How To Hike The Gorge Trail At Stony Brook State Park



Where Are Those Morgans Stony Brook State Park

Stony Brook State Park is a 568-acre park in the New York Finger Lakes featuring jagged gorges, flowing waterfalls, beautiful hiking trails and a natural swimming pool. It’s a hidden gem in upstate NY that packs a big punch for many reasons.

In this guide, we’re going to show you exactly how to hike the Stony Brook Gorge Trail to see the 3 major waterfalls in the park.

Our Stony Brook Experience

Man and women posing for a photo in front of Lower Falls
Mark and Kristen at Lower Falls

Kristen grew up in the New York Finger Lakes in a small town about 30 minutes from Dansville. We also temporarily lived in the region when Mark first moved to the US in 2019. We’ve visited Stony Brook several times in different seasons and it’s one of our favorite New York state parks because of its smaller size.

All of the photos in this guide were taken by us during an October 2022 visit just as the leaves were changing for the fall season. This is our favorite time to visit the park because the temperature is perfect for hiking and the gorge is filled with vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. Read more about us.

What Is Stony Brook State Park?

Bright orange leaves nest to the stone footbridge at Stony Brook State Park
Fall foliage with the stone footbridge
  • State Park: Stony Brook
  • City: Dansville
  • State: New York
  • Website:
  • Telephone: (585) 335-8111
  • Campgrounds: 88 and 8 cabins
  • Activities: Hiking, swimming, waterfalls, photography, camping
  • Open: All year (gorge and rim trails closed in winter)
  • Annual Visitors: ~100,000

Stony Brook State Park features a beautiful gorge nestled among the rolling hills in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. In the summer months, it’s a very popular spot for families because it has a natural stream-fed pool, picnic areas, multiple playgrounds, hiking trails, camping and several ball fields.

Historically, the park was used as a summer resort thanks to the construction of a railroad in 1883. The old train station was located where the campground office is seen today. Sadly, the railroad is gone, but you can still see remnants of the old tracks in the park.

It was officially become a New York state park in 1928 with the help of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program that helped to employe men during the depression. The beautifully ornate stone walk ways and brides we see today were built by the CCC.

Directions To The Park

Silky waterfall at Stony Brook State park before Lower Falls
Small waterfall cascade along the gorge

Stony Brook is located only 3 miles or a 5 minute drive from Dansville in Livingston county within western New York. It’s about 50 miles south of Rochester and 15 miles south of Conesus Lake, one of the eleven Finger Lakes in the region.

  • Address: 10820 Route 36 South, Dansville, NY 14437
  • Location: Google Maps

You can visit nearby Ithaca to explore Buttermilk Falls, Robert H Treman and Taughannock Falls as well as Watkins Glen State Park as part of a longer road trip. Take I-390 to Exit 4 (Dansville/Hornell) then turn south onto Route 36 and follow it for about a mile. The north entrance to the park will be on your left.

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

Stony Brook distance from nearby major cities:

  • Binghamton, NY – 125 miles (2h)
  • Syracuse, NY – 130 miles (2h)
  • Rochester, NY – 60 miles (55m)
  • Scranton, PA – 185 miles (3h)
  • Buffalo, NY – 80 miles (1h 30m)
  • Albany, NY – 270 miles (4h)

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 near Stony Brook State Park:

  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) – 130 miles (2h)
  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) – 60 miles (55m)
  • Elmira / Corning Regional Airport (ELM) – 65 miles (1h 10m)

READ: How to find cheap flights

Entrance Fees

Brown wooden entrance sign to Stony Brook State Park
Brown wooden welcome sign

You don’t have to pay an entrance fee and you don’t need a reservation to visit Stony Brook State Park. However, you might have to pay $9.00 for parking your vehicle.

Most New York state parks charge a day-use vehicle fee to enter each facility. So while Stony Brook is free to enter, a vehicle fee is collected between mid-May to Mid-October from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily or just weekends and holidays depending on the time of year.

Payment is not taken at the gate but at a machine where you can pay cash or card. If we’re visiting at this time of year, we always try to arrive by 9:00am to avoid the fee and beat the crowds. Additionally, dogs are allowed at Stony Brook, but they are not permitted on the gorge trail and must be kept on a leash.

Best Place To Park

Beginning of the Gorge trail
Beginning of the Gorge trail at north entrance

There are two main parking lots at Stony Brook including the north and south entrances. Parking can be challenging on weekends in the summer so if this is the time you plan to visit, it might be difficult to find a spot. Plan to arrive early so you can secure your spot.

