The Finger Lakes is a region known for the eleven long, slender, deep lakes. It’s right there in the name. Of course, wine is also one of the top calling cards here. 

But some of the most appealing natural assets that often leaves visitors (and locals) in aw are the wide array of waterfalls splashing their way through gorges and down hillsides throughout the region. 

Two State Parks (Letchworth and Watkins Glen) voted to the Top 3 in the entire country are located just a short drive from Corning making the small town an excellent base camp for exploring the region’s many waterfalls. 

Stony Brook
Stony Brook State Park courtesy Stu Gallagher

Calling Out The Icons

Letchworth’s Spectacular Waterfalls 

Perhaps the most iconic waterfalls in New York State not named Niagara, Letchworth offers something its northern cousins doesn’t, an expansive gorge made for exploring. You can camp, picnic, hike, and encounter nature at a park aptly named “Grand Canyon of the East.” With the new Autism Nature Trail (ANT), visitors on the autism spectrum and with a range of abilities can also experience the beauty of the natural world.

Letchworth 2579 courtesy Stu Gallagher
Letchworth courtesy Stu Gallagher

Taughannock Falls State Park

Here’s a waterfall that outdoes Niagara. Not in sheer volume, but with a larger waterfall drop. Some sources claim Taughannock Falls is the “tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi” and the “haughtiest single-drop waterfall east of The Rockies.” All we know is Taughannock’s 215 single-drop falls is something to behold.

Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls courtesy Kevin Peterson

Watkins Glen State Park

Voted #3 USA Today's Best State Parks in the country, Watkins Glen’s grandeur and breathtaking views have been drawing visitors since the 1800s. The gorge trail is both dramatic with it’s rugged carved cliffs and also a bit of a moderate hike featuring more than 800 carved-stone steps that take you over bridges, beside and beneath cascades, and past 200-foot cliffs. As with all these hikes, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting wet.

Hike Among Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park
Hike Among Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

Within an Hour Drive

Stony Brook State Park

In the western reaches of Steuben, about 45 minutes from Corning, is one of the lesser known waterfalls in the region making it a true hidden gem. Tucked in a forest, partway between Watkins Glen and Letchworth, you’ll find Stony Brook State Park which is home to three main waterfalls, and a handful of smaller falls found along the gorge trail. Walk the stone steps beside the main falls for some beautiful views. You can even take a refreshing swim in the stream-fed pool which has lifeguards on duty daily in season. 

Stony Brook and Letchworth are part of the Finger Lakes Rustic & Wild footprint which also contains rural farms and farm markets, hiking trails, camping, fishing and other outdoor activities as well as excellent food, craft brews, and wine. 

Stony Brook 2682 b
Stony Brook courtesy Stu Gallager

SheQuaGa Falls

When you arrive in tiny Montour Falls and turn onto the main street you are instantly struck by the breathtaking backdrop at the end of the road with Shequaga falling over 150 feet just beyond the library and appearing to plummet down into the backyard of a beautiful home. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to find in a movie. Which is probably why this waterfall has appeared on screen. 

SheQuaGa Falls
SheQuaGa Falls courtesy Kevin Peterson

Havana Glen and Eagle Creek Falls

Just down the road, you’ll find a campground and park in Montour Falls which is home to a handful of smaller falls, as well as Eagle Creek Falls which are about 40 feet in height.

Aunt Sarah Falls

Another treat in Montour Falls, or actually on the edge of town, is Aunt Sarah Falls which you can enjoy from your car on Route 14 though it does often sneak up on unsuspecting travelers.

Grimes Glen

Take a short hike upstream and you’ll discover two waterfalls carrying runoff from the hills above. Another preservation effort by Finger Lakes Land Trust which purchased land around the gorge and transferred title to local government to maintain this stunning area’s history of public use by becoming a public park.

Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen courtesy Kevin Peterson

Excelsior Glen

Located in Watkins Glen and not too far from popular Clute Park at the southern end of Seneca Lake, Excelsior Glen offers a more private and intimate commune with nature than the more famous Watkins Glen State Park. A section of the expansive Finger Lakes Trail runs along the glen and provides the least strenuous path for those wishing to glimpse the stunning falls. More adventurous explorers might elect to creek walk which is more of a challenge, but a wonderful way to experience the natural beauty of this hidden gem.  

The region contains numerous falls and runoffs cascading down hillsides that you can view from your car as you drive. Some of the most popular are found below.  

Hector Falls

One of the wonderful views from Seneca Lake enjoyed by boaters as well as folks sailing on Schooner True Love or on a Captain Bill’s dinner cruise, are the beautiful Hector Falls plunging down a hillside hight above the lake. If you aren’t able to get out on the water, you can still enjoy the natural beauty of Hector Falls on the Seneca Scenic Byway, a 19-mile stretch of road that ambles past vineyards and a variety of beverage producers (from wine, craft beer, and distilled products).

Please Note: while pulling over near the falls allows you an up-close glimpse at this natural wonder, parking and getting out of your vehicle is strongly discouraged and can be very dangerous, as the Scenic Byway is a rural highway with high traffic flow.

Deckertown Falls

Deckertown Falls are the first you come after leaving the parking area and consists of a series of three falls working their way down the slope. These falls require a slight creek walk, though there are a series of other falls further up the creek for those feeling adventurous enough to traverse the slope and continue on.

