A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

A great story about a magical weekend at the watkins glen state park, Read about the things to do in america for a perfect travel experience.
A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

Are you contemplating a perfect weekend getaway or a long laid-back vacation? Are you yearning for greenery and scenic vistas?? Then think no further, Finger Lakes, NY has it all.

As the name indicates it is a region of about 11 fingers like long lakes in the New York state of the USA.

The two most famous and longest are the Seneca and Cayuga lakes. We chose to have a relaxing weekend trip to the famous Watkins Glen State Park, New York and Taughannock Falls State Park. And truly, we were smitten by the natural beauty of Watkins Glen State Park NY.

After a 4 hour drive from Philadelphia, PA our first stop was at mighty Taughannock Falls.

Taughannock Falls State Park

After entering the Finger Lakes region, the brief drive overlooking Cayuga lake brought us to the falls taller than the Niagara Falls.

There are multiple ways to enthrall the charm of Taughannock falls – by viewing its beauty from the Overlook point, hiking the trails up to the gorge or by experiencing its might by hiking the easy Gorge trail to the bottom of the falls. We chose the latter.

The cloudy weather also favored us. Gorge trail is an easy ¾ mile-long trail along the Taughannock creek with tall rocky cliffs standing tall.

Most parts of the path were shaded by tall trees. This is an easy trail that can be enjoyed with the entire family.

Note: Families with young kids can take strollers on the Gorge trail.

The true magic begins as you reach the bottom of the falls. The thunderous water raging down, mist flowing and you get drenched in that aura.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

As if we didn’t have enough water, the kids while walking back got down into the shallow part of the stream. Some splishing-splashing, wading on the rocky bed, just enjoying every bit of water.

But be cautious, the water-bed is slippery at most places and rocky at others, so keep holding onto the hands of kids.

Highly recommend: Wear water shoes while walking in the creek. Always remain towards the shallow edge.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

Looking for some more adventure, then try hiking trails South Rim and North Rim Trails that make the way to the top of the gorge.

These 1.5 mile long trails take you around with many scenic overlook points.

There are interesting stories behind the name of these falls. One says that it is derived from a combination of words meaning “great fall in the woods”.

The second indicates that the name is after a Delaware chief Taughannock who tried to invade and hence thrown off the cliff into the falls.

Taughannock State Park for the kids

This history wasn’t going to fascinate the kids, but the big playground near the trail was sure inviting.

While the kids burnt off up and down the swings and slides, we embraced the tranquility of the Cayuga Lake in the vicinity.

Choosing to hike one of the many trails is a thrilling experience for the kids.

We could just sit there the whole day watching the flying seagulls, people fishing, kids swimming, boats sailing and still not get jaded.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

After an exciting day, it was time to head off to our campsite for a good night’s sleep. The campsite was at Watkins Glen State Park about 30 minutes drive.

Watkins Glen State Park NY

It is the most visited state park in the Finger Lakes region at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. Adjudged as Best State Park in the US by Reader’s choice poll, this Watkins Glen park will leave you spellbound.

Glen Creek flows through the rugged gorge terrain making way for 19 gorgeous big and small waterfalls.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

There are so many things to do in Watkins Glen State Park :

1. Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

The best way to explore this nature’s marvel is to hike the 2-mile-long Gorge trail. This trail is the perfect companion to the creek all along its path.

The majestic downfalls of the stream, carving its path between the narrow gorge making its way for cascading waterfalls is a feast for your eyes.

The Watkins Glen State Park Gorge trail mainly made of paved stone has about 800 steps along the path.

Watkins Glen hiking trail winds through a varied landscape – with bridges, caves, walking under the waterfall, water spattering all in that 2 miles. What more adventure can one desire.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

The way tends to get wet and damp, which requires comfy footwear and caution. There are no restrooms or water on the trail and it can get a bit hot during summer, so be prepared.

