Seneca Lake, once part of the proud Seneca Nation, is among the most popular of the Finger Lakes due to the natural and scenic beauty of the lake as well as its many attractions, ranging from the heralded Seneca Lake Wine Trail to the race track at Watkins Glen.
The hills that surround Seneca Lake are dotted with vineyards that cover hundreds of well-tended, picturesque acres, and its beautiful waters draw sports enthusiasts from all over, who come to enjoy boating, fishing, sailing, and swimming.
Small towns and villages line the shores of Seneca Lake, including beautiful Geneva and the popular Watkins Glen. Geneva, population 13,202, the self-proclaimed "Lake Trout Capital of the World," is at the northern tip of Seneca Lake in Ontario and Seneca counties. Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of the lake in Schuyler County, is a small village with just over 2,000 residents and an even larger reputation, best known as the home of the Watkins Glen International Racetrack.
From comfortable rustic log cabins to English-style cottage rentals, enjoy AAA 3-Diamond rated lodging overlooking the western shores of Seneca Lake.
Experience Geneva on the Lake - a AAA 4 Diamond Resort offering luxurious lodging and fine dining overlooking Seneca Lake.
Discover casual elegance in a peaceful, wooded setting on the western shore of beautiful Seneca Lake.
Enjoy upscale accomodations, fine dining, a winery and spa on the shores of Seneca Lake.
Seneca Wine Trail - Over half a million wine lovers can't be wrong. The wineries and vineyards around Seneca Lake are a big deal in the region, drawing 600,000 visitors each year to sample the local "juice".
Waterfalls & Hiking - Enjoy spectacular Watkins Glen state park - home to hiking, gorges and waterfalls. In Montour Falls, just south of Watkins Glen, check out the stunning SheQuaGa Falls. The Falls are lit up at night, and the view from downtown Montour Falls is breath-taking.
Fishing - Seneca Lake boasts some of the best fishing in the Finger Lakes, and is home to the annual Memorial Day Lake Trout Derby.
Cruising - Rent a boat on the lake, or catch a ride on one of the boats offering scheduled tours.
The area around Seneca Lake is especially good for bicyclists, as a well-maintained bike path lines the eastern and western shores of the lake. The Seneca Lake Loop is a 77-mile route, with Lakeshore Park in Geneva being the most convenient starting and ending point. It's a moderate ride, with only one grade to climb coming out of Watkins Glen.
Seneca Lake is very popular for sailing and other recreational boating, as Seneca Lake is one of the deepest of the Finger Lakes. Marinas in Waterloo and just south of Geneva offer boat rentals, campgrounds and marine supplies. The big double-decker cruise boats that depart from Watkins Glen are popular with visitors. You're sure to spot these ships if you're on the lake for the day.
The Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva features public boat launches and a marina, as well as a picnic area and a swimming beach.
The Municipal Campgrounds and Marina in Montour Falls is a great spot off the lake with campgrounds, public boat launches and plenty of boat slips. Boaters can access the lake through the Old Barge Canal.
Farming in general - and viticulture in particular - is a big industry in the area around Seneca Lake, as these rolling hills, the lake-effect climate and favorable exposure make Seneca Lake ideal for wine production and other agriculture.
There's a good Farmers Market in Geneva, and you'll find farms open for tours in Watkins Glen and Romulus. If agriculture is your thing, check out the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. It's part of Cornell University's Agricultural College, and you can arrange tours through the university.
Seneca Lake is famous for its fishing. Catherine Creek, at the southern tip of the lake, is a particularly favorable spot for trout fishing, though trout (especially brown trout and rainbow trout) is a prime catch all over Seneca Lake. Perch, pike and bass are also abundant. Small-mouth bass are especially good in the warmer waters of the more shallow areas of the lake.
Watkins Glen State Park is a beautiful canyon with waterfalls galore—and it's very popular with visitors as a result. The hiking trails around Montour Falls are especially appealing to hikers. While you're there, be sure to check out the Queen Catherine Marsh and Havana Glen.
The Interlaken Trail, a 12-mile marked trail that runs past two ponds and traverses varied terrain, is one of the trails to check out in the Finger Lakes National Forest.
Less well-known but certainly worth your time is the Hector Land Use Area—it has 25 miles of hiking trails and a handful of camp sites.
The Finger Lakes National Forest, a 15,000 acre woodland in Hector, offers hiking trails, horse trials, camping and fishing, as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in winter.
Watkins Glen state park is spectacular, and dozens of other small parks dot the region.
The Finger Lakes is the largest and most well-regarded winemaking region in the eastern United States, and it owes much of its acclaim to the lakes themselves. The plunging depth of the lakes (especially Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake) moderates the effect of cold weather, and the steep slopes of the surrounding hills make for fortuitous air patterns that whisk away pockets of cold air, making it possible for a longer and more stable growing season. These and other factors make for top-notch viticulture in the Finger Lakes. Many varietals thrive in this climate, but the Finger Lakes Rieslings are especially esteemed by oenophiles.
Seneca Lake has some of the most beautiful vineyards that stretch for hundreds of acres on the sloping hills that ring the lake. The Seneca Wine Trail is so well regarded, it draws more than half a million visitors each year to sample the fruits of the local vintners' labors.
The Seneca Wine Trail plays host to tasting events throughout the year. Food and wine pairings are based around themes such as "Pasta and Wine" and "Spring Wine and Cheese." Each of these events affords the opportunity to visit as many wineries as you can in two days. With a growing number of wineries participating in these events, it can be quite a challenge, but you're sure to have fun trying.
There are plenty of places to stay when visiting Seneca Lake, ranging from lakefront splendor to chain hotels, as well as a wide selection of charming country inns and B&Bs.
When you're visiting Seneca Lake, you'll have no trouble finding good local eateries from Geneva to Watkins offering everything from casual fare to fine dining.