Watkins Glen NY is located at the base of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. Its central location is the perfect home base for exploring much of what the Finger Lakes has to offer. The town of Watkins Glen is just a 30 minute drive from nearby Keuka and Cayuga Lakes, in addition to the towns of Corning, Elmira, and Ithaca. We spent 4 glorious September nights here and wanted to share with you what we consider to be the 10 best things to do in Watkins Glen NY.
Seneca Lake is the largest of the Finger Lakes in total volume. At 618 feet, it is the deepest lake and at 38 miles long, it is the second longest lake behind Cayuga, which is only 2 miles longer. Seneca Lake rarely freezes in the cooler winter months, because it is fed by underground springs, which keeps the water in constant motion. There are countless opportunities for enjoying the lake while in Watkins Glen including Seneca Lake boat tours and rentals, wine tours by boat, and sailing excursions.
Sailing on Seneca Lake
One of the best things to do in Watkins Glen is to set sail in a historic Schooner sail boat. The True Love was built by Pendleton Brothers Shipyard in Wiscasset, Maine in 1926. It has since been beautifully restored and continues to take visitors on scenic and romantic sails around the lake. The Schooner Love is located at Seneca Harbor Park Pier right behind the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen. She sails Seneca Lake daily May through October and can accommodate up to 22 passengers at a time. For more information and to book your sail on the True Love, click HERE.
Watkins Glen International
When most people hear “Watkins Glen”, they often think of Watkins Glen International, which is located just 4 miles from the downtown area. Race fans can experience NASCAR, IMSA, Ferrari, and US Vintage Grand Prix races. WGI has been named the Best NASCAR Track in the US (by USA Today).
Between April and October, there is some sort of event at “The Glen” almost every single day, including wine and beer festivals! For a full list of events, check out their website. And if you want to really get in on the action, check out their Drive the Glen program. Have the opportunity to drive your own vehicle (motorcycles not permitted) around the 3.4-mile Grand Prix circuit behind a pace car. Vroom vroom!
The History of Watkins Glen
The history of racing in Watkins Glen dates back to the late 1940s. On October 2, 1948, Watkins Glen hosted the first post-WWII road race in America. Pick up a map at the local tourism office (214 Franklin Street) and drive the iconic 6.6-mile race circuit through town yourself. Each year in September, the town celebrates its historic start to racing with the Grand Prix Festival. Hundreds of classic sports cars line the streets. There is live music, wine tasting, food vendors, family-friendly activities, and a slew of racing memorabilia available for purchase.
True race fans won’t want to miss the International Motor Racing Research Center. The center, open year-round, contains 5,000 sq ft of racing history. The center is open year-round. Also be sure to take a walk about town to spot the beautiful hand-painted murals depicting the beginning days of racing in Watkins Glen. These colorful murals are the work of local artist Robert E Gillespie.
Racing isn’t the town’s only bit of fascinating history. There are some neat historic buildings around town worth visiting. The Schuyler Iron and Agriculture Works building (built in 1873) now houses the Seneca Harbor Wine Center. Pop in to this historic building for complimentary tastings of Finger Lakes wines and champagnes.
Watkins Glen State Park
Possibly one of our favorite things to do in Watkins Glen turned out to be Watkins Glen State Park. No wonder it is voted one of the top attractions in the entire state of New York! It is truly GORGE-eous! The park’s most popular attribute is the Gorge Trail which features 19 beautiful waterfalls in just under 2 miles. Have a look (and listen) to the beauty of Watkins Glen State Park below…
WATCH NOW: The Sounds of Watkins Glen State ParkGorge Trail
Stroll along under and over waterfalls and through caverns on this moderate hike. And know that you just might get a little wet! The Gorge Trail includes several sets of stairs, so unfortunately the trail is not stroller or wheelchair accessible. (However, here’s a link to a site that showcases Wheelchair Accessible Trails throughout the state of New York.) The Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park is typically open from mid-May through October, and closes during the winter months. The Rim Trail overlooks the gorge and is open throughout the year. Please note, while dogs are permitted on the Rim Trail, they are not allowed on the Gorge Trail.
Guided tours along the Gorge Trail are available at 10 am and 1 pm Wednesday-Sunday from around the end of June to early September. There is also shuttle service from the Upper Entrance to the Main Entrance. (You would hike the trail from the Main Entrance to the Upper Entrance and then catch the shuttle back to the Main Entrance, if you prefer not to hike the trail back down.)
Shuttle service is available every 25-30 minutes daily during the busy summer months and on weekends only for the remainder of the year when the gorge is open. (Again, the Gorge Trail closes during the winter months.) The cost is $5 per person. Click HERE for the most up-to-date information about trail opening dates, tours, and shuttle service.
Finger Lakes Distilling
While the Finger Lakes is most well known as a wine and craft beer region, the area also has a handful of distilleries to enjoy! Finger Lakes Distilling opened its doors in 2009 as the region’s first stand-alone distillery. They also pride themselves on being a NY State Farm Distillery, which means they use locally grown fruit and grains to produce their high quality, small batch, handmade spirits from scratch. Finger Lakes Distilling is less than a 10 minute drive from Watkins Glen in a beautiful facility inspired by Scottish whisky distilleries. They are open daily from 11-5. Their product line includes vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy, and liqueurs.
Make Your Own Gin
If you’ve ever dreamed of making your own gin, you are in luck! Finger Lakes Distilling has a program where participants are guided through the process of creating their own custom blend of gin. It’s called the OriGINal Gin Workshop. This 4-hour workshop includes a welcome with FLD Founder & President Brian McKenzie and FLD Head Distiller Jared Baker, Ph.D., a gin cocktail, a tour of the facility, and a presentation of the history of gin.
Participants will then sample, select, and grind up to 25 botanicals and process their recipe through a “Wee Still”. The OriGINal Gin Workshop costs $1,000 and can accommodate groups of up to 8 people. At the end, the group will divvy up 40 (375 mL) bottles of gin however they wish. For the most up-to-date information about this unique gin-making workshop, check out the FLD website.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Seneca Lake is located right in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine region. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the many wonderful wine tasting opportunities in and around Watkins Glen. Seneca Lake has more wineries than any other lake in NY – over 70 and counting! And over 30 of those wineries have come together to form the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Only one winery on the trail (Castel Grisch) is located IN Watkins Glen, but many others can be reached with just a short car (or boat) ride!
Wagner Winery & Brewery
During our stay in Watkins Glen, we visited just one of the 30+ wineries on the Seneca Wine Trail. (Check out this map to see all of the wineries included on the trail.) We were more focused on hitting many of the wonderful breweries in the region. Though by visiting one of the many breweries on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, we inadvertently also visited one of the wineries on the Seneca Wine Trail! Wagner Vineyards is home to Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery and Wagner Valley Brewing Company. Why choose just one when you can do both so good?!
Not only is there a winery AND brewery on site at Wagner Vineyards, but there is also a charming cafe serving up delicious lunch options. Ginny Lee Cafe offers inviting patio dining with gorgeous views over Seneca Lake. You can also dine inside… but why would you with views like this? The menu at Ginny Lee recommends which of their award-winning wine and/or beer is best paired with each entree. It’s a feast for the senses and a wonderful stop just 20 minutes from downtown Watkins Glen. The cafe is open for lunch 7 days a week from 11-4 through the summer and early fall.
Seneca Lake Breweries
As mentioned, we spent a lot of our time in the Finger Lakes checking out the local breweries. There are several breweries on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail (see the full map HERE) located along the shores of Seneca Lake less than a 20 minute drive from Watkins Glen. These close by breweries include: Grist Iron Brewing Company (our personal favorite), Two Goats Brewing, Pantomime Mixtures, Scale House Brewery, Lucky Hare Brewing Company, and Wagner Valley Brewing Company (mentioned above) on the east side of Seneca Lake. The trail also includes Seneca Lodge Craft Brewing and G.C. Starkey Beer Company on the west side of the lake.
There are additional breweries in and around Watkins Glen not included on the official beer trail that are definitely worth checking out. Rooster FishBrewing is one of New York state’s first farm breweries (meaning they use only local ingredients). Rooster Fish offers some truly unique flavors in the heart of downtown Watkins Glen.
Located just 5 miles outside of downtown you’ll find the Seneca Lake Beer Company and The Beerocracy. Seneca Lake Brewing Company is the only dedicated cask ale brewery in the state of New York. Its pub, The Beerocracy, is a traditional Tudor style British pub definitely worth a visit. You can read more about our experiences at these two breweries (and all of the breweries we visited) in our post Breweries in the Finger Lakes.
Seneca Lake Waterfalls
The Finger Lakes region is home to more than 1,000 waterfalls and gorges. Some of the best waterfalls can be found in Watkins Glen State Park, which we mentioned earlier as one of our favorite things to do in Watkins Glen. There are also plenty of one-off waterfalls nearby. The good news is that many of these gorgeous falls are located a short drive from Watkins Glen. Better yet, some of the nearby waterfalls require little to no hike to access! These easy-to-get-to falls include Hector Falls and Chequaga “Shequaga” Falls, both of which are less than a 10 minute drive from Watkins Glen. We highlight these wonderful waterfalls in greater detail in our Finger Lakes waterfalls post.
U-Pick Apple Farm
And for our final recommendation of things to do in Watkins Glen NY, we’d like to suggest Reisinger’s Apple Country. If your visit coincides with harvest season (August-November), you’ll definitely want to put this family-run family-friendly attraction on your list! Stroll through their close to 50 acres of orchards, fields and meadows and experience a full-filled time picking a variety of apples and fall raspberries.
Other seasonal fruit grown on the farm includes peaches, plums, blueberries and pears. These are sold packaged in the sales room, along with their homemade apple butter, jams, jelly, apple cider, and maple syrup. Reisinger’s is open 7 days a week (August-November), but if you visit on the weekend, you’re in for a special treat – homemade apple cider donuts! Oh my yum! So delicious!
So, this rounds out our recommendations of things to do in Watkins Glen. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of absolutely everything there is to do. Though hopefully it will help you start planning your own visit.
One day in Watkins Glen simply isn’t enough. We strongly urge you to stay a few nights to have time to experience many of the wonderful things we have recommended in this post. Wondering where you should stay in Watkins Glen? Wonder no more! We’re about to share with you a fabulous waterfront lodging option in the Finger Lakes!
Watkins Glen Lodging
During our 4-night stay in Watkins Glen, we were based at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. The hotel was voted America’s Best Waterfront Hotel by USA Today. Harbor Hotel has available 104 deluxe guests rooms and suites, many of which feature balconies overlooking the marina and Seneca Lake. There are wonderful dining options and luxury amenities found throughout the hotel. You can read more about our stay, along with where else we stayed in the Finger Lakes, by checking out our Lodging in the Finger Lakes post.
Cayuga Lake is the 2nd largest of the Finger Lakes, behind Seneca Lake. Cayuga is actually longer than Seneca, but since Seneca is wider, it is the larger of the two lakes in total area. The college town of Ithaca is the lake’s only town, though there are several small villages surrounding the lake that definitely warrant exploration! To truly experience Cayuga Lake, be sure to get out on the water, whether through sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, boat rental, or any other number of on-the-water activities.
Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway
One of the best ways to take in all that Cayuga Lake has to offer is to take a drive on the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. This 87-mile loop goes all the way around the lake. While the drive can technically be completed in about 3 hours, you’ll definitely want to allow more time. A few days or even a long weekend should be sufficient to enjoy the many attractions along the route. There is plenty to do around Cayuga Lake including wineries, breweries, state parks, hiking, waterfalls, and so much more!
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a popular attraction at the very top of Cayuga Lake. Because we only had two days, we didn’t have time to do the entire drive and therefore focused on exploring the southern end. As such, this post will primarily focus on things to do near Cayuga Lake on the southwest side of the lake, of which there is plenty!
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail
Visiting wineries is a popular pastime in the Finger Lakes region. It isn’t called Finger Lakes Wine Country for nothing! Wine makers near Cayuga Lake started America’s first wine trail over 35 years ago (1983). The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail includes 14 wineries around the perimeter of the lake. Download a copy of the (2019) Cayuga Lake Wine Trail map and brochure and start planning your visit!
