Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks and it doesn’t take long to see why. As soon as you enter the park, you see why USA Today named Watkin’s Glen State Park #3 in their 10 Best Reader’s Choice for Best State Park Award.
We’ve visited Watkins Glen State Park a few times, and here are a few things we learned…
1. You Will Get Wet
Within two miles, the glen’s stream goes down 400 feet over 200-foot cliffs. This creates 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path will take you over and under two different waterfalls (Rainbow Falls and Cavern Cascade). We felt like we had stepped into another world. A beautiful world with gorgeous waterfalls at every turn. There are 800 stone steps and flat pathways that can get very wet, so they can be slippery in spots. If it is a hot summer day, this is actually a nice way to cool off.
2. You Will Get Dirty
Just trust me on this one. We learned to wear something that we didn’t mind getting muddy and to bring a change of clothes. We also wore shoes that were good for hiking.
3. You Will Get A Workout
This hike on the main Gorge Trail is two miles long and consists of 800 stone steps. It is awesome and amazing, but it is a workout, especially if you start at the bottom and climb up. There is the option to park and start at the top and walk down. At the bottom, you can take the trail back up or take the shuttle (read more below).
If you and your family are very athletic, this may not be too tough. We brought lots of water and a few snacks. We also took several breaks to stop and look at the waterfalls, which helped. There are several flat areas on the trail. It is not just one incline of 800 steps. This helps make the hike a little easier and makes it easier to stop and admire the gorge and waterfalls.
The hike can be done in less than an hour. We stopped a lot to make sure we saw everything and really took the time to enjoy our visit. It probably took us 2 hours to hike the entire trail (one way). There aren’t any restrooms on the trail itself, so we made sure to visit the restrooms right before we began our hike. There are public restrooms located at the top and bottom of the trail (see map below).
Above: A few iPhone pics of Watkins Glen State Park (main Gorge Trail hike and playground at top entrance)
4. You Will Probably Want to Take The Shuttle
The climb to the top is gradual, but if your children are really small, this might be a difficult hike. Our family went on a hot, sticky July day. We started at the bottom, hiked to the top, and hiked back down. We almost died (that’s a slight exaggeration).
The Gorge Trail had become a little crowded, so we took the Indian Trail on the way down and there was almost no one on that trail (the Indian trail wasn’t as picturesque as the Gorge Trail to me, but it does let you see some of the waterfalls from a different perspective, and it is a great way to access the Suspension Bridge).
On our second visit to Watkins Glen State Park, we parked at the top, hiked down the Gorge Trail, and took the shuttle back to our car at the top entrance. AHHHH… so much better!
The Shuttle service runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I recommend calling ahead to make sure that the shuttle is running the day of your visit. Phone: 607.535.4511
Above: Map via
5. You Will Leave Amazed
Watkins Glen State Park is a beautiful place. From the waterfalls, the gorge, and the cliffs – it was nothing short of amazing. I am so glad my family got to experience it!
There are a little park and picnic area with bathrooms at the top entrance. It is a nice place to have a snack and take a little break from hiking. There is also a restroom, snack bar, and gift shop in this area.
Watkins Glen is a really charming town located in the Finger Lakes region in New York. It has several restaurants and ice cream shops. There are also antique shops, bookstores, and specialty/souvenir shops. Some of these are only open seasonally.
Watkins Glen is also home to Watkins Glen International for NASCAR fans. There are also several Vineyards and Wineries in the area. It is a great place to spend the weekend or just a day, and a perfect little stop if traveling from New York or Philadelphia over to Niagara Falls.
According to Google Maps, Watkins Glen State Park is about 2.5 hours from Buffalo, NY, 3.5 hours from Harrisburg, PA, 4.5 hours from Albany, NY, 5.5 hours from Philadelphia, PA, 6 hours from Cleveland, OH, and 6 hours from New York City, NY.
Watkins Glen State Park was definitely one of our most memorable trips. It was a lot of fun!
Watkins Glen State Park is open year round.
Restrooms are located at the bottom entrance and top entrance, but there are NO RESTROOMS on the trails themselves.
Parking is $8 per Vehicle (from Mid-May through November).
The entrance to the park is right on Main Street in Watkins Glen.
Watkins Glen State Park //1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Have you been to Watkins Glen State Park? What was your favorite part?
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