Just a short drive from Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, New York and across the border from Canada, Watkins Glen State Park is a hidden gem you have to visit at least once in your lifetime. Located in the village of Watkins Glen, New York the Park covers 3.15 km² and has over 19 waterfalls.
We started our adventure at the big parking lot in the middle of town right at the main entrance off of Rt-414. There is no cost to enter the park but we did get asked a cover of $7 to park inside the park grounds (which we did), however you could certainly park elsewhere in Watkins Glen and walk in. On the way out we saw a lots of open spots on the side streets which were really close and convenient if you are looking to save yourself some cash.
Once you enter Watkins Glen the beauty is so striking it feels like you are lost in a rain forest at the center of the earth. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, creating 19 cascading waterfalls along its course. The beauty before your eyes is magical, absolutely heart-stopping and no picture can do it justice.
There are three trails you can choose to take: the Indian Trail, the South Rim trail, and the Gorge trail. Although the other two trails are worth every step we choose the Gorge trail (a 1.5 mile hike) that winded up through the many beautiful waterfalls, rock formations, trees hanging by the side of the gorge’s walls, wildflowers and plant life. There are several waterfalls that you can actually walk behind on your 832 stairs trip from bottom to top(so refreshing on a warm day).
The trail is mostly damp going through the deep moss forest and dripping water from the rocks above you and you could get wet at times. Make sure you have good walking shoes on and a good cover for your camera if it is a valuable one. You’ll get spectacular views and exercise at the same time and if you don’t feel like walking back down you can take the shuttle that runs fairly often that brings you back to the bottom. Or go the other way around and ride the bus up the hill and hike down. The cost to ride the bus is minimal as it only charges $3 a trip.
We did pass some people along the way, but I think we visited at the perfect time when crowds had already gone through, right before the trail closes. If you plan well and avoid weekends you’ll be sure to have the trail pretty clear of people and fully enjoy it without having to make your way pass too many visitors. But if you don’t have any other choice and have to be here on a weekend day come either early or later in the afternoon. That would be your best chance of enjoying this impressive spot in a more private way. It’s always good to have someone around to take a good family picture.
Watkins Glen park is astonishingly gorgeous and the breathtaking views of the cascades and the stone paths that weave in and out of small caves and falls would be something so amazing and almost other worldly you would want to come back here again and again. And there is also so much to see and do around the area you might want to stay a little longer and pitch a tent at one of the campsites near by.
There is a lot of space between the campsites, the showers and bathrooms are clean and they even have a pool to entertain your littles in the warm summer days. You have the Corning Glass museum and the wineries close by and the warmth of a small town to make for the perfect relaxing weekend. And not far from here are the Finger lakes – one of the most gorgeous areas in this part of New York State.
The trails are open daily between the months of May and October. Sometimes if weather permits they keep it open until November,but do call and check with the park service before heading this way to ensure their current hours and opening.