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The Complete Guide to Keuka Lake: One of the Most Unique Bodies of Water in America

The Finger Lakes Region of New York is filled with natural beauty, from gushing waterfalls cascading down deep gorges to wineries dotting rolling, green hills—and at the heart of it all lies Keuka Lake.

One of the most popular of the Finger Lakes, Keuka is easy to spot on a map thanks to its unique Y shape (which has also earned it the nickname "Crooked Lake"). Besides paddling, fishing, and swimming, the hills around the lake are filled with hiking and biking trails.

With so much to do, it can be difficult to decide where to start your vacation at Keuka Lake, so we put together this guide to help you out.

On-the-Water Activities

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

4DTQbuVlw4AgWsuSCmY8W2 Paddling at Keuka Lake is easy and relaxing. Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

One of the best ways to get to know Keuka Lake is to get out there in a kayak or on a paddleboard. Take your time to explore the hidden coves for an up close and personal look at some of the lesser-visited areas of the waterway. For more of a challenge, paddle the length of Keuka Lake from Hammondsport to Penn Yan (it’s about 20 miles), or go from Hammondsport to Branchport, which is about 14 miles. Regardless of where you paddle to, make sure you are on the water at dusk to take in an awe-inspiring sunset.

Keuka Watersports has a wide range of kayaks, paddleboards, and safety equipment available to rent, or go all out and rent a double-decker pontoon for a memorable family adventure or party. There are boat launches in Penn Yan at the Morgan Marina or the Penn Yan Village Boat Launch, and in Hammondsport at the Harbor Lights Marina.

Swimming

No visit to Keuka Lake is complete until you actually get in the water. Take a dip at Keuka Lake State Park in Branchport, where you’ll find a nice swimming beach that the whole family can enjoy as well as other activities like hiking, picnicking, and fishing. The state park has an entry fee, so check out the website before you go.

Red Jacket Park in Penn Yan is another swimming area with a sandy beach, playground, and picnic tables.

On the southern end of the lake, Depot Park in Hammondsport is right on the water. There is a lifeguard on patrol for safe swimming and a grassy area where you’ll find locals playing games, sunbathing, or just enjoying a midday picnic.

Seaplanes

24aFS4eGuE6YUOCo8a6aw8 Get above the lake for the best view. Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Go up, up, and away for an unforgettable view of Keuka Lake and the surrounding region with Finger Lakes Seaplanes. Based at Harbor Lights Marina, just a few miles north of downtown Hammondsport, the team of professional pilots will take you on a spectacular sky cruise guaranteed to deliver incredible memories.

Fishing

Welcome to one of the best "fishing holes" in the Northeast. Keuka’s deep crystal waters are filled with brown and lake trout, smallmouth bass and pike, pickerel, and yellow perch. In the spring, look for trout in shallow tributaries like Cold Brook before they move to the depths of Keuka in summer and fall.

If you’d like to learn from an expert angler, look into a charter from Bobber’s Fishing Excursions.

Off-the-Water Activities

Biking and Hiking

3Z5J1hE5f2iiEyasGsqeCM You don’t have to be on the water to enjoy the water in and around Keuka Lake. Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

Are you the type of person who likes to be near the water rather than on it? Well, biking or hiking around Keuka Lake is a wonderful way to take in the picturesque views.

Cyclists rave about Keuka Lake’s Bluff Point Trail (you can hike to it, too). Located outside of Penn Yan, the peninsula that gives the lake its unique Y shape reaches over 800 feet at its highest point.

For an easy, 7-mile hike try the historic Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, which follows a stream and abandoned railroad from 1884. Look for remnants of the old abandoned town of Hopeton and the three-tiered Seneca Mills Falls.

For more hikes in the area, check out this list of 10 of the best fall hikes in Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, or jump on a section of the 950-mile Finger Lakes Trail near Hammondsport.

Wineries & Breweries

It’s also worth spending at least a day sampling the area’s stellar wineries, and the best place to do that is along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. There are seven family-owned wineries along the trail and many win awards year after year. Need a place to start? Heron Hill is renowned for its cool-climate whites and spectacular tasting room. Though not on the wine trail but definitely worth a visit, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars is one of the state’s finest wineries and the small but exceptional Keuka Lake Vineyards has won praise from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

If beer is more your style, you’ll find a brewery route here, too. The Craft Your Adventure Trail features 29 breweries, distilleries, and cideries, and eight of them are near Keuka Lake. Be sure to pick up your "Passport to Happiness" and get it stamped at 10 different stops. Redeem your passport at one of the designated sites and get some CYA swag to take home with you. There are plans to expand the trail in 2018, so keep an eye on the website for new additions!

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure or an adult getaway, this lovely lake really does have it all. Come experience Keuka Lake Life for yourself.

Originally written by RootsRated for Steuben County.

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