5 Exciting Things to do in Finger Lakes Outdoors

Updated March 20, 2024 — I love wine country. And I love drinking wine. I just don’t want to do it all day.

I’m more of an outdoorsy sort, so when I am in wine country, if I can mix wine tasting with some outdoor adventure, then that’s what I’d call a perfect weekend.

On my recent trip to Finger Lakes Wine Country, I explored the area and found five exciting things to do in Finger Lakes outdoors.

#1 Exciting things to do in Finger Lakes: Kayak to Painted Rocks

Painted Rocks Seneca Lake one of exciting things to do at Finger Lakes outdoors
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey at Painted Rocks Seneca Lake

Morning is a beautiful time to kayak the waters of the Finger Lakes. The air was still and the light was subdued on the morning that I shoved my kayak into Seneca Lake.

Mark Moskal, owner of Summit to Stream Adventures and fishing guide extraordinaire gave our group some great instructions — he is a Captain in the US Coast Guard, btw, so he’s got all the safety measures down.

For this outdoor adventure, we kayaked to Painted Rocks, which were said to have been painted by Native Americans. However, historians today believe that they were created around the turn of the century as tourist attractions.

The rock paintings were a fun and easy paddle across Seneca Lake from the Village of Watkins Glen and the picturesque Watkins Glen Harbor.

Finger Lake Horseback riding #2 Exciting things to do in Finger Lakes: Horseback Ride into Deep Forests

Another of the best things to do in Finger Lakes is to get into the woods on horseback. I felt like I was in the movie, Last of the Mohicans when we rode into the deep forests of northern New York.

The leaves filtered the sun, and we headed into dark but calming woods. Now this is what I call being outdoors!

My horse, Bandit, was well-trained and responsive. I highly recommend Painted Bar Stables where horse whisperer and owner Erica Eckstrom takes pride in matching your personality to a specific horse’s personality.

Yes, she is a human whisperer as well as an equine expert. She put me on Bandit, I wonder what that says about me…

Cavern Cascade
Cascade Falls by (c) Lisa Morales Photography

#3 Exciting things to do in Finger Lakes: Hike Watkins Glen State Park

You don’t have to hike far to find a waterfall at Watkins Glen State Park. You’ll walk up a gorge that sports 19 waterfalls, including Cascade Falls pictured here, within two short miles. 

The gorge trail is closed during the spring and winter and typically reopens for the season in mid to late May.

Rain or shine the photo ops are spectacular during this outdoor adventure. Another reason that this is one of the best things to do in Finger Lakes is that a trail shuttle takes you up and down the gorge before or after your hike.

The shuttle runs on weekends throughout the year and also during the week in summer (June 23-Labor Day.)

Check the park schedule.

Love this photo? You may purchase fine art prints at www.lisamorales.com

Cascade Falls by (c) Lisa Morales Photography

Stacey steering wheel#4 Exciting things to do in Finger Lakes: Drive a historic Grand Prix Course

There’s nothing like putting the pedal to the metal on curvy, hilly country roads with the wind in your face!

Yes, turn off the A/C and open your driver’s window, people!

On this outdoor adventure, you can follow the historic Grand Prix course (the first post-WWII road race in the US) that sticks to the public roads and get a nice tour of the area.

To find your way along this one of the best things to do in Finger Lakes, download a map at the Watkins Glen Chamber site by clicking here.

Finger Lake wine
Tasting in Hazlitt 1852’s vineyards while overlooking Seneca Lake.

#5 Best things to do in Finger Lakes: Taste the Wine

As I said earlier, I love drinking wine and Finger Lakes Wine Country affords many opportunities to do just that. With over 100 wineries, breweries and distilleries, you’ll probably never be able to visit them all.

I suggest that you take the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, one of three distinct Finger Lakes wine trails, and head straight to Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. I tasted their flagship Red Cat Cellars wine and others while standing in mature vineyards overlooking Seneca Lake.

Vinifera Winemaker Michael Reidy talks with our group of travel bloggers.

Although it may not be a typical setting for guests, as a travel writer I was able to talk with winemaker Michael Reidy as we stood outdoors next to rows of Merlot vines.

Michael was a great host and really knows his stuff – as well he should after earning a Bachelor of Science in Enology and Viticulture from Cornell University and working at Hazlitt since 2006.

I truly enjoyed my time exploring the five best things to do in Finger Lakes Wine Country, and I think you will, too.

If you have other favorites, please leave your recommendations in the comments below. Cheers!

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“UNSTOPPABLE STACEY” Wittig is an Arizona travel writer based near Flagstaff. Follow her adventures by subscribing below.

As is typical in the travel industry, she was hosted by the businesses mentioned, but her thoughts and opinions are always her own.

Need a place to stay? On my next trip to Finger Lakes Wine Country, I want to stay at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. Book that hotel now on my favorite site: Booking.com.

4 thoughts on “5 Exciting Things to do in Finger Lakes Outdoors”

    • Thanks so much, Debbra! There really is a lot to explore there… Corning Glass Museum, Watkins Glen Race Track, charming towns on the water. Ah, to return!

    • Have fun on the lake with some passion fruit recipes. I just returned from Wisconsin – so sorry foe taking a while to reply


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