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Home to some of the best NY foliage, miles of rolling hills, pumpkin patches, apple picking and tasty fruit pies, it is no secret a fall road trip in the Finger Lakes is the perfect way to immerse yourself in all things fall. The region encompasses over 9,000 square miles with hundreds of waterfalls, multiple state parks, and the most picture-perfect fall towns, making a road trip the ideal way to explore fall in the Finger Lakes.
You will be able to cover a lot more ground with a car as public transportation is not convenient in the Finger Lakes area. With one week you won’t be able to see all it all but if you are willing to wake up early and put the pedal to the metal you will get to see the region’s most iconic fall foliage, taste the best homemade goods, stroll through the region’s sweetest fall towns, view multiple waterfalls and hike through some amazing state parks.
When is the best time to visit the Finger Lakes in the Fall?
The best time to visit the Finger Lakes in the fall is from the end of September through mid-October. There are many fall festivals that start at the beginning of the season but by the end of October, many business and community events go on hiatus for the winter.
The leaves in the Finger Lakes tend to change later than those in the Adirondacks, in the northern part of the state however some areas with higher elevations (such as Letchworth State Park) will see fall foliage changing sooner than their neighboring towns.
The best thing to do to make sure you plan your fall road trip during peak fall foliage is to sign up for the I LOVE NY fall foliage report. You will get weekly updates from September through November with a map indicating what areas are seeing the greatest change in fall foliage color.
The foliage report is very helpful with planning the best week for your fall road trip, but you should still remain flexible with your road trip itinerary and adjust accordingly for the weather, and last-minute fall festivals and events that pop up.
Lastly, even if you are unable to hit peak foliage right on the nose (which is VERY hard to do) you will still have a fantastic trip driving through the Finger Lakes in the fall as there are a lot of activities and events celebrating the harvest season and many areas for foliage you will discover by just being in the area.
What is the best way to get to the Finger Lakes in the fall?
The Finger Lakes Region is made up of nine counties; Monroe, Wayne, Seneca, Ontario, Yates, Livingston, Wyoming, Genesee, and Orleans. The Finger Lakes region is located south of Lake Ontario in the center-west of New York State. The area has several regional airports and two international airports, Rochester (ROC) and Hancock International in Syracuse (SYR). Both international airports are conveniently located off of major highways making them great starting points for a fall Finger Lakes road trip.
Wether you are flying or driving in from a neighboring state make sure you have a reliable car, plenty of gas money and pack the essentials; snacks, a good play list and of course a camera!
Road Trip Tips
There are a few things I recommend doing to help make your experience the best it can be. Check out this road trip packing list to make sure you remember to bring these items that will help you enjoy your time on the road.
This itinerary will see you traveling to a new town daily to see as much fall foliage as possible and does not require a lot of driving all at once. Because of the constant moving, I recommend bringing an overnight bag to pack essentials instead of lugging a heavy suitcase in and out of the car nightly.
Make sure to plan your day ahead of time and use Google Maps or another GPS to review the route first to get an idea of timing. Some things, such as fall festivals or a scenic drive, maybe a little out of the way but are worth doing if you have the time and want the experience.
Expect to see signs for fresh produce, farmers’ markets, homemade goods, and harvest festivals pop up during your fall drive. I encourage you to stop, or U-turn at anything you deem interesting as finding unique fall things to do along the way is the best part about a road trip in the Finger Lakes. After all, the Finger Lakes region is known for their family owned farms, wineries and local businesses that all appreciate your support.
Fall Finger Lakes Road Trip Itinerary Overview
This itinerary starts and ends in Syracuse, NY; however, it is easily customizable and can be done in reverse if you are driving in from the west or south. You can even start and end from Rochester, as it is only 1.5 hours from the itinerary’s beginning point in Syracuse.
Although this is a fall foliage-focused road trip, you can easily apply this route to a Finger Lakes road trip at any time of year- but be careful of the winter season as temps and conditions can be pretty intense in the Finger Lakes region.
Fall foliage will be ramping up all around you as you make your way through the small towns and villages that are usually decked out for the fall season. I’ll mention specific scenic routes and my favorite roads that I find to be extra special in the fall, but not to worry, you will be able to see the spectacular foliage along main highways and interstates as well.