The north entrance is also known as the lower entrance and this is the best place to park for the swimming pool, picnic area, playgrounds and the Clara Barton shelter. If this is your first time at Stony Brook, we recommend you park at the north entrance because it’s near the picnic and recreation area.

Facilities at north entrance of Stony Brook State Park
Facilities at the north entrance

Kristen has fond memories of running around the playground as a child. Unfortunately, there are no restaurants at Stony Brook but there are a number of grills and picnic tables so you can bring your own barbecue along. There has also been talk of food trucks during the summer months so check the official Facebook Page for updates.

Parking lot in the south entrance of Stony Brook
Stony Brook south entrance parking lot

The other alternative is the south entrance, also know as the upper entrance. The south entrance is the best place to park if you’re camping because it’s near the camp offices and campsites. Additionally, you can also find the the bath houses, playground and Shawmut shelter nearby.

If you’re visiting in the peak season of summer, please do not park at the south entrance to reserve the spaces for the campers. However, any other time of year, it’s okay to park in this lot.


Gorge And East Rim Trail Loop Hike

Gate to the Stony Brook Gorge Trail which closes in winter
Entrance gate to the Gorge Trail (this is locked during the winter)

Hiking is one of the main attractions at Stony Brook and there are a total of three hiking trails. Here are the three Stony Brook hikes with distances listed one way:

  1. East Rim Trail (E) – 1.5 miles
  2. West Rim Trail (W) – 0.85 miles
  3. Gorge Trail (G) – 0.75 miles

The most popular hike is the Gorge Trail which is 0.75 miles in length one way. We like to combine the Gorge Trail with either the East or West Rim Trail to make a complete loop. This hike is very similar to the Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail, but less challenging than the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail if you’ve hiked any other trails nearby.

We’re going to show you exactly what it’s like to hike the Gorge Trail first then loop around up to the East Rim Trail back down to the north entrance.

  • Trail distance: 2.25 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The difficulty is listed as moderate because portions of the East Rim Trail are steep and there are many stairs along the Gorge Trail. By hiking this loop, you’ll pass by 3 beautiful waterfalls known as Lower, Middle and Upper Falls.

According to AllTrails, the hike will take about 1 hour and 10 minutes and you can check the recent comments to see what hikers have said about current conditions. You can also use this trail map to help you find specific points of interest in the park.

Without further ado, let’s hike to the Gorge Trail:

1. North Rim Entrance

Stony Brook restrooms at north entrance
Women’s restrooms at the north entrance

To begin this gorge trail hike, we’re going to start in the the main parking lot of the north entrance. As you make your way to the trailhead, you’ll pass by a large wooden playground, restrooms and the large natural swimming pool.

It’s important to note that while the gorge trail is the most scenic hiking route, it involves many stairs which can be difficult for some people. However, you could hike part way into the gorge and then turn around if it becomes too much.

Stony Brook swimming pool closed for the winter
Stony Brook swimming pool closed for the winter season

Once you’ve walked past the swimming pool, you’re now on the famous gorge trail at Stony Brook State Park. The pool is open seasonally and we’ll discuss it later in our guide. It can be very slippery around the pool area so watch your footing as you head to the trail.

2. Two Bridges

Man walking along the stone bridge on the Gorge Trail
Mark walking over the stone footbridge

Before you get to the first waterfall along gorge trail, you’ll cross Stony Brook Creek two times via two bridges. The first is a beautiful stone footbridge and it’s one of our favorite sections in the park.

During our visit in the October, the bridge was surrounded by beautiful fall foliage. We had to the entire trail to ourselves since we arrived early in the day so we took our time shooting many different angles for our photos.

Person walking stone path next to Stony Brook in upstate New York
Kristen hiking to the wooden bridge

After crossing the stone bridge, you’ll follow a stone path to the wooden foot bridge. This is another great photography location in the park because it features a stone staircase and lush foliage next to the bridge.

Photography Tip: The section between the bridges is arguably the most photogenic area of the park so don’t blow by it racing to the waterfalls, especially if you visit with minimal crowds.

3. Lower Falls

Person walking up the stone staircase at Stony Brook
Kristen hiking the stairs next to Lower Falls

The first waterfall you’ll see along the Stony Brook Gorge is Lower Falls. This 40 ft high waterfall seems to just easily slide down the rock face as it ends in a shallow pool. Next to Lower Falls, there is another beautiful stone staircase. Continue up the trail and look to the left to see a side profile of this waterfall.

