Canandaigua Lake

Explore the Finger Lakes Region

Situated south of Rochester, the Finger Lakes region is a well-known tourist destination with 11 pristine lakes, picturesque cities and villages, and sprawling farmland.

Visitors can indulge in an array of water-based activities such as kayaking, boating, and fishing while taking in the scenic beauty of each lake. The region also offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and camping. One can enjoy a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike through the picturesque hills and valleys of the region.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Finger Lakes region is also home to a thriving wine industry. There are over 100 wineries in the region, producing some of the finest wines in the country. Visitors can take a tour of the vineyards, savor the local wines, and learn about the wine-making process. Whether you are an adventure enthusiast or a wine connoisseur, the Finger Lakes region is the perfect destination for a memorable vacation.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Map of New York’s Eleven Finger Lakes

1. Conesus Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Conesus Lake
Conesus lake

Located just 30 minutes from Rochester, Conesus Lake is the westernmost and closest Finger Lake to the city. Vitale Park in Lakeville is an excellent spot for picnicking and walking along the lake’s northern end, with paved walkways and a footbridge leading to a picturesque island. The Conesus Lake Boat Launch on the east shore allows easy water access for kayaking through Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area’s wetlands.

Conesus Lake Vitale Park
Vitale Park on Conesus Lake
Conesus Lake
Conesus Lake
Vitale Park

Stroll through Vitale Park on the north shore and Chip Holt Nature Center. Eat lunch at 3 Legged Pig. Stop in for a tasting at OSB Ciderworks. Enjoy dinner and sunset at Galene or on the way home at Ember Woodfire Grill in Livonia or Fratellis in Avon.

Long Point
Long Point

Swim at Long Point Park, dine at The Beachcomber, and stop at Deer Run Winery for a tasting.

Conesus Lake inlet
Conesus Inlet

Spend time exploring the 1,120-acre Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area. West and East Swamp roads, the south by Guiltner Road, and the north by Conesus Lake bound Conesus Inlet WMA. A nature trail along the western portion provides viewing of wetland and upland habitats and wildlife species.

2. Hemlock Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Hemlock Lake gazebo cover

Located 45 minutes from Rochester, Hemlock Lake is the most pristine of the Finger Lakes. Protected by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the lake serves as a source of drinking water for the city. The peaceful surroundings make it a great spot to relax and recharge. A drive around the entire lake takes about 30 minutes, or you can hike one of several trails through Hemlock-Canadice State Forest, such as Rob’s Trail, which connects Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. On the north shore, relax with a picnic or a good book at Hemlock Lake Park, or put in a kayak using the launch. The park is also popular among night-sky photographers, offering unobstructed views of the Milky Way and other celestial bodies.

Hemlock Lake
Hemlock picnic tables
Hemlock Lake Park tree
Hemlock Lake park gazebo

Relax at Hemlock Lake Park on the north shore, where you’ll also find a boat launch for mechanical and non-mechanical vessels.

St Michaels Mission

Enjoy a drive around the entire lake in 30 minutes. Make sure to drive along Mission Road to St. Michael’s Mission. You could spend the night there, too. You’ll find Eagle Crest Vineyards right down the road.

Hemlock Lake
Robs Trail Nature Conservancy
Robs Trail walking sticks

Find several hiking trails around the lake, including one on East Lake Road. Drive down 3 minutes, and the road terminates at a gate with a parking lot. You can walk the haul road along the lakeshore. This trail is part of the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

You can hike Rob’s Trail between Hemlock and Canadice Lakes through Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. Check out this brochure before you go. There is a parking lot on NY-15A, which serves as a midway point between both lakes.

  • Loop Trail – 1.75 miles
  • Candice Lake Trail – 0.75 miles
  • Hemlock Trail – 4.8 miles (To shoreline – 1.5 miles, To boat launch – 4.8 miles )
  • Connector Trail – 0.28 miles

Rob’s Trail Preserve consists of a set of memorial trails that are located amidst the high ridges and rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region. In 2008, Rob’s Trail-Canadice was constructed to join two undeveloped lakeshore properties that safeguard Canadice and Hemlock Lakes, which are the primary sources of Rochester’s drinking water. With the help of generous donors and volunteers, another trail, Rob’s Trail-Hemlock Lake, was built in 2016, making it possible to hike from one lake to the other. Please note that the spur trail to Canadice Lake is a challenging, steep, and minimally maintained trail.