You can easily skip to each day using the drop-down table of contents menu at the beginning of this post. I’ve included many things to do each day and highlighted some nearby fall festivals but because days are shorter during fall don’t expect to get to them all. Pick out a few favorites and enjoy your fall foliage road trip at a more leisurely pace to really take in the views and community you’ll experience in the Finger Lakes. I still recommend waking up with the sun to get the most out of every day but don’t pile too much on your plate for one day.
Most of the general stores, markets, and fruit orchards I recommend in this fall road trip itinerary are open weekly but change hours frequently depending on the season. Some kitchens and cafes are only open on select days and times, or until their supplies run out so call ahead to confirm operating hours before making a special trip.
Stop at Wegmans in Syracuse to fill up on some road trip snacks. Food is sometimes hard to come by when driving outside of the major towns in the Finger Lakes so it is a smart idea to have some snacks and sandwiches just in case.
Day 1 Syracuse to Skaneateles
Today you will drive from Syracuse to the village of Skaneateles which is only 30 mins by car if you go direct via I-80 but I recommend leaving as early as possible to experience as many fall favorites along the way.
First, head to the Labrador Hollow Unique Area if you are up for a short walk. It is a scenic drive down I-80 to Route 20. 20 turns into Lafayette Apulia Rd. and then after a short drive on 11, turn left on Markham Hollow Rd. The area has a few hikes, one to Tinker Falls (0.6 miles) and another around a boardwalk cascading with pretty foliage but the surrounding hills makes for a great first introduction to what you can expect driving through fall in the Finger Lakes.
After some time enjoying nature, consider some fall favorites; apple picking or cider tasting at Beak and Skiff’s Apple Campus. They have a general store and sell simple food options if you are ready for a bite to eat.
The Great Cortland Pumpkin Fest usually happens at the beginning of October in Cortland, NY, about 30 mins from Syracuse and 40 mins from Skaneateles. It is a family festival with arts and crafts, children’s games and activities, live music, and a beer tent for the adults.
Skaneateles is a charming town to spend some time in, so try to get there before dark to see the pretty tree-lined streets and lakefront views. You’ll have a few hours in the morning to enjoy Skaneateles village but not as much time as you might like. Take Route 20 through the countryside and into town for those tree lined streets flanked with cozy homes that give off the best fall vibes. You can stop at Navarino Orchards along Route 20 just outside of town for some fresh baked goods.
While in Skaneateles village, shop the locally owned boutiques, enjoy a picnic at Clift Park, watch the sunset or even go for a Skaneateles Lake boat tour with Mid-Lakes Navigation (if the weather is good and they haven’t closed for the season).
Spend the night in Skaneateles
What to see and do from Syracuse to Skaneateles:
- Hike among the fall foliage or to Tinker Falls at the Labrador Hollow Unique Area
- Go apple picking at Beak and Skiffs Apple Hill Campus
- Down some cider flights at the 1911 Tasting Room at Beak and Skiffs Orchard
- Harvest picking at Navarino’s U-pick orchard; check their website to see what is in season
- Mid-Lakes Navigation Boat Tours- They offer scenic tours, sunset cruises, and a full-on dining experience.
- Enjoy a gift shop and a fall corn maze at the Strawberry Fields Hydroponic Farm (Auburn)
Where to eat near Skaneateles:
- Syracuse has a lot of Wegman Grocery Stores to stock up on road trip snacks
- Grab homemade snacks for the road at Navarino Orchard’s Country Store
- Try the goods at Beak and Skiff’s General Store or their seasonal snack stand (call ahead to confirm operating times)
- Good Eats & Sips (Skaneateles)-Smoothies, juices, bagels, and green bowls
- Moro’s Kitchen (Skaneateles)- Cozy Italian far + sushi (closed Monday and Tuesday)
- Elephant and The Dove Mexican (Skaneateles)- a great atmosphere with tasty up-scale Mexican and $5 Margarita Mondays.
- Doug’s Fish Fry (Skaneateles)- I haven’t tried it yet, but the line is ALWAYS out the door.
