Looking to break out of your everyday routine and spend a day outdoors? These day trips in Western New York are the perfect way to spend some time outdoors!
The Finger Lakes region and Western New York in general is full of outdoor activities, so this is only a fraction of your opportunities!
Please remember to bring a mask in case you encounter crowds or are going in restrooms and don’t litter! Also, many parks are reducing their parking capacity to try to prevent congestion on the trails. The state parks listed below are quite popular and can fill up fast, so make sure to arrive before noon for your best chance of entering!
Often considered one of the “wonders of the world,” Niagara Falls is a must-see if you are in the vicinity. I’ve visited both in the summer and winter and it’s still impressive no matter the season.
The Maid of the Mist takes you on the river to see both the American and Canadian falls and is a must-do at Niagara Falls.
Letchworth State Park
Park Website (check for closures here!)
Letchworth State Park, also called “The Grand Canyon of the East” is an extremely popular state park in Western New York.
The main trail is the 7 mile long Gorge Trail that takes you past the three main falls (Upper, Middle, and Lower), as well as some scenic views of the gorge. This trail is not a loop so really it’s 14 miles long if you hike the entire thing and back.
When I last visited in 2018, the Portageville Entrance was closed (although now it is open for summer) so we had to use the Castile Entrance instead and I’m so glad we did.
Right near the Castile Entrance are two impressive overlooks: Archery Field and Great Bend. We stopped at Archery Field Overlook, which really gives you an idea why Letchworth is known as “The Grand Canyon of the East.”
Park in the parking lot next to Adventure Calls Outfitters and Lower Fall Restaurant and Gifts. There are restrooms here and this is where you would meet for white water rafting.
Near the back of the parking lot is the Lower Falls Trailhead, which takes you onto the Gorge Trail and down to Lower Falls. As of July 2020, Trail 6 and 6A (the Lower Falls Bridge) is closed for maintenance. However, you can still get good views of Lower Falls without going on the bridge.
Continue along the path, stopping at Inspiration Point, until you reach Middle Falls.
Finally, a short hike away is High Falls. We stopped at the Glen Iris Inn which has a nice restaurant, although we didn’t dine-in there.
If you are feeling adventurous and don’t have a fear of heights, this is where Balloons Over Letchworth is located. As of July 2020 they do not know if they can reopen this summer, but that could change.
Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park has rock formations that you won’t find anywhere else in New York State. There are a few different trails, great views, and a beach right on the shore of Lake Ontario.
As of May 2020, when I last visited, a large portion of the Bluff Trail was still closed, despite online saying the renovations were scheduled to finish in Spring 2019. To reach the main bluff views you have to hike along the East-West Trail until you reach the Drumlin Trail. Then you hike up the Drumlin Trail until you reach the bluff viewpoint.
The beach or the picnic tables near the main entrance are great places to have lunch with a view of the lake.
Check out my other post to get more details on visiting the park for a day trip or an afternoon.
Ithaca is a city located at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, in Western New York’s Finger Lake Region. It’s known for its gorges (if you didn’t see Ithaca is gorges merchandise did you even go?), waterfalls, and its two schools: Cornell University and Ithaca College.
The Ithaca Farmers Market is always fun, although you should check out their website to see what their current rules are for safety and their hours and locations. My recommendation is going to the pavilion location on the weekend.
The Cornell campus has some great views of Cayuga Lake and some waterfalls along the gorge. Also, if you love bagels, Collegetown Bagels is located right across Cascadilla Gorge.
The two waterfalls I can personally recommend are Ithaca Falls and Taughannock Falls. Buttermilk Falls is also nearby, but I haven’t visited (yet!).
Watkins Glen State Park
Still haven’t had enough waterfall suggestions? Watkins Glen State Park has a total of 19 waterfalls, one of which you can walk behind!
The Gorge Trail is the main trail that takes you along the glen’s stream and the many waterfalls it forms. The Gorge Trail has a lot of stairs that can get wet with spray from the falls, so be careful! There is also a swimming pool at the South Entrance that is included in your entrance fee.
Stony Brook State Park
Finally, my last suggestion of day trips in Western New York, that also happens to include waterfalls, is Stony Brook State Park! Unfortunately, as of July 2020 the main Gorge Trail (another common name in these parks I guess), is closed for maintenance, but the two rim trails are open. Check their website for updates on the trail closure because the Gorge Trail is definitely worth hiking!
There is a large natural stream-fed pool at the main North Entrance which is the only place swimming is allowed at the park. Although quite tempting, wading and swimming in the stream and near the waterfalls is not allowed. According to a Democrat and Chronicle article, Stony Brook State Park has increased its patrols and is fining anyone who disobeys.
I hope these ideas for outdoor day trips in Western New York inspired you to get outdoors, see some waterfalls, and go on a hike! I didn’t realize how many waterfall-themed locations Western New York had until I wrote this article!
Is there anywhere I should add to this list?
Pin it for later!