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 two 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 800 rock stairs if you go the entire length. The elevation rise from the Main Entrance to the Upper Entrance is 520 feet.
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
TIP: 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.
NOTE: For 2020 specifically, the shuttle is not an option. No matter where you park, the gorge trail is one-way walking up the stairs. For example, if you park at the lower Main Entrance on NY-14 you’ll enter the Gorge Trail through the tunnel, walk up and take the North Rim Trail (Indian Trail) back down to the lot. From the South Entrance, walk down the South Rim Trail to Couch’s Staircase to access the Gorge Trail, and crossing back over Glen Creek via the Mile Point Bridge, then back to the lot on the South Rim Trail.
On a hot day, you’ll find it is refreshingly cool inside the gorge and there are a few places where you can dip your hand (or head!) in a waterfall.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll experience walking through the gorge.
Watkins Glen Gorge Trail
There are several points of interest along the trail that are marked with signs. This is particularly helpful to figure out where exactly you are on the trail map and how much further you have to go! These include Sentry Bridge, Cavern Cascade, Glen Cathedral, Central Cascade, Rainbow Falls, and Mile Point Bridge.
There is absolutely no swimming in the gorge. Rather, they have an amazing pool that is open mid-June through Labor Day. If swimming is high on your list of must-do activities, call the park office (607) 535-4511 to ensure the pool is open that day.
More information about Watkins Glen State Park
Cost: There is a per-vehicle fee roughly May-October, free off-season, though the Gorge Trail is closed roughly Nov. 1-May 20 and will only once all safety concerns have been addressed.
Located in Watkins Glen, roughly 90 minutes / 80 miles from Rochester
More information: nysparks.com
Watkins Glen State Park Shuttle
Note: The shuttle is not available during 2020 pandemic.
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 mid-October.
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!
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a two hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
What do you love most about Watkins Glen State Park?
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