The 15 Best Spots to Chase Waterfalls near Watkins Glen, New York

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Are you looking for some fun activities to do around Watkins Glen? If so, then you should definitely check out these beautiful waterfalls located nearby.

The Finger Lakes region and upstate New York are home to many natural wonders, such as Niagara Falls, the Great Lakes, and, of course, the Finger Lakes.

The waterways traveling through the rugged gorges in the area create waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. These stunning waterfalls are perfect for anyone who loves nature and adventure.

Here are plenty of impressive waterfalls near Watkins Glen that you should visit. Some are roadside while others require a hike. One is even best seen from a boat on the water!

This list surely will create some variety on your next trip to Watkins Glen.

How Many Waterfalls are in the Finger Lakes?

There are hundreds of waterfalls located within the Finger Lakes Region. Many people don’t know about these natural wonders because many of them are hidden away in remote areas. 

Some of these waterfalls are even hidden in plain sight! While they can be really roaring in the spring when the snow melts, they often slow to just a trickle during the summertime when more visitors flock to the area. Keep that in mind when you’re exploring the area!

Some on this list of waterfalls have become much more highly trafficked than others. Some of these waterfalls are accessible via trails, and one via a boat ride.

Single drops and multilevel cascades, each of these waterfalls near Watkins Glen has its own personality. Visit them all so you can pick your favorite!

Popular Waterfalls near Watkins Glen

One of the best things to do while visiting Watkins Glen is to go chase a waterfall or two (or twenty!) because there are just so many great sights to see in the area. You can’t go wrong when exploring any of these spectacular waterfalls.

There are viewing options on this list for everyone who wants to see a waterfall. Some can be seen without leaving the car. Some require hiking and exploring. One is even best seen from the lake on a cruise or a kayak!

Whatever kind of adventure you want to have, there is something on this list for you.

Watkins Glen State Park

Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park

The state park is located right in the town of Watkins Glen. The park itself and the gorge trail along Glen Creek, which is best for waterfall chasing, is open daily from sunrise to sunset during the summertime. There is a fee for parking your vehicle in one of the state park’s managed lots. 

Over the 1.5-mile Gorge Trail, you’ll be treated to views of 19 waterfalls spilling over the deep gorge walls. The trail is well maintained, but you’ll have to navigate hundreds of stairs to complete the entire trail. Travel over, below, and through the water along the Gorge Trail.

When you reach the other side of the park, you have a few choices. There is a shuttle bus, for the return, which costs $6 per person. Hiking options in Watkins Glen State Park include the North Rim Trail and the South Rim Trail. While the South Rim leaves the gorge earlier, it does follow a section of the Finger Lakes Trail.

A few of the notably named waterfalls along Glen Creek in Watkins Glen State Park include:

  • Rainbow Falls
  • Cavern Cascade
  • Central Cascade

There are others, which are not quite as well known. Be sure to explore the entire Gorge Trail so that you don’t miss out on any of the amazing views.

Aunt Sarah’s Falls

Aunt Sarah’s Falls is a roadside stop not far from Watkins Glen on the way to Montour Falls.

This waterfall is very seasonal, and it kind of looks like a trickle from a small drain pipe at most during dry seasons. When the water is high, Aunt Sarah’s Falls is a beautiful sight to see. 

There is an area just on the other side of Route 14 where you can pull over to park and view the falls.

You can either view the falls from the grassy parking lot or walk across the highway to get a closer view of the falls. Just take caution if you do plan to cross the highway; it’s a very busy roadway!

She-qua-ga Falls

Shequaga Falls in summer time slows down when it slows down to just a trickle.
Shequaga Falls in early July

Right in the town of Montour Falls, the Shequaga Falls Park is another fantastic roadside waterfall with a small viewing park. Often, bicyclists use this small park as a spot to take a break on their ride. There are a few benches around the park where you can sit and enjoy the view.

This one is over 150 feet fall and best viewed from the bottom. 

There is parking along the street in town, but be sure to follow the signage regarding parking regulations.

This is another quick stop that is best seen during wet seasons and after heavy rainfall. Otherwise, the flow can be down to just a trickle when the weather has been dry.

Eagle Cliff Falls

Eagle Cliff Falls is a 40-foot tall single-drop waterfall near Watkins Glen
Eagle Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park

This is a popular waterfall spot with the locals and many come to camp during the summer. The small Havana Glen Park, where Eagle Cliff Falls is located, is maintained by the town of Montour Falls.  It’s just a short drive from Watkins Glen to Montour Falls!

The trail starts off to the left of the camping area from a small parking lot. The main 40-foot waterfall is only about a 5-minute walk from the parking area. 

Although the trail is a little narrow, it is pretty easy to navigate, but there is one set of metal stairs to climb on your way back through the gorge.