Fun fact, the Hemlock Water System is the most extensive gravity-pressurized municipal water system in the United States. Because the Finger Lakes are higher in elevation than the city and easier to protect, engineers were able to utilize gravity to reduce the cost and complexity of piping the water 25 miles to Rochester’s local reservoirs along the Pinnacle Range.

3. Canadice Lake

Canadice Lake

Canadice Lake, which is located just 45 minutes away from Rochester, is the highest and smallest lake in the Finger Lakes region. It is surrounded by a dense old-growth forest which makes it an ideal spot for kayaking. The entire lake can be circled by car in just 20 minutes, and on the eastern shore, there’s a cartop boat launch and several parking spots along Canadice Lake Road where you can carry your kayak down to the water. If you’re looking to access the West Lake trail, which stretches three miles along the lake’s length, you can park in the lot off Purcell Hill Road.

kayak launch
Parking on Canadice Lake Rd
Canadice Lake summer reflection
Canadice Lake kayaks
Canadice Lake

Discover multiple car-top boat launches and ideal spots for fishing along Canadice Lake Road.

West Canadice Lake Trail
Canadice Lake parking lot Purcell Road
Canadice Lake Purcell Road Parking Lot

To access West Lake Trail from the North Shore, park at the lot off Purcell Hill Road, and walk past the gate onto the road. The path follows the entire 3-mile length of the lake.

4. Honeoye Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Honeoye Lake cover
Honeoye Lake

Honeoye Lake is the shallowest of the Finger Lakes, with a depth of only 30 feet. Forty-five minutes from Rochester, Sandy Bottom Park in the hamlet of Honeoye offers a range of swimming, fishing, kayaking, and hiking amenities. Visitors can also find a boardwalk system that leads through Honeoye Creek wetlands to a mown-grass path along Mill Creek. Honeoye Lake Boat Launch State Park on the east shore is perfect for those looking to take their boat out on the lake. The scenic drive around the lake, especially during peak fall color, is a must-see in the Finger Lakes region. Stop at Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, where you can enjoy a breathtaking lake view from Canadice Hill.

Honeoye Lake Sandy Beach Park
Sandy Bottom Park Nature Trail enter boardwalk
Sandy Bottom Park & Nature Trail
Sandy Bottom Park Nature Trail boardwalk Honeoye Creek
Honeoye Creek
Sandy Bottom Park Nature Trail meadow
Sandy Bottom Park Nature Trail Meadow

A walking trail at the north end of East Lake Road is open year-round for visitors to walk, jog, and enjoy outdoor scenery and wildlife. A wooded Nature Trail just west of the Honeoye Outlet, accessible from Main Street, can also be used to walk to Sandy Bottom Park.

Honeoye Lake from Harriet Hollister
Honeoye Lake scenic overlook 20A
Scenic overlook on 20-A
Honeoye Lake scenic overlook Inlet WMA
Honeoye Inlet WMA
CR-36 below Harriet Hollister
CR-36 below Harriet Hollister

The drive around Honeoye Lake, especially in peak Autumn, is one of my favorite drives in the Finger Lakes region. Head up Canadice Hill to Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area for a spectacular view! Find another scenic overlook toward the northeast on NY-20A, though the lake is less visible. Follow CR-36 south along the west side of Honeoye Lake for spectacular views of the Honeoye Inlet Wildlife Management Area and Canadice Hill.

5. Canandaigua Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Canandaigua Lake

Canandaigua Lake, located 30 minutes from Rochester, is surrounded by private homes and summer cottages. The city of Canandaigua is at the lake’s northern end, while the Town of Naples is on the southern end. There are several ways to enjoy the water, including renting a kayak, swimming at Kershaw Park, or cruising the Canandaigua Lady, a 19th-century steamboat replica. You can also check out the 80 boathouses on City Pier. It is possible to drive around the entire lake in about an hour. Some popular spots to visit along the way include Onanda Park on the east shore, Deep Run Park on the west, and various restaurants, marinas, and overlooks offering beautiful lake views.


Explore Canandaigua

Of the five Finger Lakes closest to Rochester, Canandaigua Lake and the city’s historic downtown have the most to offer visitors.

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Explore Naples

Nestled in the hills at the southern end of Canandaigua Lake, Naples is known for its beautiful natural surroundings and annual Grape Festival.