3 of the wineries also serve cider (Goose Watch Winery, Buttonwood Grove Winery, and Thirsty Owl Wine Company). Monezuma also serves mead and has a distillery (Hidden Marsh Distillery), as does Swedish Hill Vineyard and Knapp Winery. Americana Vineyards also serves as the second location for Bacchus Brewing. So whether you want wine, beer, cider, mead, spirits, or liqueurs, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail has got you covered!
All wineries along the wine trail are handicap accessible and dog-friendly, so all are welcome! Exploring Cayuga Lake by boat? Some of the wineries are even boat accessible! But before you embark on the wine trail, be sure to order the Vino Visa Coupon Book. The cost is $15 (current as of 2019), and the savings are worth so much more! The book includes coupons for all 14 wineries (including some free tastings). Enclosed are also discounts on Cayuga Lake accommodations, attractions, restaurants, and transportation services.
You can check out the full list of savings and order your copy of the Vino Visa Coupon Book HERE. While we didn’t visit all 14 wineries on the trail, we were able to visit 3 and wanted to share our experiences with you!
Buttonwood Grove Winery
Buttonwood Grove Winery, along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, was among our favorites of all of the wineries we visited in the entire Finger Lake region. Maybe it had something to do with their incredible wines. Or maybe is was because of the picturesque views from their deck overlooking the vineyards and lake. Could have had something to do with their adorable highland cow, Melody, which reminded us of our trips to Scotland. Or quite possibly it was the fact that we were able to sleep at a vineyard for the first time in our lives. More on that next!
Buttonwood Grove has been owned by Dave and Melissa Pittard since 2014. In the past few years, they have made incredible strides to make Buttonwood an award-winning winery. In 2017, they received the Governor’s Cup for their (2016) Riesling; it was designated as the Best Wine in the entire state of New York. With a welcoming ambiance and an impressive entertainment schedule, Buttonwood Grove is definitely one of the best wineries on Cayuga Lake!
Buttonwood Grove Winery Wines
Of the many wines we sampled at Buttonwood, our favorites were their Vidal Blanc (semi-dry with bright lemon-lime flavors), the semi-sweet Big Hollow Block Riesling (2017), and their semi-sweet Riesling. We also enjoyed their semi-dry unoaked Chardonnay (2017), the Cayuga Lake Mist (semi-sweet, fruit flavors), and their Sycamore White (semi-sweet, tropical fruit).
Buttonwood Grove also has a few roses, a handful of reds, and a Blackberry Briar, which we didn’t care for too much, though lots of people love its sweet berry flavor. They also serve up their own hard cider. With so many options, we’re pretty confident you’re going to find something you love!
Cayuga Lake Lodging
Have you ever spent the night at a vineyard?! Neither had we before visiting Buttonwood Grove! No need for a designated driver or Uber following your visit to the tasting room! Just wander a few hundred feet to a beautifully appointed cabin in the woods. Choose from one of four 1-bedroom cabin, available April-December. (2 night minimum stay during weekends.) So, if you’re looking for places to stay on Cayuga Lake, why not stay at a winery?!
Cayuga Lake Cabin Rentals
We stayed 2 nights in the Merlot cabin and thoroughly enjoyed all of the wonderful amenities. The cabin is complete with a comfy queen sized bed (and pull out sofa, if needed), bathroom with shower, mini-fridge and microwave, and heating and A/C to keep you comfortable no matter the weather. Outside of the cabin is a picnic table and fire ring, with the 1st bundle of wood included. They have also conveniently stocked the cabin with a selection of their delicious wines. Simply pay for what you consume! Whether or not you STAY at Buttonwood Grove Winery, you should definitely stop by during your drive on the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway.
Goose Watch Winery
Just down the road from Buttonwood Grove is Goose Watch Winery. They are one of few wineries on Cayuga Lake that is accessible by boat. Goose Watch is yet another great location along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail offering spectacular views over the lake. Pack a picnic and sit under the inviting canopy of trees on their property. Not only are the views nice, but the building itself (a century old beautifully restored barn) is something to marvel at.
Goose Watch Winery prides itself on offering off-the-beaten path varietals and styles not typically found at other Finger Lakes wineries. Try the UniGoose, a unique Riesling blend, or their white port, one of few made in the US. Goose Watch also offers their personal version of the classics, including Pinot Grigio, Viognier, and Merlot, to name a few. They have a wide variety of wines available for sampling in their tasting room. Their tastings are among the cheapest of any of the wineries we visited (just $5, current as of June 2019).
Like Goose Watch, Americana Vineyards is also set in a restored barn and offers $5 tastings. In addition to a moderate selection of wine, you can also sample beer here. Americana Vineyards serves as the second location for Bacchus Brewing Company. We did not care much for the beer. And sadly, we personally feel that their wine offerings did not live up to others we had sampled in the region. Though we don’t want our personal preferences to discourage you from visiting.
With a variety of whites, reds, and specialty wines, in addition to their unique blueberry wines, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like! If you want to try both beer and wine during your visit to Americana, try the wine and beer sampler combo. Their homemade fudge (that you are welcome to sample) is reason enough to visit. With a restaurant on site (Crystal Lake Cafe) and a Sunday afternoon concert series, there is plenty to taste and enjoy at Americana Vineyards.
Finger Lakes Cider House
Beer and wine aren’t the only beverages in the Finger Lakes! There’s quite a booming cider scene as well. It very well could have something to do with all of the delicious apples and other orchards found throughout the region. The Finger Lakes Cider House off Route 89 in Interlaken is considered the hub for the blossoming industry of hard cider in Central New York. Kite & String is Finger Lakes Cider House’s personal line of ciders and they serve several guest ciders in-house as well.
Local producers create delicious and distinct ciders using fresh fruits and ingredients from local farm-based orchards. Most of the guest producers are located within the Finger Lakes, while a few come from the Hudson Valley and Western New York. The Finger Lakes Cider House is located on the Good Life Farm, which you can see in operation during your visit. Much of the food served at FLCH comes from the on-site farm, in addition to other local farms. Their daily food menu offers tempting pairings including meats, cheeses, breads, salads, sandwiches, and more. We highly recommend a little detour to the Finger Lakes Cider House while driving the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway.
Cayuga Lake Waterfalls
We were going to write about the various waterfalls near Cayuga Lake, but we decided to do an entirely separate post about ALL of the Finger Lakes waterfalls we visited. But just so you know a few of the many waterfalls near Cayuga Lake, we’ll summarize the highlights!
Taughannock Falls is a short, easy walk (or drive) from the shores of Cayuga Lake. This 200+ foot waterfall is taller than Niagara! It’s certainly a site to see. Access the falls via a scenic overlook near the visitor center that requires very minimal walking. And/or walk the 2-mile (out and back) flat creek-side gorge trail.
Lower Falls and Lucifer Falls are just a few of the impressive waterfalls found in Robert H Treman State Park about a 20-minute drive from the lake. Less than 10 minutes from there is Buttermilk Falls State Park with its impressive namesake waterfall – Buttermilk Falls. Check out our waterfalls in the Finger Lakes post for more details about how you can see these stunning falls up close!
Cayuga Lake is just one of many wonderful lakes in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York. There is always something going on no matter where you’re at in the region and Cayuga is certainly no exception. Check out the Cayuga Lake Wine Trailevents page to see what’s going on during your visit. And while you’re at it, read through our posts about Hammondsport (near Keuka Lake) and Watkins Glen (near Seneca Lake) for more ideas of things to do in the Finger Lakes New York!
The Finger Lakes NY is a region well renowned for its delightful and delicious wine. But, did you know the Finger Lakes is also New York State’s premier craft beer destination? The region has quickly gained notoriety among craft beer connoisseurs and beer enthusiasts alike. While there is plenty of information out there about the region’s wineries, we wanted to showcase the many Finger Lakes breweries we visited during our fall trip to this gorgeous region in New York State.
Finger Lakes Beer Trail
The Finger Lakes Beer Trail promotes the region’s ever-expanding craft brewing industry. The trail highlights over 80 New York microbreweries and brew pubs from Rochester to Syracuse and down to Corning and Binghamton, covering an area of about 210 miles! Referencing the Finger Lakes Beer Trail information can definitely help with the planning of your beer-focused Finger Lakes getaway.
Click HERE to download the Finger Lakes Beer Trail map. (This is the 2018-2019 version.) Visit the Finger Lakes Beer Trail website for the most up-to-date information. Also please keep in mind, the Finger Lakes breweries listed on the map are those who have chosen to promote themselves via membership in the Finger Lakes Beer Trail Marketing and Tourism Association. As such, the map is not necessarily inclusive of all of the breweries located within and around the surrounding area.
Breweries in the Finger Lakes
While there are over 100 breweries in the Finger Lakes to choose from, we only made it to 12 during our 10-day September visit. We’d need a lot more time to visit them all! Though because we loved our time in the Finger Lakes, no doubt we’ll head back for another visit and have the opportunity to try even more of the local breweries.
Overall, we really enjoyed the beer in the Finger Lakes. There were definitely a few breweries we enjoyed more than the others and only two where we didn’t care too much for the overall selection. There were two breweries we enjoyed so much, we went back for a second visit. Keep reading to discover what we consider to be the best breweries in the Finger Lakes!
Breweries in Corning NY
Of course “America’s Most Fun Small Town” (named by Huffington Post) is going to have some great breweries to choose from! The town of Corning is not only home to the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass, it’s also where one of our favorite Finger Lakes breweries is located!
Liquid Shoes Brewing Company
Well, you didn’t have to read too far down to discover one of our favorite breweries in Finger Lakes NY! The newly opened Liquid Shoes Brewing Company has a prime location along Market Street in the Gaffer District of downtown Corning. It’s perfectly fine to have a small selection to choose from when you do it right! Liquid Shoes is a small batch brewery offering a variety of brews including IPAs, ales, and stouts. We thought their ales were spot on! See what’s currently on tap in their tasting room.
Market Street Brewing Company
We went to Market Street Brewing Company with the intention of just grabbing a bite to eat, but we simply couldn’t resist the beer tasting menu! Unlike Liquid Shoes, which has only been open since 2018, Market Street Brewing Company has been around for over 20 years! MSBC is located in a beautifully preserved building, also in the Gaffer district, with a restored, yet vintage interior. Be sure to check their website before visiting as they have varying hours depending on the season.
Other breweries in Corning include: Brick House Brewery, Carey’s Brew House, and Iron Flamingo Brewery.
Keuka Lake Breweries
Most of the breweries near Keuka Lake are located at the southern end of the lake in a charming little town called Hammondsport. We spent a long weekend in Hammondsport and thus had the opportunity to visit all 3 breweries in town, starting with the namesake brewery.
Keuka Brewing Company
Keuka Brewing Company, the first micro-brewery on Keuka Lake, was started by a father and son team in 2008. This was at a time when only wineries dominated the region. They have continued to stand out by serving up some of the most forward-thinkers brews around.
Feeling spicy? Try their Afterburner Habañero Ale. Feeling tart? Try the Ghost of Rita Gose. Looking for something rich and robust? Go for the seasonal Fat Stack Maple Pecan Porter (aged in oak barrels). Check out more of their flagship and seasonal beers HERE. We couldn’t get enough of one of their seasonal specialties – a creamy pumpkin ale! It was the perfect companion for our fall visit to the Finger Lakes.
Brewery of Broken Dreams
We consider the Brewery of Broken Dreams to be another one of the best Finger Lakes breweries. We first sampled beer from this brewery at the Finger Lakes Regional Market which happened to coincide with our visit. On tap at the market was their Old Antics Amber Ale and the Onadock Vienna Style Lager. We were so impressed with the flavor that we drove straight to their tasting room to try more!
I (Toccara) really enjoyed their Summer Blues Wheat Ale and Davis Street APA, whereas Sam’s favorites were the Tear Hop DIPA, Floating Leaf Brown Porter Ale, and the Shadow Wit Ale. You can see their full list of brews HERE. The Brewery of Broken Dreams is proud to be a New York State Farm Brewery. 70% or more of their ingredients are grown in the state of NY, including 100% of their hops and 100% of their base malts.
