Weekend Getaway to the Finger Lakes

Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen.

The Finger Lakes is a stunning area only hours away from New York City, known for its waterfalls and wine. As a dog-friendly destination, the Finger Lakes make for a perfect weekend getaway that's relaxing and adventurous for you and your fur babies to enjoy!

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When people hear New York, they automatically think of New York City but as a born and bred Brooklyn girl, I can tell you firsthand there’s so much more to the state. One of New York's brightest gems is the Finger Lakes region. Which boasts eleven lakes and spans over 9000 square miles. The Finger Lakes are famous for their abundance of waterfalls, vineyards for wine tasting, stellar breweries, and of course, the lakes themselves! When visiting the area you can expect to find amazing hiking trails to explore, activities for every season, and fantastic restaurants. 

How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Finger Lakes?

For a weekend trip with limited time when traveling directly from the city, we centered our itinerary around two of the region’s lakes: Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, with a home base near Ithaca, NY. Focusing on two lakes provided plenty of time to rest and not feel overwhelmed or anxious by a packed schedule. I plan to return one day to see the rest of the lakes. Depending on how much you want to see and do in the Finger Lakes, a trip can span from a long weekend to a week. At a minimum, I suggest at least three days to get a taste of all the activities this New York region offers.

A Dog Friendly Trip to the Finger Lakes

This was a special getaway for us since it was the first time we’d traveled with our dog, Leia. Studies have proven that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Indeed, I found traveling with our pup greatly benefited my mental health. While planning the trip, I knew most of our stops allowed dogs, but it pleasantly surprised me how truly pet-friendly the area was. We found plenty of lodging, trails, wineries, and restaurants that accommodated our fur baby. 

We decided to stay in an Airbnb for this short vacation as Leia is reactive and has separation anxiety from being a pandemic pup. This option provided her with more space than a hotel room could, and we didn’t have to subject fellow guests to her yowls when we left for one morning. Our rental was with Mill Creek Cabins, which was minutes away from Cayuga Lake. We had a very positive experience and there are always dog-friendly Airbnb's available to rent depending on the time of year you visit. There are also plenty of traditional hotels in the area that are pet-friendly.

Dog-Friendly Finger Lakes Hotels

Best Western University Inn : Located in Ithaca, the Best Western allows up to two dogs based on availability. There's an 80-pound weight limit on animals and a $30 pet fee per night.

Hampton Inn: Also located in the Ithaca area, the Hampton Inn only allows dogs up to 75 pounds per their pet policy. The hotel requires a $125 pet fee when you bring your dog.

Homeward Suites by Hilton: This Hilton Hotel in Ithaca allows two pets up to 40 pounds. They require a $50 pet fee. 

Rogues Harbor Inn: In the town of Lansing, the Rogues Harbor Inn allows one dog of any size but only in certain rooms. The dog can’t be left unattended and there is a $25 pet fee.

41 Lakefront Hotel, Trademark Collection By Wyndham: This beautiful Wyndham hotel in Geneva by the lake allows two pets of any size (dogs or cats.) There is also a $50 fee per pet.

Microtel Inn & Suites: The Microtel Inn in Geneva, New York allows guests to bring up to two pets, both dogs and cats of any size. According to their pet policy, there is a $20 per pet per night fee, and pets cannot be left unattended.

Long Weekend Itinerary in the Finger Lakes

Day 1: (Thursday Night or Friday Morning)

You can start your weekend trip to the Finger Lakes either making the drive Thursday night or early Friday morning. We choose the latter, leaving our apartment at around 8 am and arriving shortly after noon. The drive from New York City to our first destination was approximately four and a half hours. We found that this was more than enough time during the day to explore the Ithaca area and visit a few of the beautiful waterfalls famously known for in this destination. 

First Stop - Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls, the park's namesake, is a 215 feet plunge waterfall that holds the title of the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. From the overview parking lot, a short walk past a small visitors center took us to the falls viewing platform. The overlook sits directly across from the waterfall, offering a picture-perfect view of the water cascading over the gorge. 

After taking more pictures than needed at the overlook, we made a five-minute drive back to the park's entrance to start our hike to the base of Taughannock Falls. The gorge trail is an easy, under two-mile hike. At the end of the trail, you’re rewarded with a spectacular close-up view of the bottom of the falls. The water pooled into a sparkling emerald color that enchanted us and enticed Leia to want to jump in. Overall we found this to be a peaceful and satisfying hike that the whole family (doggos included) can enjoy. 

