Off the Beaten Path – Fillmore Glen State Park

Join us for a special treat! Our long-time volunteer and resident adventure-seeker, Brenda Mott, will be sharing her adventures in her blog series, Off The Beaten Path. With so many adventurous places in the Finger Lakes region you may have already heard of, Brenda is sharing the not-so-heard-of hidden gems that are right under our noses.  Brenda will be exploring these gems to share them with you so you can begin your own adventures Off The Beaten Path. 

Let’s join Brenda as she explores the waterfalls of Fillmore Glen State Park!

Stay connected for more intriguing blog posts coming soon!

After climbing up the “never ending” stairs, at least that’s how they seemed to me…

The path leveled out and it was a short walk to the gorge trail.  As I dropped down a few stairs I could see the creek.  This was the top of what is called “First Falls” that flows down over the Cow Shed (also called the Cowshed Falls).  I looked down the creek away from the falls.  The bed was solid stone, flat across with a small concave area where the water was flowing.  Down a little way was a soft bend.  I immediately thought of a Slip and Slide and a vision popped into my head of me riding down the creek yelling, “Waaaa Hooooo” (that’s what I say when I’m having fun.)  Then I looked back to the other side and saw the top of the falls.  My vision went from a Slip and Slide with me yelling, “Waaa Hooo” to a Slip and Fly with me yelling, “Ohhh Nooo” as I go over the edge.  That’s a long way down with another waterfall in between.  Yikes…

This was at Fillmore Glen State Park.  The second half of my two-adventure day.  Fillmore Glen is a smaller park tucked away in Moravia, NY.  It is a 941-acre park.  It is like someone sliced out a piece of Watkins Glen State Park and brought it to Moravia, except it is much less crowded.  They have 60 campsites, 3 trails, a stream fed swim hole/pool (with lifeguards) and gorge trail (one of the 3 trails) that has 5 waterfalls.  Like other iconic parks from that era, the trails and infrastructure at Fillmore Glen were created and enhanced by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.  There are stone-wall paths, numerous wooden bridges that crisscross the creek (actually named Dry Creek, go figure), as well as stone staircases. All of which are beautifully blended into the natural settings. 

The address is: 1686 NY-38, Moravia, NY 13118.  Longitude: 42.699265 / Latitude: -76.415967.

The park is named after our 13th president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, who was born about 5 miles from the park.  A replica of the cabin he was born in is located near the main entrance of the park. It’s easy to miss it since it is not much bigger the office at the check in point, but is worth a visit to get an idea of life in that era.

The Cowshed Falls (also known as First Falls) earned its name before the state obtained the park.  It is said that the cows from surrounding farms would gather in the gorge to get some relief from the hot weather.  The falls looks like an amphitheater with the stone carved out behind it.  This waterfall is wheelchair accessible.  The other areas of the gorge can only be reached after a steep climb (or “endless stairs”).

Once I got up the stairs and through my little “Slip and Slide” vision the trail is a mostly easy walk.  The area is/can be wet and a little slippery so proper footwear is suggested.  There are other cascades and waterfalls along the way and the last 2 are in a square cut section of the gorge and about as tall the First Falls.  The gorge remains shaded with a constant mist and even in the hottest of days will feel cooler and refreshing.  The wooden bridges that cross back and forth over the stream vary in size.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of bridges, including foot bridges that are more than a couple feet off the ground. But I pulled up my “Big Girl” panties and crossed them.  I may have tightly gripped the railing, walked really slow and had the look of fear on my face (luckily no one else was on the trail to see that) but I did it.  The rippling murmur of the water flowing both in the creek and down the cascades was very soothing.  There was a lack of sounds of civilization and it was easy to get lost in nature. 

This little slice of nature is worth the drive from wherever you are.  Make it a day trip or stay in the area for the weekend.  There are many other parks, waterfalls and unique areas in this region just waiting to be your next adventure. 

Trails are open year-round, but always check with the park websites before you head out.  At Fillmore Glen State Park the gorge trail is only open from late spring to late fall depending on the damages from winter and/or spring floods.

This was the 2nd half of my “busy Saturday” and I do wish I had devoted a full day to each one as there is/was so much more to see.


So, until next time – get outside!



“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together” 

John Burroughs, American Naturalist


Fillmore Glen State Park

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