Blake Walsh

20 Ridiculously Beautiful Places in Upstate New York

  • Published 2023/10/22

New York State, often overshadowed by the bright lights of its iconic city, is a treasure trove of natural wonders, historic landmarks, and cultural gems.

From the thundering cascades of Niagara to the serene beauty of the Adirondacks, Upstate New York, in particular, offers a myriad of experiences that beckon travelers to explore and immerse themselves in its diverse landscapes.

This article unveils 20 of the most breathtaking spots in Upstate New York, each promising a unique adventure and a lasting memory.

Niagara Falls

Waters of Niagara Falls

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A natural wonder straddling the U.S.-Canada border, Niagara Falls is a breathtaking spectacle of cascading waters.

Comprising three waterfalls – the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls – it’s a mesmerizing sight that draws millions annually.

Beyond the falls, visitors can explore the surrounding park, embark on a boat tour, or visit the observation deck for panoramic views.

Adirondack Mountains

Adirondack Mountains reflecting on a pond

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The Adirondacks, a vast mountainous region, beckon nature lovers with its pristine lakes, dense forests, and rugged peaks.

Whether you’re hiking Mount Marcy, New York’s highest peak, or canoeing in serene waters, the Adirondacks offer a rejuvenating escape.

Fall foliage here is especially enchanting, painting the landscape in vibrant hues.

Letchworth State Park

Bridge and waterfall at Letchworth State Park

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Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park showcases a deep gorge carved by the Genesee River.

With three major waterfalls and 66 miles of hiking trails, it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

The park’s cliffs, rising over 600 feet, offer stunning vistas, especially during autumn.

Finger Lakes

Keuka lake at Finger Lakes region

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This region, characterized by its long, slender lakes, is a blend of natural beauty and viniculture.

The glacially formed lakes are surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards, and quaint towns.

Wine enthusiasts will appreciate the area’s renowned wineries, while Keuka and Seneca Lakes provide idyllic settings for boating and fishing.

Lake Placid

A lodge at Lake Placid

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Twice the host of the Winter Olympics, Lake Placid is more than a sports destination.

Nestled in the Adirondacks, this village offers a picturesque backdrop of Mirror Lake and surrounding mountains.

Explore the Olympic Museum, take a bobsled ride, or simply relax by the serene waters.

Watkins Glen State Park

Rainbow falls at Watkins Glen State Park

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A realm of geological wonders, Watkins Glen boasts a 2-mile gorge path that winds past 19 waterfalls.

The stone pathways, staircases, and tunnels provide an immersive experience, allowing visitors to walk behind cascading waters and marvel at the sculpted rock formations.

Thousand Islands

Castle at Thousand Islands

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This archipelago, dotting the Saint Lawrence River, offers a mix of natural beauty and history.

From fairy-tale-like castles to serene island retreats, there’s a world to discover.

Boat tours provide a glimpse of island life, while Boldt and Singer Castles narrate tales of love and luxury.

Ausable Chasm

Aerial view of Ausable Chasm's waterfall

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Often called the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” Ausable Chasm is a sandstone gorge with picturesque views.

Visitors can walk along the rim, raft down the river, or explore the chasm’s unique rock formations.

The Rainbow Falls and Inner Sanctum trails are particularly enchanting.

Catskill Mountains

Scenic views from Catskill Mountains

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A blend of natural splendor and cultural heritage, the Catskills are a retreat for artists, writers, and nature lovers.

Explore the cascading Kaaterskill Falls, hike to panoramic viewpoints, or delve into the region’s rich arts scene.

The area’s resorts and festivals add to its allure.

Montauk Point Lighthouse

Aerial view of Montauk Point Lighthouse

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Perched at Long Island’s eastern tip, this historic lighthouse offers sweeping views of the Atlantic.

As New York’s oldest lighthouse, it’s a beacon of maritime history.