Finger Lakes Beer Company
Finger Lakes Beer Company offers a wide selection of beers, including wheats, ales, pilsners, porters, and several specialty beers like their barrel aged Wassail on Nitro! There is often live music going on at FLBC (every weekend in the summer months). And on select dates throughout the year, food trucks are set up on the grounds serving local cuisine. Otherwise, they always have New York cheese, crackers, peanuts, and pepperoni available for purchase.
You are welcome to enjoy their beers in the tasting room/bar or head out to the beer garden and enjoy some yard games with friends and other patrons. Choose from a tasting flight, pints, crowlers, growlers, and kegs… they’ve got it all! For more information about Finger Lakes Beer Company, click HERE.
Steuben Brewing Company
Sorry Steuben, you were one of our least favorite breweries in the Finger Lakes. It may have had something to do with the fact that you were out of quite a few of your beers on the night we visited. I believe there were only 5 to choose from, so our options were somewhat limited. It was mostly bitters and heavies on tap, so while Sam may have enjoyed one of your IPAs, I was left feeling unsatisfied with options for a smooth and refreshing beer. The venue, live music, atmosphere, and scenic lake views were noteworthy, so maybe we’ll have to give you another try when you’ve got a little more to offer! (Readers: For reference, you can check out their potential beer options HERE.)
Abandon Brewing Company is another Keuka Lake brewery located on the north side of the lake.
Seneca Lake Breweries
Seneca Lake is the largest of the Finger Lakes. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are more breweries around Seneca Lake than any other Finger Lake. The largest cluster of breweries can be found on the Eastern side of the lake, including another one of our favorites.
Grist Iron Brewing Company
Grist Iron Brewing Company has it all… gorgeous views over Seneca Lake, delicious food (house smoked BBQ and oh, those tots!), incredible beer, weekly live music, and even nice lodging options! Hands down, it’s our favorite Finger Lakes brewery. Their house-brewed beers are made in the traditional American style, each made unique with a special twist. Pumpkin was the flavor of the season during our Fall visit to the Finger Lakes and Grist Iron’s pumpkin ale (served with a cinnamon sugar rim) won the award in our book! We liked it so much we had to go back for a second tasting.
Looking for lodging in the Finger Lakes? Check out this post detailing where we stayed, or take a look at The Lodge at Grist Iron. I think next time we’ll stay at The Lodge, so we can have daily access to the awesomeness that is Grist Iron Brewing!
Rooster Fish Brewing
Rooster Fish Brewing had the most unique tasting beer of all of the Finger Lakes beer we sampled. Really, where else can you drink a spicy sriracha blonde ale? They have a rotating offering with at least 5 craft-style small batch beers and up to 4 seasonal and special brews. Rooster Fish proudly holds the title as one of the first New York State Farm breweries and uses locally grown hops from Pedersen Farms. Their location in the heart of downtown Watkins Glen, steps from Seneca Lake, is the perfect stop-in on a walkabout town. Check out their events page and catch a live music session while enjoying their deliciously unique beers.
Seneca Lake Brewing Company & The Beerocracy Pub
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a traditional Tudor style British pub at The Beerocracy at Seneca Lake Brewing Company. It’s the only dedicated cask ale brewery in the state of New York. Cask ale is unfiltered and is best served at cellar temperature (between 52 and 57 degrees). This warmer temperature allows the flavor to blossom and empowers the unfiltered texture. Experience a true British pub environment, culture, and traditions.
The pub is a cell phone free environment. If you’re caught using your phone in the pub, you’ll be fined $10 (which is generously donated to a local charity). So unplug for a bit and enjoy conversations with friends, the bar keepers, and fellow patrons. Seneca Lake Brewing Company also offers on-site lodging (May-October). Book a stay in one of their two glamping tents and enjoy the beauty of Seneca Lake and the surrounding area.
Two Goats Brewing
While Two Goats Brewing definitely wins for most scenic views, we thought their beer was just ok. Maybe we were getting ‘beered out’ by this point. It certainly wasn’t terrible, just not our favorite. We each just got a pint, rather than a flight (because they strangely don’t offer flights). Maybe we would’ve found something more to our liking if we had sampled more. Two Goats was actually recommended to us by some very knowledgeable and beer-savvy locals. I have no doubt that they offer some excellent beers; we just didn’t happen to sample any that day.
Here’s a look at their beer menu. The tasting room and dining area is located in a renovated 19th century barn, complete with a deck providing sweeping views of Seneca Lake. The building is powered by solar. Two Goats only serves one entree in their establishment – a roast beef sandwich, made with naturally-raised local beef from Schrader Farms.
Wagner Valley Brewing Company
Wagner Valley Brewing Company is one of the oldest craft breweries in the Finger Lakes. Started in 1997, it was the first craft brewery on Seneca Lake. It is located on the grounds of Wagner Vineyards, so it’s one of few locations in the Finger Lakes where you can sample both beer and wine! Wagner Valley Brewing Company currently offers 12 beers on tap, rotating between light to dark and bitter to sweet offerings. Choose from sours, bocks, IPAs, pilsners, lagers, hefeweizens, porters, and even a delicious non-alcoholic root beer.
The Ginny Lee Cafe, also located on the grounds, is a lovely option for lunch overlooking the vineyards and Seneca Lake. Pair delicious entrees with some of Wagner’s award-winning beer or wine for the most delightful afternoon in the Finger Lakes. You can read more about our time around Seneca Lake, including our visit to Wagner Vineyards and the Ginny Lee Cafe, HERE.
Other breweries near Watkins Glen NY and Seneca Lake include: Lucky Hare Brewing Company (which we hear is amazing, though we didn’t get the opportunity to visit) and Scale House Brewery. War Horse Brewing Company, Bottomless Brewing, Twisted Rail Brewing Company, Lake Drum Brewing, WeBe Brewing Company, GAEL Brewing Company, and Glass Factory Bay Brewing, are all located in Geneva, NY near Seneca Lake.
Cayuga Lake Breweries
By the time we got to Cayuga Lake, we had been in the Finger Lakes region for over a week and dare I say, we had gotten our fill of beer! As such, we wanted to switch over and enjoy some of what the region is most well known for – WINE! We enjoyed several stops along the Cayuga Wine Trail. You can read more about our visit to Cayuga Lake and its wineries, including a stay in a cozy cabin at a vineyard HERE!
Bacchus Brewing Company
In our quest to visit more wineries near Cayuga Lake, we..
Before we get to Finger Lakes lodging, here’s a little bit of info about the region! The Finger Lakes in NY is a beautiful 9,000 square mile region in lower central New York. 14 counties make up the Finger Lakes region, extending from Rochester to Syracuse and from Lake Ontario to the border of Pennsylvania.
While most well known as a wine-producing region, specifically world-renowned Rieslings, the Finger Lakes has quickly become NY’s premier craft brewery destination. Distilleries and cideries are also popping up around the region, so you definitely won’t go thirsty, no matter your beverage of choice!
Despite these wonderful offerings, the Finger Lakes region isn’t just for those 21 and up. There’s a ton to do for people of all ages, including more than 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails, sailing, kayaking, scenic plane and glider rides, 125+ museums, 80+ art galleries. There is boundless beauty to discover in the 25+ state parks. The region is literally flowing with countless gorgeous waterfalls! There are over 1000 waterfalls and gorges to discover! We’ll even tell you where to find the best Finger Lakes waterfalls.
Though we’re assuming you’ve come to this post, because you’ve already decided to visit and are now trying to figure out where to stay in the Finger Lakes. Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll give you an idea of where to stay in the region depending on what you want to visit and experience. We’ll also highlight 3 specific places to stay in the Finger Lakes, based on where we stayed during our 12-day visit.
Where to Stay in the Finger Lakes
As mentioned, the Finger Lakes region in New York state covers an area of over 9,000 square miles, so no doubt there is plenty of lodging close to where you want to be! The length of your visit, along with what you hope to see and do, will help you decide where to make your home base.
During our 12-day visit, we stayed 2 nights in Hammondsport (near Keuka Lake), 3 nights in Corning, 4 nights in Watkins Glen (near Seneca Lake), and 2 nights in Romulus (near Cayuga Lake). If you only have a few days or even just a long weekend, you may want to select one or two places to stay in the Finger Lakes.
We strongly urge you to rent a car for your time in the region, unless of course you drove your own vehicle to the Finger Lakes. That being said, we also encourage you to have a designated driver if you plan on visiting several of the wineries, breweries, and/or cideries. Otherwise, look into one of these winery or brew tours.
While we cannot personally comment on areas we did not visit, we really enjoyed the central location of our stays, particularly near the three largest lakes (Seneca, Cayuga, and Keuka). We found that we were able to get to most of what we wanted to see within a 30 minute drive each day. Be sure to check out our posts for each to help you determine where you may want to base yourself: Hammondsport & Keuka Lake | Watkins Glen & Seneca Lake | Romulus/Interlaken & Cayuga Lake. If your time is super limited, we would recommend Hammondsport and/or Watkins Glen due to their close proximity to many of the regions’ best highlights.
Places to Stay in the Finger Lakes
There are so many options for Finger Lakes lodging. With over 300 bed and breakfasts to choose from, you’ve got plenty of options. Want to rough it just a little? Choose from close to 100 public campgrounds, including at the #1 and #3 state parks in NY (Letchworth and Watkins Glen). Looking for something a little more upscale? The Finger Lakes is also home to many wonderful luxury resorts, including “America’s Best Waterfront Hotel” as voted by USA Today. Keep scrolling to read more about our experience at this luxury hotel on Seneca Lake.
And of course there are plenty of Finger Lakes cottage and home rentals to choose from. So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at where we stayed. And we’ll also provide you with other nearby options to consider.
Finger Lakes House Rentals
We absolutely love renting houses when we travel, because we appreciate the full spread of amenities. Having access to a full kitchen is especially helpful, as we now travel with a toddler in tow. In the adorable town of Hammondsport along the shore of Keuka Lake, we stayed in a Finger Lakes house rental. The Gulf Stream House was a half block from the lake and mere steps from the village square.
There are 3 apartment-style set-ups within the Gulf Stream House. We occupied Apartment #10 on the first floor, which can accommodate 4 guests. All of the apartments have their own private entrance and amenities. Included in each apartment are a full kitchen (fridge, dishwasher, microwave, coffee maker, etc.), dining area, living room, cable TV, WiFi, and of course a comfortable bedroom.
The Gulf Stream House is actually run by the same fine folks who run the Village Tavern Restaurant and Inn. Not only do they have two other rental properties (the Champagne House and the 1835 House), but they also offer 4 rooms of Finger Lakes lodging at the Village Tavern Inn. Stay right above the Village Tavern in the heart of the Hammondsport town square.
Have almost immediate access to some of the best restaurants in town, including the Village Tavern itself. The tavern offers a nice selection of fresh fish and seafood (mussels, clams, and oysters), in addition to steaks, prime rib, chicken, pasta, vegetarian dishes, and salads. And be sure not to miss their hearty Sunday Brunch, complete with $3 mimosas all day and $2 draft beers from 10 am – 12 pm. For more ideas of places to eat and things to check out, check out our post on Hammondsport NY.
Finger Lakes Cabins
Ever stayed at a cabin on a vineyard? Neither had we until we visited Buttonwood Grove Winery in Romulus NY, near Cayuga Lake. Buttonwood Grove offers Finger Lakes cabins in a peaceful forest setting. Enjoy stunning views of their vineyard, along with Cayuga Lake in the distance, from the front porch of one of their four cabins.
Check in is at 3 pm, but you are always more than welcome to arrive early and enjoy some of their delicious wine. Sample a variety on wines in their tasting room and/or enjoy a glass of your favorite on their large deck over looking the vineyard and lake. Be sure to stop by and say hello to Melody, the Scottish highland cow who resides on property. Check out our Cayuga Lake write-up to learn more about Buttonwood Grove Winery and other things to do around the 2nd largest Finger Lake.
All of Buttonwood’s Finger Lakes cabins come equipped with a mini kitchen area, including a small fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. However, you must supply your own utensils, cutlery, and dishes. The Buttonwood Grove cabins also have a full complement of linens, including bedding, blankets, and towels.
