Best state parks in Upstate New York offer you the opportunity to explore the endless stretches of wilderness in northern parts of the state.
Many visitors from other states believe that New York starts and ends with New York City, but they couldn’t be more mistaken.
Upstate New York, which refers to areas of the state north of New York City, has vast areas of wilderness that are perfect for a variety of outdoor activities.
New York, which stretches from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, has a flourishing state park system that includes towering cascades, dramatic gorges, and some of the world’s oldest rocks.
I have picked the best state parks in Upstate New York to help you plan your next excursion in the state of New York.
Best State Parks in Upstate New York
If you’re visiting “The Big Apple,” that’s New York City, and desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, keep reading to see which of these Upstate New York parks you should explore first.
It’s worth noting that if you visit numerous national parks in upstate New York in one day, you only have to pay for the admission fee for the first park.
Simply retain the receipt and present it at each park you visit on the same day.
Central New York State Parks
If you enjoy waterfalls as much as I do, you must explore Buttermilk Falls State Park.
This park is among the best state parks in upstate New York.
It is 811 acres of pure splendor situated just outside Ithaca and close to Robert H. Treman State Park.
Buttermilk Falls gets its moniker from the foaming cascades formed by Buttermilk Creek.
It bubbles and flows down the slope towards Cayuga Lake. During the summer, visitors can bathe here.
In the upper park, there is a small lake with playing grounds and picnic spaces.
Hiking paths that run alongside the gorge and through the woods.
This location does not appear to see much traffic because few people are aware of it.
There are more playing areas in the lower park, as well as a campground and a natural pool.
Larch Meadows, wetlands preserve with a nature trail, is located beyond all of this.
Upstate New York Hiking Trails in Buttermilk Falls State Park
- The Gorge Trail follows Buttermilk Creek as it cascades and then descends 600 feet.
- On the other side of the creek, the Rim Trail is a 1.7-mile loop path.
- The Bear Trail ascends and goes round the lake for 1.4 miles. This trail follows Buttermilk Creek up to Lake Treman and Lake Treman Falls. The loop around Lake Treman focuses on the waterfalls and the top rim of the gorge.
- The Finger Lakes path, New York State’s longest continuous hiking path, is located at the lake’s end.
1 Pavilion with a capacity of 73 individuals – $100.00 per day (minimum 2 days)
25 campsites ranging in price from $15.00 to $19.00 per night.
18 cabins ranging in price from $238.00 to $266.00 per week
Pet Policy: Dogs are permitted. They must be constantly under the owner’s supervision.
Physical address: 106 E Buttermilk Falls Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
Entry fee: $8
Robert H. Treman State Park
If you’re searching for the best State Parks in Upstate New York with pristine wild beauty, then Robert H. Treman State Park is the place to head to.
Located five minutes from Ithaca, New York, and covering an area of over 1000 acres with the breathtaking Enfield Glen gorge, this park is truly a beauty to behold.
Indeed, this park is among the best state parks in upstate New York.
This area is home to 12 of the most impressive waterfalls, including the incredible 115-foot Lucifer Falls.
The park has two entrances.
The upper entrance to Robert H Treman State Park is a suitable starting place for the Lucifer Falls gorge trail, and the lower entrance provides you access to the swimming area and the campground.
From either entrance, you can access the Finger Lakes Trail, the North Country Trail, and other park trails.
There are 9 miles of hiking trails to explore, including a portion of the Finger Lakes Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail.
You should spend a few hours swimming in a stream-fed pool beneath the waterfall.
Swimming is only permitted in lifeguarded zones.
But rest assured that there are lifeguards on patrol throughout peak summer hours.
3 pavilions with capacities ranging from 34 to 197 persons – $75.00 to $150.00 (minimum rental period 2 days)
70 Tent / RV Campsites ranging in price from $18.00 to $28.00 per night.
14 cabins ranging in price from $60.00 to $100.00 per night.
Pet policy: Two pets are permitted on campsites and in day zones. They must be constantly under supervision.
Physical address: 105 Enfield Falls Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
Entry fee: $9.00
Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is one of the most beautiful and best State Parks in Upstate New York.
This park, named after William Pryor Letchworth, was established in 1907.
What began as a 1,000-acre farm has grown to a 17-mile-long property with 14,350 acres on either side of the Genesee River.
The park’s southern section contains three main waterfalls: the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls.
The falls are located between cliffs, some of which are 600 feet high, and are encircled by lush forest.
Letchworth State Park is defined by the thundering Genesee River.
There are approximately fifty waterfalls that all run into the river, one of which is Inspiration Falls, New York’s highest waterfall at 300 feet or more.
Fun Activities to Do In Letchworth State Park
You won’t have time to be weary.
- There are 66 miles of hiking trails.
