Trecking Through The Finger Lakes

Exploring New York's Pristine Lake Country

Carl Calvert
Nov 16, 2006
Photographers: Carl Calvert
As seen on a map, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York looks exactly like its namesake-delicate digits of blue extending their way into the state's pristine rolling topography. The Finger Lakes comprise a region of northern New York located roughly between Syracuse and Rochester, and together they result in some of the most stunning scenery and excellent recreational possibilities the state has to offer.
The Finger Lakes include several separate lakes, the most prominent of which are Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga. Other lakes in the region include Lake Keuka, Lake Owasco, Lake Skaneateles, and others. All together there are 11 Finger Lakes, and the entire region takes up a huge scenic slice of New York.
Recreational opportunities abound here, as well as viewing a bit of history, visiting wineries, taking in the scenery, unique shopping experiences, and much more. We spent several days in the area and tried to fit in as much as possible during our visit. Our home base for the trip was one of the premier areas of the region, Watkins Glen, which boasts its own magnificent scenery and sightseeing opportunities. We visited the area with our F-250 Power Stroke and 29-foot Komfort fifth-wheel trailer combination and made the Watkins Glen/Corning KOA Campground our home for the four days we spent at the Finger Lakes.
The variety of things to do in the area is overwhelming. There's boating, fishing, visiting waterfalls, hiking, museums, historical places of interest, amusement parks, events and festivals, art galleries, railroad excursions, a race track, and so much more. Because we had a somewhat limited amount of time, we tried to choose some of the best opportunities to get an overall taste of the region.Near our campground, one of the best sights and adventures awaited us, Watkins Glen State Park, with its stunningly scenic hike, water-sculpted rock, and 19 waterfalls. We took the 1 1/2-mile Gorge Trail, which takes you past such unforgettable points as Spiral Gorge, Jacob's Ladder, Rainbow Falls, and Glen of Pools. Although the hike is not that difficult, it does entail over 800 steps, providing a special challenge. For those that prefer to take an easier route, a shuttle bus takes you to the top of the hike, and you can walk down the steps instead of up (we elected to hike both ways, plus the shuttle was not running that day anyway). The park was a real highlight of the trip, and the waterfalls were some of the most impressive we've seen.

No trip to the Finger Lakes would be complete without taking in some of the area's wineries. Upstate New York is definitely wine and grape country (grapes are grown both for juice and wine), and there are literally hundreds of wineries to visit. We chose to visit two-Bully Hill and Pleasant Valley wineries-both of which offer excellent tours, have wine tasting of their fine vintages, and rival many California wineries in their overall experience. We particularly enjoyed the Bully Hill Vineyards, which was started by Greyton H. Taylor and Walter S. Taylor in 1958. Walter S. Taylor represents the fourth generation of the famous Taylor family to be involved in grape growing and wine making. We were unfamiliar with Bully Hill before visiting the areas but left with some good memories and several fine bottles of wine.
Another must-see stop in the Finger Lakes district is the Corning Museum of Glass, the world's most comprehensive and celebrated collection of glassware. The museum features interesting galleries, live glassblowing demonstrations all day, interactive exhibits, and a walk-in workshop. After a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass, you'll know everything there is to know about glassworks and will be stunned by the wide variety of glass art available.
For a bit of culture, we also visited the Mark Twain Study, where he wrote "Huckleberry Finn" and other works. Located on the Elmira College campus, a visit to the study is free and the trip is well worth the opportunity to stand in the small cottage/study where Twain penned many of his works. The study was actually moved to Elmira College from nearby Quarry Farm, where Mark Twain and his family summered in Elmira. The Mark Twain Exhibit, a separate museum, is also located nearby.
Of course, we spent much of our time seeing what the Finger Lakes is most noted for, the pristine blue lakes of the region and the stunning scenery that impresses at every turn. Driving through the area offers some of the best views in New York-sparkling lakes, breathtaking waterfalls, and rolling pastoral land that dominates the landscape of the Finger Lakes region. The area was carved out over thousands of years by gigantic glaciers and coursing streams, leaving behind an area that is definitely unique.
Although we visited many of the highlights of the area, the Finger Lakes offer much more. Areas that we missed but are sure to visit in the future include the annual Indy Car race at the Watkins Glen International Speedway, the George Eastman (of Kodak fame) house in Rochester, the Susan B. Anthony house (also in Rochester), the Finger Lakes Railway excursion, and the Erie Canal Museum in east Syracuse. There's also the Finger Lakes Wine Festival in July, the Balloon Fest in June, the many boat cruises on several of the lakes, hundreds of antique stores, and a wide variety of county and state parks and hiking opportunities.The Finger Lakes region is surely a sensory experience, something you can definitely put your...well, finger on.For more info on the area, visit the Web site at or give them a call at (800) 548-4386.



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