Each cabin contains a queen size bed, with a pull-out sofa in the living room. The pull-out is not really recommended for adults, but could could come in handy if you’re traveling with a small child or two. Luxurious travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion are available in the bathroom, allowing you to pack light!
Depending on your traveling party size, rent one cabin or rent them all! There are 4 to choose from. You can more about the different cabins HERE. In addition to the amenities listed above, each cabin comes with a charcoal grill (charcoal NOT included), picnic table, and fire pit. One complimentary bundle of firewood is provided and additional firewood is available for purchase.
The winery also provides a selection of their award-winning wine in each cabin. Simply pay for the bottles you consume. Something to keep in mind when booking at Buttonwood Grove is that it IS a working farm winery. There may occasionally be tractors and other loud equipment in operation.
They also host a variety of events throughout the year including private parties and weddings, in addition to their popular Friday Night Deck Parties. All events end by 11:00 pm, but this is something to keep in mind if you’re hoping for a completely serene atmosphere. Another thing to mention is that a recording of a squawking bird of prey plays over loud speakers in the vineyards when the vines are in bloom. It is intermittent, but constant during daylight hours. Its purpose is to deter other birds from swooping in to pluck grapes from the vineyards.
There were no parties or events happening during our stay. We were the only guests on property. So, once the sun went down (and the intermittent squawking stopped), it was a truly peaceful and romantic atmosphere. One we can highly recommend if you’re looking for unique lodging in the Finger Lakes.
Luxury Finger Lakes Hotels
Looking for luxurious Finger Lakes lodging? Look no further than the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen. Located steps away from Seneca Lake and marina, the Harbor Hotel is one of the best Finger Lakes hotels on the water.
In fact, is was voted “America’s Best Waterfront Hotel” by USA Today. The hotel features an indoor pool, jacuzzi, and fully-equipped fitness center, in addition to wonderful dining options. Its location on the largest lake in the Finger Lakes and in the heart of the historic downtown district cannot be beat!
From the hotel, walk to the Glen Harbor Marina and set sail on a historic schooner (the True Love). Or wander into town and visit one of New York state’s first farm breweries (Rooster Fish). There’s so much within easy walking distance of the Harbor Hotel. You can even walk just over 1/2 mile to reach the absolutely stunning Watkins Glen State Park. Read more about things to do in and around town in our Watkins Glen write-up.
The Harbor Hotel has 104 deluxe guests rooms and suites. Many rooms on the hotel’s north side have balconies with stunning views over the lake. You can also enjoy nice lake views at The Patio, the hotel’s upscale outdoor dining option, an extension of the Blue Pointe Grill and Coldwater Bar. More on dining at the Harbor Hotel next!
The weather was perfect during our mid-September visit and we couldn’t resist the urge to dine outside at The Patio. The sun setting over the lake created the most romantic scene. We can’t promise you a picture-perfect sunset, but we can almost guarantee that you will love the fresh and local flavors at Blue Pointe Grill. Steak, seafood, and salads dominate their tempting classic American menu. Their selection of wines naturally includes many from award-winning local wineries. Your server will be more than happy to recommend a local wine that will compliment your meal nicely.
The Harbor Hotel is truly one of the best Finger Lakes resorts. It will always hold a special place in our hearts, because it is where we celebrated our son’s 1st Birthday! Once the staff caught wind of our special occasion, they went out of their way to make it even more extraordinary! They even threw in some fireworks!
I kid about the fireworks! Though there did happen to be an event going on at Seneca Harbor Park during our stay. And that event did include a fireworks show each night, including the night of our son’s 1st Birthday! Glass in the Glen celebrated the 150th anniversary of the relocation of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company from Brooklyn to Corning. It was neat to happen upon such a fun celebration! There seems to ALWAYS be something going on in the Finger Lakes. Check out this event page to see what’s taking place during your visit.
No matter where you choose for your Finger Lakes lodging, you will be close to something AMAZING!
When most people think of waterfalls in New York, their thoughts immediately go to Niagara Falls. And while Niagara definitely wins in overall size, the Finger Lakes region in Central New York wins in sheer quantity! The region is home to over 1,000 waterfalls and gorges. We had a chance to visit quite a few of these stunning falls during our September visit. So, we wanted to share with you what we consider to be the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.
Watkins Glen State Park
To access the most waterfalls in the Finger Lakes at once, head to Watkins Glen State Park near Seneca Lake. A stroll along the Gorge Trail features 19 waterfalls in just under 2 miles. We detail this top New York state attraction in greater details in our post about Things to Do in Watkins GlenNY.
More Seneca Lake Waterfalls Hector Falls
Following a visit to Watkins Glen State Park, a <10-minute drive along the east side of Seneca Lake (on Route 414) will take you right to Hector Falls. It’s easily one of the most accessible waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, as you can see these falls from the road. Carefully pull off to the side of the road and walk across the bridge to see the falls. Please use extreme caution as you are walking alongside a busy road. Here you will see the upper portion of Hector Falls.
You can see the entire falls (165 ft) in all of its glory from Seneca Lake. This is all the more reason you should take a sail on the True Love Schooner boat (one of the top things to do in Watkins Glen NY). We first visited Hector Falls on our son’s 1st Birthday, so it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Just over 5 minutes in the other direction (south of Watkins Glen) is the 156-foot tall Chequaga “Shequaga” Falls. It is also located just off the roadside (at the head of Main Street in the village of Montour Falls). Though it requires about a 1-minute walk to reach the base of the falls. The water cascades under the Mill Street Bridge. Shequaga Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, in our opinion.
We just found it so fascinating to come across such a sight when driving through a quaint residential neighborhood. The town of Montour Falls was added to the National Historic Register in 1978 for its beautiful and historical architecture, quaint shops and restaurants. As such, it’s a lovely village to simply go for a stroll. We also were really charmed by the rustic old Chevy truck located at the house across the street from the falls. Hopefully it’s still there when you visit!
Cayuga Lake Waterfalls
Besides our luxurious stay at the waterfront Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen, we also stayed in a comfortable and cozy cabin at Buttonwood Grove Winery. Our time at Buttonwood gave us easy access to many of the nice Finger Lakes waterfalls near Cayuga Lake, including the falls at Taughannock Falls State Park, Robert H Treman State Park, and Buttermilk Falls State Park. Unlike the falls near Seneca Lake, most of these picturesque waterfalls required a little bit of a hike to get to.
Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park, located near the shores of Cayuga Lake, is home to the namesake waterfall Taughannock Falls. At 215-feet, it is the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies and actually measures 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls! You can see the falls in all of its glory from a few different observation points.
Taughannock Falls Overlook
The easiest way to see Taughannock Falls is to drive to the overlook at the Taughannock Visitor Center. Here you can access free one-hour parking and stop by the center for local maps and park information. The center is typically open 10 am – 6 pm May-November; it closes in the winter months. A very short walk from the visitor center will bring you to an overlook that provides a stunning view of the falls below.
Want to get up close and personal with Taughannock Falls? Take a stroll on the 3/4-mile Gorge Trail. This trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible. At less than a mile, it’s an easy way to see the falls close up! Enjoy the leisurely walk along Taughannock Creek and feel the mist from the falls on your face as you approach the end of the trail. Also along this walk, mere steps from the parking area, is the 20-foot Lower Falls, also known as Little Falls (top middle image below).
For yet another view of the falls, head out on the 1.5-mile North Rim Trail, which can be accessed near the visitor center. This trail can be combined with the 1.2-mile South Rim Trail to form a loop hike offering views of the 100-foot Upper Falls, located upstream from Taughannock Falls.
Robert H Treman State Park
Robert H Treman State Park, located in Ithaca NY, offers 9 miles of hiking trails and plenty of Finger Lakes falls! Park highlights include a swimming area at the base of a waterfall and a wooded gorge trail taking hikers past 12 waterfalls alone.
An easy walk from a parking area in Treman State Park brings you past a peaceful stream and to the base of the 30-foot Lower Falls. This waterfall is also known as Enfield Falls, because of its location at the foot of the Enfield Glen. A designated swimming area, complete with a diving board and lifeguard, seems like it would be rather inviting on a warm summer day. Since it was a bit cooler during our September visit, there were only a few brave souls in the water. Whether or not you plan to swim in the waters beneath the falls, it’s a beautiful area to explore.
The hike to Lucifer Falls was the most challenging of all the hikes we did in the Finger Lakes. It was only made challenging by the fact that we had 30+ pound toddler strapped to our back. The trail(s) to the falls are ranked as moderate due to their elevation gain and many stairs. You can see Lucifer Falls from two different trails – Gorge Trail and Rim Trail.
From the upper parking lot area, we walked a little ways on the Gorge Trail until it crossed Enfield Creek and intersected with the Rim Trail, which we took to get back to the parking area. It was the perfect combination of trails to see Enfield Gorge and various waterfalls, including the 115-feet Lucifer Falls (middle image below). There are many combinations of hikes within the park. Access the Robert H Treman State Park hiking map HERE.
Buttermilk State Park
Buttermilk State Park is just a 2.5 mile journey from Robert H Treman State Park. You can easily do both parks in one day and in fact, we encourage it. Each park requires a day use fee, though once you pay, your pass is good all day at any New York State Parks. So, double up and get your money’s worth!
TIP: If you’re planning to visit multiple state parks during your trip to New York, you may want to consider the annual Empire Pass. This pass provides unlimited day-use access to most facilities operated by New York State Parks and the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
See the park’s namesake waterfall (Buttermilk Falls) before you even get to the (Lower Park) entrance booth! Once inside the park, 6 trails lead to varying beautiful landscapes. The popular .75-mile Gorge Trail is moderately strenuous and takes you into the heart of the gorge. For a more leisurely stroll, enter at the Upper Park entrance to access the 1.5-mile relatively flat Lake Treman Trail. We packed a picnic and enjoyed our lunch with front row views of Buttermilk Falls.
Letchworth State Park
Located about an hour from village of Hammondsport on Keuka Lake is one of the top state parks in the country! Letchworth State Park was voted the #1 State Park in the US by USA Today in 2015 and the Best NY State Attraction in 2017. Letchworth has been appropriately named the Grand Canyon of the East. Its deep gorge runs approximately 17 miles alongside the Genesee River, with cliffs in the park reaching up to 600 feet high!
Letchworth State Park’s main attractions are its 3 stunning waterfalls along the Genesee River – Upper Falls (70-feet), Middle Falls (107-feet), and Lower Falls (70 feet). Overlooks to all 3 falls can be accessed via short walks from parking areas off the main road running through the park. Refer to the South Section park map for details on where to park in order to access the falls. If you’d rather explore the falls on foot, take a journey on the 7-mile Gorge Trail. Or for a truly unique experience, take a ride over the falls in a hot air balloon ride with Balloons Over Letchworth.
So, as you can see, Niagara isn’t the only impressive waterfall in New York. The Finger Lakes has plenty of gorge-ous gorges and extraordinary waterfalls for you to discover!
Acadia National Park is one of America’s most popular national parks. Once you drive onto Mt Desert Island, it’s not hard to see why. Rugged coastline, colorful flora, and scenic lakes make up this 49,000 acre park. It’s only natural that you’ll want to get outside as much as possible during your time in Acadia. When researching things to do in Acadia National Park, you quickly notice there are not too many indoor activities listed! With an abundance of Acadia National Park hiking trails to choose from, you might have a hard time deciding which one to hit first! Allow us to help!
Scenes of rugged coastline await you in Acadia
We had a full week to explore the park during our fall visit. The weather was pretty nice for most of the week, so we were able to squeeze in several of the best hikes in Acadia National Park. At the time of our visit, our son had just turned 1 year the month before. As such, we had to stick to Acadia hikes that were not too strenuous (for when we had our baby carrying backpack) or that were stroller friendly when our backs needed a break!
So, for the sake of this post, we’ll be highlighting relatively easy Acadia National Park hikes. Many are deemed as family-friendly hikes, which is great if you’re traveling to Acadia with your little ones. Even if you don’t have kids and are simply looking for a leisurely stroll with outstanding views, we’ve got you covered! We’ll also throw in two strenuous Acadia trails at the end of the post, that we weren’t able to do ourselves, in case you’re feeling up for more of a challenge!
