We visited Watkins Glen State Park on our recent trip to the Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes region. I was able to cross another New York State Park off my list AND I was able to walk under waterfalls! Not only was this park already on my want-to-visit list, but it won 3rd place in a 2015 USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park! We couldn’t be in the area and not visit.
Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most well-known state parks in the Finger Lakes region. Covering 778 acres, the park has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a playground. It also has 293 camping sites, including 10 cabin sites. However, people come from near and far to walk the trails along the gorge to see the waterfalls.
The park has three trails: Indian Trail, South Rim Trail and Gorge Trail. The park recommends hiking the Gorge Trail for the best experience of Watkins Glen. This trail follows Glen Creek and includes over 800 stone steps, stone bridges and 19 waterfalls. Several labeled landmarks are situated along the 2 mile trail. During the summer, shuttles run from both the main and upper entrances if you are too tired to walk back.
On our visit, we entered through the park at the main entrance off Franklin Street and parked by the pool. We walked down to Lily Pond and crossed the Suspension Bridge.
The Suspension Bridge is the only bridge on the trail not built of stone. As we walked along the trail, it was necessary to constantly stop and take in the beauty of the waterfalls.
Around every bend was another beautiful sight to see. It was such a peaceful and scenic hike. It’s unbelievable to think that this gorge is thousands of years old.
As promised, we were able to walk under Rainbow Falls and touch the water! Truly a memorable experience! As you can tell from the picture, you may get wet from the falls!
We did not walk the entire two-mile trail as we were already tired out from a full day of kayaking and horseback riding. Instead, we walked approximately 3/4 of the trail to Mile Point Bridge. There, we crossed the bridge and walked the South Rim Trail back to the parking lot and avoided climbing the 180 stone steps of Jacob’s Ladder near the upper entrance. FYI, the South Rim Trail is higher than the gorge and does not offer views of the waterfalls.
Watkins Glen State Park offers a day of family fun. The trail hikes include truly amazing views and a visit to this park will not disappoint!
Watkins Glen State Park
1009 N. Franklin Street
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Parking: $8 per vehicle, which includes pool access (fee is collected during peak times, please check the website for exact dates and times) The Empire Pass is accepted here.
Hours: Although the park is open year-round, the trails are only open mid-May to early November, weather dependent. Please check the park website for up-to-date information and trail status updates.
Pool is open 11 AM – 7 PM, daily during the summer (dates and hours are subject to change and it is advised to call the park office to confirm hours before visiting)
Trail Shuttle: 9 AM – 6 PM, $5/person
*Use the bathroom, located at either of the entrances to the park before beginning the hike. There are no rest rooms on the trails.
*Pack drinks and snacks. There’s nothing like hungry and thirsty kids to ruin a good hike! The upper entrance has a snack bar and gift shop if you need to buy something before your hike.
*Wear appropriate footwear. Hiking boots are best, as the rocks get slippery from the water. Plus, there are steps and uneven surfaces.
*Weekends, especially in the summer, tend to be the busiest. It wasn’t too crowded when we visited on a late Thursday afternoon in August.