The Finger Lakes region offers many opportunities for leaf peeping pleasure. Choose a lake, and get ready to explore. These routes are easy to navigate, allowing most of your attention to be focused on the scenery. Whether you choose Canandaigua or Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco or Skaneateles you will soon find yourself captivated by this season’s bountiful colors. While every year is different - leaf-peeping in late September through mid-October typically offers a good chance for a spectacular show, with the first two weeks of October typically being peak season. Click here to follow the current status of the foliage across the region.
Before hitting the road, a little preparation will go a long way. Pack a few light snacks or a picnic lunch, a warm jacket, a thermos full of milled cider, and of course, a local map. Do not forget your camera! There will be a multitude of priceless photos to be captured. Remember to stay safe by observing fellow motorists and traffic rules as you take in the sights.
1. Canandaigua Lake- West Lake Drive (CO 16) to NY 21 S
This breathtaking drive begins at the northern tip of Canandaigua Lake in the city of Canandaigua. Enjoy the breathtaking foliage as you meander south on NY 21 toward Onanda Park. There you will discover an infinite array of photo-worthy views. Picture impressive waterfalls and mystic gorges surrounded by a bounty of fall colors. Once you have had your fill, continue along NY 21 towards Naples. Consider ending your tour with a leisurely hike at Ontario County Park, or seek out a more challenging adventure at the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area.
Start / End: Canandaigua to Onanda Park to Naples
Approximate length: 19 miles / 35 minutes.
2. Seneca Lake- NY 14 South
Another option is to begin in Geneva and follow Seneca Lake along NY 14 South. Be prepared for some spectacular views between the lake on the left and trees to your right. Leisurely, continue toward Watkins Glen. There, you will discover a delightfully quaint Main street. End your adventure by perusing the pier, or mosey on over to Watkins Glen State Park. Find yourself up-close and personal with spectacular foliage as the Gorge Trail bobs and weaves against the magnificent falls.
Start / End: Geneva to Watkins Glen
Approximate length: 36 Miles / 30 Minutes.
3. Cayuga Lake- NY 89 North
The journey from Ithaca to Seneca Falls is a lengthier one but well worth the time. You may very well find yourself stunned as you observe the pristine way in which Cayuga Lake reflects the brilliantly colored foliage. Begin in Ithaca and follow NY 89 North toward Seneca Falls. There, you will discover Cayuga Lake State Park. A priceless gem of a location, the park offers ideal views and a fantastic opportunity to stretch one’s legs after such a lengthy tour. Enjoy a picnic lunch, explore the beach and allow little ones to test out the playground.
Start / End: Ithaca to Seneca Falls
Approximate length: 1 hour / 40 miles.
4. Owasco Lake- NY 38 South
Owasco Lake may be one of the smaller Finger Lakes, but it is certainly not short on awe-inspiring views. Begin in the city of Auburn, and consider taking a jaunt around Emerson Park. When you are ready, locate NY 38 and head south. Enjoy the dazzling foliage display as you leisurely venture toward Moravia. End your leaf-peeping excursion at Fillmore Glen State Park. You find will several hiking trails to explore, including the gorge, which is incredibly family-friendly.
Start / End: Auburn to Moravia
Approximate length: 19 miles / 30 minutes
5. Skaneateles Lake- NY 41 South/East
For a quick peep at the leaves before they fall, traverse the length of Skaneateles Lake. This pleasant little tour begins in town of Skaneateles where the translucent lake sits calmly against the shore. It ends at the Ripley Hill Nature Preserve in the town of Spafford. If you are the adventurous type, you may even continue through the unpaved Ripley Hill Road.