- Biking and horseback riding trails are accessible.
- Swimming in the turbulent waters is prohibited, but there is a pool available.
If you want to be on the water but desire something more relaxed, take a peaceful paddle in a kayak.
Whitewater rafting is available for those seeking a greater adrenaline boost.
If you want to see the world from above, take a hot air balloon ride for $310.00 per individual.
Letchworth State Park also provides guided excursions, as well as programs in the performing arts, history, and nature.
Are you coming in the winter? Not to worry, there is plenty of fun to be had even in the colder months!
Horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, skiing and cross-country skiing are all popular winter sports.
The opportunities are numerous!
Early spring is the best time to come if you want to see the falls at their best.
The park, on the other hand, is accessible all year from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Considering extending the duration of your stay? Camping is offered from May to October, but some cabins are available all year.
250 campsites ranging from $27.00 to $30.00 per night
81 Cabins ranging in price from $33.00 to $142.00 per night
Pet policy: Pets are permitted in the campgrounds but not in the cabins.
Physical address: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427
Entry fee: $10 per vehicle
Cayuga Lake State Park
The breathtaking views of Cayuga Lake is the highlight of Cayuga Lake State Park.
While the kids play, unwind on the beach or the lawns and enjoy the lovely stunning panoramas.
The banks are level, with a gradual incline to the cabins and campsites.
There are playing areas and a playground with picnic tables on the grounds.
Get your boat ready and spend the day on the lake with family and friends. Have a good time looking for bullheads, smallmouth bass, and carp.
They flourish in the shallow waters close to the park.
There are a variety of fish to catch in the deeper waters, including landlocked salmon, northern pike, trout, and smallmouth bass.
Cross-country skiing is available during the colder months, and ice fishing is available if you are willing to cope with the icy temperatures.
4 Pavilions with capacities ranging from 36 to 127 persons – $50.00 – $125.00; 252 Campsites – $15.00 – $25.00 per night
14 Cabins ranging in price from $59.50 to $100.00 per night
$200.00 per night for one cottage peak season
$125.00 per night off-season
Pet policy: Pets are permitted in the park
Physical address: 2678 Lower Lake Road, Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Entry fees: $7 per vehicle
Boat launch fee: $7
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most well-known Upstate New York State Parks.
It is beautiful and is situated in the Finger Lakes Region and one of the best state parks in upstate New York.
You’ll have a wonderful time with its fantastic nearby fishing, Olympic-size pool, picnic, and camping facilities.
Within a 2-mile stretch, this stream drops 400 feet past some of the most incredible 200-foot cliffs, exposing 19 waterfalls.
The park is home to three main trails namely:
- The Indian Trail that goes to the higher entrance through the woods.
- The Gorge Trail is a 1.3-mile hike that takes you under and over waterfalls, through spray from Cavern Cascade, and up stone stairs. This trail provides excellent front-row seating for all of the waterfalls.
- The Southern Rim Trail provides views of the canyon.
I propose staying for more than a day to make the most of your time and explore other attractions in the area.
3 pavilions – are capable of accommodating between 61 and 150 persons
279 Campsites range in price from $18.00 to $30.00.
9 rustic cabins are available for $58.00 per night (minimum of 3 nights).
Pet policy: Dogs are allowed but not on the Gorge Trail.
Physical address: 100 N Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Entry fees: $10.00 per vehicle (includes use of the pool)
Chittenango Falls State Park
This 193-acre State Park in Madison County includes a picturesque 167-foot waterfall that cascades over 400-million-year-old glacial sculpting bedrock.
Follow the trail into the gorge to view the falls from the bottom, with Chittenango Creek flowing beneath a wooden bridge.
Picnicking, a playground, a trail, 4-miles of hiking, and fishing are all available at Chittenango Falls State Park.
Pet policy: Dogs are permitted.
Physical address: 2300 Rathbun Road, Cazenovia, NY 13035
Entry fees: $5.00 per vehicle.
Green Lakes State Park
This magnificent State Park is unlike any other in Upstate New York.
It has two emerald glacial lakes surrounded by high-altitude forests with trees that are more than 300 years old.
Green and Round Lakes are both exceptionally deep.
Green Lake is approximately 195 feet deep at its deepest spot, while Round Lake is approximately 170 feet deep.
Because these lakes are meromictic, upper and bottom water do not mix. When this occurs, the water becomes transparent.
Fun Activities to Do In Green Lakes State Park
If golf is your thing, the 18-hole golf course is a unique feature.
There are walking pathways around the lakes, as well as 10-miles of hiking and mountain biking trails in and around the park.
There is also a beautiful beach with lifeguards on patrol.
Kayaks and boats are available for rent starting at $7.00 per hour.
There are also “crystal” boats available for $20.00 per hour.
These are transparent, allowing you to see beneath the ocean.