Taughannock Falls via Gorge Trail -
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.8 miles out and back
Elevation: 183 feet
Dog Friendly: Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail 

Good to Know:

  • There’s no entrance fee to the overlook lot but there's a $9 vehicle fee for the lot to the gorge hike from May through October. 
  • The state park is open year-round from dusk to dawn. 
  • Up to two pets are allowed within the park. 
  • Trails do not close for the season unless, for severe winter weather. It’s best to check the NY State Park website for updates. 

Second Stop - Buttermilk Falls State Park 

From Taughannock Falls, we made our way back to Ithaca, with a twenty-minute ride to our next stop, Buttermilk Falls. The parking lot sat steps away from the park's lawn, and across from it stood the impressive Buttermilk Falls. This is a foaming waterfall with a deep pool and swimming area below it. Visitors can enjoy the falls from the lawn, hike the gorge, or take a swim in this lovely spot. 

Rather than attempting to tackle another hike we found a table at the picnic area to sit back and relax. The falls made a beautiful background while we enjoyed some of the snacks we packed from home. The hike looked wonderful but involved many steep stairs. Be mindful of your body’s limits and your dogs. Our pup wasn’t quite up for that challenge yet. 

Man and dog next to Buttermilk Falls.
Look at those happy faces!

Buttermilk Falls Gorge and Rim Trail Loop -
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.6 miles loop
Elevation: 462 feet 
Dog Friendly: Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail 

Good to Know:

  • The park is open year-round from dusk to dawn. 
  • There's a $9 per vehicle fee, collected from April through Mid November. 
  • The gorge trail closes for the winter, generally from mid-November until late April. 
  • Up to two pets are allowed within the park. 

Our original plan included Ithaca Falls and Lucifer Falls on the itinerary for Friday. Unfortunately, though, Leia had enough for the day after Buttermilk Falls State Park. It was clear to us that all the driving and hiking had exhausted her. All she wanted at that point was a nap and belly rubs so we decided it was best to cut our last two stops short. Although we did amend our plans for Sunday to add Ithaca Falls as a stop on the way home and thought it a great way to end our trip. But there'll be more on that later! 

If you and your group are up for the next stop, I suggest Lucifer Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park. Located a mere 6-minute drive from Buttermilk Falls, this park boasts 12 waterfalls on its gorge trail, including the 115-foot-tall Lucifer Falls. There are numerous hiking trails to choose from, but it’s best to base it on your fitness level. Lucifer Falls would be the one not to miss. On my next visit, it’ll be my first stop. 

Lucifer Falls via Gorge Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.1 miles loop
Elevation: 282 feet 
Dog Friendly: Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail 

Good to Know:

  • The gorge trail and the red pine trail close for the winter season, from mid-November until late May. 
  • Up to two pets are allowed in the park.
  • The park is open year-round from dusk to dawn.
  • There's a $9 per vehicle entrance fee, collected from April through mid-November. 

Given how tired our pup was we decided to pick up dinner to take back to the Airbnb before checking in. Shortstop Deli right in town had a wonderful selection of subs that made for the perfect takeaway meal after all the walking and driving of the day. We also grabbed a couple of snacks from a nearby convenience store for the next morning so we could get an early start. 

Day 2: Saturday 

First Stop- Watkins Glen State Park

I highly suggest making this as early a day as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds. This is the most popular park in the Finger Lakes. With good reason, so prepare accordingly. We left for Watkins Glen a few minutes before 8 am and arrived at approximately 8:30 in the morning. The drive from the Ithaca area to Watkins Glen State Park is give or take 35 minutes. 

This was the only place where we couldn’t bring Leia with us. She, unfortunately, had to stay behind at the Airbnb for the morning. While some of the trails in the park do allow dogs, the jewel of Watkins Glen, known as the gorge trail, does not. And if you plan on making the trip to Watkins Glen, you don't want to miss the gorge trail.

From the parking lot directly behind the visitor center on Main Street, lies the entrance to Watkins Glen. I immediately felt as if I was transported out of New York and entered a mythical fantasy. The towering gorges cover both sides when walking toward the trails. There are a few short hikes you can begin with from this point, but the better option is to start with the gorge trail. 

Along this 2-mile path, you’ll encounter 19 waterfalls, including the famous Rainbow Falls. Every few steps we took, I became awe-struck by the unparalleled beauty surrounding me. Each waterfall, twisting gorge, abundant greenery, and stone bridge stole my breath away. Rainbow Falls, the highlight of the trail, contained it all. With the early morning light streaming through the cracks of the trees, it created a golden glow across the falls, resembling a scene plucked right out of a fairytale. 