Lower falls is located about 0.4 miles down the Gorge Trail. This spot is another one of our favorite photography locations because its a picturesque sparkling cascade. We like Lower Falls because its a very steep waterfall with an impressive drop and we always like to admire it from the side as we walk up the stairs.

READ: Inspirational waterfall quotes

4. Middle Falls

Side profile of middle falls
Side profile of Middle Falls at Stony Brook

Once you’ve walked up the entire staircase near Lower Falls, you only have to walk a short distance until you reach the second waterfall, Middle Falls which is 20 ft in height.

While this waterfall is about half the size in height compared to the one we just saw, Middle Falls is very wide. We like Middle Falls because the water runs in beautiful gradual steps and it’s extremely attractive. As you can see in our photos, the water just tumbles down the rocks.

Middle falls at stony brook with beautiful fall colors
Middle Falls surrounded by fall foliage

In addition to the waterfalls, look around at the beautiful surroundings in the gorge. Summer and fall showcase incredible vegetation that line the walls and from this vantage point, you can truly appreciate the beauty of Stony Brook.

5. Upper Falls

Old bridge apartments at Stony Brook along the Gorge Trail
Old bridge abutments located along the Gorge Trail

Lower Falls and Middle Falls are the only two waterfalls you can see clearly from Stony Brook Gorge Trail. Otherwise you’ll have to walk through the creek which is not permitted and we don’t recommend you do it. But we’ll show you how to see the Upper falls at Stony Brook in two different ways.

Wooden staircase at Stony Brook leading up to the south entrance campground
Large wooden staircase leading up the southern entrance of the park

As you continue along the gorge trail, you’ll come to an old stone bridge abutment which leads to a large wooden staircase directing you to the south entrance. Take this staircase about 1/3 of the way up and you’ll be able to see Upper Falls. However, this will be an obstructed view so we have a better suggestion.

6. South Entrance Campground

Stony Brook State Park campsites with tents and cars
Tent campsites at the south entrance

At the top of the wooden stairs, you’ll encounter the south entrance parking lot and the campground. This is where you can find showers, restrooms and the Shawmut shelter. For this hike, we’re going to loop around so follow the signs pointing to East Rim Trail.

This next section will require a hike uphill with both stairs and a small elevation gain. If you don’t feel up to this, you can always go back down the gorge trail back to the swimming pool and parking lot.

7. Larry’s Lookout

Stone staircase and wooden bridge along at East Rim Trail
The beginning of East Rim Trail from south entrance

The East Rim Trail will start with a descent down another set of stairs and you’ll cross the creek once again via another beautiful wooden bridge. On the other side, you’ll find more campsites and the trail will change into a wooded path that is relatively flat.

Larry's lookout with upper falls
Larry’s Lookout showcasing Upper Falls

However, once you’ve hiked through the campground, the trail will gradually increase in elevation along a dirt path. This will take you to Larry’s Lookout which is signposted on the side of a green fence.

Woman watching Upper Falls from Larry's Lookout
Kristen enjoying the view of Upper Falls

From Larry’s Lookout, you can see the Upper Falls of Stony Brook State Park. Upper falls is about 45 ft in height and this is the largest cascading waterfall in the park.

The waterfall will not be as close as the two others you just saw along the gorge trail, but you can take a decent shot with a camera and a zoom lens. Please leave no trace and remain behind the chin linked fence.

8. East Rim Trail

Perspective shot of the East Rim Trail with Middle Falls
Middle Falls viewpoint from East Rim Trail

Once you’ve enjoyed the view from Larry’s Lookout, continue climbing the East Rim Trail. To be honest this trail is pretty boring and it follows a mostly wooded path the entire route. The East Rim Trail will eventually loop back around to north entrance and you’ll cross one more stone footbridge near the end of the trail.

We like the East Rim Trail because you’ll have a high vantage point to see the waterfalls. We were able to take some great shots framing Middle and Lower Falls with the autumnal foliage. Most of this trail is shaded and it’s very quiet compared to the gorge trail. So if you want to get away from the crowds, take one of the rim trails.

Swimming In Stony Brook

No swimming sign at Stony Brook
Informational sign about where you can swim in the park

Swimming is allowed at Stony Brook State Park but only in the natural stream-fed swimming pool at the north entrance. The pool is generally open late June to the first weekend in September for Labor Day.