The surrounding parkland, with its rugged coastline and diverse birdlife, is a haven for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Taughannock Falls State Park

Fall scene at Taughannock Falls State Park

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A gem in the Finger Lakes region, Taughannock Falls State Park is home to a majestic 215-foot waterfall, taller than even Niagara Falls.

The park’s gorge and rim trails offer varying perspectives of this natural wonder.

In summer, the park’s beach on Cayuga Lake is perfect for relaxation, while winter transforms the falls into a frozen spectacle.

Mohonk Mountain House

Exterior of Mohonk Mountain House

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Perched atop the Shawangunk Ridge, Mohonk Mountain House is a Victorian castle resort overlooking the serene Mohonk Lake.

With its award-winning gardens, winding hiking trails, and a history spanning over a century, it’s a blend of luxury and nature.

The Sky Top Tower offers panoramic views of the Catskills and beyond.

Saratoga Springs

Horse racing at Saratoga Springs

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Famed for its therapeutic mineral springs and historic horse racing track, Saratoga Springs is a blend of wellness and entertainment.

The Victorian-era architecture, vibrant arts scene, and lush parks add to its charm.

Whether attending a summer race or enjoying a spa day, Saratoga promises a memorable experience.

Whiteface Mountain

View of the snow-covered Whiteface Mountain

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One of the Adirondack High Peaks, Whiteface Mountain offers unparalleled views from its summit.

Accessible by car via the Veterans’ Memorial Highway or by hiking its challenging trails, the summit boasts a 360-degree view of the Adirondacks and neighboring Vermont.

In winter, it’s a premier skiing destination, drawing snow enthusiasts from all over.

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle

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Situated on Heart Island in the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castle is a symbol of timeless love.

Commissioned by millionaire George Boldt for his beloved wife, the castle is an architectural marvel.

With its manicured gardens, grand rooms, and romantic backstory, it’s a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Gorgeous cascades at Buttermilk Falls State Park

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Located near Ithaca, this park is a cascade of natural beauty.

Named after its primary waterfall, which resembles flowing buttermilk, the park features a series of falls and gorges.

The hiking trails offer varying levels of difficulty, ensuring that both casual walkers and avid hikers can enjoy the park’s splendor.

Chittenango Falls State Park

Rushing waters at Chittenango Falls State Park

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Nestled just southeast of Syracuse, Chittenango Falls State Park is home to a stunning 167-foot waterfall.

Cascading over rugged bedrock, the falls create a picturesque scene that’s accessible via a short trail.

The park’s diverse habitats support a variety of wildlife, including the endangered Chittenango ovate amber snail, found nowhere else on Earth.

Whether you’re picnicking, hiking, or simply soaking in the views, this park offers a serene escape.

Cooperstown

Shops at Cooperstown

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Best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown offers more than just sports history.

Situated on the southern tip of Otsego Lake, this charming village boasts tree-lined streets, historic homes, and the renowned Fenimore Art Museum.

The Farmers’ Museum, with its 19th-century village and farmstead, offers a glimpse into rural life of yesteryears.

A visit to Cooperstown is a journey through American culture and history.

Howes Caverns

Interior of Howes Caverns

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Delve deep beneath the Earth’s surface at Howes Caverns, the largest show cave in the Northeast.

Located west of Albany, this subterranean wonder features limestone formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and an underground lake.

Guided tours lead visitors through well-lit pathways, sharing tales of the cavern’s discovery and its geological significance.

The boat ride on the tranquil underground river is a highlight, offering a unique perspective of this ancient wonder.

High Falls Gorge

The waters of High Falls Gorge

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Located near Lake Placid, High Falls Gorge offers a breathtaking view of the Adirondack’s waterfalls and the Ausable River.

A series of walkways and bridges allow visitors to experience the power and beauty of the cascading waters up close.

In winter, the frozen falls create a magical icy landscape, while spring’s meltwater offers a roaring spectacle.

The gorge is a testament to the power of nature and time, carving beauty into the landscape.

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