Bring water shoes or sandals if you’d like to wade in the water at the base of the falls. You don’t want to do this in your bare feet because the rocks in the pool can be sharp and slippery.

There is a $2 per car parking fee to enter Havana Glen Park, paid by cash at the entrance. The park is typically open from May to October.

Deckertown Falls

Deckertown Falls is located on the opposite side of the town of Montour Falls from the already mentioned Shequaga and Aunt Sarah’s Falls. 

You’ll find access to these falls from a small parking area at the end of East Catharine Street in Montour Falls.

While there are multiple waterfalls along this waterway, the first one you’ll come across shortly after leaving the parking area is Deckertown Falls. 

Be sure to wear appropriate footwear with good traction on this adventure because the rocks can be very slippery. The gorge is also quite narrow, and even though this is not a high-flow waterway, the currents can become quite strong at times. 

With that being said, this is a great spot to save for exploring during the summer, when the water levels are a little lower.

Hector Falls

The top half of Hector Falls as seen from the road
top of Hector Falls from the road

This waterfall isn’t just a pretty face; there’s much more to it than meets the eye! Hector Falls is located right off of Route 414 between Watkins Glen and the town of Hector on the western side of Seneca Lake. The falls are much closer to Watkins Glen than the town of its name, though.

While Hector Falls can be seen from the road, you really can’t appreciate the magnitude of this one unless you see it from the water. 

Options include taking a Seneca Lake sightseeing cruise from the Seneca Harbor Station or renting a kayak to paddle. 

Kayak trips can be guided or you can go at your own pace up the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. From this vantage point, you’ll get to see the portion of the waterfall that flows below the Route 414 bridge into the lake.

Again, there is more than initially meets the eye here!

Keuka Outlet Trail

Waterfall and dam
Seneca Mill and Falls

There are two beautiful waterfalls between Penn Yan and Dresden, New York. They’re located about 20 miles north of Watkins, New York. 

The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail is a great place to hike or ride bicycles. Bring your camera because it’s a great spot to take pictures of the waterway and the old mill remains. 

You might even want to pack a picnic lunch to stop and take a break during your travels along the trail. There is a picnic shelter near the Seneca Mill and Falls site.

You’ll get a chance to see the Seneca Mill and Falls head-on, so it’s much easier to snap a photo here. The Cascade Mill and Falls viewing spots are at the top of the falls. While it’s also beautiful, you won’t have a great photo to remember this one.

While along the trail, there are informational boards where you can learn about the mill history of the area while you explore.

Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Cascades with stairs leading along the right on the Cascadilla Gorge Trail in the Cornell Botanical Gardens
Along the Cascadilla Gorge Trail

You’ll have to travel over to the town of Ithaca to access this beautiful nature trail. It’s about 25 miles from Watkins Glen to the trailhead, where you can access the Cascadilla Gorge Trail.

This trail is actually on the campus at Cornell University, which makes this hike a great way to spend some time outdoors. It is part of the Cornell Botanical Gardens!

There are multiple waterfalls on the trail, with the next being just around the corner. This hike is a perfect family activity for those with older children.

The trail is very accessible and although there are plenty of stairs, there aren’t any really steep inclines or narrow passageways to navigate. If you’re looking for a short hike close to civilization, this trail is a good choice.

Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls. A few people stand to the right of the frame.
Ithaca Falls is easy to reach. The few people to the right of the frame for size comparison.

While you’re in downtown Ithaca, there are plenty of waterfalls to see, but one of the easiest to reach is the one named for the town!

While parking to reach the falls can be difficult because it is in a residential area, do not let this stop you from visiting this powerful waterfall. It is free to visit!

After finding a spot to park your car, you’ll only have to walk a short distance, about 100 yards, before you are able to see the falls. 

On the weekends, prepare for the area to be busy. If you’d like the area more to yourself, plan an early morning visit.

Taughannock Falls at Taughannock State Park

The single drop Taughannock Falls is taller than Niagara Falls
Taughannock Falls in summer

Another spot just a little over 20 miles from Watkins Glen, this is one you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting.

The Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail takes you along the banks of the Taughannock Creek where it flows towards Cayuga Lake. At the end of the out-and-back style gorge trail, you’ll see the falls from the base.

For a birds-eye view, you can either hike the rim trail or drive up Taughannock Park Road. Whichever way you decide to check this one out, it is absolutely worth it. 

Taughannock is the tallest single-drop waterfall in the northeast, 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls!

Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park

Lucifer Falls
Lucifer Falls is the tallest, but there are a few other smaller waterfalls along the trails in Robert H. Treman State Park.

The Finger Lakes region offers visitors some of the most beautiful natural areas in New York state. One of those places is Robert H. Treman State Park, and it’s also about 20 miles from Watkins Glen, NY.