Getting to the Acadia Trails Acadia Parking
Seeing as Acadia is one of the most popular national parks in the US, no doubt parking can be a little problematic, especially during July and August, the park’s busiest two months. We actually found parking to be quite limited during our October visit. We were among the many ‘leaf-peepers’ who flocked to New England hoping for a glimpse of the vibrant fall foliage! On several occasions, we had to wait for a parking spot to become available at Acadia’s most popular natural attractions, like Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond. In fact, as we were leaving Cadillac Mountain, park rangers had to close the road to the summit. The parking area had reached capacity and there was still a long line of cars waiting to reach the summit.
So, how can you avoid these parking headaches? For starters, try to avoid the park’s busiest months (July, August, and October during peak foliage). Consider a late-May, early-June, or early-September visit to Acadia for favorable weather and fewer crowds. Though be aware, there are typically biting bugs mid-May through mid-June, so don’t forget to pack your bug spray! Another way to avoid the Acadia parking woes is to take advantage of the FREE shuttle service that runs during the park’s popular tourist season.
Acadia Shuttle Bus Service
If you’d rather someone else do the driving or you simply don’t want to deal with Acadia’s often crowded parking areas, take advantage of the FREE Island Explorer Shuttle Bus. Please note, the shuttle only runs in the busy summer months (late June through mid-October/Columbus Day). Park Loop Drive is a 27-mile route that takes visitors to several of Acadia National Park’s most popular attractions and destinations. Fortunately, Park Loop Drive is one of 10 routes of the Island Explorer shuttle service. Stops along Park Loop Drive include the Visitor Center, North Ridge, Sieur de Monts Spring, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Wildwood Stables, Jordan Pond, and Bubble Pond. It’s important to note that some portions of Park Loop Drive are one-way and the shuttle only travels in one direction along this particular route.
You might be thinking, Ok, wait… I thought this post was about Acadia National Park hiking?! Don’t worry, we’re getting there! We wanted to make mention that many of the Acadia hikes we’re about to highlight can be reached from Park Loop Road. Furthermore, we wanted to note that Park Loop Road is one of 10 routes of the Island Explorer Shuttle Bus. So, if you’re visiting during the summer months, feel free to utilize the Acadia National Park shuttle service to get to and between hikes on Mt Desert Island. For detailed shuttle information, including all 10 routes and timetables, click HERE. And now, without further adieu, now let’s get into details about the best Acadia trails in the park!
One of many gorgeous scenes off of Park Loop Road
Best Hikes in Acadia National ParkOcean Path
The Ocean Path trail is a great way to see the most beautiful segment of Park Loop Road by foot! Start at the south end of the upper parking area for Sand Beach. The mostly flat trail meanders 2.2 miles along the rugged Atlantic coast leading all the way to Otter Point. Because the elevation gain is less than 400 feet, it’s a great family-friendly hike. Dogs are permitted on the Ocean Path trail, but must be kept on a leash.
At about the half-way point, you’ll come to Thunder Hole. When waves crash into this naturally carved rock inlet it creates a thunderous roar, hence the name! Though if you visit on a day when the seas are calm, like we did, you may wonder what all the hype is about! If you do luck out and get to see Thunder Hole in action from the designated viewing area, be warned… you may get wet! Waves crashing into the inlet have been known to shoot water up to 40 feet in the air!
Want to add a little challenge to this easy Acadia hike? About halfway between Thunder Hole and Otter Point is the trailhead for Gorham Mountain Trail. (You’ll see a small parking area on the opposite side of the Park Loop Drive.) This 1.6 mile out and back trail takes you up another 400+ feet for spectacular panoramic views up and down the coast. Otter Cliff is located at the southern most end of the Ocean Path trail. Keep an eye out for rock climbers and repellers on the cliff front.
Just before you reach Otter Cliff is Monument Cove on the left where you can take a brief side trail to yet another spectacular viewpoint. Once you’ve reached Otter Point, head on back to the Sand Beach parking lot to complete the close to 4.5-mile hike. If you took the shuttle bus to the start of the trail, you can get back on the bus either at Thunder Hole or Sand Beach to continue your day in Acadia National Park!
Ocean Path is a mostly flat trail along Park Loop Road
Ocean Path Trail Summary: Distance: 4.5 Miles RT (out and back) | Elevation Gain: 374 ft Trailhead Location: Upper Lot at Sand Beach Island Explorer Shuttle Stop: Park Loop Road Route | Sand Beach Stop
Great Head Trail
Great Head Trail can also be reached from the Sand Beach parking area (specifically, the lower lot). We had all intentions of doing this easy Acadia hike, but having to cross a silly little stream unfortunately stopped us from doing so. (We simply didn’t want to risk slipping with our infant in our backpack carrier and we didn’t have waterproof shoes with us.) Depending on the tide at the time you choose to hike Great Head Trail, you may or may not have to forge this small stream leading out to the Atlantic.
Once you’ve made it to the official trailhead, you’ll begin the hike by climbing a fairly steep set of granite steps. Follow the blue trail markers to ensure you navigate the stairs correctly. Take a right at the top of the steps to a ledge that will provide sweeping views of Sand Beach below and The Beehive in the distance. Continue on the trail as you traverse the headland, enjoying the dramatic coastal views.
The highest point on the trail is 145 feet above sea level which you’ll reach with a gradual ascent. The total elevation gain for the trail is 245 feet, so not too strenuous! Before the trail turns away from the shore and into the forest, you’ll see the remains of a tea house from 1915. At this point, you have two options: At the wooden trail marker, turn left for a shorter loop (1.3 miles) back to Sand Beach or continue straight for a longer route (1.9 miles).
Great Head Trail offers great views of Sand Beach and up the coast
Great Head Trail Summary: Distance: 1.3-1.9 miles (loop) | Elevation Gain: 265-301 ft Trailhead Location: Lower Lot at Sand Beach Island Explorer Shuttle Stop: Park Loop Road Route | Sand Beach Stop
The Wonderland Trail was our first introduction to Acadia National Park hiking and we were instantly hooked! This is the perfect trail for families with children, as it not too long (1.4 miles), easy terrain, and there are tidepools to explore! The Wonderland Trail trailhead is located about 5 miles south of the town of Southwest Harbor on the “quiet side of Acadia”. Walk 0.6 miles through a calming forest to the rocky coastline at the peak of the trail. You’ll see the point of land that makes up the Ship Harbor Trail (which we’ll talk about next) to the right. Look left to see various islands off the coast, including Swans Island, Placenta Island, Great Gott Island, and Great Cranberry Island.
Wonderland Trail is perfect for even the smallest of travelers!
The highlight of the Wonderland Trail is definitely the tidepools at the end of the trail! Be sure to visit at low tide (check the tide chart HERE). Low tide provide you with the opportunity to peek into these shallow pools of water teeming with life. While we didn’t see as much sea-life as we did during our visit to Rialto Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, it was still a fascinating ecological experience! When visiting the tidepools, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. The rocks and algae can be slippery, so please watch your step. Do not step in or sit in the tidepools and do not remove any sea creatures from the tidepools. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the intertidal zone, head on back to the trailhead.
Visit the Wonderland Trail at low tide to experience the colorful tide pools
Wonderland Trail Summary: Distance: 1.4 miles (out and back) | Elevation Gain: 78 ft Trailhead Location: Route 102A (1 mile south of the Seawall Campground) Island Explorer Shuttle Stop: Southwest Harbor Route | Seawall Campground or Bass Harbor Campground Stop (You will need to walk a mile (each way) to get to/from the trailhead from either bus stop)
Ship Harbor Nature Trail
Just 1/3 mile south of the Wonderland Trailhead is the Ship Harbor Nature Trailhead. Because they’re so close to one another and both short and easy hikes in Acadia National Park, you could combine the two for a wonderful morning or afternoon of hiking. (The total distance (including both trails and the distance between) would equal an easy 3 miles.) Without a doubt, we can say that Ship Harbor Nature Trail is one of the best hikes in Acadia National Park and it should not be missed! The trail itself is very diverse with ever changing scenery.
Ship Harbor Trail offers the most diverse scenery of all Acadia Trails
Like the Wonderland Trail, the Ship Harbor Nature Trail navigates a spit of land leading to a rocky area complete with tidepools at the point’s peak. In June, September, and October you can partake in the ranger-led program Life Between the Tides at Ship Harbor. Check the Schedule of Events for specific times. Fun Fact: Ship Harbor get its from the tale of smugglers who would sail into the protected cove at high water and tie trees to their topmasts to hide from the English revenuers.
More tide pools and stunning views are found off the Ship Harbor Trail
Ship Harbor Nature Trail Summary: Distance: 1.3 miles (loop) | Elevation Gain: 65 ft Trailhead Location: Route 102A (<1 mile north of the Bass Harbor Campground) Island Explorer Shuttle Stop: Southwest Harbor Route | Bass Harbor Campground Stop (You will need to walk just under a mile (each way) to get to/from the trailhead from the campground bus stop)
The Jordan Pond Loop Trail is one of the most popular Acadia National Park hikes. Because it is such a popular hike in Acadia, we had to wait for a parking spot to open up. The parking lot is also shared by those visiting the famous Jordan Pond House restaurant, the only full-service restaurant located within the national park. (Though there is a separate parking lot for people just visiting the restaurant.) Jordan Pond House has been serving its famous popovers with jam and tea since the 1890s. The new building, built in 1982, replaced the original building which was destroyed by a fire in 1979. Tea on the lawn has been a summer tradition since Nellie McIntire began the custom in the late 1800s.
The surrounding area is simply gorgeous. Jordan Pond was formed by glaciers and its waters are about as clear as it gets! The pond is surrounded by beautiful mountains – Pemetic Mountain to the east and Penobscot Mountain to the west. In addition, The Bubbles, a pair of rounded mountains, lie to the north.
Jordan Pond is exceptionally clear with an average visibility depth of ~50 feet
Jordan Pond Trail was the most crowded of all the hikes we did in Acadia. Despite this, we would still highly recommend you take a nice stroll around the pond. The entire path around the pond is 3.4 miles. Though we only chose to do a portion of the trail on the North Shore. A narrow boardwalk winds through the forest on the shoreline of the pond. Since hikers travel on the path in both directions, you may occasionally have to step aside to let oncoming traffic pass. The trail is mostly flat but because of the narrowness of the path you’ll want to wear sturdy footwear and watch your step!
Jordan Pond Trail is one of the most popular Acadia Trails
Jordan Pond Trail Summary: Distance: 3.4 miles (loop) | Elevation Gain: 95 ft Trailhead Location: Western Side of Park Loop Road Island Explorer Shuttle Stop: Park Loop Road Route – Jordan Pond Stop OR Jordon Pond Route – Jordan Pond Stop
Looking for a completely (wheelchair) accessible or stroller-friendly hike in Acadia? You will definitely want to check out the 45 miles of carriage roads that meander throughout the mountains and valleys of the park. These 16-foot wide car-free roads are the gift of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family. Construction of the roads (and its 17 stone bridges) took place between 1913 and 1940 and thousands upon thousands of visitors to Acadia have been enjoying these roads ever since. Since the roads were originally built for horse-drawn carriages, they were carefully graded so they were not too steep or too sharply curved. As such, the roads are perfect for a leisurely stroll, bike ride, or horse-back ride.
Please note that bikes are prohibited on privately owned carriage roads. Also, there are some limitations for horses on certain segments. Particularly, horses are prohibited on the Witch Hole Pond & Paradise Hill Loops. They are also prohibited on the Eagle Lake Loop, except between intersections 7 and 8. Check out this map of the carriage roads for all restrictions and other relevant information. Also note that dogs are permitted on the carriage roads, but must be restrained on a <6-foot leash. There are various points at which you can join the network of carriage roads. Therefore, you can make your hike (or bike ride) as long or as short as you wish!
The White Mountains cover about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire. This rugged New England mountain range also dips into the neighboring state of Maine. Several state parks, in addition to the White Mountain National Forest, make up the area, which is mostly public land. The mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountains, with a portion of the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail traversing through the range. Just over 100 miles (160 km) of the trail meanders through the White Mountain National Forest.