Fish from rented boats or along the Green Lake shoreline.
Rock bass, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and bluegill are all present.
5 Pavilions – Capacity from 25 to 100 persons
142 campsites ranging from $18.00 to $36.00 per night
$108.50 per night for 7 cabins
Pet policy: Dogs are allowed.
Physical address: 7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville, NY 13066
Entry fees: $10 per vehicle
Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park
Spencer Park is a park in Canadice, New York, south of Honeoye Lake.
This is one of the national parks in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York with breathtaking scenery.
The view is always spectacular no matter what time of year you come.
People are drawn to the area because of its natural attractiveness. Bring a picnic so you can truly unwind and appreciate your time here.
Spencer Park is situated in Canadice, New York, south of Honeoye Lake.
This is one of the national parks in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York with stunning scenery.
The view is always beautiful no matter what time of year you come.
People are drawn in by the sheer grandeur. Bring a picnic so you can truly relax and appreciate your time here.
Pet policy: Dogs are allowed on a leash and supervised at all times.
Physical address: 6775 Canadice Hill Road, Springwater, NY 14560
Entry fees: Free
1000 Island Region of New York State Parks
Long Point State Park
Long Point State Park is one of three Long Point State Parks in Upstate New York.
Located on Lake Ontario, facing Chaumont Bay, in a very peaceful and remote location.
In contrast to other parks, this one is quite small.
There are no hiking trails here, but camping is very common.
Lake Ontario is ideal for sailing and fishing.
Campsites are grassy and open, with trees strewn about to provide natural cover.
There are picnic spaces, a playground, and beautiful views from every angle.
Pet policy: Pets are allowed
Physical address: 7495 State Park Road, Three Mile Bay, NY 13693
Entry fees: Long Point State Park has a vehicle entry fee of $6.00.
Day Use – $6.00
Campers – $12.00
Overnight – $19.00
Coles Creek State Park
Coles Creek State Park is located on Lake St. Lawrence, off NY 37.
It was initially opened in 1959, when the Robert Moses Dam was constructed.
Coles Creek is another Upstate New York national park with no official hiking trails, but it is possible to do a lot of touring from the park roads.
With 234 campsites, 1 large pavilion, a playground, playing areas, and a beach perfect for swimming, you can enjoy the day fishing or taking the boat.
There’s no better reason for a peaceful weekend getaway.
Pet policy: Pets are allowed
Physical address: Route 37, Waddington, NY 13694
Entry fees: Day Use (Peak) $7.00, Day Use (Off Peak) $6.00
Western New York State Parks
Niagara Falls is located 75 miles south of Toronto and 17 miles north of Buffalo, New York.
American Falls, Canadian Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls are all located at the southern extremity of the Niagara Gorge.
Niagara Falls, in my view, should be at the top of the list of outstanding State Parks in Upstate New York, and it definitely does not need an introduction.
It is the oldest in America and attracts millions of tourists each year.
Amazing Facts about Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls are not the tallest in the globe.
The quantity of water that flows over it is the most remarkable feature.
The Canadian Horseshoe Falls plunges 188 feet into the Niagara River.
The crest line is approximately 2,000 feet broad, and the plunge pool below the falls is 100 feet deep.
The rapids can attain speeds of up to 68 miles per hour.
Fun Activities to Do In Niagara Falls State Park
The Observation Tower is where you can see all three Falls for $1.25 per individual.
Nothing surpasses an amazing dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the Canadian and American Falls after a long day of exploring.
But be warned: it is not inexpensive! You don’t typically go to Niagara Falls with the intention of hiking.
While there is an excellent paved trail system that is frequently overlooked due to other attractions.
Take a boat excursion and experience the sheer volume of water that falls from the summit every second.
Visitors can get up close and personal with the falls, feeling the tremors and getting a little splashed.
Best Time to Visit Niagara Falls
When deciding when to explore Niagara Falls, consider more than just the weather.
Each season has a distinct vibe, and the atmosphere shifts.
Some months are better than others, but the majority of the year is wonderful.
There are numerous hotel choices within walking distance of the Falls that will accommodate any budget.
Pet policy: Niagara Falls State Park accepts pets; however, while they are permitted on the footpaths and in the green space, they are not permitted to access buildings or attractions.
Physical address: 10 Rainbow Boulevard, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Entry fees: Viewing the Falls is free, but parking is $10.00 per day, and excursions are extra.
Four Mile Creek State Park
Because of the breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and its proximity to Niagara Falls, this area is highly popular for camping.
Four Mile Creek has hiking trails, and the marsh has some beautiful flora.
If you enjoy bird watching, you’ll enjoy seeing whitetail deer and blue herons in the wetland.
Most enjoyable hiking would have to be to the lake, along the west side of Four Mile Creek.
