My wife and I took advantage of a nice fall weekend last month, where we had no conflicting personal commitments, to take a drive up to Seneca Lake in central New York State – aka the Fingers Lakes region. We had been through this area a few years ago when our family visited Niagara Falls during wintertime, and we were taken by the beautiful landscape as well as the leading industry in this region, that being the wine industry. On that first trip we had kids in tow and since we were just passing through we didn’t partake in the wine tasting in any meaningful way. So we filed that experience away in our minds, and when we were looking for a fall trip to take this year Seneca Lake rose to the top as our first choice.
Seneca Lake is an amazing lake. It is the largest of the Finger Lakes, which are glacially formed. The lake is 38 miles long, about 3 miles wide at its widest point, and unlike many natural lakes in the US (except maybe the Great Lakes) it is quite deep at 168 feet. The lake is spring fed, and the continuously-moving waters make it difficult to freeze during winter.
What I like most about Seneca Lake is the land on either side. For the most part the land gently slopes down to the water over the course of a few miles to the east and west of the lake. It is on these gentle slopes that you will find many of the vineyards of the region. Just looking across the lake from a vineyard or the road yields a beautiful view that extends many miles. Standing and looking across the lake you can just imagine the scale of the glaciers that formed these lakes.
The wine industry is one of the big attractions here, and we were informed that autumn is the biggest time of year for the wine-tasting tours. We had a great time visiting the wineries, tasting their products, and bringing home a few bottles. Free tip: Don’t pay more than $3 per person for 5 tastes. Some charge more, and some even charge less. There are so many wineries that you can easily pass up a few and still have a completely full day.
The second half of our trip was to be outdoors-oriented. We had originally planned to hike through the Watkins Glen gorge, at the southern end of Seneca Lake, but we ended up taking a nice drive through northern Pennsylvania to Ricketts Glen state park. This is the second time I’ve been to this park, and I am glad I returned. Even though the hike is a bit challenging the reward is anywhere from 15 to 20 beautiful waterfalls, depending on your route.
The weather was perfect for hiking as well as photography – a little cool, lightly overcast, and not too breezy. There were many other photographers at some of the tallest falls, but I didn’t mind the crowds and I enjoyed all of the falls despite the people. By the time we had completed our loop hike I was quite winded and ready for our drive to Jim Thorpe for dinner, and then home.
I highly recommend a trip to the Finger Lakes region and of course Ricketts Glen park in Pennsylvania, especially in the fall. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.