However, the dates and hours are subject to change due to weather, staffing and other environmental concerns. Be sure to contact the park office to check swimming conditions prior to visiting. Here is the official website with swimming information.

As of 2017, swimming and wading in the creek at Stony Brook is no longer allowed because it was harming the environment. So while it may be tempting, please do not swim in the plunge pools along the gorge trail so we can preserve this park for future generations.

Best Time To Visit

Two waterfalls along Stony Brook
Vibrant yellow and orange fall foliage along the gorge

Stony Brook State Park is extremely busy on weekends between April and October, particularly during the holidays. This is the best time of year for swimming and we recommend arriving very early in the day if you plan to visit in the peak months of summer. However, hiking the gorge trail in summer is not always enjoyable because you’ll constantly have to wait for people along the route.

Our favorite time to visit Stony Brook is the last week of September or first week of October. This time of year brings vibrant fall foliage and the gorge truly comes alive with color. The weather is perfect for hiking and the crowds are minimal compared to summer. However, you won’t be be able to swim. We arrived around 6:00 am on a mid day in October and had the gorge trail to ourselves for a few hours.

In winter, all three hiking trails are closed as well as the playgrounds, restrooms and the south entrance. However, the north entrance, picnic areas and snowmobiling trails are open.

In April, the gorge trail will reopen after the spring scaling season. This is the best time of year to see heavily flowing waterfalls and experience comfortable hiking conditions. If you’re visiting the Finger Lakes in winter and want to hike a Gorge Trail, head to Taughannock Falls State Park.

Photography Tips

A small waterfall along the Gorge Trail at Stony Brook
Small waterfalls along the gorge trail

Stony Brook State Park is a wonderful environment to shoot nature photography. Here are a few photography tips if you want to take home some incredible photos:

  • Use a mirrorless or DSLR camera and a lens with focal length between 12-24 for wider shots as well as a tripod.
  • We recommend a tripod for shooting silky waterfall shots anywhere in the park. You need stability to create the silky water appearance by shooting from anywhere around 0.3 seconds to 3 seconds using shutter speed priority mode.
  • Start at 1 second exposure and then make more images at faster and slower shutter speed until you are happy with how the water looks.
  • Visit early in the day before intense daylight but if it’s bright, use an ND filter to stop down the light.
  • We think the bottom half of the Gorge Trail is by far the best photography location at Stony Brook State Park.
  • If you’re a beginner, shoot in RAW and JPEG. You can use your jpeg now but once you have more experience you’ll be grateful for the RAW file you can go back to and edit.

READ: Our photography guides from around the world

More Stony Brook Waterfalls

Small waterfall near the swimming pool at Stony Brook
Small waterfall by the Stony Brook swimming pool

While we already mentioned 3 major waterfalls in Stony Brook, there are a few more you can look for during your visit. Here is where you can find the additional waterfalls:

  • One small waterfall near the swimming pool (pictured above)
  • Three smaller falls upstream from the campground
  • One smaller waterfall before lower falls
  • Side stream with several tiny falls

READ: Hunting the best upstate New York waterfalls

Where To Eat Near The Park

Patio area of Scovill's Grill in Dansville
Scovill’s Grills Patio and Entrance

The small town of Dansville is right on your doorstep at Stony Brook, but you could also try nearby Mount Morris and Geneseo if you’re looking for a place to eat.

Here are the top rated restaurants in Dansville:

If none of those options work or you need a quick bite before moving on, you’ll find chain restaurants like McDonalds and Taco Bell in Dansville, but try to support the local options when you can.

Where To Stay

Green leaf sign at Stony Brook
Logo for the park on a metal gate

While Dansville has a few places to eat, the small town does not have very many hotel options. Your best bet for hotels would be in the nearby cities of Geneseo, Mount Morris, Nunda and Lakeville. Here are some top rated options nearby and we included the distance from Stony Brook:

Geneseo Hotels:

Mount Morris Hotels:

Nunda Hotels:

Lakeville Hotels:

If you want to visit more New York state parks, consider staying south of Ithaca one night for Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk, before moving north of Ithaca the next day for Taughannock.

Hotels In southwest Ithaca:

There are 4 budget friendly hotels ideally located within 1 mile of Buttermilk Falls and close to Robert H. Treman State Park. All of these hotels option are about 90 miles from Stony Brook.