- Skaneateles Bakery– a great breakfast or lunch spot open 6-2 pm most days
- Camerons Bakery (Auburn)- a variety of baked goods and pastries
Where to sleep in Skaneateles:
- $$ The Sherwood Inn
- $$ Skaneateles Suites
- $$$ The Bond 1835
- $$$$ Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Day 2 Skaneateles to Ithaca
I always recommend Skaneateles Bakery for a breakfast sandwich and coffee, and I also love the smoothie bowls from Good Eats & Sips. No matter how you start the day, enjoy your morning and decide what you want to see for the day. Don’t forget to include a drive down W Lake Road to take in the fall foliage and charming neighborhood streets of Skaneateles.
Depending on your interests, you can make a few different stops today. If you want to enjoy some wine in a pretty outdoor setting overlooking the lake and fall foliage, Anyela’s Winery off of W Lake Road is a perfect stop, but they don’t open until 12 pm which is a bit late if you want to make a few more stops today.
You can also see some fall foliage and enjoy some nature at Fillmore Glen State Park. The gorge and waterfall trails only took a few hours to explore. There is a fee to enter (around $8 per vehicle) but it is an enjoyable park with plenty of easy and moderate nature trails.
Either way, I recommend stopping in Aurora on the east side of Cayuga Lake off Route 90 for lunch or at least a drive through town. Aurora is home to the Mackenzie Child’s Design Center. Their property is so pretty, especially on a fall day. While in Aurora, take in the beautiful Victorian homes and the cozy main street lined with oak trees dripping in spectacular fall foliage colors. There is a small general store and a few yummy restaurants along Main Street (Route 90). Stretch your legs on a short walk to Aurora Village Park to see the 1817 site of the first steam flouring mill west of the Hudson River…. it’s better than it sounds 🙂 Below is a photo from the site.
If you head into Aurora via road 42A you’ll drive past the beautiful Inns of Aurora Spa and get a stunning view of Cayuga Lake as you drive down the hill into town.
After Aurora, head to Ithaca for the night. If you have time, stop at the Myers Point Lighthouse along the way to watch the sunset and enjoy the lighthouse and cabin. It is about 30 mins to Myers Park and another 10 mins to Ithaca.
There are several waterfalls, state parks, hiking trails, and plenty of dining options in Ithaca. Suppose you arrive before dark, head down E Shore Dr. from Route 34, and make a quick stop at Ithaca Falls. There is parking right off the street and it is only a short walk to the dramatic falls for another scenic fall view.
Spend the night in Ithaca
What to do along the route from Skaneateles to Ithaca:
- A scenic drive down West Lake Rd.
- Go wine tasting at Anyela’s Winery overlooking fall foliage
- Visit Fillmore Glen State Park to see nature trails and waterfalls draped in colorful leaves
- Drive through the town of Aurora, visit Aurora Village Park to stretch your legs
- Visit the Mackenzie Child’s Design Center to shop and tour the farmhouse and warehouse.
- Another nature option, Emilie Jonas Falls Nature Trail
- Watch the sunset at Myers Point Lighthouse
- Catch a glimpse of Ithaca Falls from the viewpoint
- Head to Littletree Orchards for U-Pick apple picking
What to eat along the way to Ithaca:
- King’s Ferry General Store (between Aurora and Ithaca)-local treats and a to-go deli counter for sandwiches and chips
- 1833 Kitchen and Bar (Aurora)– Breakfast, brunch, and dinner spot in a converted home with outdoor seating (closes 2 pm – 5 pm)
- Fargo Bar & Grill (Aurora)-Classic tavern serving American comfort food with a pool table and darts
- Alley Cat Cafe (Ithaca)– Coffee bar, cafe, and bakery supporting furry friends
- Viva Taqueria & Cantina (Ithaca)– Margaritas and sangria with a taco bar
- Moosewood Restaurant (Ithaca)– Vegetarian, known for its vegan and vegetarian cookbooks
Where to sleep in Ithaca:
- $ Camping- call ahead for reservations and seasonal closures
- Buttermilk Falls State Park
- Robert H. Treman State Park
- $$ Canopy by Hilton Ithaca Downtown
- $$$ The William Henry Miller Inn
- $$$$ The Statler Hotel at Cornell University
Day 3 Ithaca to Watkins Glen
Spend a few hours enjoying Ithaca this morning. Start your day with a short walk along the Cascadilla Gorge Trail, which will surely have some spectacular fall foliage. It is one of my favorite easy waterfall walks in the Finger Lakes. It is best to walk to the trailhead from downtown, as parking is limited. The Cascadilla Gorge Trail is a part of the Cornell Botanical Gardens with multiple falls, scenic bridges, and a shallow creek you can wade through. The trail is only a mile long and should take around 30-40 mins to complete. It is another easy, short, and scenic trail for great fall views in the Finger Lakes (but there are some steps).
