In 2020, leaves peaked between October 7-13, with 75% of color change in the Finger Lakes. In 2019, fall foliage reached its peak a little later, between October 23-29, in the Finger Lakes. While the timing fluctuates each year, late September through mid-October typically offer a good chance for a spectacular show, with autumn color usually peaking during the first two weeks of October.
Come for the full show, or arrive a little early and avoid the crowds. Even the first glimpses of color change are worth the trip, as the hillsides and vineyards begin to light up along the lakes, offering gorgeous 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. Pack a few light snacks or a picnic lunch, a warm jacket, a thermos full of hot cider, and of course, a local map. Do not forget your camera! Remember to stay safe by observing fellow motorists and traffic rules as you take in the sights of fall in the Finger Lakes.
Canandaigua Lake Route
Begin 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. See impressive waterfalls and mystic gorges surrounded by a bounty of fall colors as you continue along NY 21 towards Naples. End your tour with a hike at Ontario County Park, or for a more challenging adventure visit the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area. Approximate length: 19 miles / 35 minutes.
Seneca Lake Route
Begin in beautiful Geneva and follow Seneca Lake along NY 14 South for spectacular views between the lake on the left and trees to your right. Continue toward Watkins Glen and stroll the quaint Main street. Complete your tour with a visit to the pier or a hike through Watkins Glen State Park gorge. Approximate length: 36 Miles / 30 Minutes.
Cayuga Lake Route
The journey from Ithaca to Seneca Falls is a lengthier one but well worth the time. Take in the view of Cayuga Lake brilliantly reflecting the colored foliage. Begin in Ithaca and follow NY 89 North toward Seneca Falls. There, you will discover Cayuga Lake State Park, a priceless gem with gorgeous lake views and a sweet spot for a picnic lunch, exploring the beach and giving the little ones a chance to check out the playground. Approximate length: 1 hour / 40 miles.
Owasco Lake Route
Owasco Lake is 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 then head south on NY 38. Enjoy the dazzling foliage display as you leisurely venture toward Moravia. End your leaf-peeping excursion at Fillmore Glen State Park. You will find hiking trails to explore, including the family-friendly gorge hike. Approximate length: 19 miles / 30 minutes
Skaneateles Lake Route
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.