Watkins Glen State Park is located in the heart of the small town of Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. The glen is only 2 miles long, perfect for a day trip. Though the park features a well-maintained walking path, it’s not an easy stroll, nor is it handicap accessible. The gorge trail can be wet with spray (wear good walking shoes/boots and bring a pair to change into), and the majority of the walk is up/down rock stairs (800 steps!) The elevation rise from the Main Entrance to the North Entrance is 520′.
If you can, park in the lower lot and start the Gorge Trail through a tunnel in the rock wall. Some folks hike the Gorge Trail up and come back via the Indian Trail to get a break from the crowds and the stairs. Others recommend starting the Gorge Trail at the Upper Lot, hiking down to the Main Entrance. There are usually shuttle buses during the main season that can bring you to the three parking lots for a $5 cash-per-person fee. The Watkins Glen Trolley runs mid-May to November: weekends only until July 4th, daily until Labor Day, and only weekends again.
For our trip, the Main Entrance parking was full, and we were directed to use the South Entrance lot which puts in you in the middle of the gorge. We decided to walk down the Gorge Trail and took the shuttle back to the South Entrance. Any way you decide to do it is A-OK.
Plan your visit to Watkins Glen State Park
The park is often crowded during peak times; parking and walking space is at a premium. It would be ideal to get there in the early morning or visit on a weekday. On a hot day, you’ll find it is refreshingly cool inside the gorge.
From the website, “Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool.”
There is a $5 cash-only shuttle that serves all 3 parking lots in season. Many people leave their cash in the car. If you have the opportunity, treat someone less prepared to a shuttle ride. It is a priceless gift to someone who is probably exhausted and frustrated, especially if they have small children in tow!
Public swimming pools at Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park Lower Entrance