiple spots along a broad rock face.

Hector Falls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Hector Falls - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

When we looked from the other side of the bridge, we saw the water as it cascaded down several slate steps to the lake.  There was even a small road that took you down to where the falls joined Seneca Lake.

Hector Falls Down To Lake.jpg

It was great to be surprised when we drove around the Finger Lakes Region for waterfalls.

The Ultimate Waterfalls In Upstate New York

We enjoyed our travels around the Finger Lakes region for waterfalls.  But on the drive back to Toronto, we passed by the most iconic waterfalls in New York.

As Canadians, we visited Niagara Falls many times from the Canadian side.  But it was interesting when we finally saw these famous waterfalls from the U.S. side in New York State.

Niagara Falls NY - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg
Niagara Falls NY - Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York.jpg

Even when it was a dry summer, Niagara Falls was never a disappointment.

Enjoying The Finger Lakes Region For Waterfalls In Upstate New York

We were delighted we found so many great stops when we explored the Finger Lakes Region for waterfalls in Upstate New York.  The ragged slate rock base created many fascinating faces for the water to fall over.  We wished we visited when the water levels were higher.  But it was still fascinating to explore the waterfalls and the New York State Parks. 

Our visit to the Finger Lakes region was enhanced with so many great outdoor sights.  We will definitely be back. 

Have you explored the Finger Lakes Region for waterfalls in Upstate New York?

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54 Comments

  1. The Finger Lakes region is a paradise for waterfall lovers. I like it that the waterfalls there are broad. Sometimes famous waterfalls are high, but the water only trickles. It seems there are good hiking options too, with paths from where you can see the waterfalls from different viewpoints.

  2. You were so close to other great waterfalls, but you missed them. Ithaca Falls is 2 miles north of Buttermilk and is more inspiring. (It’s also free.) Several miles south of Buttermilk is Lucifer Falls in Robert Treman State Park, also more spectacular than Buttermilk. Moreover, each of the falls are in gorges that contain numerous other falls. Although these falls are smaller they are just as beautiful in their own way. Next time check out the free hike along Cascadilla Creek in Ithaca for a fine example of these gorges. All told, there are supposedly 150 waterfalls within a 10 mile radius of Ithaca.

    • We got a small introduction to the waterfalls in the Finger Lakes area but simply ran out of time. I love all the new ones you have added for a return visit to this area. We mostly visited for the tasty treats and found some waterfalls. But know we need to re-visit for more waterfalls and some great hikes. Thanks for the suggestion. We will be back!

  3. I didn’t realise how close together some of these falls are. I would love to wander around the woodlands next to Taughannock and possibly visit in autumn or spring. I can’t believe how low the water was but being able to see how the water has carved into the rock is amazing.

  4. I’d like to travel here, I always love to hike when I go on a trip. The Taughannock Falls trail looks very appealing to me. I like that you can see the waterfalls from so many angles when you follow this path through the woods. Hector Falls looks pretty amazing as well. It reminds me of a similar waterfall I have seen in Vietnam, which was pretty impressive as well. I would as well stop in Montour Falls town to see the waterfall creating that illusion of flowing straight above the town. How cool is that!

  5. This made me so nostalgic! I used to live on Conesus Lake. It seems like a lifetime ago. Next time you are in the western part of NY state, visit Letchworth State Park. It is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the east and has some beautiful falls. It is in the town of Mt. Morris south of Rochester, and east of Buffalo.

    • Thanks for the suggestion for a new spot to visit the next time we head to the Finger Lakes region. This trip was a great reminder that Upstate NY is an easy trip for us from Toronto.

  6. Your visit to the Finger Lakes region in the upstate New York provided a magnificent view of the spectacular waterfalls beautiful in their own way and each of these have such unique names.Each of these waterfalls demonstrate stunning shake rock formations beneath the cascading water. And I like how the Shequaga waterfalls is visible right at the town forefront with the Trellis bridge on top. The Taughannock falls has a towering view and the Buttermilk falls is so calm with he water trickling down the rocks. I have seen Niagara falls from New York side but would love to see it from Canadian side too.