Hotels In downtown Ithaca:

Staying centrally in Ithaca works best if you’re staying for 3 or more days because you won’t have to rush around the state parks. Plus, over that period you’ll need amenities on your doorstep. Downton Ithaca is about 95 miles from Stony Brook.

Hotels In northwest Ithaca

Northwest Ithaca is the prime location for Taughannock Falls State Park and it’s about 80 miles from Stony Brook.

Stony Brook Camping

The beginning of the West Rim Trail from the south entrance
West Rim Trailhead by the South entrance campground

There are 88 tent sites, 8 cabins, 1 group cabin and 2 pavilions at Stony Brook. The two pavilions range in price from $50 to $75 and can accommodate 60 to 75 people. Campgrounds do not have water or electricity, but you can find comfort stations in each loop as well as a dump station.

Reservations for campsites can be booked up to 9 months in advance and each site can be reserved for up to 2 weeks. Campground season is mid-May through mid-October. Nightly fees for camping are about $15-20/night and $105-140/week. You can book a campsite here.

Cabins are available at Stony Brook between end of April and beginning of October. Weekly fee for cabins is $45.50/night and$318.50/week. You can book a cabin here.

Interactive Map

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

  • Dark Green – Hotel recommendations around Dansville, NY
  • Light Red – Restaurant recommendations around Dansville, NY
  • Purple – On site tent, RV and cabin accommodations
  • Blue – Stony Brook north rntrance

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

The Morgan Conclusion

Middle Falls along Gorge Trail at Stony Brook
A perspective photo of Middle Falls

Stony Brook State Park is a popular destination for families in summer. It’s home to a natural spring fed swimming pool, several campsites, and playgrounds for children.

But is Stony Brook State Park worth visiting?

Yes, we think Stony Brook is worth it because it’s a smaller NY state park so it’s very easy to visit in just a few hours. If this is your first time in the park, we recommend you hike the Gorge Trail followed by the East Rim Trail. However, you could also hike back down the gorge to see the beautiful topography again.

Another highlight in the park is the swimming pool which is unique because a section of the Stony Brook Creek is damned off. However, you must visit during the summer months to swim in the pool.

Our Stony Brook Photos

We loved visiting Stony Brook during the fall foliage and took many photos. Here are a few of our favorites so you know exactly what to expect:

Wooden bridge and small waterfall at Stony Brook
A small waterfall and wooden bridge at Stony Brook
Woman standing in front of Lower Falls at Stony Brook State Park
Kristen taking in the views of Lower Falls with her HEX backpack
Beginning of the West Rim and Gorge Trail from the South entrance at Stony Brook State Park
Gorge and West Rim Trailhead from the south entrance
Man with a tripod taking photos of Stony brook waterfalls
Mark taking a photo along the gorge trail
Fall foliage along the Stony Brook Gorge with a waterfall
The beautiful Stony Brook Gorge in fall season
Beginning of the West Rim Trail from the north entrance
West Rim Trailhead at north entrance
Stone staircase along the East Rim trail
Stone stairs along East Rim Trail
Vibrant red, yellow and green foliage in upstate New York
Vibrant falls colors of the Stony Brook Gorge
Stony Brook State Park side profile of Lower Falls
Side profile of Lower Falls
Small waterfall in woods in Stony Brook State Park
Another small waterfall in Stony Brook
A wooden shelter which can be rented out
Shawmut shelter which can be rented out
Woman pointing to the West Rim trail sign
Kristen pointing to the West Rim Trail sign
Gorge, East Rim, West Rim and Campground sign at Stony Brook
Wooden sign showing all 3 Stony Brook hiking Trails
Wooden playground at Stony Brook State Park
Large wooden playground at north entrance with multiple picnic sites
Empty Stony Brook creek in the fall
Stunning topography can be found everywhere in the park
Orange and yellow foliage along Stony Brook
Stony Brook Gorge alive with fall foliage
Waterfall under a Stone Bridge
Cascading waterfalls with fallen leaves and a wooden bridge
Purple flowers along the Gorge Trail
Purple flowers along the Gorge Trail
Stone bridge and fall foliage in Stony Brook State Park
Stone footbridge at Stony Brook State Park
East Rim Trail entrance along the north entrance
East Rim Trailhead at north entrance
Lower falls with purple flowers in fall
Perspective photo of Lower Falls

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 Stony Brook Rim and Gorge Trail helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!

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

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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