Ithaca’s annual Apple Harvest Festival kicks off at the end of September in downtown Ithaca. There will be a ton of fresh farm produce, tasty baked goods, cider tastings, food trucks, live music, and entertainment. Check their website for up-to-date information.
If you want to do some more hiking, leaf peeping, and waterfall chasing, head to either Robert H. Treman State Park or Buttermilk Falls State Park. You won’t have time for both as you want to get on the road and stop at Taughannock Falls before making your way to Watkins Glen for sunset. If you are pressed for time, skip the state parks in Ithaca as the best fall foliage state park in the Finger Lakes is still to come and will blow the socks off of any you have visited in New York yet.
If you are looking for a relaxing morning, you could visit the beautiful 6 Creek Vineyard & Distillery for a tasting and stunning views of their vineyard; they open at 10 am. There are also museums, Cornell’s beautiful historic campus to explore, and maybe some fall harvest events. Check the Ithaca Downtown Alliance website for upcoming events and the annual fall festival schedule.
Once you are ready to leave Ithaca, drive 15 mins to Taughannok Falls. This is one of the most dramatic falls in the Finger Lakes and looks even more stunning when surrounded by fall foliage. There are a few ways to see the main waterfall at Taughannock Falls State Park, but the Falls Overlook Viewpoint (at the welcome center off of Jacksonville Road/Taughannock Rd. is my favorite. You can also take a short hike to see the base of the falls. The gorge trail is 1.8 miles and starts next to the Inn at Taughannock Falls. The foliage surrounding the falls is always beautiful if you hit it at the right time, but even if you are too early or too late to enjoy the vibrant colors of fall, the waterfall still shines brightly surrounded in green.
Next, drive 35-40 mins to Watkins Glen and enjoy the sunset overlooking the Seneca Boat Marina.
Spend the night in Watkins Glen
What to do near Ithaca:
- Visit Robert H. Treman State Park (parking is tough after 10 am) for waterfall hikes and leaf peeping
- Hike the waterfall trails at Buttermilk Falls State Park and snap photos of the fall foliage along the way
- Walk through the creek to the waterfall and bridge along Ithaca’s Cascadilla Falls Trail
- Head to downtown Ithaca for a self-guided Craft Beer Tour
- Lucky Hare Brewing Company
- Liquid State Brewing Company
- Ithaca Beer Co.
- Wine Tasting at 6 Mile Creek Vineyard
- Enjoy seasonal produce at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market (weekends)
- Walk around campus enjoying the Cornell Botanic Gardens
- Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art- Free entry and has stunning views of Ithaca on the top floor
- Get up close to prehistoric fossils and skeletons at the Museum of the Earth
- Discover Cayuga Lake Boat Tours and see the foliage lined lake side
- Have a unique experience at the Laughing Goat Fiber Farm– Call for an appointment to visit
- Enjoy a harvest festival in down town.
Where to Eat near Watkins Glen
- Glen Mountain Bakery & Deli-they even take bakery requests
- Nickel’s Pit BBQ-for BBQ, craft beer, live music, and a patio
- Thai Elephants-Classic Thai
- Jerlando’s Ristorantee & Pizza Co. -Family-run ristorante & pizzeria
- Blue Point Grill (in Harbor Hotel)- the service is sometimes slow but the food always tastes good
- Ryan Williams Vineyard (Brudett)- Fresh farm-to-table menu that changes monthly
- Tabora Farm and Winery (Dundee)- Deli and bakery, along with other locally made goods, coffee, and wine tastings
Where to Sleep in Watkins Glen
- $ Campgrounds: Always call ahead; some close in October for the season.
