Finger Lakes Travel Guide

The Finger Lakes are a more or less parallel series of 11 long, thin lakes to the south of Lake Ontario in western New York. A twelfth lake, Lake Oneida, is not usually considered part of the fingers but is often called “the thumb.” However, Lake Cazenovia is also in competition to be “lake number 12.” It is smaller than the other Finger Lakes but may, perhaps, qualify as “the pinky.” The Finger Lakes Region is a major tourist destination and retains much of its original natural beauty.


The Fingers Lakes area was the main heartland of the Iroquois Indians, aside from the Mohawks who lived further to the east. The powerful Iroquois staved off European colonization for 200 years. During the American Revolution, however, the Iroquois Confederation split, some aligning with England and some with the rebelling colonies. In 1779, U.S. troops wiped out most of the Iroquois towns in Sullivan’s Expedition, and after the war, most Iroquois were assigned reservations while their land was rapidly settled by Americans.

Things to see and do at the Finger Lakes

Watkins Glen – Finger Lakes, New York

People on suspension bridge over deep gorge in Watkins Glen State Park, NY, USA. Watkins Glen State Park is in the Finger Lakes region of New York state and famous for its scenic gorge and waterfalls.

Visit any of the New York state parks in the region to take in the scenery and spot native wildlife. In particular, visit Watkins Glen State Park, where you can hike for two miles on Gorge Trail past 19 waterfalls and climb up 800 stone steps. The park offers camping, swimming, picnicking, and guided tours.

See the Eire Canal, which connects Lake Erie with the Hudson River and revolutionized trade in western New York when it first opened in 1825. Today, the canal is not used much for transport, but you can see its locks still in use from May till November. Many also go boating or fishing on the canal and picnic at various parks along its shore.

Gorge Trail – Finger Lakes, New York

Stone stairs along the trail of the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

Tour the Finger Lakes National Forest between Lakes Cayuga and Seneca. You can hike, camp, horseback ride, hunt, fish, bird watch, or go blueberry picking on this 16,000-acre wooded ridge.

Lake Seneca – Finger Lakes, New York

Seneca Falls, New York. View of Trinity Episcopal Church at sundown.

Go on a “wine trail.” The Finger Lakes area is famous for its numerous wineries, breweries, and cider manufacturing centers. There are boat tours through many of the lakes that let you stop off and wine taste along the way.

Go back in history and see various Underground Railroad sites that are located in the Finger Lakes Region. Definitely stop by at the home of Harriet Tubman in the town of Auburn.

Climate conditions

Winters are cold in the Finger Lakes Region, and lake effect snow is heavy in some locales. However, there are resorts in the area that take advantage of great skiing and snowboarding conditions during the winter. Summer is somewhat warm, 75 to 80 being average highs. Fall colors and spring blooms make these two seasons particularly scenic. Thus, Finger Lakes’ tourism is a year-round affair.