Our gorge trails represent the Finger Lakes Region’s uniqueness. Exploring a place that includes gorge, gully, glen, or ravine in its name guarantees a memorable experience.
Regardless of the distinction, these locations share a common trait–a path along a creek that leads to a waterfall. What makes each unique is for you to discover!
Our favorite gorge trails
- Taughannock Falls
- Watkins Glen
- Stony Brook
- Grimes Glen
- Fillmore Glen
- Cascadilla Gorge
- Fall Brook Gorge
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.”
Park managers strive to open by Memorial Day those trails that have been closed for the winter, but it depends on the weather, water flow, debris, and the number of repairs needed to ensure public safety. Many are closed for the winter.
While Letchworth’s middle- and upper falls are viewable from the roadside, the lower falls in the Genesee River gorge are not easily accessible.
Take 127 stone steps down–and back up–to explore the falls, stone footbridge, and unique ecological and manufactured environment.
2. Taughannock Falls
The gorge trail inside the park is a 0.75-mile hard-packed gravel path that leads to the base of the waterfall.
The overlook viewpoint is a short, paved walkway off the main parking lot. From this stone balcony, you have the most picturesque view of Taughannock. Bonus, this observation point is free to access.
3. Watkins Glen
The gorge is roughly 1.5 miles long, with a 520-foot elevation rise from the lower Main Entrance to the Upper Entrance.
The gorge trail, with its 800 stone steps wet with spray, is the highlight of Watkins Glen. It’s one of the most transcending, awe-inspiring, and wondrous displays of Earth’s extraordinary beauty.
Walk through the gorge, hike the rim trails, or use the $5 cash-only shuttle to return to your car.
4. Stony Brook
The gorge along Stony Brook is 0.75 miles. Most visitors will hike in and out along the Gorge Trail, enjoying the stream-fed pool, waterfalls, and stone bridges along the way.
The walkway comprises shale, gravel, and stone steps.
5. Grimes Glen
A 0.5-mile walk through Grimes Creek leads to the first 48-foot cascade. Enjoy a short section of creekside trail before it becomes necessary to walk in the water.
After another 0.5-mile walk, find the second fall, a 60-foot cascade. Once reached, retrace your steps to return to the lot.
6. Fillmore Glen
Along the 1.3-mile gorge trail following Dry Creek, enjoy a stream-fed swimming pool, four waterfalls, several bridges, and a replica log cabin where our nation’s 13th President, Millard Fillmore, was born.
Retrace your steps through the gorge, or take the North Rim Trail back to the parking lot. Stone steps–140 in the beginning and several along the trail–and muddy paths make this a moderately challenging hike.
Just beyond the pool, before heading up to gorge, take a very short detour to the base of Cow Shed Falls.
7. Cascadilla Gorge
Cascadilla Creek produces several waterfalls, ranging from swift cascades to 80-foot drops, as it descends 400 feet through Cascadilla Gorge.
Starting from the bottom—where the minor falls and cascades are located—lets you encounter increasingly breathtaking waterfalls as you walk up the 0.5-mile gorge trail.
8. Fall Brook Gorge
Fall Brook Gorge in Geneseo represents one of the nation’s finest exposures of Upper and Middle Devonian Age strata with significant fossil remains and a cap-rock waterfall. It’s also a National Natural Landmark.
Though private property, Trail Otter offers exclusive two-hour, one-mile guided hikes in the gorge. From their website, “Hike to a beautiful sixty foot waterfall via its stream, walking through a steep gorge.
“This is rated moderately difficult – requiring balance and appropriate footwear to traverse. There may be water in the gorge, so waterproof footwear is highly recommended. Ankle-twisting rocks, slippery creek banks and large rocks to navigate.”
Ready to try a few more gorge trails?
Buttermilk Falls – Stairs are prevalent along the 0.65-mile Buttermilk Creek Gorge Trail. Once you reach the stone bridge, you can continue toward the upper park, retrace your walk through the gorge, or cross the creek and take the Rim Trail back to the parking area. Enjoy a swim in the natural stream-fed pool beneath Buttermilk Falls next to the parking area.
Havana Glen, including McClure Creek and Eagle Cliff Falls, is a town park and campground. The short 0.25-mile trail, with a set of stairs secured to the gorge’s shale wall, leads to the fall’s base.
