There’s only one word to describe hiking in this area – UNBELIEVABLE! Why you may ask? One word: waterfalls! Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? We have so many near and around us that we can’t keep count.
There are many glorious places to take day hikes here in Schuyler County and the Finger Lakes. If you do only one hike when you are in the area, you must hike the gorge trail at Watkins Glen State Park. Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the area. It is located in the village of Watkins Glen and never fails to deliver breath taking views. The gorge is blessed with 400-foot cliffs and 19 waterfalls and features three main trails. The Southern Rim and Indian Trails run along the gorge’s wooded rim, while the Gorge trail is closest to the stream. It runs over, under and along the waterfalls, so get ready to get wet! You can literally walk under one of the 19 waterfalls. (These trails also connect to the Finger Lakes Trail which is an 800-mile system of trails within New York state.) This park is truly one of the crown jewels of not only Schuyler County but of the entire Finger Lakes region.
But there are many other great hikes and waterfalls in the area. There is Shequaga Falls and Aunt Sara’s Falls in Montour Falls just South of Watkins Glen. No hiking is needed for either of these waterfalls so they are a perfect add-on after you finish your hike in the Glen. They are just minutes from Watkins Glen State Park. Eagle Falls in Havana Glen Park is an easy one mile out and back trail. The hike ends with a spectacular view of Eagle Falls. Deckertown Falls is not far away either. Lesser-known, and missed by many who visit our area, it has a fascinating series of cascades in the town of Montour. Another hike that is easy to miss is Excelsior Falls, located in Watkins Glen near the South end of Seneca Lake. It is tucked away on the East side of Route 414. There are 3 series of waterfalls on this hike. Also, on the East side of Seneca Lake, heading north out of Watkins Glen on Route 414, sits Hector Falls. Here you can get up close and personal as Route 414 literally goes right over it. There is roadside parking but it is very limited, traffic is heavy and the speed limit is 55MPH on this state highway, so BE VERY CAREFUL while visiting this waterfall.
If you venture out of Schuyler County just a bit, you’ll find several fantastic State Parks in Trumansburg and Ithaca. Located within Taughannock Falls State Park, its namesake waterfall is one of the outstanding natural attractions in our area. Taughannock Falls plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. Gorge and rim trails offer spectacular views from above the falls and from below at the end of the gorge trail. There is also a great observation point located at the top of the park offering wonderful photo opportunities. Taughannock Falls State Park is located in the town of Trumansburg. Robert H. Treman State Park is an area of scenic beauty, with a rugged gorge named Enfield Glen as its scenic highlight. Winding trails follow the gorge past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls, to where visitors can view a mile-and-a-half down the wooded gorge. Buttermilk Falls State Park takes its name from the foaming cascade created by Buttermilk Creek as it drops steeply down the valley side toward Cayuga Lake. The upper park has a small lake, hiking trails through woodlands and along the gorge and rim. The lower park has a natural pool and fields, beyond which is Larch Meadows. There is also a wetland area through which a nature trail winds. You may want to bring your swim suit, as both Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk State Park have swimming pools at the bottom of their cascading waterfalls. Ithaca Falls, tucked away on the east side of Cayuga Lake is one of Ithaca’s secret waterfalls. It is close to downtown Ithaca and features a 150-foot fall. Ithaca Falls is one of the region’s most powerful and most impressive falls.
You could spend a week exploring all these magical hikes and waterfalls but while you are here, don’t forget about our wineries, breweries, distilleries, Watkins Glen International, the NASCAR race track and the many museums to explore. Those topics are for another day! Come and enjoy our wonderful landscape here in Schuyler County and the surrounding area!