If you’re coming to the White Mountains from out of state or country, Boston (BOS) International Airport is probably your best bet. The journey from Boston to the White Mountains takes approximately 2-3 hours. Once you get the logistics of your transportation figured out, let’s get planning! There are so many wonderful things to do in the White Mountains! Our multi-generational trip to the White Mountains included us and our 1-year-old son, in addition to Sam’s parents who are in their early 60s. The White Mountains New Hampshire is a fun-for-all-ages family-friendly destination!
I-93 cuts right through the heart of the White Mountains and White Mountain National Forest
White Mountain National Forest
The White Mountain National Forest covers approximately 800,000 acres (1,225 square miles) within the White Mountains. Like the mountain range, a small portion (~5.5%) of the forest is in the neighboring state of Maine. In fact, WMNF is the only National Forest located in either New Hampshire and Maine. And it is one of the most heavily visited National Forests in the US.
TIP: When you are in the White Mountain National Forest, be sure to have a National Forest Recreation Pass ($5*/daily). Self-service pay stations (see image below) can found at popular parking areas/trailheads around the forest. You can also purchase a pass at local area business, USFS Information Centers, and at the White Mountains Visitor Center (mentioned next). Annual National Forest Recreation Passes are available for $30* single/$40* household. *Prices are subject to change.
Whenever visiting the White Mountain National Forest, obtain a daily (or annual) pass
White Mountains Visitor Center
Be sure to stop by the White Mountains Visitor Center located off I-93 (Exit 32) to pick up some free brochures, maps, and local tips. Here you can purchase guide books, souvenirs, local products, a National Forest Recreation Pass, or a White Mountains Attractions Value Pass, which we’ll cover in the next segment. The center is staffed with knowledgeable locals who can give you tips on White Mountains attractions and places to eat in Lincoln. We had several delicious meals during our visit, so we’ve got some great Lincoln restaurant recommendations of our own!
The White Mountains Visitor Center is open 7 days a week year-round
White Mountains Attractions Value Pass
The White Mountains Attractions Value Pass (WMAVP, as it shall henceforth be known) is your DISCOUNTED ticket to the area’s hottest attractions! Save close to 70% on admission prices to 17 White Mountains Attractions! The 2019 WM Attractions Value Pass costs $399 and offers a value of over $1,200. Each pass (valid summer and fall only) is good for two admissions to each attraction highlighted below.
We were only able to do 7 of the 17 attractions included on the pass (so not even half) and we still came out ahead! There are a limited number of passes sold each year, so act quickly if you want to get in on the savings! Go to www.visitwhitemountains.com for more information and to secure your White Mountains Attractions Value Pass before they sell out for the season!
Things to Do in the White Mountains NH Flume Gorge
Included in the WMAVP: 2 General Admissions
Flume Gorge is a natural wonder within the White Mountains
Start your visit to Flume Gorge with a visit to the Gilman Visitor Center, located within Franconia Notch State Park. Here you can obtain your tickets for the gorge and see the state park system’s historic Concord Coach. At the visitor center, you can also purchase a snack or souvenir. In addition, learn more about the state park through an educational 20-minute movie. Please note that Flume Gorge is only open to visitors May through October (weather permitting). Also note that pets are not permitted in Flume Gorge (or the visitor center). Check their website for more information, including precise dates and hours of operation.
Be among the first to arrive at Flume Gorge to avoid the crowds
There is a shuttle bus that takes visitors from the Gilman Visitor Center to near the start of Flume Gorge. We chose to walk the extra 0.7 miles on the well-marked trail leading to the Gorge. It’s important to note that the trail through the Gorge is not wheelchair accessible. The path includes a good amount of stairs and uphill walking. On the way to the Gorge, you’ll pass a red covered bridge that was built in 1886, making it one of the oldest in the state. Though, you might be able to tell, it has been restored several times.
As you walk through the Gorge, take time to read the signs about how this natural chasm formed and how it was discovered back in 1808. As you wander 800 feet through the gorge, gaze up at the walls of granite that rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet. Stand in awe as water rushes below the boardwalk and wooden stairs leading through the gorge. For a fun activity with the kids, print out this Flume Gorge Scavenger Hunt created by NH Parks & Recreation Department, prior to your visit.
The beauty of Flume Gorge will leave you speechless
Upon exiting this natural wonder, the adventure continues as you traverse a total of 2-miles of scenic walking trails. Visit other points of interest, such as Liberty Cascade, The Pool and Sentinel Pine Bridge. TIP: If you plan on also visiting the Cannon Aerial Tramway, but will not be getting the White Mountains Attractions Value Pass, consider getting the Discovery Pass which will give you discounted admission to both attractions!
Upon leaving the gorge, there is more natural beauty to discover
WATCH: Flume Gorge
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Included in the WMAVP: 2 Daytime General Admissions (May-October)
Lost River Gorge is absolutely GORGE-eous!
Beauty abounds at another one of New Hampshire’s greatest natural wonders! Follow the mile long boardwalk that meanders along and above the Lost River in Kinsman Notch. The path contains over 1,000 stairs. Furthermore, the path also takes you past several boulder caves that only the adventurous and nimble should attempt squeeze through. You are more than welcome to bypass the caves if you’re not feeling particularly pliable. There was one small section of the trail that was a little difficult for us to navigate with our son in a baby carrier backpack. But we just took our time and all was well! Lost River is truly a beautiful area that should definitely make its way onto your Things to Do in the White Mountains itinerary!
Over 1,000 steps guide you through the gorge… sturdy footwear is encouraged!
Recent additions include a treehouse, bird’s nest lookout, and a suspension bridge. Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves is open daily from mid-May to mid-October (weather depending). For more information, including hours of operation and ticket prices visit the Lost River Gorge website. And be sure to check out our easy hikes in the White Mountains New Hampshire post for even more great family friendly hikes in and around Lincoln NH.
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves are located just a short drive from Lincoln in Woodstock
WATCH: Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Ziplining with Alpine Adventures
Included in the WMAVP: 2 Tree Top Canopy Zipline Tours (reservations required)
Alpine Adventures is located in the heart of Lincoln NH
Soar 200 feet above the forest floor at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour at the largest and most award-winning adventure destination in New England! In addition to ziplining, Alpine Adventures offers off-roading excursions in their unique 6-wheel-drive Pinzgauers. With 300 private acres to explore, there’s no telling what fun you’ll discover! The adventure continues at their Big Air Bag Launch Zone and Thrillsville Aerial Park. For more information about their year-round tours visit Alpine Adventure’s website.
Looking for a thrill in Lincoln NH? Go ziplining with Alpine Adventures
WATCH: Ziplining with Alpine Adventures
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Included in the WMAVP: 2 Round-Trip Tramway Rides
Squeeze in! The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram cars can hold up to 80 passengers!
Back in 1938, Cannon Mountain became the site of the very first passenger aerial tramway in North America. The original tramway (two 25-passenger cable cars) has since been replaced with the current system, now two 80-passenger cars. A ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway will bring you to the 4,100 foot summit of Cannon Mountain in just under 10 minutes.
Enjoy stunning 360-degree views as you ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
If you are blessed with clear weather the day you visit the summit, you will be able to see 4 states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and New York) and Canada. A short path leads to the summit observation tower which offers some of the most spectacular views in the White Mountains. Congratulations! You have just reached New Hampshire’s highest lift-accessed point! To celebrate, grab a beer at the highest taps in the state or get a bite to eat in the cafeteria. Open May-October (weather permitting). If you’re feeling extra adventurous, buy a one-way hiker ticket and hike up or down the mountain! For more information about the aerial tramway, visit Cannon Mountain’s website.
If you plan to ride the tramway AND visit Flume Gorge, get the WMAVP or a Discovery Pass to save $$$
WATCH: Cannon Aerial Tramway
Conway Scenic Railroad
Included in the WMAVP: 2 Round-Trip Coach Tickets from North Conway to Conway or Bartlett
Hop on-board the Conway Scenic Railroad to experience beautiful New Hampshire landscapes
Departing from the elegant 1874 Victorian Station in North Conway, the Conway Scenic Railroad has several experiences for you to choose from. Take the Valley Train to Conway (11 miles/55-minutes) or Bartlett (21 miles/1.75 hours) or climb aboard the Notch Train for the legendary Crawford Notch excursion (5.5 hours). Once you decide on the journey type, select from Coach, First Class, or Dining Car seating.
Choose from a variety of journeys and train-car types on the Conway Scenic Rail
We rode on the historic Gertrude Emma First Class Car, built in 1898. Because we had our 1-year-old son with us, we opted for the 55-minute Valley Train. Though truth be told, we wish we would’ve chosen the longer Bartlett journey. It was fun to ride in the historic first class car, but..
If you’re like us, you enjoy hiking, but don’t necessarily want to commit a whole day to hiking. We’ll do an occasional day hike, but typically we prefer to spend 1-3 hours hiking and then move on to another nearby activity. This is precisely what we did during a recent visit to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. So, if you’re looking for short and/or easy hikes in the White Mountains, you’ve come to the right place! Besides hiking in the White Mountains, there are so many other awesome things to do in this beautiful region of New Hampshire. So before you go, be sure to check out our Things to Do in the White Mountains post.
We’ve compiled a list of relatively easy hikes in and around White Mountain National Forest. Many (but not all) of these hikes are considered family friendly; easy enough for young children. Looking for a challenge? There are several monster summits to be climbed in the White Mountains. Want a multi-day hike? 170 miles of the Appalachian Trail cuts right through the White Mountains! However, for the sake of this post, we’re sticking with the best hikes in the White Mountains ranging from 0.5-4 hours.
Artists Bluff is a 1.5-mile loop hike located in Franconia Notch State Park within the White Mountain National Forest. It is ranked easy to moderate in level of difficulty. There are a few steep portions and some boulders to scramble over. Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend this hike for small children (unless they are in a baby carrier backpack, like our son). Plan on 1-2 hours for this hike, with an optional short, but steep climb to the summit of Bald Mountain.
Artists Bluff | Bald Mountain is one of the best hikes in Franconia Notch State Park
To find the trailhead, take Exit 34C (Route 18) from the Franconia Notch Parkway (I-93) and turn left. Drive a half mile to a large unpaved parking area on the right (across from the Peabody Base Lodge). Toward the back of the lot, you’ll see a break in the trees and a small sign marking the trailhead. Grab some snacks and plenty of water and get ready to explore one of the best hikes in the White Mountains!
This rocky trail leads to some pretty incredible vistas!
A quarter-mile into the hike, you’ll come upon a sign pointing left for Bald Mountain and right for Artists Notch. The path left is a short, yet steep scramble to the summit of Bald Mountain. The final climb is not for the faint of heart, but the views are worth the exhilarating ascent. You are, of course, welcome to skip this portion of the hike and head right toward Artists Bluff. You’ll know you’re near the bluff when you come across a rock with the word Bluff painted in red pointing you in the correct direction.
Artists Bluff provides unrivaled views of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch
The bluff provides unrivaled views of Echo Lake, Cannon Mountain, and Franconia Notch. No wonder it’s often referred to as the best hike in Franconia Notch State Park. It’s also a favorite location in the White Mountains for watching the sunset. Once you’ve taken in the views at the bluff, continue on the trail which will put you out along Route 18 back in the direction of the parking area. Artists Bluff is a great hike to pair with a ride on the Cannon Aerial Tramway just a short drive away.
WATCH: Artists BluffFlume Gorge
Flume Gorge is one of the most popular things to do in the White Mountains. You must pay a nominal admission fee, but it’s an incredible White Mountains hike you do not want to miss! TIP: Planning to do a lot of activities during your visit to the White Mountains? Consider purchasing a White Mountains Attractions Value Pass to save close to 70% on admission prices to 17 White Mountains Attractions! Or if you at least plan on riding the Cannon Aerial Tramway, purchase a Discovery Pass which will give you discounted admission to both the tramway and Flume Gorge.