Eternal Flame Trail – Fun fact, the natural gas flame, sheltered in a tiny cave under a lovely waterfall, isn’t eternal. Bring a lighter if you want to see it in all its glory. This unique geologic feature is a dazzling reward for your hard work. Take the moderately difficult 0.56-mile trail to the creek bed and follow the water upstream. To find an optimal walking path, cross back and forth along the creek using stones and fallen logs—most people end up walking in the water. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
Robert H. Treman’s Enfield Glen – Along the gorge trail, with a 1,035-foot elevation change, discover 12 waterfalls, including 70-foot lower Enfield Falls and 115-foot Lucifer Falls in the upper gorge. Enjoy a moderately challenging 4.5-mile out-and-back hike, or take the upper park’s gorge- and rim trail combination loops. Take a dip in the stream-fed pool next to the lower parking area. And explore the early nineteenth-century Enfield Falls Mill next to the upper parking area.
Niagara River Gorge – The Rim Trail is an easy 6.2-mile walking path above the river, connecting four state parks—Niagara Falls, Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, and Artpark in Lewiston. Observation areas offer stunning views of the turquoise rapids far below. The pathways that lead to the river’s edge are challenging, with stone steps in various states of repair.
Barnes Creek Gully – Part of Onanda Park, but across West Lake Rd from the swimming beach, find a moderately challenging two-mile hiking trail and creek walk through the uplands. The creek will guide you toward the first of three cascades. The trail becomes more difficult after climbing the fall; many people turn back toward the parking lot at this point.
The Gully Preserve, sometimes referred to as Whitman’s Gully, is an untamed place of natural beauty open year round. There is an easy pathway on the right that leads to Mill Creek from the road. Viewing the first waterfall from the bottom, and continuing deeper into the preserve, is best suited for advanced hikers, though this is an ideal place for casual hikers to gain that experience.
Corbett’s Glen Nature Park – While the Glen Rd entrance is closest to Allen’s Creek and the waterfalls, the Penfield Rd entrance offers the chance to experience the expansive woodland and wetland trails that lead toward the creek.
Akron Falls – The trail alongside Murder Creek–open year round–is a flat walk through a dense forest ravine, leading straight to a magnificent 40-foot waterfall. Start walking from the main parking lot by the dam, or, for quick access, park above the falls at the lot closest to the Rock Garden. Halfway down the paved path leading to the bottom of the ravine, turn right to find a platform from where to observe the waterfall safely. Retrace your steps to follow the trail down further to the right to access the bottom of the ravine. At this point, notice that a clear path is visible to the left. But, turning right, it becomes strewn with boulders. While the adventurous continue to navigate around the rocks toward the fall’s base, they’ll come to a sign advising visitors to go no further.
Royalton Ravine County Park – While the dirt trails can be muddy, the Red Trail along East Branch Eighteen Mile Creek leads to a bouncy 138-foot suspension bridge that crosses the ravine three-feet above the creek. Continue on to search for 15-foot Norton’s Falls and the ruins of Belva Lockwood Homestead. The falls are not easily accessible and are best viewed after a steady rain, which also means the trails will be extremely muddy.
Wells Falls is a set of four cascading falls where Six Mile Creek drops 65 feet against the backdrop of an old mill. Park at Mulholland Wildflower Preserve and cross the bridge to find the 0.2-mile gravel and dirt pathway to access the gorge below the falls.
Clark Gully – At the legendary birthplace of the Seneca people, find Clark Gully on the south side of South Hill, also called Nundawao, or Great Hill, in English. Casual hikers can walk 0.25 miles to the first waterfall. Upper gully waterfalls present a greater challenge to access; only advanced hikers should attempt to proceed. Nevertheless, the mouth of Clark Gully is an extraordinary place to appreciate West River Preserve’s scenic view.
Conklin Gully – The creek bed is the trail through Conklin Gully. Find the first cascade after walking 0.25 miles. Only the most adventurous hikers should explore the remaining gully, using climbing ropes and, at times, needing to climb the waterfalls themselves. This creek can run dry, so visiting after a steady rain provides the best waterfall experience while making the hike more challenging.
Tannery Creek Glen – Without signage, maps, or creek-side trails, a watery walk through Tannery Creek is a 0.50-mile experience, climbing a series of 10- to 20-foot falls to reach the final 40-foot cascade. Tannery Creek is a less-populated trek with a pristine ecosystem compared to its sister Naples park, Grimes Glen. Start at the parking lot behind the Naples Highway Department to access the trailhead.
Very few places allow visitors to walk, wade, or swim in a creek. People often share fond memories of standing under Stony Brook’s waterfalls or splashing in the stream at Corbett’s Glen. For these places to remain healthy for generations to come, park management prohibits access to the water, with fines imposed. Check out the next chapter on swimming holes.
At time of publication, there are several sites where creek walking is necessary to access cascades beyond the reach, or in the absence, of established creekside trails. Let us continue to be good stewards for these freshwater tributaries while exploring.
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a two-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them unique.
Where are your favorite gorge trails?
Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!