275 campsites range in price from $18.00 to $34.00 per night.
Yurts cost $83.75 per day.
Pet policy: Pets are permitted.
Physical address: 1055 Lake Road Youngstown, NY 14174
Whirlpool State Park
Whirlpool State Park is located in Upstate New York, north of Niagara Falls State Park.
The Whirlpool has two levels: the upper level offers numerous viewing spots along the Rim Trail of the Niagara River Escarpment, the rapids, and the whirlpool.
And the Lower Level, where visitors can experience the gorge by descending steps and 300 feet of trail.
Fishing and trekking are available at river level.
You can also hike north from the gorge’s base along the Whirlpool Rapids.
Whirlpool State Park has a playing field as well as gathering areas.
While you’re here, stop by the gorge natural history room.
Pet policy: Dogs are permitted but must be leashed.
Physical address: Niagara Scenic Parkway, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Entry fees: Free
Devil’s Hole State Park
Devil’s Hole State Park is located along the Niagara River Gorge north of Whirlpool State Park.
This 42-acre State Park is a fascinating geological formation created following the last ice age.
Devil’s Hole Rapids is visible from the park. Because fishing is popular in this area, you’re sure to see some fishermen down the side trails.
Pack a picnic and spend the day trekking along the scenic paths.
Descend the 400 stone stairs to Devil’s Hole Trail and the gorge’s foot, where you’ll find breathtaking views of the rapids and rock layers.
Pet policy: Dogs are allowed in the day-use areas.
Physical address: Robert Moses Parkway, Niagara Falls. NY 14305
Entry fees: Free
Hudson River Valley Region State Parks
The 5067-acre Bear Mountain State Park is located on the Hudson River’s west bank, surrounded by rugged mountains.
Bear Mountain State Park has so much to offer, whether you want a fall day trip or a summer hike, and it is the ideal location for a family getaway.
Fun Activities to Do In Bear Mountain State Park
- The Perkins Memorial Tower offers 360-degree views of Harriman State Park, the Hudson River, and the Palisades.
- Hike one of the park’s many paths.
- If you’re searching for Upstate New York mini amusement parks, take the kids to the Bear Mountain Carousel.
- Visit the Zoo and the four Trailside Museums.
- Swim for $2.00 per individual at Bear Mountain Pool.
- There are beautiful open areas for picnics.
- You can fish in Lake Hessian if you have a New York State fishing ticket.
- You can rent a rowboat or a pedal watercraft.
- Take children to the playground.
- Bear Mountain State Park has an ice-skating area in the winter. The cost of admission is $5.00.
- cross-country skiing and ice fishing
Bear Mountain State Park offers great options for accommodation.
The Overlook Lodge: Pet-friendly with a comfy rustic environment and spacious rooms – $130.00 – $250.00 per night.
The Stone Cottages: Pet-friendly and located adjacent to the main attractions – $160.00 – $260.00.
The Bear Mountain Inn: Does not allow pets! If you enjoy traveling in style, this is the deluxe choice – $170.00 – $300.00 per night.
Saratoga Spa State Park
Not every park must appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.
Visit Saratoga Spa State Park for a more relaxing way to appreciate the natural grandeur of the Empire State.
This park is among the best state parks in Upstate New York.
This Upstate New York state park, located in Saratoga Springs, a horse racing town, features natural mineral hot springs perfect for soaking away your stress.
There are also numerous cultural attractions in the park, such as the famous Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
If you need to be more active, you can work on your swing on the golf course or stroll on one of the many hiking paths.
Catskill Park, which spans over 700,000 acres, came into existence in 1885 to protect the beauty of Upstate New York’s Catskill Region.
This beautiful part of the state has since beckoned to New York City residents looking for a summer escape.
The Catskills have epic mountain hiking paths in addition to luxurious hotels and exquisite dining.
Hunter Mountain, located in the mountains’ northern portion, also has thrilling ski and snowboard runs.
If you want to spend a more relaxing day outside, the Catskill Region is generally regarded as the birthplace of fly fishing, so put on your waders and cast a line.
The Adirondack Mountains are not a range like the Rocky Mountains, but rather a dome made up of about 100 peaks spread out over a 160-mile radius.
This area includes rocks that were deposited over a billion years ago.
Continental collision shaped the rocks into a high plateau, which then underwent progressive carving by glacial action.
Today, visitors to Adirondack Park come to swim or fish in its numerous natural lakes, kayak along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, or snowboard at Whiteface and Gore Mountain.
Final Thoughts on Best State Parks in Upstate New York
Indeed, the best state parks in upstate New York offer visitors a myriad of fun activities and attractions to choose from.
The visit to New York does not indeed end at New York City.
So, head out to the state parks in upstate New York and have a once in a lifetime experience!