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Canandaigua Lake Scenic Overlook
Canandaigua Lake Scenic Overlook on CR-12
Bristol Mountain
Bristol Mountain Skiing

Take the lift up Bristol Mountain in the autumn and check out the Aerial Adventure Park and Zip-line Canopy Tour. You can walk up or down the mountain trails or take the lift.

Fun fact: The Seneca Nation, also known as the Onodowaga Nation or “People of the Great Hill,” originated near South Hill at the southern end of Canandaigua Lake. The Seneca word for Canandaigua, Kanandague, means “The Chosen Spot.”

6. Keuka Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Keuka Lake

Keuka Lake, known as The Crooked Lake for its distinctive Y shape, is the central lake among the 11 Finger Lakes. It is an hour’s drive from Rochester and home to Penn Yan and Branchport on the north end of the lake and Hammondsport on the south. The 90-minute drive around the lake reveals stunning views and many wineries to visit. Keuka Lake State Park, Garrett Memorial Chapel, and Keuka College’s Norton Chapel provide scenic spots to appreciate the lake’s beauty. In Hammondsport, visitors can enjoy the beach, kayaking at Depot Park, and tour Pleasant Valley Wine—the region’s oldest winery—and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail offers a seven-mile trek between Keuka and Seneca Lakes for those seeking a hiking adventure.

Penn Yan Diner
Penn Yan Diner
Keuka Outlet Trail
Seneca Mills Falls on the Keuka Outlet Trail
The Windmill
The Windmill

Penn Yan

Hike the 6.6-mile Keuka Lake Outlet Trail between Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to Dresden on Seneca Lake. It was ranked one of the 25 best hiking trails in the northeast. The trail takes you past remnants of mills, locks, and bridges that used the waterway’s energy to grist grain, saw lumber, and distill spirits during the mid-1800s.

Explore scenic views between the Keuka Lake State Park branches, Garret Memorial Chapel, and Keuka College’s Norton Chapel. Enjoy a beautiful, scenic drive from Bluff Point south along NY-54A.

Spend a few hours eating and shopping at The Windmill, with nearly 200 local producers and artisans, including a significant presence of Amish-made goods. There’s a handy map of the market to help you explore.

Hammondsport Keuka Lake


Relax on the south shore in Hammondsport at Depot Park.

Tour Pleasant Valley Wine, the Finger Lakes Region’s oldest winery, or the Glen H Curtiss Museum, honoring a local American aviation pioneer.

7 Wineries with Scenic Keuka Lake Views

For your Finger Lakes wine tour, our priority is simply to show you which wineries have the most spectacular scenic Keuka Lake views!

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7. Seneca Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Geneva Seneca Lake boardwalk
Seneca Lake, Geneva

Seneca Lake is the largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, with an estimated volume of four trillion gallons, roughly half the water in all the Finger Lakes combined. It is so deep that its bottom is below sea level. Located just 45 minutes from Rochester, a trip around the lake takes approximately two hours. Visitors can also spend the day exploring the lake’s north end in Geneva and the lake’s south end in Watkins Glen. The Finger Lakes Welcome Center, Seneca Lake State Park, and various restaurants and wineries offer stunning lake views in Geneva. Visitors can climb the 800 stone steps through the gorge in Watkins Glen, watch an exciting race at Watkins Glen International, or stroll down Seneca Lake Pier. The eastern shore offers beautiful sunset views from Sampson State Park.


Explore Geneva

Situated midway between Rochester and Syracuse on Route 5 and 20, Geneva feels like the center of the Finger Lakes region.

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Explore Watkins Glen

The heart of the village of Watkins Glen is the 1.5-mile-long gorge, a truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring showcase of nature’s beauty.

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Seneca lake Adirondack Chairs
Seneca Lake
Roadside Waterfalls Shequaga Falls Montour Falls building
Shequaga Falls
Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Farm Sanctuary
Havana Glen
Havana Glen

Other points of interest

Follow Rt. 14 just three miles south and visit Montour Falls, home to several more waterfalls, including one of the most photographed—Shequaga Falls.

Head about eight minutes south of town to Havana Glen to explore a much smaller gorge with an extraordinary fall—a great swimming hole!

Seneca Lake has more wineries than any other Finger Lake. Follow the wine trail!

Take a hike through Finger Lakes National Forest and pick wild blueberries for free from a 5-acre managed patch. 

