Skip to Content

What To Expect At Green Lakes State Park In Upstate, NY

What To Expect At Green Lakes State Park In Upstate, NY

Green Lakes State Park is located along the eastern edge of the NY Finger Lakes region near Syracuse. It showcases two very deep glacial lakes surrounded by beautiful old growth forest. This is a great place to spend a day with the family swimming, boating, hiking and camping.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to make the most of your trip when visiting Green Lakes State Park including tips from a local.

Our Green Lakes Experience

Woman sitting on a wooden bench at Green Lakes State Park near the beach
Kristen sitting along a bench at Green Lakes taking in the views

Kristen is a Finger Lakes native and we also temporarily lived in the region when Mark first moved to the US in 2019. We’ve personally visited Green Lakes State Park and the photos in this guide were from an April 2021 visit when we hiked around both of the glacial lakes.

We’ll share information about parking, entrance fees and give you an entire walkthrough of the Green Lake and Round Lake loop trail. Even though we visited in April, the weather was uncharacteristically warm and it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday. Read more about us.

What Is Green Lakes State Park?

Visitors enjoying the beach access at Green Lakes State Park in April
Visitors enjoying the beach access at Green Lake
  • City: Fayetteville
  • State: New York
  • Telephone: (315) 637-6111
  • Campgrounds: 135 and 7 cabins
  • Activities: Hiking, swimming, boating, golfing, camping
  • Open: All year
  • Annual Visitors: ~1.87 million

Green Lakes is a unique state park in upstate New York because it showcases two beautiful glacial lakes surrounded by lush forest. They are known as Round and Green Lake. Interestingly, they are also meromictic lakes so there is no mixing of surface and deeper waters which yields a surprisingly topical blue color.

It officially became a New York state park in 1918 and it’s expanded over the years to now include about 2,000 acres. In 1975, Round Lake was designated a National Natural Landmark by the US Department of the Interior. You can read more on the official website.

The two glacial lakes are the highlight of this state park with Green Lake measuring about 195 ft deep and Round Lake clocking in around 180 ft deep. Another popular feature is the 18-hole golf course and 15 miles of hiking trails which are open all year. Like most NY state parks, it’s open from dawn to dusk everyday.

READ: 10 best places to visit in the NY Finger Lakes

Directions To The Park

Easy hiking trail next to Round Lake in Syracuse NY
A section of the Green Lake and Round Lake loop trail

Green Lakes State Park is nestled in the village of Fayetteville which is only 10 miles or a 15 minute drive from Syracuse, NY. We like this park because there are plenty of things to do in Syracuse if you’re making this visit part of a wider Finger Lakes road trip.

  • Address: 7900 Green Lakes Rd, Fayetteville, NY 13066
  • Location: Google Maps

From Syracuse, head east on I-690 and then continue east on NY-290. If you’re coming from anywhere east, west or north of Syracuse, Green Lakes is easily accessible from I-90.

Let’s take a quick look at driving distances and times from nearby major cities as well as the closest airports for you to consider if visiting from further afield.

Green Lakes distance from nearby cities:

  • Binghamton, NY – 80 miles (1h 30m)
  • Syracuse, NY – 10 miles (15m)
  • Rochester, NY – 100 miles (1h 30m)
  • Buffalo, NY – 170 miles (2h 30m)
  • Albany, NY – 135 miles (2h 15m)

Search for your flights using the best search engine, Skyscanner. We love this platform because it compares prices on all flight platforms to find you the best deal. The same goes for renting a car when you get to a New York airport. Get a benchmark price using Rental Cars then see if you can beat it.

Here are the closest airports to Green Lakes State Park:

  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) – 16 miles (22m)
  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) – 100 miles (1h 30m)
  • Elmira / Corning Regional Airport (ELM) – 115 miles (2h)

READ: How to find cheap flights

Entrance Fees And Parking

Large tree along a shoreline of a deep blue lake
Large tree along Green Lake

You don’t have to pay an entrance fee and you don’t need a reservation to visit Green Lakes State Park. However, you’ll pay $10 for parking your vehicle depending on the season.

