Lakes and Waterfalls in New York to Visit on Your Next Family Vacation

From the Finger Lakes to Niagara Falls, New York is home to so many beautiful lakes and waterfalls. And what better time than summer to head outdoors and explore nature with the family? Here are a few lakes and waterfalls to visit when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit. They’re all just a few hours outside the city, so get ready for a road trip!


Greenwood Lake

Straddling the border between New York and New Jersey, Greenwood Lake is two hours from New York City by car. Water sports, such as boating and jet- and water-skiing, are popular here. The lake has several marinas and even a seaplane base.

Lake Tiorati

Just 1.5 hours from New York City, Lake Tiorati is the perfect place for picnicking, swimming, fishing and more. The lake is situated inside Harriman State Park, where you’ll also find beautiful Lake Sebago and the popular swimming destination Lake Welch, among other lakes.

Mirror Lake

You can reach the serene atmosphere of Mirror Lake in five hours driving from New York City. The lake gets its name from the fact that its crisp blue waters are so reflective of the surrounding Lake Place Village. The 2.7-mile walking trail encircling the lake features a series of plaques pointing out all of the Adirondack High Peaks. On the walk, you’ll pass by the winter toboggan chute as well as the beach where the swimming portion of the Ironman Triathlon begins. You can also take a canoe, kayak or paddle boat out on the water!

a gazebo sits on a pier surrounded by water with mountains in the distance and a pink sunset on the horizon

Finger Lakes

Canandaigua Lake

The fourth-largest Finger Lake,¬†Canandaigua Lake is roughly 5.5 hours from New York City. Known for its untouched beauty, the lake is surrounded by undeveloped forests, making it a popular getaway from the city. Don’t miss your chance to take a cruise on the water on a double-decker, paddle wheel steamboat!

Keuka Lake

A five-hour drive from New York City, Keuka Lake’s location in the heart of the state’s wine country means visitors can take in beautiful views of lush vineyards from the water. This Finger Lake’s Y-shape gives it the nickname “Crooked Lake.” Keuka Lake State Park is a great place to take the kids camping or hiking. You can even go horseback riding on the seven-mile trail between Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake!

Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake is the largest of the 11 Finger Lakes, located about five hours from New York City by car. More than 600 feet deep, Seneca Lake is also the deepest Finger Lake. Known for its abundance of trout, Seneca Lake is a great place to go fishing. The surrounding agricultural area boasts its fair share of farmers markets as well. Located on the southern tip of the lake, the town of Watkins Glen is famous for its auto racing and its state park, which includes breathtaking waterfalls.

Skaneateles Lake

Located about four hours from New York City, Skaneateles Lake boasts some of the cleanest waters in the Finger Lakes. It sits at a higher elevation than any other Finger Lake, earning it the nickname “The Roof Garden of the Lakes.” Regattas are popular here, and visitors can rent a kayak or canoe to take out onto the clear blue waters. Fishing, hiking and bicycling are also common activities in the area.


a waterfall amidst green trees

Buttermilk Falls

Located in Buttermilk Falls State Park about 4.5 hours from New York City, this 165-foot waterfall gets its name from the resemblance between buttermilk and the foaming cascade of the water, as it twists and turns over the rock. The lower park has playing fields and a natural pool, while the upper park boasts a lake, picnic area and beautiful meadows where you can catch a glimpse of various wildlife.

Croton Gorge Park

Just a 1.5-hour drive from New York City, Croton Gorge Park offers incredible views of the New Croton Dam, also known as the Cornell Dam. Standing at over 200 feet high, the dam was completed in 1907. The park is a prime location for fishing, hiking and picnicking.

a man hugs a woman as they look out over the water surrounded by fall foliage and a mountain in the distance

High Falls Gorge

Six hours from New York City, this privately owned park is home to four Adirondack waterfalls created by the Ausable River. You can see them all in a half-mile walk (that’s round-trip!) along the gorge. Blooming wildflowers dot the walking path in summer, and the whole family can sit down for a picnic when you’re done.

Letchworth State Park

Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East” for its awe-inspiring beauty, Letchworth State Park is a 5.5-hour drive from New York City. The park is home to three magnificent waterfalls along the Genesee River: Lower Falls, Middle Falls and Upper Falls. The three are located relatively close to each other, and you may even see a few deer along the way. Besides waterfalls, the park also offers performing arts programs, horseback riding, camping and even hot air ballooning!

a surreal waterfall with sunlit green foliage around it

Niagara Falls State Park

Who could forget about Niagara Falls? The famous waterfall is the result of four Great Lakes feeding into the Niagara River before all of the water empties into Lake Ontario. The oldest state park in the country, Niagara Falls State Park is seven hours outside New York City. It offers jet boat tours, Erie Canal cruises, underground boat rides, a 4-D theater and, of course, its namesake waterfall!

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park is a five-hour drive from New York City. The most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, it has 19 waterfalls to its name. You can take tours through the gorge, use the tent campsites or take a dip in the Olympic-sized pool.