Deckertown Falls
Deckertown Falls courtesy Kevin Peterson

Keuka Outlet Trail

If all you want are awesome waterfalls, you can park within a half mile walk (mostly flat) to two different spots on the trail (Seneca Mills Falls and cascade Falls) both falling beside ruins from another time. But if you’re looking to get outdoors a bit as well, you can paddle the outlet in kayaks and rent bikes to traverse the seven mile trail that takes you past historic mills, through woods, along a bygone railroad track, and past ruins which make for some of the coolest waterfall pics and scenes.  

Keuka Outlet Trail Hikers Waterfall Seneca Mills Falls
Keuka Outlet Trail courtesy Evan Williams

Waverly Glen Falls

Don’t be surprised to find locals enjoying a picnic (or maybe even a game of tennis) in Waverly Glen Park. This is also one of those places that often goes unknown by those who don’t live in the area, but offers a lovely waterfall that is just a short distance from the parking area. 

Less Than 90-Minutes Away

Letchworth and Taughannock are both less than 90-minutes from Corning. 

Here’s a waterfall that outdoes Niagara. Not in sheer volume, but with a larger waterfall drop. Some sources claim Taughannock Falls is the “tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi” and the “haughtiest single-drop waterfall east of The Rockies.” All we know is Taughannock’s 215 single-drop falls is something to behold.

Stony Brook is one of the larger of the many gorges and gullies in the Finger Lakes area . . . a nice stop between Letchworth and Watkins Glen. The creek carries more water than most of the others in the area, and the park is one of the better waterfall destinations in western New York.” - GoWaterfalling.com

In and around Ithaca you’ll find a plethora of waterfalls. At just over an hour drive from Corning, you can enjoy these well known visual treats as well:

Buttermilk Falls

One of several waterfalls in the Ithaca area, Buttermilk Falls might be the most famous. Located in Buttermilk Falls State Park where visitors can camp, hike, and fish, buttermilk falls also has lifeguarded swimming available. As with Stony Brook’s natural stream-fed swimming hole, availability for swimming is dependent upon weather. Before traveling, you are urged to contact the park see if swimming is open.

Robert H. Treman Park 

A popular park located at the southern end of the longest Finger Lakes, Treman Park is home to Enfield Glen a gorge that contains a dozen waterfalls including Lucifer Falls which is over 100 feet tall. 

Robert Treman Park
Robert H. Treman Park courtesy Kevin Peterson

Lick Brook Falls

Located on a hidden Nature Preserve in Ithaca, Lick Brook Falls have three main falls varying in height from 25 feet to over 90 feet. Unlike a few of the state parks, swimming it not allowed here. Part of the Finger Lakes Land Trust efforts to preserve the region, Lick Brook Falls are open year-round, but extreme caution is encouraged especially during winter. 

Fillmore Glen State Park

With 60 campsites, a stream-fed swimming pool and fishing opportunities on the Owasco Lake Inlet, Fillmore Glen offers a variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors. And five waterfalls along Dry Creek certainly add to the beauty and appeal of this lovely park including Cowshed Falls which are the most easily accessible from the parking area.

Ithaca Falls

Not far from Fillmore Glen, Fall Creek begins its descent towards Cayuga Lake lending itself to the creation of a few waterfalls on its journey, including one that seems almost hidden right in town. Not far from downtown and near Cornell University, Ithaca Falls can be seen Lake Street Bridge. 

Cascadilla Gorge

Also located downtown and not far from the more well known Ithaca Falls, you’ll find Cascadilla Gorge with its eight waterfalls cascading down along the trail. Don’t be surprised if you see college students and residents frequenting the path as the gorge makes for a great route between campus and downtown. The trail is seasonal, however, and closed part of the year. 

Six Mile Creek

Potter’s Falls and Wells Falls are both located along Six Mile Creek and are common areas for folks on their lunch break or local sunbathers. The latter falls are juxtaposed with an abandoned power plant and a stark contrast to more wild experiences like Excelsior Glen revealing just how prevalent waterfalls are in the region as they work their way through town. The Six-Mile Creek Trail also offers a popular, albeit moderate hiking route.

Keuka Outlet Trail Hikers Waterfall Cascade Falls
Keuka Outlet Trail Cascade Falls courtesy Evan Williams

Land of a Thousand Waterfalls 

Such a moniker might be an exaggeration, though it is difficult to say just how many of these stunning examples of gravity at work are found scattered throughout the Finger Lakes region.

Many can be seen from your car (especially after a rain) as you drive scenic country roads and highways from bygone days which still connect the small towns. Though, just as a few mentioned above, some are a bit more obscure and require awareness beforehand.  

Watkins Glen State Park Watertfalls Watkins Glen State Park Watertfalls Watkins Glen State Park Watertfalls
Watkins Glen State Park

Several of the waterfalls mentioned above require a hike through forests, along creeks and streams and other natural settings while some are accessed through private property. In all cases, please be respectful of the property owners and of these wonderful natural settings.

Good stewardship is really pretty simple, but can have a big impact on the environment, on wildlife, and on other people. Please be considerate of others, respect wildlife (wild is in the name for a reason), dispose of waste by taking with you what you bring in (“Take-In, Take-Out”), and leave what you find (please do not remove vegetation or wildlife from its natural setting). 

Please help preserve these wonderful natural resources by being responsible stewards of the land and waterways you enjoy.

For more information on some of the more popular waterfalls in the region, visit GoFingerLakes and NYFalls

waterfalls Stony Brook State Park
Waterfalls at Stony Brook State Park