Exploring New York’s Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region of New York is now one of my favorite regions of the country second only to the Black Hills area of South Dakota. With its variety of scenery and food, I fell in love with the area.  This region is known for its eleven lakes that resemble fingers when looked at on a map. The glaciers that formed these lakes also left numerous waterfalls and gorges. Visitors could return here year after year and never need to see the same thing twice. Below are some of the highlights of the region.

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park is just west of the Finger Lakes area, but its is close enough to fit in as a part of this region's travels. While its not the Grand Canyon, this gorge was created by the Genesee River carving out a path that is 1.5 miles wide, 17 miles long and 600 feet deep.

We started our drive at the Castile Entrance stopping along the gorge to take in the view until we reached the Lower Falls parking area. From there we hiked along a moderate grade trail to the 70 foot Lower Falls. Next we drove on to the 107 foot Middle Falls and then further driving to the 70 foot Upper Falls. I had no idea New York had such beauty. It has become my second favorite state park surpassed only by Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Canandaigua Lake and Wineries

Traveling North, we stopped at a KOA near Canandaigua Lake and the person checking us in pulled out a map and drew out a tour of the region that he felt we should follow. It included wineries, food stops and scenic viewpoints. Arbor Hills Grapery and Winery was our first stop selecting wine and lunching on bratwurst. What really wowed us there though was their black raspberry celery seed dressing and chocolate cabernet sauvignon wine sauce. We now own a bottle of each.

The next stop was Monica Pies near Naples allowing my wife to get her pastry fix. Then on to a scenic overlook of the lake near Woodville off of county road 12. We never would have found this on our own. We finished the day following the lake north along county road 16 putting us right along the waters edge and the many houses that line it.

New York Kitchen

The New York Kitchen in Canandaigua was the highlight of this area’s dining. We stopped in planning to do some wine tasting, but decided to have lunch there first. Not much was expected from the glass of wine and bacon cheeseburger ordered along with a cheese plate as appetizer. That cheeseburger with the jellied bacon made my top 10 list of all things eaten in my life. Yes, it was that good. The cheese plate was equally impressive with cheeses, candied walnuts and jellies. Even the wine was so enjoyable we purchased it skipping the wine tasting completely. This place is one of those incredible finds you happen upon by happy accident.

Watkins Glen State Park

While Letchworth State Park was my favorite scenic stop in this region, Watkins Glen State Park was my wife’s favorite. This park has a gorge trail with 832 mostly uphill steps and 19 water falls. I was sure my wife was trying to kill me when she selected this park, but I wasn’t going to let on as we walked along the trail.

The view was incredible as was the stone pathway we walked along. The gorge trail turned out to be pretty easy because the steps were spaced apart in groups and we were stopping constantly to take in the view. 

Arrive early and enter via the main entrance. There is no RV parking but I was able to easily back my 25 foot Roadtrek CS Adventurous so the backend with a bike rack hung over grass. After that hike, we walked into town, had lunch and then stopped at Ben and Jerry’s so I could get my Chunky Monkey ice cream fix.

Taughannock Falls

Have you figured out that we like waterfalls? We decided to stay longer in the Finger Lakes region so off we went to visit Taughannock Falls. Our map navigation in this area took us all over the place so a real map is advisable. But we did eventually find it.

Follow the signs and drive to the Falls Overlook looking out over the gorge at the Falls. Then drive down to the main entrance wand take an easy walk on a mostly level gravel path to the Falls base that drops from 215 feet overhead. The soft slate and limestone rock is eaten up easily by this falls, so its receding from the lake with people witnessing large chunks breaking off every so often.

The Windmill

Running out of fresh food, off we went to the Windmill Farm and Craft Market in Penn Yan, New York. This is a large country market with mostly Amish and Mennonite products. Open only on Saturdays, this became packed with people the longer we stayed, so arrive early to get parking.

Kris picked up fresh produce and other goods while I was looking for something unique to share with friends back in Arizona that might go well with the moonshine soaked cherries that we had picked up while traveling through Tennessee. I discovered the jerky shop that had anything you could imagine. I opted for the more exotic jerky including ostrich, alligator and kangaroo.

There was a long line for Grandmas Butterflyed Potatoes so we gave it a try selecting the nacho cheese and bacon version. Oh my, the serving size was enormous of what looked to be spiral cut fried potatoes. The taste was somewhere between freshly fries potato chips and french fries.

There is so many things to see, eat, drink and do that our visit could have easily lasted several weeks. If your looking for a region of the country where there is a lot of places to go, I’d suggest adding this to your bucket list.

NOTE: This is a list of places we didn’t have time to visit but hope to if we ever get back in this area: Robert Treman Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Chequaga Falls, Eagle Cliff Falls, +50 wineries, The Corning Museum of Glass.





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