This area features 12 waterfalls to view while traveling through Enfield Glen, including the notable Lucifer Falls.

Lucifer Falls is the tallest of the twelve waterfalls. While there is a parking area just a short distance from the falls, we’d recommend starting at the bottom of the gorge and hiking up with Lucifer Falls being the destination. It is surrounded by lush green vegetation and trees lining the deep gorge walls.

Enfield Falls, or Lower Falls, has a swimming hole at the base where you can enjoy cooling off on hot summer days. A paved trail leads down to the base of the waterfall where you can just enjoy the views or swim. Just be warned that the area does get busy on summer weekends!

Robert H. Treman State Park has some of the best hiking trails to waterfalls near Watkins Glen. You’ll get a variety of terrain with thick forests and a deep gorge if you hike the long loop. This is a good spot to get out and explore while getting some exercise!

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Multilevel waterfalls along the gorge trail in Buttermilk Falls State Park
Along the Gorge Trail in Buttermilk Falls State Park. Find these after you pass Buttermilk Falls.

Buttermilk Falls is also located just outside the town of Ithaca. It’s a popular state park for swimming and waterfall exploring. The main Buttermilk Falls is very easy to access. There are several other smaller waterfalls within the park as well.

The 0.65-mile Gorge Trail leads right past most of the beautiful water features throughout the park including many smaller waterfalls. 

With Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk Falls Parks being located so close together, a visit to these parks makes a great waterfall day trip from Watkins Glen. 

If you plan to visit a number of state parks in New York throughout the year, an Empire Pass is a great way to gain access to the parks throughout the year.

Grimes Glen Park

Grimes Glen is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers. It’s the furthest spot on this list from Watkins Glen at nearly 50 miles, and it takes about one hour to drive from Watkins to Grimes Glen.

The trail is well marked with signs so it’s easy to find your way around. You’ll want to come prepared with appropriate footwear, though, because this hike to the waterfalls requires some creek walking to get to the views. It’s about one mile of hiking in total.

Hiking through the creek will take you to the bottom of the falls where you can enjoy the view. Visiting in the spring can be a little more dangerous with higher water levels making it more difficult to pass.

While you’re over here on the western side of the Finger Lakes, be sure to check out the rest of the things that Canadaigua Lake has to offer.  You’re just 10 minutes from the southern point of the lake!

Stony Brook State Park

Middle Falls in Stony Brook State Park
Middle Falls in Stony Brook State Park

While the drive between Stony Brook and Watkins Glen is about an hour long, we just couldn’t leave it off of the list! Stony Brook is sometimes forgotten about being so close to the popular Letchworth State Park, but the Gorge Trail is one that certainly shouldn’t be missed!

While it has a similar feel to those at Watkins Glen State Park and Buttermilk Falls State Park, we’d venture to say that the waterfalls at Stony Brook are easier to view and photograph than at others. 

While you can explore this state park in a few hours, it is worth adding to your list or maybe even combining it with a visit to the trails at Grimes Glen.

Letchworth State Park

Upper Falls in Letchworth State Park framed by the railroad bridge passing overhead
Upper Falls in Letchworth State Park

While Letchworth and Watkins Glen are separated by about 1 hour and 15 minutes of driving between the two parks, we simply cannot ignore the fact that these two spots, which have both been mentioned on lists of the best state parks in the entire country, are so close together!

Letchworth State Park has its three large and magnificent waterfalls at the forefront in the southern part of the park, but there are plenty of other areas to check out, too.

Stop at the picnic area along Wolf Creek to have lunch with the sounds of the water rushing in the background.

While Letchworth and Watkins Glen State Parks can get quite busy during peak seasons, that does not mean that you should let the crowds keep you away. They are busy because they are beautiful! If you’d like to avoid the crowds, just plan an off time, such as early morning, later in the evening, or midweek to pay these spots a visit.

Best Time to Visit the Finger Lakes Waterfalls

The best time to visit these Finger Lakes waterfalls near Watkins Glen is during springtime when the weather is still cool enough to enjoy some outdoor activities and the snowmelt is fueling those falls.

Fall offers beautiful foliage colors and cooler temperatures, making it also a great season to explore Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes.

Summertime brings crowds to the area and many of the waterfalls become less appealing due to the dry weather.

You’ll probably want to avoid a winter visit if you want to see some of these waterfalls, especially those in the state parks. The gorge trails close when the snow and ice freeze them over, so plan your visit when the trails are more accessible.

There are so many spots near Watkins Glen for great waterfall experiences. Just get out and explore the area, and maybe you’ll find a new favorite spot or a hidden gem all your own.

Which of these waterfalls is your favorite to enjoy?