The Finger Lakes

My little blog won’t be able to do this northwestern part of the state justice.  I barely scratched the surface during my 3 days here, but what I can give you is a little flavor to whet your appetite.  On the map, you can easily see how the Finger Lakes got its name – deep grooves left by glaciers resulted in long slender bodies of water side by side resembling fingers. There is an abundance of gorges, waterfalls, forest, and of course, lakes in the area.  Perfect for nature lovers!

We came here to see the leaves change and at mid-October, we were in time to see the colors peak.  It’s absolutely gorgeous at this time and with the summer crowd gone, the perfect time to explore at leisure.  Here are a few highlights from our stay.

Taughannock Falls is at the bottom end of Cayuga Lake, close to Ithaca.  It can be seen from two vantage points, from the top at a parked lookout point and from the bottom of the falls itself.  Here is the view from the lookout.  What I saw didn’t match the pictures, possibly because there hadn’t been enough rain in some time.  Its height is still impressive though.

Taughannock Falls

The hike to the falls itself is an easy 20 minute walk through a partially dry river bed (or you can follow the official trail that is completely dry above the river bed).  We saw hawks nesting on the gorge wall.  Pretty amazing.

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls

For our stay here, we decided to base ourselves at the upper tip of Canandaigua Lake.  This was so we could drive to Niagara Falls without spending too much time on the road (separate post on that coming up).  Canandaigua also happens to have a nice little main street and a historical attraction called the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion.  This estate houses a 40-room mansion and several different styles of gardens.  You can tour the grounds and mansion by yourself, but I recommend the free guided tour of the mansion – you get more out of it than just reading the signs.

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

The real highlight of the Finger Lakes, at least for me, was the gorge at Watkins Glen.  Something about the 800 steps carved into the rocks, forming a meandering and moderately-difficult trail with gushing water and dripping caves, reminded me of Lord of the Rings.  You forgive this man-made intrusion into nature because otherwise you would not be able to experience the sights and sounds of this place.

Watkins Glen gorge

Watkins Glen gorge

Watkins Glen gorge

The drive to the Finger Lakes takes about 5 hours from NYC.  To keep your sanity, I recommend you break up the drive somewhere along the way, like in Binghamton.  The Finger Lakes is a huge area and you have many options for where to rest your head.  We stayed at a Victorian bed and breakfast in Canandaigua called the Inn on the Main, which I recommend wholeheartedly because we felt very pampered.  The Finger Lakes is also known for its impressive number of wineries.  For more things to do, especially when the lakes are open for water sports, click here.

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2 Responses to “The Finger Lakes”

  1. Niagara Falls « The Outdoor New Yorker Says:

    […] The Finger Lakes The Adirondacks (Lake Placid and Lake George) […]

  2. The Adirondacks (Lake Placid and Lake George) « The Outdoor New Yorker Says:

    […] our upstate NY trip, we drove from the Finger Lakes to the Adirondacks.  This region is huge with plenty of little towns to explore, but we decided to […]

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