Looking for a great place for your next down to earth family vacation? Then try Green Lakes State Park in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. Located a short drive from Syracuse, this strikingly scenic park delivers all you need for family vacations: two beautiful lakes with blue-green water, wide sandy beach for swimming, camping, hiking, fishing, and even a golf course. And do not forget to bring your dog!
Things to do in Green Lakes State Park
This park is one of my major discoveries. Years ago, when I was still very much into camping, I wanted to find a place for a long weekend group trip. I never heard about the park, yet when I spotted it on a map, its name intrigued me.
When I saw the pictures of the lakes, I realized it was a special place. The blueish green color of the water caught my immediate attention. Not something I expected in a two-hour drive from my house. I made my decision quickly and picked the place for the camping trip. Turned out to be a great escape for everyone. Since then I’ve returned numerous times and I will be back for sure. Read on for more about Green Lakes State Park and things to do in Finger Lakes.
Learn about Green Lakes State Park’s extraordinary ecosystem.
At the new Environmental Educational Center, learn about two park’s glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest. Both lakes are meromictic, which means that there is no fall and spring mixing of surface and bottom waters.
Why are they green? To simplify, it is because they are deep. Round Lake is measured at 180 feet deep, while Green Lake reaches 195 feet. Deep lakes tend to appear bluish because the wavelengths of light that can penetrate (and be dispersed at) great depths are those closer to the blue end of the spectrum.
The park preserves the largest stand of old growth forest in Central New York, and Round Lake has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Nearly half the park’s area is old-growth forest which includes many large specimens of tulip trees, sugar maples, beech, basswood, hemlock and white cedars.
Due to the sensitive nature of both Green and Round Lakes, no outside boats, kayaks, or canoes are allowed. Rowboat and kayak rentals are available Memorial Day – Labor Day at the Boat House, weather permitting.
Because of the anoxic (no oxygen) conditions at and below the chemocline, all fish in the lake are in the upper 60 feet of water. Rainbow trout are usually caught in early spring shortly after they’re stocked. Other fish include largemouth bass, bluegill, and rock bass.
Green Lakes State Park offers a large beach with multiple swim areas, all facilities, concessions, and picnic areas nearby. The facilities are updated and well maintained.
Make sure to explore an extensive network of hiking trails throughout the park. The development of the lake area is mostly contained at its northern end. The western shoreline of Green Lake is undeveloped, and Round Lake is essentially in the wilderness.
The most popular hike in the park is around Green Lake (2.3 miles) with a possibility of adding a loop around Round Lake (0.8 miles). The main feature of the trail is the striking color of the water but fallen and twisted trees certainly add a lot of charm to it.
Make your reservations way in advance! Campgrounds have excellent paved roads and new modern bathhouses with individual rooms enclosing an infant changing table, a toilet, and a shower. Most areas are wooded except for a new section in the Pinewoods loop that has pull through full hookup sites. Few camping cabins are also available. (How to make a camping trip a success.)
Green Lakes State Park includes many bike trails, most of which are at the western edge of the park. These connect with the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, which runs by the north entrance of the park. Biking is allowed on some hiking trails.
The park has an 18-hole public golf course designed in 1935 by Robert Trent Jones, English-American golf course architect who designed or re-designed more than 500 golf courses in 45 U.S. states and 35 countries.
Seasons in Green Lakes State Park
Fall is special in Green Lakes State Park
Fall in the park is my favorite season. I visit at least every two years. On weekdays, I practically have a park to myself. Colorful leaves framing shades of greens and blues of the water create one of a kind scenario.
Winter in Green Lakes State Park
Winter visitors enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on 15 miles of trails.
Discover Finger Lakes Region
The park is close to Syracuse with museums, sports, great spots to eat and other recreational and educational opportunities. You can also use it as a base to visit other nearby fantastic New York state parks. For a mature audience, wine tasting is very popular at scenic wineries of the region.