Watkins Glen State Park is such an incredible hiking area in the Finger Lake region of New York. It is located just south of Seneca Lake (the address is 1009 N Franklin Street Watkins Glen, NY.) It provides spectacular nature areas to explore with waterfalls, cliffs, plunge basins, and really unique rock formations.
My husband and I are huge fans of hiking and exploring nature settings, so when we traveled up to Watkins Glen (we are from the Philadelphia area) we had to check this spot out!
You can park at the main entrance (on Franklin Street) or there is an upper entrance that we parked at which is located on route 409 (3310 Watkins Glen NY.) At the time we visited, the main entrance was full, so we ended up parking the upper lot, and went on the Gorge Trail from there. As a side note, there was a small fee to park in either of the lots.
The Gorge Trail is 1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometers. We were there almost five hours to really enjoy it, but if you go fast through the area, it may be possible to hike in two to three. Although it is a decent length, it is not particularly strenuous, and we just really set a moderate pace and took our time. Since this is a larger hike, I do highly recommend that you bring a backpack or bag with extra snacks (we usually take granola bars), water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hiking boots, extra jackets, gloves, or hats depending on the weather. There are restrooms in the park in case if you need to use them.
This place has such an interesting history to it. 10,000 years ago, after the Ice Age, glaciers melted in New York, and the Glen Creek flowed through the woods to the steep west wall of the Seneca Lake Valley. It was from that point that the stream flowed as waterfalls and went directly into the Seneca Lake, which had been lowered by the passage of glaciers. Today, waterfalls are actually still in the process of creating Watkins Glen, and the water plunges through the resistant ledges of limestone or shale. As the waterfalls go through the ledges, there are various cascades that cut into the hills, which lengthens and deepens the gorges. As you walk through the park, it is really neat, because you are walking by these layers of rocks and you can literally see the Earth’s history through time in front of you.
As we began our hike at the Gorge Trail from the upper lot, we went down Jacob’s Ladder, which is an interesting swirling set of stone stairs. It had rained the day before, so we really just took our time to get down to the trail. As we arrived at the bottom of the trail to the impressive Glen Creek, we were happy to see that there was a nicely paved path for us to walk on.
The water looked so clear and beautiful, as we discovered the various shapes that the Glen Creek has created over the years. The typical fish that you may find here are crayfish, minnows, and caddisfly which seem to enjoy the shallow depths. My favorite formation that I found as we were meandering about the park was a beautiful heart!
There are also so many fascinating bridges that you will encounter, and they just add to the magical scenery of the place!
Out of all the amazing spots in the park, I had an absolute favorite. As you go through the Gorge Trail, at one point you will see a stair case feature in a rock wall, which is called the Spiral Tunnel. So the tunnel itself is very cool as you walk through it, and something unexpected happens as you make your way out of it. As you step out into the path again, you are greeted with an absolutely magical waterfall. This waterfall is called the Cavern Cascade, and it is 52 feet in length (16 meters) and seems to swoop right out of the cliff.
I truly hope that this post inspires you to make a trip to the Watkins Glen State Park. Its beauty and history is truly like no other place, and is so unique to New York and the Northeastern part of the United States. Let me know in the comments if you have ever traveled here before as well. I hope that you are having a wonderful day, and remember to click the like and subscribe button!
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