Road Greetings from Keuka & Seneca Finger Lakes!
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
From Dundee we proceeded to our destination - Keuka Lake State Park, which is situated at the heart of the wine country and the Finger Lakes Region. There are five lakes to the East of Keuka Lake and five somewhat smaller lakes to the West. The region is vast and seeing it all was just not possible during the short time we spent there. Our trip focused around Keuka Lake and the closeby towns Penn Yan and Hammondsport, as well as Seneca Lake and the surrounding towns Watkins Glen and Geneva.
We stayed at the Keuka Lake State Park campground that offered a beautiful swimming beach, hiking trails and access to the Keuka and Seneca Lake winery trails. Although we didn’t explore winery trails, we visited the Heron Hill Winery in Hammondsport, which is famous for the most beautiful tasting rooms in the world by Travel & Leisure. It required advanced reservations so we didn’t get a chance to taste any wines but enjoyed the spectacular views of the scenic Keuka Lake. A few miles away from the winery, there is Keuka Lake’s first micro-brewery Keuka Brewing Co. Since both of us are beer drinkers, we enjoyed a couple of their unique brews. If you are a cider lover, you will find some locally crafted ciders at Cider Creek Hard Cider in Hammondsport. Whatever drink you fancy, you will find it at the local wineries, breweries and distilleries in the Finger Lakes Region!
We kept revisiting the charming village of Penn Yan located on Keuka Lake, which is filled with history. We spotted Birkett Mills Warehouses, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and the nation’s #1 producer of Buckwheat products, where in 1987 the world’s largest pancake was made according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was 4,050 pounds and 28 feet in diameter! The 27-foot griddle is still displayed on the wall outside Birkett Mills Penn Yan’s building.
The town offers a variety of cafes, restaurants, ice cream parlors and shops including Shoreline Rentals, where you can rent kayaks, paddle boards and bicycles. We ended up renting bicycles for our scenic ride on the Keuka Lake Trail Outlet which is about 7 miles from Penn Yan to Dresden to see Seneca Mill Falls. The Shoreline Rentals’ service was excellent - the owner Andrew was able to deliver and pick up bicycles from the campground.
The next day we visited Watkins Glen, which is arguably the most famous town on Seneca Lake. An International Speedway is located there and many years ago traveled directly through the town itself. There are plenty of reminders of its celebrated past as you make your way around town - from the crosswalks that appear as checkered flags to seeing pictures of racers and race cars on the walls of multiple businesses throughout the town’s downtown. Also at the foot of town is Watkins Glen State Park, which is considered one of the best ‘State Parks’ in the United States. It features 18 waterfalls and a plethora of incredible water formations cast into the rock. Hiking the trail is fairly easy as it’s on improved surfaces. It is noteworthy to mention that there are lots of stairs along the two-mile hike.
Another place we visited travelling through Penn Yan was the village...err city of Geneva, situated on the Northwestern side of Seneca Lake. We both love walking towns and this one did not disappoint! There is a lot of charm to this small city of nearly six square miles - many farm-to-table type restaurants and outdoor activities to do along the routes we took. Anna got to partake in something new! Red-wine flavored ice cream as we admired the Seneca Lake waterfront. While flavorful, no side effects from alcohol were to be had.
On the last day of our adventure, we ventured to two distinct areas of the region. The first was Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park in Canandaigua, NY. The park is located at the Northwestern corner of Canandaigua Lake and is about 40 minutes Northwest of the campground. There are many themed flora and rock-garden & statue arrangements throughout the 50-acre park, which surrounds an early 19th century Victorian home.
Our second stop for the day was about 45 minutes (and two Finger Lakes) to the East. The name of this park is Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and is just North of Cayuga Lake. They have an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, but unfortunately it was closed due to COVID. There are mangroves and swamps that the park sits within “Black Lake”, where a drive through provided ample opportunities to spy great egrets and blue herons.
The Finger Lakes adventure came to an end very quickly. There is much more to see and explore in this beautiful region! Until next time!