The Green Lakes entry fee is collected from Memorial Day at the end of May through Labor Day which is the beginning of September. So there is no parking fee if you visit between September 5th to May 24th in 2024. When we visited in April, we avoided the parking fee.

You’ll find the main parking lot for Green Lakes in the northern section of the park. This lot is very large and can accommodate hundreds of vehicles so you should be able to find a spot. We like Green Lakes because once you’ve parked, you can easily access the beach, park office, community bathhouse, playgrounds, picnic tables and the Green Lake Trail.

If you plan to play the Green Lakes Golf Course, there is a separate parking lot you can use which does not require the vehicle fee. However, please only use this lot if you’re golfing.

READ: Best state parks in New York


Green Lakes Hiking Trails

Lake Trail and beach sign directing visitors
Green sign along of the hiking trails

Hiking is one of main attractions at Green Lakes and there are a total of 20 hiking trails spanning about 15 miles. After parking in the main lot, you can begin your hike by Green Lake and then you’ll continue to Round Lake. The trails will eventually lead into wooden areas and open fields.

The most popular hike at Green Lakes State Park is the Green Lake Trail which is 1.9 miles in length and the Round Lake Trail which is another 0.9 miles. Hikers often combine these two trails for an epic loop hike around both of the stunning glacial lakes in the park.

Here are some of the most popular hikes:

  • Green Lake to Round Lake – 2.9 miles
  • Green Lake Trail – 1.9 miles
  • Round Lake Trail – 0.9 miles
  • Deer Run Trail – 2.5 miles
  • Rolling Hills – 1.8 miles
  • Brookside Trail – 0.9 miles
  • Spruce Ridge Trail – 2.8 miles

Use this trail map to see the 20 Green Lakes hikes and keep in mind, distances are one way. You can also check out the recent comments on AllTrails to see what other hikers are saying. In winter, many of these hikes turn into popular snowshoeing trails.

READ: Best hiking and outdoor adventure apps

Green Lake To Round Lake Trail Walkthrough

As we mentioned above, the most popular hike is to combine Green Lake with Round Lake. By hiking this loop, you’ll pass by the main points of interest.

  • Trail distance: 2.80 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Easy

So that’s exactly what we’re going to show you because it’s our favorite way to spend time in the park. Without further ado, let’s hike:

1. Begin At The Beach

Two people walking around the Green Lake Round Lake loop trail
Kristen and her mom starting the Green Lake and Round Lake loop

We always like to start our hike by walking south past the beach and Tulip Hill pavilion heading clockwise around both lakes. If you start this direction, you’ll pass by the old administration building, community bathhouse, several picnic tables and the playground at the beginning of your hike.

2. Green Lake

Rocky shoreline at Green Lakes State Park
Shoreline along Green Lake hiking trail

As you head south along the hiking trail, Green Lake will be on your right. Be sure to check out the stunning colors of the lake as you walk close to the shore line. The path is relatively flat with minimal elevation gain so it’s common to share the trail with joggers or runners.

3. Deadman’s Point

Trees growing along the shoreline at a lake in upstate New York
A shaded section of the tree line near Deadman’s Point

As you continue walking along the trail, the first point of interest you’ll come across is Deadman’s Point on the eastern bank. This is a really interesting section of the park and it’s the largest reef in Green Lake created by bacteria that precipitate calcium from the water.

Deadman’s Point gets it name from the strong current that flows beneath it. A local legend states that if you swim down beneath the point, you won’t surface again so it’s probably best to stay on the shore. We love this spot because the shoreline is dotted with northern spruce white cedar trees and it’s beautiful against the bright blue lake.

Hiking Tip: There is no swimming or wading out onto the reef because it’s very fragile and dangerous. Please explore responsibly and leave no trace.