It also seemed as if we had the entire park to ourselves in the morning except for a few groups we crossed paths with. Although, we did travel in mid-June before the peak summer season, which undoubtedly contributed to the solace we experienced in the park. In my experience, when traveling during July and August, it might be better to choose a weekday or arrive even earlier on the weekends. 

Glen Creek Gorge Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.9 miles out and back 
Elevation: 456 feet 
Dog Friendly: Dogs aren't allowed on the trail 

Good to Know:

  • Watkins Glen is open year-round, from dusk to dawn. Keep in mind, the gorge trail is closed from mid-November until late May each year. 
  • There is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle from mid-May to mid-October. 
  • This is a popular location so expect high visitation on weekends, holidays, and during the summer months. 
  • The gorge trail does not allow dogs, but up to two pets are permitted in the day areas and rim trails. 

Second Stop - Thirsty Owl Wine Company

Before returning to the Airbnb to pick up the pup, we stopped by Glen Mountain Market Bakery down the block from Watkins Glen to grab a late breakfast. It was quick, delicious, and much needed after the hike with only protein bars as fuel. 

Back at Cayuga Lake with Leia now in tow, it was time to explore the Finger Lakes' famous vineyards. Wine tasting is one of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes, and is a popular activity. There are 16 wineries along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. On the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, there are nearly 30 wineries to visit! To visit each of them would have been impossible in one afternoon, especially since they don’t all allow dogs. For that reason, we stuck to the Cayuga trail since it was the closest option of the two lakes.

We had the opportunity to enjoy two Finger Lakes wineries, the first being the Thirsty Owl Wine Company. I’ve visited countless wineries across the East Coast and Thirsty Owl remains one of my favorites. Sitting next to Cayuga Lake, this Finger Lakes winery had it all; stunning views, great wine, and best of all, they were dog friendly. In the tasting room, we sampled various wines. Both the red and whites were delicious, but the Riesling was our favorite. The region is known for producing exceptional white wine, and we couldn’t agree more. We brought home three bottles of the Riesling. 

Thirsty owl went above and beyond to accommodate us inside the tasting room. Leia was plied with tons of water, treats, and affection while we enjoyed the wine and view of Cayuga Lake. We then had a late lunch at their Bistro, delighting in food as spectacular as their wine. Afterward, we made our way to the outdoor patio where we strolled along the vineyards and the lake. 

Third Stop - Sheldrake Point Winery

Feeling a bit worn out from the morning at Watkins Glen and all the wine we’d drunk at Thirsty Owl, we made one last stop at Sheldrake Point Winery, less than 10 minutes away. Here, dogs are only allowed on the outside lawn. We decided to forgo the sampling and simply enjoyed another glass of white wine on their beautiful lawn. Like Thirsty Owl, Sheldrake is also on Cayuga Lake. Taking in the warm June afternoon sun, wine in hand, Leia sprawled out on the grass while we looked out onto the lake. It was the perfect way to end our day. Before returning to our rental, we made a quick stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery for homemade ice cream. I highly recommend the butter-pecan flavor! 

Winery on Cayuga Lake.

Day 3: Sunday 

Last Stop - Ithaca Falls 

Before embarking on the drive home, we wanted to make a quick stop at one of the Finger Lakes waterfalls we didn’t have time for on Friday, Ithaca Falls. Another dog-friendly park with an easy walk to the falls. There’s no trail here as the park is a few short steps from the parking lot across the street. We hadn’t expected much since it was a free small park and one of the less popular falls in the area but were amazed to find what an unexpected gem it turned out to be. Ithaca falls stand 150 feet tall with a width of 175 feet, and as beautiful as the other falls we'd visited with no crowds. There was only one other person at the park so we took our time to relax at the falls before returning to our car and going home.

Woman with dog at Ithaca Falls.

Of course, there’s so much more to see and do in the area with additional time. Below you’ll find additional dog-friendly restaurants, wineries, and waterfall hikes to add to your itinerary if you’d like! Additionally, check out this guide to explore more spots on a New York road trip for adventurous travelers. These are incredible places to enjoy a quick getaway.