Enjoy a swim and relax at Sampson State Park and Lodi Point State Park. Hike the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail between Seneca and Keuka Lakes or the Kashong Conservation Area.

Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen

Farm Sanctuary sits on 175 acres in Watkins Glen, just west of Sugar Hill State Forest, and is home to more than 500 rescued farm animals.

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8. Cayuga Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Cayuga Lake State Park
Cayuga Lake State Park

Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes, stretching 38 miles, and is the only Finger Lake with lighthouses. The north end is an hour’s drive from Rochester, and a two-hour drive around the lake will take you through Seneca Falls, Ithaca, Aurora, and Union Springs. The area is known for its gorges and streams, with Taughannock Falls State Park offering a beautiful waterfall and a swimming beach. Other popular spots to access the lake include Cayuga Lake State Park, Long Point State Park, and Stewart Park in Ithaca. The region is also home to many wineries with stunning lake views.


Explore Seneca Falls

Seneca Falls, on historic Route 5 and 20, is the birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement and is the inspiration for It’s a Wonderful Life.

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Explore Ithaca

Spend a day in the City of Ithaca, exploring the waterfalls, restaurants, shops, and festivals that make this Ivy League college town unique.

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Gorge Trails Near Rochester

Gorge trails call out from their deep, dark, and cool caverns. If you haven’t already, start checking these spectacular trails off your list.

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Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,000-acre preserve located on the north end of Cayuga Lake, under one of the most active flight lanes in the Atlantic Flyway.

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MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora

The grounds at MacKenzie-Childs headquarters in Aurora are open to the public. They offer free, guided Second-Empire Farmhouse tours throughout the day.

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9. Owasco Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Owasco Lake

Owasco Lake is in a rural area 75 minutes from Rochester. Circumnavigate the lake in 45 minutes by driving through Auburn on the north end and Moravia on the south. At Emerson Park in Auburn, visitors can swim in the lake, explore Deauville Island and the pier, rent kayaks, or attend a performance by REV Theatre Company at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.

Willard Memorial - Owasco Lake Auburn
Willard Memorial Chapel
Owasco Lake fishing pier
Owasco Lake at Emerson Park
Owasco Lake Merry Go Round Playhouse
Merry Go Round Playhouse
Seward House
Seward House

City of Auburn

Swim or paddle at Emerson Park. Catch a show at Merry-go-Round Playhouse.

Visit the museum homes of Harriet Tubman and William Henry Seward

Tour the beautiful Willard Memorial Chapel, a rare example of the work of Louis C. Tiffany and Tiffany Glass and Decoration Co., in that it is the only complete and unaltered Tiffany chapel known to exist.


Explore Auburn

Auburn offers a full day of immersive experiences. Follow this guide to make the most of your time exploring the city’s rich culture.

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Fillmore Glen walking across bridge
Fillmore Glen


While not on the lake, Fillmore Glen State Park has a stream-fed swimming pool and a 1.5-mile gorge trail.

Hike the Owasco Flats Nature Preserve at the south end. There is also a car-top boat launch here in addition to Southshore Marina.

10. Skaneateles Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Skaneateles Lake Clift Park

Skaneateles is a charming village at the northern tip of the lake. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the slower pace of lake life and is home to many boutique shops and eateries along Genesee and Jordan streets. Skaneateles is about 75 minutes from Rochester, and you can drive around the entire lake in just an hour. Thayer Park offers a quiet lawn to enjoy a stunning lake view, while Clift Park has a pier, swimming beach, gazebo, and launch point for boat tours. The Finger Lakes region offers many cruises, but the three-hour Mailboat Cruise on Skaneateles Lake is a unique experience. For over a century, boats have been delivering mail to summer cottages and camps unreachable by road.


Explore Skaneateles

The Village of Skaneateles is the perfect place to get away and enjoy the pace of lake life, surrounded by unique boutiques and restaurants.

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Skaneateles cliffs
Staghorn Cliffs
Skaneateles Anyelas Vineyard scenic view
Anyela’s Vineyard
Andrew Fuller Recreation Park Scott
Andrew Fuller Park
Skaneateles Hinchcliff Family Preserve
Hinchcliff Family Preserve

Other points of interest

There are three boat launches: Skaneateles Marina, a DEC launch on the west bank, and Fuller Park (Town of Scott) on the south end.