2. Watkins Glens waterfalls

There are 19 waterfalls in the State Park all along the gorge making scenic vistas. Some of the most popular waterfalls are the Rainbow falls , Cavern Cascade and Central Cascade. These falls are accessible through the Scenic Gorge trail.

2. Watkins Glen Camping

Watkins Glen State Park Camping is a not to miss experience. There are over 290 campsites and wooden cabins to choose from. The best part is that the campsites are spread out amidst greenery. Tall trees surround these big campsites. Each campsite has a fire pit, benches and tables and ample space for car parking. With clean restrooms and shower areas, it is a great choice for families.

To book Watkins Glen State Park cabins and campsites, visit the NPS website.

Watkins Glen State Park Map

There are three entrance to the State Park – Main entrance, South entrance and Upper entrance. The Watkins Glen State Park map will help plan explore.

Watkins Glen State Park Trails

The State Park can be best explored by hiking through the trails spread through the Park – Gorge Trail, Indian Trail and South Rim trail, but the most popular is the Gorge Trail. The Gorge trail runs along the creek and offers some amazing scenic points.
The South Rim Trail is the trail that can be accessed from the Watkins Glens campsite. The trail passes through trees and connects Gorge trail through the Sentry bridge.

For hiking enthusiasts seeking more adventure, the trails join to a 1000 mile long Finger Lakes trail. In turn, the trail interconnects many state parks of NY state.
The Watkins Glen trail map helps with the trail path and time taken.

Exploring the Watkins Glen State Park

  • If you just need a sneak peek at Glen’s beauty, you can just enter from the main entrance and exit from the south entrance.
  • To save on some time drive/ take a shuttle bus to the Upper entrance and hike down.
  • If you are ready for 1-2 hours of this moderate hike, then we would recommend hiking till the end for some breathtaking views.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

For hiking enthusiasts seeking more adventure, the trails join to a 1000 mile long Finger Lakes trail. In turn, the trail interconnects many state parks of NY state.

The rustic grey cliffs, bright green plantations, and the water give the perfect contrast of colors that cannot be missed.

Watkins Glen State Park Address

1009 N Franklin St
Watkins Glen, NY 14891

There are 3 entrances to the state park –

  • Main Entrance
  • South Entrance – mainly for access to the campground
  • Upper Entrance – entry at the top of the gorge.

Watkins Glen entrance Fees

Vehicle Entry Fees (May- October)- $8 (includes access to the pool) .

There is a shuttle service available between Main and Upper entrance at a fee of $5 per person.

Watkins Glen State Park Hours

During summer, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. -5:30 p.m. during the rest of the year.

The Gorge trail is closed during winter, so better to check before visiting.

Please note there are different timings for the swimming pool, shuttle service, and campground.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen Travel Tips

  1. The gorge trail gets wet and slippery, hence wear proper footwear.
  2. To avoid the crowds at Watkins Glen during summertime, try visiting at early or late hours and on weekdays.
  3. Do carry water and snacks.
  4. There are no restrooms and drinking water on the trails.
  5. Paid shuttle bus service runs between the main and the upper entrance during summertime. Check the timings.
  6. The South entrance has a big playground for kids, a picnic area and a swimming pool. The park has a minimal entrance fee of $8 per vehicle which also includes access to the pool. But since we were camping at the state park, we did not have to pay for this.
  7. There are parking spaces, a snack bar and restrooms at all the 3 entrances.
  8. If you have more time to explore around, visit Clute park to savor the beauty of Seneca Lake.

A Magical Weekend at the Watkins Glen State Park

Where to Stay in Watkins Glen

Depending upon your interests and budget, there are multiple types of options from camping to luxury hotels to vintage B&B. Choose from the various hotels near Watkins Glen State Park for your stay. Ithaca is the nearest city to find accommodations to suit all budgets and makes it convenient center point to explore other places in Finger Lakes region.


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Travel Melodies
Last Updated : May 04,2021
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