4. Head Towards Round Lake

Stunning blue lake with a hiking trail and bare trees in spring
Shaded portion of the Green Lake and Round lake loop with Deadman’s Point in the distance

The flat dirt path continues to wind along the perimeter of Green Lake until you make it to a wooded area which eventually leads to Round Lake. When we hiked in April, many of the leaves were still bare from winter, but you can expect beautiful foliage on the trees in both summer and autumn.

5. Tween Lakes Trail

Two people walking along wooded hiking trail in spring
Kristen and her mom hiking to Round Lake

Continue walking along the dirt path and you’ll continue into a forested section. This is the Tween Lakes Trail that connects Green Lake with Round Lake. There will eventually be a small bridge on the left leading to the old pump house and the trail to Round Lake.

We like hiking in Green Lakes because you can always find shaded areas if you need protection from the sun. Even in April, it was warm and we appreciated this section of shaded trail.

Hiking Tip: If you don’t want to complete the entire loop, just head straight around Green Lake to make your way back to the parking lot by following the GL trail.

6. Find A Bench At Round Lake

Two people sitting on a wooden bench at Round Lake in Green Lakes State Park
Kristen and her mom enjoying the views of Round Lake

Round Lake is often much quieter compared to Green Lake because it’s not as easily accessible. So if you want to get away from the crowds, beeline it to Round Lake or one of the nearby trails. Don’t miss taking a photo on one of the benches littered around the shores or Round Lake. This is a great palce to enjoy the scenery or snap a photo for your socials.

7. Loop Back To Green Lake

Tree laying in the water at Green Lakes State Park
A tree floating along Green Lake

After you take in the views of Round Lake, it’s time to make your way back to Green Lake and the beach. The dirt trail is easy to follow as it loops around the lake and leads you back to the shaded section of trees. This will join the Tween Lakes Trail once again.

You might have already noticed from our photos, but the water in these beautiful lakes is crystal clear so you can see everything surrounding the shorelines including trees, rocks and the very steep drops offs to the bottom.

Hiking Tip: There is a restroom located between Round Lake and Green Lake on this side if you need to make a pit stop.

8. Back To The Beach

Beach access at Green Lakes State Park
Visitors playing on the large public beach

You’ll walk a very similar path along Green Lake before making your way back to the main parking lot and the beach. Depending on when you started your hike, the beach may have filled with visitors. Now is a great time to grab a spot in the sand, explore more of the park or head into Syracuse to grab a bite to eat after your hike.

Other Activities In The Park

Kids playground near the beach with numerous slides and swings
Large playground near the beach

The north entrance of the park by the main parking lot has a beach, restrooms, playgrounds, boat rentals, picnic tables, a bathhouse, food concessions and the park office.

Swimming is allowed on the sandy public beach along the north side of Green Lake from 11:00am to 7:00pm from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. During the summer, it’s very busy on Fridays and during the weekends so you should plan to arrive early.

Another popular activity at Green Lakes is fishing. However, there is no fishing on Round Lake and you can’t use outside boats in order to preserve the precious environment. Here are the current rates:

  • Row Boats – $10/hr, $5/30 mins
  • Single Kayaks – $10/hr, $5/30 mins
  • Tandem Kayaks – $15/hr, $10/30 mins
  • Crystal Tandem Kayaks – $20/hr, $15/30 mins

The boathouse follows the same schedule as the beach typically opening around Memorial Day and closing Labor Day. There is no reservation system for boats, but there is a waitlist which you can access in person at the boathouse.

Dogs are allowed in the state park but pets are not permitted on the playgrounds, buildings, golf courses, boardwalks or guarded beaches at Green Lakes.

Best Time To Visit

Shoreline near Deadman's reef along the Green Lake Trail
A fallen tree near Deadman’s Point

Green Lakes State Park is extremely busy during the weekends between April and October and even more so during the holidays. But since this park spans 1,785 acres, you can usually find enough space to spread out from the crowds unless you want to sit on the beach.