- Watkins Glen State Park Six Nations
- Sunset on Seneca Campsites
- Havana Glen Park
- Clute Memorial Park & Recreation
- $$ Hudson Manor Bed and Breakfast
- $$$ Harbor Hotel
*If accommodations in Watkins Glen are sold out try the Horseheads area
Day 4 Watkins Glen to Hammondsport
Today you only have a short 30 min drive to your next stop for the night so you will have time to explore both Watkins Glen and Hammondsport or another neighboring town if you choose.
Watkins Glen is famous for its beautiful gorge trail, international speedway, and easy access to Seneca Lake. It is also convenient to the Seneca Lake wine trail with over 25 wineries.
Montour Falls (5 mins south of Watkins Glen) hosts an annual fall festival the first week of October with live entertainment, local craft, and street vendors.
If you are interested in glass blowing and want to visit the Corning Museum of Glass, today is the day. Although it is slightly out of the way, it is only a 30 min drive to Corning from Watkins Glen and another 30 mins Hammondsport where you will stay for the night.
Corning’s Historic Gaffer District has many shops, restaurants, galleries, and a few museums. You could easily spend the day in Corning and head towards Hammondsport after sunset if you don’t mind driving at night. Many charming streets are popping with fall foliage in Corning. The historic district streets are my favorite and worth a walk for some stunning fall foliage photographs.
Alternatively, if it’s lake views and wineries you are after, heads towards Keuka Lake (Hammondsport) in the afternoon to enjoy the scenic drives and Keuka Lake wine trail. You can drive around Keuka Lake in about 90 minutes and visit Penn Yan in the north, relax at Keuka Springs Vineyards for some peaceful lake views on their open-air patio or hike along the outlet trail.
Send the night in Hammondsport.
There are a few scenic routes around Keuka Lake for elevated lake views. Take West Lake Road (Route 54A) for views along the shores of the lake or the middle road that runs into Route 76 for a higher-sight line of the lake. There is also the Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Drive which will give you the highest views of the lake.
What to do near Watkins Glen
- Hike the Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail
- Explore Seneca Lake by Boat
- Drive around the International Speedway
- Waterfall chasing:
- Hector Falls(best view from Seneca Lake)
- Aunt Sarah Falls
- Deckertown Falls
- Eagle’s Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park
- Chequaga Falls Park
- Wine Tasting; Some of my favorite Seneca Lake wineries:
- Ryan William Vineyards
- Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards
- Three Brothers Wineries and Estates
- Fox Run Vineyards
- Tabora Farm and Winery
- Taste local brews at the Brewery of Broken Dreams
- Immerse yourself in the Montour Falls Fall Festival
- Drive to the town of Elmira to visit Mark Twain’s gravesite
- Learn about glass making at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning
- Drive around Seneca Lake- about 120 minutes
- Visit the Geneva Finger Lakes Welcome Center (north end of Seneca Lake)
Where to eat near Hammondsport:
- Burgers & Beer of Hammondsport-Classic bites in a casual space
- Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company– They have a full lunch menu
- Bully Hill Vineyards-Delicious cafe and wine slushies with outdoor seating and views of the lake
- Timber Stone Grill– People love the variety
Where to sleep in Hammondsport:
- $$ Best Western Plus The Hammondsport Hotel
- $$ Keuka Lakeside Inn
- $$$ Blushing Rose B&B
- $$$ Historic Champlin House Bed and Breakfast
- $$$ Black Sheep Inn & Spa
Day 5 Hammondsport to Letchworth State Park
Today you will wake up and explore more of Keuka Lake before heading to stunning Letchworth State Park. This park follows the Genesee River for about 17 miles and spans almost 15,000 acres. Because of its deep gorge, Letchworth is known as the Grand Canyon of the East and has three gorgeous waterfalls. You can go horseback riding, golfing, riding in a hot air balloon, or rafting down the river in the Letchworth Park area.
You only need about 1/2 a day to drive around the park, take in the gorgeous fall views, hike to the towering waterfalls and snap some photos of the foliage. You could easily spend a few days here if you wanted to do more activities, but this itinerary only gives you a 1/2 day to see the highlights, which is just right.
Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport (the west branch of Keuka Lake) hosts a harvest festival at the beginning of October with delicious farm-fresh snacks, wines, Grape Stomping, axe throwing, and more fall favorites.
