Glen cathedral

Gorge Trails Near Rochester

There is something magic about our gully, glen and gorge trails.

They call out to us from their deep, dark, cool, and quiet caverns. They lead us along their timeline, exposing history as their waterfalls walk backwards.

Characterized by their crumbling Devonian-shale walls, crater-like Tully Limestone creek beds, and unique wild flowers, plants, and trees, gorges feel other-worldly at times. To re-purpose John Muir’s feelings about mountains, “The gorge is calling, and I must go.”

Check these six spectacular gorge trails off your list!

  1. Letchworth
  2. Taughannock Falls
  3. Watkins Glen
  4. Stony Brook
  5. Grimes Glen
  6. Cascadilla Gorge

Start checking websites in mid-May for gorge trails to open for the season. New York State Parks department tries to open by Memorial Day ones that have been closed for the winter.

The ability to open them to the public sooner depends on the weather, water-flow, the amount of repairs needed to ensure public safety, and debris that needs to be cleared.

Lower Falls Letchworth
Letchworth State Park new train bridge
Letchworth State Park

1. Letchworth

Gorge Trail #1 is 7 miles one way.

You do not need to start in one specific spot as it passes through some of the most popular areas and overlooks. You could also park a second vehicle at the end to transport you back to where you started.

Stairs and steep cliff edges make this a challenging end-to-end hike, albeit spectacular!

Taughannock Falls State Park creek walk
Taughannock Falls pathway summer
Taughannock Falls State Park bridge
State Parks Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls State Park

2. Taughannock Falls

Gorge Trail is 1.5 miles in-and-out.

Taughannock is one of the only gorge trails open in winter. It is also one of the flattest walks, unlike many of the other gorge trails that use stairs to navigate the stark changes in elevation.

Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen

3. Watkins Glen

Gorge Trail is 1.5 miles up the Gorge Trail, 1.5 miles back along the Rim Trails.

The trail can be wet with spray, and the majority of the walk is up 800 stone steps! The elevation rise from the Main Entrance to the Upper Entrance is 520-feet.

That said, it’s also one of the most transcending, awe-inspiring, and wondrous displays of nature’s beauty on Earth!

Stony Brook State Park gorge trail
Stony Brook State Park
2017 Favorites: Stony Brook State Park NY
Stony Brook State Park 2nd waterfall
Stony Brook

4. Stony Brook

Gorge Trail is 1.4 miles in-and-out.

The walkway is a combination of shale, gravel, and stairs. Stony Brook has a similar feeling to the other Finger Lakes gorge parks while being a bit more manageable.

Plan to walk in-and-out on the same trail.

Approaching Second Waterfall Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen Waterfall Acrobat
Grimes Glen first waterfall climb
Grimes Glen second waterfall cave
Grimes Glen

5. Grimes Glen

Gorge Trail is two miles in-and-out to the second waterfall. The first fall is about .5 miles from the parking lot.

The glen is public, free, and you are encouraged to walk in the water. Most people look forward to wading the creek to the first and second falls—both 60-foot cascades.

Grimes Glen is a place where common sense and instinct are your compass. Heavy rain and snow-melt will add complexity to this in-and-out hike, but also powerful beauty.

Groge Trails Cascadilla Creek Ithaca
Water: Cascadilla Gorge Ithaca
Cascadilla Gorge
Cascadilla Gorge
Cascadilla Gorge

6. Cascadilla Gorge

Gorge Trail is .5 miles one way (up or down).

You can start your hike through Cascadilla Gorge at the top next to Cornell University’s Schwartz Center, or at the bottom at Treman Triangle Park. Where you start, like Watkins Glen, depends on your preference for walking up steps or down.

Starting from the bottom of the gorge allows you to face the waterfalls as you walk. The smallest falls and cascades are toward the bottom. As you are walking up, you are continually facing the next amazing view, and they keep getting better with every step!

Havana Glen
Havana Glen
Buttermilk Falls bridge
Buttermilk Falls
Eternal Flame
Eternal Flame
Enfield Falls Robert H Treman
Enfield Falls

Ready to try a few more gorge trails?

Buttermilk Falls

Havana Glen

Eternal Flame Trail

Robert H. Treman’s Enfield Glen

Niagara River Gorge

Barnes Creek Gully

Fillmore Glen

Clark Gully

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Where are your favorite gorge trails?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.