    • We definitely want to go back for the spring and see some of these waterfalls in full water flow. We loved the variety we found on our travels. Niagara Falls is always a great stop on our travels.

  7. I had no idea there were so many waterfalls in the region. The Finger Lakes region I think is also known for its wine? But please correct me! You visited on a great day and took such clear shots of the water cascading from the rocks. I never been upstate New York but hope to one day.

  8. I’ve always heard about this scenic area and it really does look spectacular and now I get why they are called the finger lakes. The gorgeous rock features and water / river / lake attraction really adds to the amazing landscape you explored in this post, lovely.

  9. I love to photograph waterfalls, admire the power of nature, and hear the roar of water. But I had no idea Upstate New York is so rich in waterfalls. I only saw the pictures and heard about the famous Watkins Glen State Park. I add the Finger Lakes Region to my wish list. I especially like Taughannock Falls. I think I will go in late spring so that there is as much water in the waterfalls as possible.

    • I would agree with visiting in the spring for higher water flows. But we were still glad we sound so many different sites and got to enjoy the interesting geology of the area.

  10. I can see why as waterfall chasers you chose to seek out the finger lakes region. Each of the waterfalls you went to were beautiful. It makes the anticipation of the hike to capture that first sight of the falls worthwhile. From your list, the one I would definitely want to go to is the small town of Montour Falls. I can only imagine the surprise it must have been as you drove into town to see the Shequaga Falls that were actually high above the town. How incredible is that?

    • Even though we read about the falls over the town of Montour Falls, it was still a surprise when we turned up the main street and there it was. Well worth a stop. Loved all the ones we found just wandering.

  11. Upstate NY is STUNNING! Having grown up in Southern Ontario in a similar landscape, I am a big fan of waterfalls myself. They also have some lovely wines in the Finger Lakes region! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. Being a traveller i’d like to travel here, I always love to hike when I go on a trip. The Taughannock Falls trail looks very surreal to me. Hector Falls looks pretty amazing as well.

  13. I can totally see why you would chase waterfalls in your travel. They are magnificent and relaxing. They do really give you the chill. The Hector Falls seams relaxing enough to watch. I would love to visit Niagara fall as well.

  14. Thanks for sharing the map of the Finger Lakes Area. I have read about it but seeing it on a map really showed why it’s called “Finger Lakes.” The waterfall along the North Rim Trail is amazing!

  15. Upstate NY is such a beauty and treasure to visit. I’d love to see the rock formations in person. So far I’ve only visited Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, I’m glad you were able to see both. Stunning photos!

  16. The photos are beautiful! I haven’t done enough exploring around upstate New York. This post was very helpful. Also enjoyed the post about Charlottetown!

  17. I’m a waterfall junkie too! I just love a good waterfall. Your pictures are great and I am now so intrigued. Niagra is the only one of these I have been to. I’m thinking a fall road trip to the Finger Lakes region next year. Thanks for all the great information.

  18. Beautiful post, LD. The Finger Lakes occupy a large area , but are just fabulous. I think the autumn is the ideal time when one can enjoy the trails, waterfalls, colors and delicious wined of the region.

  19. Even on the map Finger Lakes region looks fascinating! I love the rock formations at Watkins Glen gorge. I would want to go waterfall chasing there too as they are all unique in their own way. It is great that there are designated paths or platforms to walk on so one does not destroy the area.

  20. Waterfalls are my favourite thing to find while hiking, so you’ve given me quite a few unique spots to explore when I get down to this part of the state!

  21. I’ve never heard of this region before but it certainly looks incredibly beautiful. I’m usually not that crazy about waterfalls but these are just amazing. My favorite would be the Taughannock Falls as well as the Buttermilk Falls. But possibly it’s just the way you’ve photographed them. Often, falls do not looks as impressive in pictures as they are in nature. On your pix, you can basically feel the power of the water. Definitely a place to visit!

    • Thanks for the feedback on the waterfall pics. We were a bit disappointed since the summer was so dry and the flows were smaller than we expected. But great to get lots of outdoors sites on this short road trip to the Finger Lakes region.

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