For ideal weather conditions, the best time of year to visit is summer when the weather is warm and ideal for swimming. If you plan to visit in peak season on the weekends, we recommend you arrive early to secure your spot on the beach and avoid the rush between 11:00am to 2:00pm. Try to visit mid-week if possible for smaller crowds and a more enjoyable trip.

Our favorite time to visit Green Lakes is the last week of September or first week of October when the weather is cooler for hiking and the fall foliage surrounds the beautiful glacial lakes. But you won’t be able to swim at this time of year and many of the other activities won’t be available.

Where To Eat

Beach House restaurant along the north shore of Green Lake in upstate NY
Beach House restaurant located near Green Lake and the beach

Green Lakes is only about 10 miles from Syracuse. If you want to eat at the park, the best option is the Beach House which is located on the north end of Green Lake near the beach. It’s a quick and easy solution for those enjoying a day in the sand.

However, there are plenty of restaurants in smaller Fayetteville located directly east of Syracuse or you can head a little further into downtown Syracuse for a bigger selection of restaurants. You’ll be able to find chain options, but we always recommend eating local to support the community.

Here are top rated restaurants in Fayetteville, NY:

Here are top rated restaurants in Syracuse, NY:

Travel Tip: If this is your first time visiting upstate NY, we recommend you stop at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Kristen grew up on this place and it’s one of Mark’s favorite restaurants since moving to the US!

Green Lakes Accommodation

If you’re planning to book a hotel when visiting Green Lakes, your best option will be in Syracuse, but you can also find a few hotel options on the outskirts of the city. Let’s take a look at some of the best hotel options near the state park:

There are 135 campsites, 7 cabins and 5 pavilions at Green Lakes State Park. The five pavilions range in price from $150 to $600 and can accommodate 40 to 100 people. Camping at Green Lakes is popular because sites have electricity, water, sewer hook ups and dump stations. The camping season is mid-May through mid-October.

Reservations for campsites can be booked up to 9 months in advance and each site can be booked for up to 2 weeks. Nightly fees range from $18-36/night along with a US$ 7.25 non-refundable registration fee. There is also an additional $5/night for non-NYS residents. You can book a campsite here.

Cabins are also available with a 2 night minimum. Each cabin costs $108.50/night along with a $ 7.25 non-refundable registration fee. You can book a cabin here.

Interactive Map

Click on our Green Lakes State Park interactive map to find all of our recommended restaurants, hotels and points of interest.

  • Purple – Points of interest
  • Dark Green – Hotel recommendations
  • Light Red – Restaurant recommendations

You can also access our interactive map via this link here.

The Morgan Conclusion

Green Lakes State Park is a hidden oasis near Syracuse, New York filled with numerous hiking trails and two beautiful glacial lakes. It’s a very popular spot in the summer months.

But is Green Lakes State Park worth visiting?

Yes, we think Green Lakes is worth visiting because there are so many fun activities for the entire family. You can walk around two beautiful turquoise lakes, enjoy the beach, rent a boat, go camping and even play a round of golf. You could easily visit this park in one day, or you could spend several days here to take advantage of everything it has to offer.

The best hike at Green Lakes is a combination of the Green Lake and Round Lake Trail which ends up being a 2.80 mile hike with stunning views of both glacial lakes. Use this bird watching checklist to find the 170 species of birds during your hike.

More From The Finger Lakes

More From Upstate New York

Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.

We hope this guide to hiking the Green Lakes Loop Trail helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!

Please let us know if you need any help planning your visit to this state park or upstate New York in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

Enjoy this Green Lakes State Park guide? Pin it for later!

Note: This article contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All Rights Reserved © Where Are Those Morgans, LLC. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, maps, graphics, etc.) in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.

Share this article!