Watkins Glen Frowning Cliff cover

Watkins Glen State Park

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!

Watkins Glen State Park lower entrance
Main Entrance
Watkins Glen State Park
Sentry Bridge
Watkins Glen lower entrance
Main Entrance

Plan your visit to Watkins Glen State Park

Check the website as you are planning your trip for the most current trail, pool, and shuttle information, or call the park office (607) 535-4511.

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 Cavern Cascade
Cavern Cascade
Watkins Glen Cavern Cascade
Watkins Glen Cavern Cascade
Glen cathedral
Glen Cathedral
Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen Frowning Cliff cover
Frowning Cliff
Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen
Frowning Cliff

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.

Watkins Glen pool
Watkins Glen pool

Swimming

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.

South Rim Trail
South Rim Trail

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

Get directions to the Main Parking Lot, South Parking Lot, or Upper Parking Lot

More information: nysparks.com

Watkins Glen State Park shuttle

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!

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What do you love most about Watkins Glen State Park?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!

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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.