Dog-Friendly Finger Lakes Wineries

  • Thirsty Owl Wine Company - In Ovid, NY. Spectacular views of Cayuga Lake, exceptional white wine, and food. Dogs are welcome outside and in the tasting room. 
  • Sheldrake Point Winery - In Ovid, NY. Great views of Cayuga Lake. No restaurant on site and dogs are only allowed in the outside area. 
  • Hosmer Winery - Also in Ovid, NY. One of the oldest vineyards in the area, reservations are recommended. Dogs are allowed in the outside area and the tasting room. 
  • Bagley's Poplar Ridge Vineyards - In Hector, NY. On the eastern side of Seneca Lake, Bagley's rustic tasting room is open to you and your pups! There's no restaurant on site. In the summer, try one of their amazing wine slushies. 
  • Leidenfrost Vineyards - In Hector, NY. Pet-friendly winery with incredible views of Seneca Lake. Dogs are allowed in the tasting room, and a free wine glass is included with the tasting. 
  • Lakewood Vineyards - In Watkins Glen, NY. Minutes away from Watkins Glen State Park, this lovely winery sits on the west side of Seneca Lake. Dogs are allowed in the tasting room, and groups can stroll with their pups through the vineyards. 

Organized Finger Lakes wine tours are also available, in case you want to leave the fur baby at home and skip the driving.

Dog-Friendly Finger Lakes Restaurants

Ithaca Ale House- In Ithaca, NY. Relaxed bar and grill with great craft beers. Dogs are allowed in the outside sitting area.

Liquid State Brewing Company - In Ithaca, NY. Fun brewery with a wide variety of beers, a fried chicken food truck, and a large outside sitting area for you and your dog. 

El Rancho Mexican Restaurant - In Watkins Glen, NY. Casual and delicious Mexican restaurant located minutes from the state park. Pet-friendly outdoor seating. 

Nickel’s Pit BBQ - In Watkins Glen, NY. Killer BBQ food in a low-key atmosphere. A large outdoor patio welcomes people and pups alike. 

More Dog-Friendly Waterfall Trails

Eagle Cliff Falls, in Montour Falls, NY
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 0.3 miles out and back 
Elevation: 29 feet 
Good to know: $2 parking fee. Open from mid-May through mid-October, otherwise closed for the season. 

Seneca Mill and Cascade Mill Falls, in Penn Yan, NY
Difficulty: Easy 
Distance: 5.4 miles out and back 
Elevation: 180 feet
Good to know: Open year round. 

Fillmore Glen Gorge Trail, in Moravia, NY - 
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.5 miles out and back 
Elevation: 351 feet
Good to know: Park is open year-round, but trails are only open from mid-May to mid-October. $8 per vehicle fee. 

Cascadilla Falls, in Ithaca, NY
Difficulty: Moderate 
Distance: 1.1 miles out and back 
Elevation: 298 feet
Good to know: Park closes for the winter season. 

That’s everything you need to know for a dog-friendly long weekend getaway in the Finger Lakes! Leia seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did, and I’m sure your fur babies will too! Let me know in the comments if you're planning a trip to the Finger Lakes!

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  • Tracy says:

    So helpful to have such detail when traveling with a pup and not knowing the area. thanks! I'm particularly interested in the hikes and appreciate the list.

  • Jazmin Marie says:

    I just saw this at the perfect time! My dog has been reactive as she's gotten older and I'm no longer able to get a sitter with her. Now I have an adventure with the two of us that is reactive dog approved! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jillian says:

      It really can be tricky finding good places to bring a reactive pup to, which is why I was so glad that there were plenty of options for Leia in the Finger Lakes! I've also found that a gentle leader has been helpful on trails rather than a regular leash if you'd want to hike with your pup too!

  • Jordan Bennett says:

    Such great information!! I’ll have to take my pups sometime!

  • Yvonne says:

    I was not aware of these state parks and I am so happy to learn about them here! I would love to visit. The waterfalls look amazing. I would love to visit Taughannock Falls State Park. And it is so nice that it is dog friendly. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jillian says:

      Taughannock Falls is an amazing spot and you get great views even if you don't want to hike!

  • Linda (LD Holland) says:

    The Finger Lakes is an easy weekend trip for us from Toronto. We too loved all the great waterfall sites we found as we explored. Next time we will have to check out Lucifer and Ithaca Falls. But we sure did love the winery stops.

    • Jillian says:

      Lucifer falls is next for me too! The winery stops are amazing, I hope to visit more on my next visit!

  • Farrah says:

    Ahh, I've been to most of these already but would love to go back once a season -- it's so pretty over there!

    • Jillian says:

      Same! I've only been in late spring but would love to visit during fall to see the sites with all the foliage!

  • Brittany says:

    The Finger Lakes have been on my bucket list for a while! I have two golden retrievers and would love to bring them with me. This looks like such a fun and dog-friendly vacation!

    • Jillian says:

      It's an amazing dog-friendly trip! Apart from the trail in Watkins Glen, everything else was open for my pup to bring with me! You will love it!