Before you head to Letchworth, decide how you will spend your morning. Stony Brook is another state park along the way to Letchworth. It is my 3rd favorite state park in NY (right after Letchworth and Watkins Glen) for the waterfall gorge hike however, if you didn’t get much time to drive around Keuka Lake the day before, I recommend spending the morning enjoying Hammondsport and taking the scenic routes along Keuka Lake. If none of those things interest you, you could visit the town of Naples on the way to Letchworth instead; whatever you do, plan to get to Letchworth before dark to enjoy the property’s foliage in the daylight. It is over an hour’s drive to Letchworth from Hammondsport so plan accordingly.
The Genessee Country Village hosts a Fall Festival & Agriculture fair in early October. It features baking and livestock competitions along with entertainment, including live shows and music.
The small town of Naples is known as the Grape Capitol of the world. Visiting Naples will add about 20 minutes of driving time to your route but it is worth it if you plan your visit right. Highlights in Naples include the Roots Cafe, Monica’s Pies, several wineries, Grimes Glenn, (a nature trail to a lovely waterfall and swimming hole), historic landmarks, and The annual Grape Fest.
The annual festival is held in late September so you likely will miss it if you started your road trip to see peak foliage in the Finger Lakes which is typically early to mid October. If Monica’s pies are open, I’d say a quick detour to try one of the delicious homemade pies and then a quick stop at the Lake View Point Scenic Overlook for beautiful views of Canandaigua Lake is worth it- but depending on your interests and available time, you may need to save Naples for another Finger Lakes Road Trip.
Scenic Route 21 S from Naples turns into 371 heading towards Cohocton and is a great road for scenic fall views of rolling hills, farms and wind turbines.
What to do near Hammondsport
- Keuka Lake Scenic Drives
- West Lake Road/ Route 54A
- Route 76
- Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Drive
- Keuka Outlet Trail
- The Windmill Farmer’s Market
- Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
- Finger Lakes Boating Museum
- Shop for antiques at Crooked Lake Antiques
- Picnic at Keuka Lake State Park
- Stony Brook State Park
- Visit the town of Naples
- Enjoy a walk through Grimes Glen or Conklin’s Gully (Naples)
- Drive to the Lake View Scenic Overlook (Naples)
- Stop at The Old Country Store and more on Rte 21 S from Naples
- Enjoy a brewery
- Lyon Smith Brewing
- The Brewery of Broken Dreams
- Keuka Brewing Co.
- Steuben Brewing Company
- Wine Tasting:
- Heron Hill Winery
- Keuka Springs Winery
- Bully Hill Winery
- Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
- Seneca Farms
- Hunt Country Vineyards
Where to eat near Letchworth:
- Monica’s Pies (Naples)– World-famous grape pies and other baked goods
- Roots Cafe (Naples)– Super delicious quaint cafe
- Jack’s Place Gaslight Grill (Dansville)- Bar food
- Caroline’s at the Glen Iris Inn (inside Letchworth State Park)- slow service but good food
- Lower Falls Restaurant and Gifts– Basic hot sandwiches and fries
*There are limited food options inside the park with limited hours and options. I recommend eating before you enter and bringing snacks and water to the park.
Where to sleep near Letchworth:
There are a lot of bed and breakfasts and quaint Inns right outside the park, but I prefer staying inside the park to make it easier to explore, especially since time is limited. A $10 entrance fee is required per car if entering between 9 am -5 pm. There is no fee if you are staying overnight inside the park.
Inside Letchworth State Park
- Glen Iris Inn
- Caroline’s Cottage
- The Stone House
- The Pinewood Lodge
- In park Campsites. There are tent sites and cabins with facilities
Outside the State Park
- Brick Inn
- Country Inn and Suites
- Letchworth Farm Bed and Breakfast
- Allegiance Bed & Breakfast
Make sure to visit the Middle Falls lookout located directly across from the Glenn Iris inn after nightfall. Once it is dark, they light up the falls for a unique view.
Day 6 Letchworth State Park to Canandaigua
You’ll have the morning to explore the beautiful Letchworth State Park. There are 28 nature trails, 50 waterfalls, and many overlooks to discover during your fall drive through Letchworth State Park. With limited time on this fall road trip, I recommend visiting the highlights, which include the gorge trail and major waterfall overlooks, which are even more spectacular when surrounded by peak fall foliage.