Flume Gorge hike is relatively easy, though there are many stairs in the gorge
A visit to The Flume starts with a stop at the Gilman Visitor Center. You can opt to take a shuttle from the visitor center to the start of the Gorge or you can simply walk the 0.7 mile trail to get to the start of this natural wonder! While the trail leading to the Gorge is wheelchair accessible, the Flume Gorge hike is not. There are many stairs. Once in the Gorge, take time to read signs that explain how the Gorge was formed, and how it was discovered back in 1808. If you’ve got kids with you, print out this Flume Gorge Scavenger Hunt created by NH Parks & Recreation Department, before you visit Flume Gorge.
Flume Gorge is open May-October and closes during the winter months
Upon leaving the Flume Trail, continue on the nature trail for a total of 2-miles, visiting other points of interest, including Liberty Cascade, The Pool and Sentinel Pine Bridge. For more information, including Flume Gorge hours and ticket prices, visit the Flume Gorge website.
You can just do the Gorge or walk the entire 2-mile nature loop (highly recommended!)
WATCH: Flume Gorge
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves is another easy to moderate walk in the White Mountains that requires an admission fee. (It’s also included in the White Mountains Attractions Value Pass.) Don’t worry, we’ll cover a lot more FREE White Mountains hikes throughout this post! Lost River Gorge offers a 1-mile loop trail on a boardwalk meandering along and above the Lost River in Kinsman Notch. More than 1,000 stairs await you, so this hike unfortunately is not suited for strollers or those with mobility issues. Along the path are several boulder caves that only the adventurous and flexible should attempt squeeze through. However, you are more than welcome to skip the caves if you’re not feeling too nimble.
Many stairs make up the walk through Lost River Gorge
Along the trail you’ll also find a treehouse, giant bird’s nest lookout, and a suspension bridge. So again, this is a great family friendly hike that the kids will really enjoy! Like Flume Gorge, Lost River Gorge is open daily (weather permitting) from mid-May to mid-October. For more information, including hours of operation and ticket prices visit the Lost River Gorge website.
Children and adults alike enjoy the GORGE-eous walk through Lost River Gorge
WATCH: Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Glen Ellis Falls
Glen Ellis Falls is one of the best short hikes in the White Mountains because it offers an incredible pay off! Just a quarter-mile hike will bring you to a cascading 65-foot waterfall. The falls are located off NH-16 (Route 16) in Pinkham Notch not too far from Mt Washington. From the parking area, follow the signs leading you under the highway via a pedestrian tunnel. Once on the other side of the highway, you’ll walk alongside a rushing river that leads to the scenic falls.
Fall is an absolutely glorious time for some White Mountains hiking
There are two different viewpoints for this popular New Hampshire waterfall, so be sure to visit both. It’s a short but semi-steep hike with a lot of stairs. The walk down to the falls is easy, but the journey back up may leave you a little out of breath. Glen Ellis is a great family friendly hike due to its short distance. It is recommended to pair this hike with a drive on the Mount Washington Auto (Toll) Road.
Glen Ellis is a super short hike ending at a gorgeous waterfall
WATCH: Glen Ellis Falls More Short Hikes in the White MountainsFranconia Notch Hikes
Follow the signs to the parking area for The Basin off I-93 in Franconia State Park to get to this popular hike in the White Mountains. You’ll walk a quick jaunt on the Pemi Trail, along the Pemigewasset River, where you’ll see The Basin, a short waterfall cascading into a deep whirlpool. A short distance later, you’ll come upon Baby Flume, a small but picturesque waterfall. From there, you’ll intersect the Basin-Cascades Trail, a relatively flat mile-long (each way) out and back trail that will take you approximately 1-1.5 hours to complete.
Stroll alongside the Cascade Brook as it drops a total of six hundred vertical feet over various waterfalls and smaller cascades. The first officially named waterfall of the Basin-Cascades Trail is Kinsman Falls. This narrow 15-foot waterfall plunges into a swimmable pool. Toward the end of the trail, Rocky Glen Falls cascades 35-feet over two rock segments. Previous hikers have mentioned that the Basin-Cascades Trail can become quite muddy after a rainfall, so keep that in mind and wear appropriate footwear.
There used to be a bridge connecting this trail to Lonesome Lake. However, that bridge was destroyed in a storm and it is recommended that you access the Lonesome Lake trail from the Lafayette Place Campground, as we’ll discuss next.
The trailhead for Lonesome Lake is found at the Lafayette Campground off of I-93 South. This 3-mile well-marked, well-traveled loop trail starts from the left side of the parking lot at the campground. (Please see our Tips for Hiking in the White Mountains section below for information about the Franconia Notch Hiker Shuttle, as parking inside the campground is limited to campers only.) The terrain starts out mostly flat through the woods. After about a mile, you’ll see a turn off (to the right) for High Cannon Trail. Continue on the Lonesome Lake trail. A fairly steep portion of the trail (complete with switchbacks) brings you up the side of Cannon Mountain. Following this section, the ascent becomes more gradual. Because of the steep ascent, this hike is probably more well suited for older kids.
Once you get to the top, follow the Cascade Brook Trail along the south side of the lake. Carefully traverse over secure hardwood planks as you make your way around the lake (~0.8 mile). Throughout this moderate hike, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Lonesome Lake (obviously!), Franconia Ridge, Mount Lafayette, and Mount Lincoln. Hikers have mentioned that this trail can become quite muddy, so always be sure to have appropriate footwear. It is also recommended that you bring cash to purchase a delicious treat from the hut.
Want stunning panoramic views of Crawford Notch? Head on up to the summit of Mount Willard! To get to the Mount Willard trailhead, take Route 302 East to the Crawford Notch Railroad Station (Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Crawford Notch Visitors Center). The 3.2-mile out and back family-friendly trail starts behind the old station and should take roughly 2-3 hours. You’ll experience an elevation gain of close to 1,000 feet. The trail can be steep at times, but according to countless travelers who have made the trek, the views are worth the effort! Oh, and if you’ve got a 4-legged friend you want to bring along, dogs are permitted on the Mount Willard trail.
Elephant Head Trail
For an easy family friendly hike that also offers sweeping views of Crawford Notch, take a stroll on the Elephant Head Trail. It’s only about a third of a mile each way, so you won’t need much more than a half hour. You’ll see the parking lot for the trailhead pretty much immediately after passing the Crawford Notch Railroad Station (right) and Saco Lake (left), if coming from the direction of Twin Mountain. From the trailhead parking lot, you’ll be able to see the giant rock formation that resembles an elephant’s head. The trail starts across the street from the parking lot. With less than a 200-foot elevation gain, it’s the perfect hike if you have small children. Dogs are also welcome on this trail.
Kancamagus Highway HikesLincoln Woods
As you drive out of the heart of Lincoln and begin your journey on the Kancamagus Highway, you’ll see the turn off for the Lincoln Woods Trail on your left. Because the trail lies within the White Mountain National Forest, you’ll need to obtain a National Forest Recreation Day Pass (more on that in the Tips for Hiking the White Mountains section). There is ample parking (and restrooms) at the Lincoln Woods trailhead. Many trails that run throughout the Pemigewasset Wilderness start here, so you may notice offshoots to several other trails along the path.
From the parking lot, follow the marked trail and cross over the picturesque suspension bridge. You’re now walking on a former railroad bed alongside the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. Though the trail is easy, the views may be a little lack-luster compared to some of the other trails we’ve recommended thus far. It’s a mostly flat trail, so many adventurers choose to bike the trail. It’s 3.2 miles each way, making it a 6.4-mile hike round-trip. Most people go the full 3.2 miles in order to see the beautiful Franconia Falls toward the end of the trail. Depending on how far on the trail you choose to go, the hike should take anywhere from 1.5-3 hours.
2 miles down the road from the Lincoln Woods Trailhead on “The Kanc” (the Kancamagus Highway), just past the Big Rock Campground, is the family-friendly, wheel-chair accessible Discovery Trail. This 1.4 mile loop trail represents a living classroom. Pick up an interpretive brochure at the trailhead and get ready to discover natural and managed forest ecology. Want to access a copy of the guide before you hit the trail? CLICK HERE!
12.5 miles from the Discovery Trail is the trailhead for Sabbaday Falls, a 45-foot waterfall in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest. This 0.7-mile (out and back) trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, as it is made up of gravel. The elevation gain is less than 100 feet, so it’s considered a very easy, family-friendly hike. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trail.
Rail ‘n River Trail
<3 miles from Sabbaday Falls is the Russell Colbath House (which shares a parking area with the Passaconway Historic Site). The 0.5 mile River ‘n Rail interpretive trail is located just behind the house. Step back in time as you discover the history of the surrounding area. Due to its short length, in addition to the wide crushed stone path and wooden bridges, this trail is considered to be wheelchair and stroller friendly. It should take no more than 30 minutes to explore the Rail ‘n River Trail.
North Conway HikesBlack Cap Path
This 2.4-mile loop trail starts from a dirt parking area at the peak of Hurricane Mountain Road in Intervale, near North Conway. Stroll through a spruce and beech forest as you make your way to a rocky summit where you’ll have spectacular views. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Mt Washington and other prominent peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine. Allow 2-3 hours for this hike.
The short hike to Diana’s Baths is relatively flat, so it’s a great hike for people of all ages. It’s just over 0.5 mile to get to the 75-foot rocky cascade from the parking area off West Side Road in Barlett, near North Conway. The hike itself will take less than an hour out and..
During our Fall family visit to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, we stayed just south of Lincoln in the town of Ashland. It was about a 25 minute drive to get to Lincoln most days, though the scenic drive on I-93 certainly wasn’t a bother to us. However, if you’d rather stay a little closer to many of the White Mountains attractions, here are some suggestions for Lincoln NH hotels and accommodations.
We’ve tried to include something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for lavish luxury, budget lodging, or self-catering accommodations, we’ve got you covered! Click on the hotel name link to see more pictures, read reviews, check current amenities, compare prices, and book your stay.
Luxury Lincoln NH Lodging Riverwalk at Loon
The Riverwalk Resort offers the finest in luxury Lincoln NH lodging! It’s located in the heart of Lincoln on the banks of the Pemigewasset River at the base of Loon Mountain. Complete with a gym and day spa, game room, dining options, a winery, heated pool, jacuzzis, and a lagoon pool that converts into an ice skating rink in the winter… you just might never want to leave the resort!
Images Courtesy of Riverwalk Resort
Choose from a studio suite, one- or two-bedroom suite, executive, presidential, or penthouse suite. All suites are designed with large living and dining room areas so families can spread out and relax. In addition, Riverwalk Resort is one of a few pet friendly Lincoln NH hotels. So, your furry four-legged friend (dog) is welcome to join you on your White Mountains getaway.
Images Courtesy of Riverwalk Resort
Mountain Club on Loon
Mountain Club on Loon is another fine option for lodging at the base of Loon Mountain. The Mountain Club offers a variety of of amenities including a luxurious spa and health club, two dining options, and refreshing indoor and outdoor pools and hot tub. Guests can park for free in their covered parking garage and access free WiFi throughout the resort.
Images Courtesy of Mountain Club on Loon
Family Friendly Lincoln AccommodationsVillage of Loon Mountain
Enjoy condominium-style units at Village of Loon Mountain, perfect for your traveling family. Each unit is equipped with a full kitchen, balcony, gas fireplace, and complimentary WiFi. Take advantage of their indoor and outdoor pools, several hot tubs, sauna, fitness center, tennis courts (summer only), and ice skating rink in the winter. Also, during the winter enjoy a complimentary ski shuttle that drops you off right in front of the slopes. Village of Loon Mountain is a great family resort destination offering children’s activities throughout the year.
Images Courtesy of Village of Loon Mountain
Innseason Resorts Pollard Brook
InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook offers 133 suites, all complete with full kitchen, luxurious whirlpool tub, and either a patio or balcony. Enjoy free parking and complimentary WiFi during your stay. Choose from a 1, 2, or 3 bedroom unit, depending on your family size. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, spa/hot tub, sauna, playground, basketball, volleyball & tennis courts, gym, game room, and laundry facilities. During the winter months, InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook offers complimentary shuttle service to the ski slopes at Loon Mountain.