Stop by Anyela’s Vineyards (the only winery on Skaneateles Lake) and Lockwood Lavender Farm (pick your own in season).

Explore Bahar Preserve and Carpenter Falls, High Vista Nature Preserve, Ripley Hill Nature Preserve, High Hickory Wildlife Sanctuary, or Hinchcliff Family Preserve.

Dickinson Conservation Area is accessible by boat only. You can still appreciate it in this beautiful drone-captured video of Staghorn Cliffs.

11. Otisco Lake

Finger Lakes Region - Otisco Lake
Otisco Lake

Otisco Lake is at the eastern end of the Finger Lakes region. When traveling east on US Route 20 past Skaneateles, the road becomes more winding, providing a roller-coaster-like experience compared to the gently rolling hills on Routes 5 & 20. It is possible to drive around the entire lake in just 30 minutes. On the northeast side, Otisco Lake Park offers a small parking lot and a peaceful, relaxing environment, though no swimming is allowed. Further south, the Otisco Lake Causeway, a former roadway that once crossed the lake, can be found. A gap in the causeway creates a channel between the north and south ends of the lake. The west end of the causeway provides a cartop launch, making it an excellent spot for kayaking, fishing, or simply planting a chair to enjoy a good book.

Otisco Lake Park shoreline
Otisco Lake Park

With a 5-car parking lot and no swimming, Otisco Lake Park on the northeast side is the perfect spot for relaxing in a serene environment. The shore is lined with benches, with a fire pit on the southern tip.

There are few food options, but you’ll find Giuseppe’s Piazzeria near the park. Lakeside Vista is on the western shore.

Otisco Lake Causeway looking north
Otisco Lake Causeway state fishing access
Otisco Lake causeway parking
Otisco Lake Causeway cut through
Otisco Lake Causeway

The causeway is an abandoned roadway that once spanned the lake. There is a gap in the causeway where a bridge once connected the shores. The opening is the boating and water-flow channel between the north and south ends, making for excellent fishing.

Head over to the west side on West Valley Road to the NYS DEC Fishing Access. You’ll find a car-top boat launch here and parking for about 20 cars. You can fish from the causeway or bring a chair and a book to enjoy Otisco Lake’s quiet, gorgeous view.

Otisco Lake Causeway looking south

Other points of interest

Spafford County Forest looms large above the southwestern end of Otisco Lake and is a pristine forest without formal trails. Church Hill Road will take you up to the woods, or take Moon Hill Road, passing Bucktail Falls along the way, less than 50 ft. from the road.

According to NYFalls, “Bucktail Falls is on private property, but is not POSTED. The owner is okay with visitors respectfully walking to see and photograph the falls.” Please check before you go to ensure this is still true.

Routes 5 & 20, a 67-mile convergence of New York State Route 5 and US Route 20, is a gently rolling scenic highway. It connects the Town of Avon in the west to Auburn in the east, passing through Canandaigua, Geneva, and Seneca Falls. The road is known as Genesee Street in some areas and Main Street in others and serves as the main thoroughfare for the towns and villages it passes through. The route follows a foot trail used by the region’s first inhabitants that connected the Hudson River to Lake Erie as it passed through a valley between the Adirondack and the Catskill Mountains. New York State Route 5 was originally constructed in 1794 to connect Fort Schuyler in Utica on the Mohawk River with Canawaugus in Caledonia on the Genesee River.

Explore Routes 5 & 20

Routes 5 & 20 is a 67-mile stretch of scenic highway where NY-5 & US-20 converge, following an ancient foot trail of the region’s first people.

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Locations northeast of Rochester close to Lake Ontario, or south of US-20 in the Finger Lakes will offer the darkest sky near Rochester.

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Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

4 thoughts on “Explore the Finger Lakes Region”

  1. Thanks Debi for this article.Been visiting the Finger Lakes since 1985 with trips occurring every 3-5 years.Retired now and am a Texas resident with family in West Seneca and Cooperstown.Really haven’t explored the 4 westernmost lakes.Will use your guide on next trip this year.

    1. I’m happy to hear you can visit during the summer, Bud! The four lakes closest to Rochester are much smaller than those closer to CNY but lovely in their own right. You’ll enjoy a road trip along US-20A, stopping at a few food and wine destinations and spending time along each lakeshore. It’s a leisurely day.

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