If you didn’t stay inside the park, you could park at the Genesee Arch Bridge Parking Lot off of NY-436. The gorge trail starts here to the three falls; Upper, Middle, and Lower. This section of the gorge trail is paved with some stairs. To see the lower falls, you will have to walk past Inspiration Point, which is around 4-5 miles out and back (total distance). Because it is a flat paved walk, it should only take around 3 hours- but everyone is different. If you don’t want to or don’t have time to walk the entire way, you can save time by driving to each of the fall’s viewpoints.
The park website has easy-to-read maps and all the information you need to plan your stay.
*Download offline maps in case you lose reception inside the park.
If the weather is just right, you may see some hot air balloons flying overhead in the morning, usually around 8 am. Keep an eye out near the Middle Falls and Glen Iris Inn.
After your time enjoying beautiful Letchworth State Park, head towards Canandaigua for your last night on this 7-day Fall Finger Lakes road trip.
Canandaigua is about 50 mins drive if you use the Mt. Morris exit in Letchworth. You can stop at a few small towns for food, but if you can wait, I recommend eating in Canandaigua, where there are more food options and many in a beautiful fall setting along the lake.
Spend the night in Canandaigua
What to do in Letchworth:
- Go hiking! There are many trails inside Letchworth state park. The 7-mile (14 miles out and back) point-to-point Gorge Trail is the most scenic.
- Enjoy the viewpoint of the falls
- Visit the welcome center, gift shop, and museum near Inspiration Point
- Take a Hot air balloon ride over the gorge
- Go water rafting down the Genesee River
- Go horseback riding through scenic nature trails
Where to eat on the way to Canandaigua
- Honky Donkey Grill (Mt. Morris)-Hearty American food
- Rancho Viejo Geneseo Mexican (Geneseo)
- Cheap Charlies Restaurant (Bloomfield)- Classic American fare, including seafood and steaks
- Casa Italiani (Canandaigua)
- Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake-A relaxed space with lake views serving steaks & seafood, local beers & wines
- Rose Tavern at the Lake House (Canandaigua)- A new American restaurant serving a seasonal, rustic menu inspired by local ingredients and classic cooking techniques.
- New York Kitchen (Canandaigua)- Farm to table style restaurant with a tasting room and cooking classes
Where to sleep in Canandaigua:
- $ Camping: KOA Canandaigua/Rochester; Creek-N-Wood RV Park and Campground
- $$ Holiday Inn Express
- $$ Super 8 by Wyndham
- $$$$ The Lake House on Canandaigua
- $$$$ Canandaigua Cobblestone Cottage Bed and Breakfast
Day 7 Canandaigua to Syracuse (or Rochester)
It is your last day enjoying fall in Finger Lakes. If you didn’t get a chance to walk around Canandaigua last night spend the morning enjoying the lake, leaf peeping, or wine tasting at Heron Hill. The 50 acre Sonnenburg Gardens is another great way to spend the morning if you don’t mind the $15 entrance fee.
In early October, Lincoln Hill Farms in Canandaigua hosts HalloweenFest, a family-friendly outdoor event with live music, food, and bar specials and a unique walking trail dedicated to all your favorite Halloween exhibits.
It is about 1 hour and 10 mins back to the Syracuse airport along Interstate 90 and about 40 mins to the ROC airport in Rochester. Give yourself enough time to get gas and return your rental if you rent a car from the airport. If you have more time you may want to head north to explore the Thousand Islands or continue your fall adventures on an Adirondack Fall Foliage Road Trip.
What to do near Canandaigua:
- Sonnenburg Gardens & Mansion
- Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
- Walk along the City Pier
- Water Sport Rentals
- Enjoy lakefront Kershaw Park
- Go wine tasting:
- Heron Hill Tasting Room
- Raymor Estate Cellars
- Living Roots Urban Winery & Tasting Room (Rochester)
- Enjoy a brewery
I hope you enjoyed your Fall in the Finger Lakes road trip. As you can see there is a slew of activities to keep everyone entertained and wanting to come back. Even with a week, you will only be able to scratch the surface of all there is to see and do in this lovely region of New York. If you can’t make it for fall try a summer Finger Lakes Road Trip instead. Even though the leaves will be green you will have just as much fun stuffing your face at the summer festivals and exploring the towns and lakes swarming with warm weather fun.