January is the perfect time for me to catch up on old blog posts, and for you to start planning your 2019 travels! Last year I had the privileged of exploring the Finger Lake region in Upstate New York TWICE! Both trips were different and each had their own highlights.
In Upstate New York, at the southern tip of Lake Seneca, you will find the small town of Watkins Glen, NY. Mostly known for its winding Nascar Speedway, Watkins Glen attracts a wide variety of people nearly year round. Many people also visit the area for the scenic Finger Lakes and for the Wine Region!
If you find yourself in town though, you must visit the Watkins Glens Gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. The gorge trail travels roughly 2 miles up through the gorge, passing next to, above and behind over 19 waterfalls. Most people start from the bottom and trek up the gorge, but since the path has over 800 stairs, it’s a bit taxing on some. We opted to park at the top and walk down through the gorge instead which was still gorgeous despite the need to constantly be looking behind us for the views!
View From the Top
We arrived to the upper parking lot before the park opened at 7am and had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. The trail starts with a switch-back set of steep stairs to get down into the gorge which is a bit unsettling if you have a fear of heights! Once down on the ground though, the stairs are much wider and easier to navigate.
At the bottom of the stairs you’ll see a train bridge that was rebuilt after collapsing in 1935.
There are multiple trails running parallel to each other in this park but you’ll want to stick to the Gorge Trail for the views.
Follow the path as it leads you down into the gorge along the water’s edge! Prepare to get dripped on at points as the water may come from above!
ProTip: Make sure if you’re traveling from the top to bottom that you stop and look behind you often. The best views are looking up the trail! There’s a reason why most people choose to hike up the gorge instead of down.
The cliffs soar up to 200′ above your head creating stunning waterfalls of all sizes throughout.
Some of the cascades are so close you can touch them!
Take your time as you walk down through the gorge to appreciate all the scenery and sounds. Trekking down takes a lot less time than trekking up would and before you know it you’ll be at the end.
Ending at the Beginning
You will know when you reach the end because it opens up to a view overlooking the built up entry to the park. They really did a nice job building the park and not taking away from the natural scenery.
You’ll follow a set of stairs down through a tunnel and pop out of a cave at the bottom. If you get there as early as we did, this is when you’ll start really running into the buses of people arriving.
Make sure after you exit the cave that you turn back and take one last look at the views! A stunning waterfall pops out just below an arched bridge overhead right at the base of the gorge.
Other Things to Do
Check out the events page when you’re traveling because they host events in the South Pavilion in the park year round!
The entry to the park has a gift shop, food and some history on the gorge all throughout. I suggest spending some time reading through the history because it’s cool to see all the old-fashioned women in their long dresses hiking into the gorge.
When you’re ready to head back to your car, hop on the shuttle for $5 a person and enjoy the ride back up to the top!
If you find yourself at Watkins Glen State Park in the summer, you could spend a whole day there between the hiking trails, playing fields, swimming pools and other recreations. Just pack a lunch, grab a picnic table and a grill, and enjoy the day!
If you’re planning a trip to the Finger Lakes region this year, Check out my other post Finger Lakes Wine Country for more ideas on what to check out during your stay! Until next time…