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 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′.
That said, it’s also one of the most transcending, awe-inspiring, and wondrous displays of nature’s beauty on Earth!
Plan your visit to Watkins Glen State Park
The park is often crowded during peak times, with parking and walking space at a premium. Plan to arrive early in the morning or visit on a weekday for more elbow room and picturesque views within the gorge.
On a hot day, you’ll find it is refreshingly cool inside the gorge.
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. More about the shuttle below.
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.
Watkins Glen State Park is open year-round, thought the Gorge Trail is closed in the winter. Icy steps, high waters, and debris can be dangerous in the gorge, and can also close it periodically during the seasonal as well. The gorge trail tends to open in mid-May once all safety concerns have been addressed.
Watkins Glen State Park Shuttle
There is a $5 cash-only shuttle that serves all 3 parking lots in season. A good way to remember the shuttle hours is this: weekends only Memorial Day to Independence day, then daily until Labor Day, and again weekends only until Halloween.
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 could be exhausted and frustrated, especially if they have small children in tow!
There is absolutely no swimming in the gorge, but they do have an amazing pool area that is open mid-June – Labor Day, 11 am – 7 pm. If use of the pool is high on your list of must-do activities, call the park office (607) 535-4511 to ensure it is open that day.
More information about Watkins Glen State Park
Cost: $8 per vehicle roughly May-October, free off-season, though the Gorge Trail is closed roughly Nov. 1-May 20. Check the website for most current trail information.
Located in Watkins Glen, roughly 90 minutes / 80 miles from Rochester
More information: nysparks.com
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a 2-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
Rather than an escape, I prefer to think of these as transcending places that encourage us to transcend space, time, and state of mind.
What do you love most about Watkins Glen State Park?
Share with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!