Images Courtesy of InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook
Budget Friendly Hotels in Lincoln NHHoliday Inn Express Lincoln
TheHoliday Inn Express & Suites Lincoln East offers many great amenities at an affordable price! Take a dip in the indoor heated pool and jacuzzi. Workout whenever you please in the 24-hour fitness center and enjoy round-the-clock coffee service. WiFi is complimentary throughout the hotel. Each of the recently renovated rooms and suites come with a refrigerator, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and hairdryer. Start your day of exploring the White Mountains with a hot complimentary breakfast of eggs, meats, cinnamon rolls, and pancakes.
Images Courtesy of Holiday Inn & Suites Lincoln East
The family-owned Kancamagus Lodge, just a mile from Loon Mountain, offers big hotel amenities with small motel prices! Choose from a standard, balcony double, balcony queen, balcony king, deluxe, or family room. Enjoy year-round fun in their indoor pool and game room and dine in their on-site restaurant. The location of the Kancamagus Lodge is perfect for walking to many of Lincoln’s best restaurants and most popular attractions.
Images Courtesy of Kancamagus Lodge
Cozy Cabins in Lincoln NHPemi Cabins
For a cozy and rustic experience in Lincoln, book a stay at Pemi Cabins on the River. Several of these 1 & 2 bedroom cabins have screened porches overloooking the Pemigewasset River. Some cabins are equipped with a kitchen and many come with a cozy fireplace. Pemi Cabins are open year-round and your furry four-legged friends (dogs) are welcome. Enjoy complimentary coffee and WiFi at these cozy Lincoln NH cabins.
Images Courtesy of Pemi Cabins on the River
Green Village Cabins
Green Village Cabins have nine double occupancy cabins and one quad occupancy cabin. The cabins range from single room cabins with a fridge and microwave to 1-bedroom cabins with a living room and fully equipped kitchen. In addition, most cabins have a fireplace and an enclosed porch that overlooks the Pemigewasset River. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors, as each cabin comes equipped with a charcoal grill, picnic table, and lawn chairs. These cabins in Lincoln NH are a great way to connect with nature and truly experience the beauty of the White Mountains.
Images Courtesy of Green Village Cabins
Lodging Near the White Mountains NHCold Spring Resort
As mentioned, we stayed a little south of Lincoln for our visit to the White Mountains. We did a timeshare exchange and booked a week at Cold Spring Resort in Ashland. The unit was the perfect size for our multi-generational family trip. It came with a full kitchen, dining room, and living room with a unique suspended fire place. The upper level balcony and screened-in porch just off the living room were wonderfully inviting for enjoying the crisp fall air.
Cold Spring Resort offered a relaxing stay for our family visit to the White Mountains
In conclusion, there are many great options for places to stay in the White Mountains NH. No matter where you end up booking, your trip will be filled with wonderful memories and beautiful surrounding scenery. Want even more recommendations on Lincoln NH hotels? Check out these reviews and compare prices!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links. If you follow any one of the links and book a hotel, we may receive a small commission.
With so much to see and do in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, no doubt you’re going to work up quite the appetite! Good thing there are countless Lincoln NH restaurants to choose from. Several attractions in the White Mountains are located in and around Lincoln, so we were able to sample quite a few of the restaurants in the Lincoln NH area. As a result, we want to share a few of our favorite restaurants with you to help you in planning your own trip to the White Mountains. Don’t forget to check out our Things to Do in The White Mountains (coming soon!) post when planning your visit for more great ideas and helpful tips!
Lincoln NH Restaurants
Whether you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, a healthy lunch, or an indulgent dinner, Lincoln NH is the place to eat! We spent a wonderful Fall week exploring the New Hampshire White Mountains. Much of our time was spent in and around the town Lincoln and we were pleased with the variety of dining options. One of our favorite meals to eat out is breakfast. You know, they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day! So it’s a good thing there are a lot of Lincoln NH restaurants that serve up a delicious breakfast.
Lincoln NH is located in the heart of the White Mountains
Best Breakfast in Lincoln NH
Looking for breakfast places in Lincoln NH? So were we… and boy, did we find some good ones! Here are a few of the best!
The slogan at Flap Jack’s Pancake House is, “You’ll Flip for our Flaps” and that is evident by the daily line out the door. It’s often referred to as the Best Breakfast in the White Mountains, so be prepared to wait. Honestly though, it’s worth the wait! Choose from a variety of classic and specialty pancakes, like blueberry, chocolate chip, or peanut butter cup. (Or try the seasonal pumpkin pie pancakes. OMG! Divine!)
Not feeling pancakes? That’s ok. Flap Jack’s has a tempting selection of breakfast platters, omelettes, french toast, and breakfast sandwiches to choose from. Need an extra boost in the morning? Besides the usual offerings of coffee, tea, and juice, Flap Jack’s offers several breakfast cocktails. Try a traditional bloody mary or mimosa or go for a cutesie mi-moose-a (champagne and ruby red grapefruit juice) or a comeau-sa (champagne and cranberry juice). No matter what you get at Flap Jack’s, you won’t be disappointed or hungry!
Whether you want delicious pancakes or some other breakfast classic, head to Flap Jack’s
Texas Toast Eatery
Confession: The only reason we even found out about Texas Toast Eatery was because the line was too long at Flap Jack’s the first morning we tried to go. We were a little pressed for time that particular morning, as we had a zipline appointment for which we couldn’t be late. Another confession: We’re really glad we didn’t have time for Flap Jack’s that morning, because Texas Toast Eatery turned out to be a delicious discovery!
Their slogan is “homemade comfort food in New England, inspired by the South“. Most of their food is prepared from scratch using the freshest ingredients around. Everyone in our party ordered something different and we all thoroughly enjoyed our choices. And the portion sizes are certainly nothing to scoff at.
The name and location has changed, but the quality of food certainly has not!
UPDATE: Since our visit, they’ve made some changes! Their full name used to be Texas Toast Eatery & Pig’s Ear BBQ. They have since dropped the BBQ portion of their business, changed their name, and relocated. As of December 2018, Texas Toast Eatery is now known as The Toast at La Vista, and is located at the new RiverWalk Resort Hotel off Main Street in Lincoln. Breakfast favorites are still served daily, with the exception of Thursdays when the restaurant is closed in the morning. Since Chef Mary moved with the restaurant, we can definitely recommend a visit. Mary continues to serve up southern-inspired and unique dishes including Lobster Benedict, Breakfast Burritos, Bananas Foster French Toast, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and so much more more!
While not technically located in the town of Lincoln, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you another delicious breakfast option near the White Mountains NH. If you find yourself near Squam Lake or the towns of Plymouth or Meredith, be sure to check out Annie’s Overflow. It’s located in the small town of Holderness, about 25 minutes south of Lincoln. Annie’s is a classic diner serving traditional breakfast classics and home-style lunches. They’re open 7 days a week from 6 am to 2 pm. We enjoyed our meals so much, we dined there twice during our week long visit to the White Mountains. It helped that the restaurant is about 5 minutes from where we were staying in Ashland.
We loved the delicious food, the friendly staff, and the affordable prices. The breakfast offerings are expansive! Choose from omelettes, pancakes, waffles, french toast, breakfast sandwiches, and an eclectic variety of eggs benedicts. Looking for something super hearty? Order the steak and eggs, country sausage gravy and biscuits, or creamed chipped beef on toast. We only ate at Annie’s Overflow for breakfast, so we can’t vouch for their lunch. Though if it’s anywhere near as delicious as their breakfast plates, we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Have a look attheir extensive menu.
Annie’s Overflow is located an easy 25 minute drive south of Lincoln
Peaked Moon Farm Store, Bakery, & Cafe
Located off of Main Street in Lincoln, Peaked Moon Farm Store, Bakery, and Cafe, is another wonderful choice for breakfast (or lunch)! Peaked Moon offers a wide array of pastries and sweet treats, including cookies, cupcakes, and pies. For breakfast devour a pastry, sip on a smoothie, or enjoy a filling breakfast sandwich served on freshly baked bread. Mid-day delicacies include sandwiches, salads, and soups. Farm fresh fruits and veggies are always readily available. Also, as a special Friday night treat, Peaked Moon serves up a nice collection of pizzas using farm fresh ingredients and farm-raised meats. The Farm Store is an excellent place to stock up on healthy and hearty snacks for a day of hiking in the White Mountains.
Peaked Moon Farm Store, Bakery, and Cafe offers the freshest breads, fruits, and veggies around!
More Delicious Lincoln NH Restaurants
So, maybe breakfast isn’t your thing… or you’re just looking for more dining suggestions! Don’t worry… we’ve got you covered! Following your zipline tour with Alpine Adventures or a hike through Flume Gorge, you’ll be ready to grab a bite! Allow us to introduce you to some more Lincoln NH restaurants serving decadent lunch and dinner entrees.
Hands down, Gypsy Cafe is one of our favorite Lincoln NH restaurants! This colorful Bohemian cafe tantalizes the taste buds withdeliciously quirky dishes from around the world. We started with a Mediterranean sampler platter, served with hummus, baba ghanouj, feta cheese, mixed olives, cucumber yogurt dill sauce, and grilled pita bread. It was a mouthwatering foreshadowing of what was yet to come! Our entrees included an Italian duck grilled cheese sandwich, falafel wrap, Indonesian peanut noodles, and a turkey bacon wrap served with raspberry chipotle sauce. If it was socially acceptable, we would’ve licked our plates clean!
Gypsy Cafe offers unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else!
One Love Brewery
One Love Brewery is another restaurant in Lincoln we visited twice during our stay in the White Mountains. One Love is a family-owned and operated master German lager house and gastropub. The food is great (check out theireclectic menu), but it’s the beer that brought us back for a second visit. It’s exactly what we wanted after a day of hiking Artists Bluff and riding the Cannon Aerial Tramway!
One Love Brewery moved to the historic Henry Paper Mill in Lincoln in 2015
Again, it’stheir beer that inspired a second visit for us. Choose from one of their staples – a rich porter, a Bavarian light lager, a Bock, a Marzen, or a double rye pale ale. They’ll occasionally brew up a seasonal favorite, such as an Oktoberfest, like when we were there in the Fall. Your best bet? Do like we did – get a flight and try them all! You’ll then be able to choose your favorite and purchase a few crowlers to go! So, if you like beer, be sure to check out what is surely the best brewery in Lincoln, NH!
Get a flight to sample all of One Love’s delicious brews!
Woodstock Inn and Brewery
After our wonderful experience at One Love, we figured we’d try out another one of New Hampshire’s best rated breweries. Woodstock Inn and Brewery is located just down the road from Lincoln in the rustic little town of Woodstock. It was a nice ending to our day of exploring the nearby Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves. Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery is centered around a renovated train station, so the ambiance is pretty eccentric. The food, however, left much to be desired. Sadly, none of us were too impressed with our dinner entrees. Fortunately the quality of their beer made up for their mediocre pub grub. So much that we visited Woodstock Inn and Brewery a second time during our week in the White Mountains, but just for the beer!
We encourage a visit to Woodstock Inn Brewery for the ambiance and beer… not so much the food.
Woodstock Inn Brewery offers daily brew tours, complete with samples, if you’re interested in learning about their story and brewing process. With 14 handcrafted ales on tap there’s plenty to choose from. Our absolute favorite is the Lost River Light Ale. So refreshing! Enjoy a brew at the Dam Bar, their seasonal outdoor patio. It was constructed using downed beaver trees as roof supports and salvaged wood for the rest of the construction. Check their Happy Hour specials for a great price! They also offer lodging, if you’re looking for a nice place to stay in the White Mountains.
Woodstock Inn and Brewery offers 14 handcrafted beers on tap (some seasonal, some year-round)
Ice Cream in Lincoln NH
Need a sweet treat? Check out Udderly Delicious Ice Cream, owned by the same folks who own Peaked Moon Farm Store, Bakery, and Cafe we mentioned earlier. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to try it for ourselves, but from all the glowing reviews we read online, we’ll definitely be putting it on our list for next time!
Choose from a plethora of flavors, then decide if you want a cup, cone, sundae, or milkshake. Yum!
Got any other recommendations for places to eat in Lincoln NH? We having a sneaking suspicion we’ll make a return trip back to the White Mountains one of these days!