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Watkins Glen is a jewel in the New York State Park system - if you love waterfalls this place has them in droves

The small town of Watkins Glen is found in Upstate New York in the Finger Lakes Region. It lies at the southern tip of Senaca Lake, one of the larger ‘Finger Lakes’. Watkins Glen is not big, it has a permanent population of only 2000 and is made up primarily of one street. Yet it is a draw for tourists, due to its location in the popular Finger Lakes region and due to the Watkins Glen Internation race track, which regularly hosts NASCAR events.

One of the biggest draws to the town is the renowned Watkins Glen State Park, one of the most remarkable State Parks in the country. This is a relatively small park, but what makes it special are the 19 waterfalls in the glen that runs through the Park. They are close together, so walking upstream about 2-miles and you will see them all.

The very bottom of the Park, where the sequence of waterfalls finishes, is in the town of Watkins Glen. We stayed in a hotel in the town and was able to walk there – you can easily walk to the Park entrance from anywhere in Watkins Glen. If you are coming from out of town there is designated parking for visitors.

We visited during July so we decided to go towards the end of the day. This meant the crowds were not too awful. The day before our visit there had been some amazing and powerful storms pass through Upstate New York. This resulted in incredibly high water levels in the glen, so it was closed down for much of the day (worth checking the Park is open if you visit during a particulary wet time). The upside was that we were treated to some awesome water flows that made the waterfalls even more spectacular.

We opted to take the Gorge Trail upstream – which was amazing. At one of the falls you really got to appreciated the power of the water – especially when you actually able to walk under the waterfall and experience the water tumbling right infront of your face. 

The Gorge Trail, as the name suggests passes along the gorge, where the walls stretch 200-feet above you. The trail is just over a mile long (we didn’t get right to the end as flooding had closed part of it) and climbs about 400-feet. This is not a difficult walk and the trails are well maintained, although not suitable for disabled access.

Once at the end of the Gorge Trail the options are to take the Gorge Trail back or one of the other trails that run along the rim of the gorge. We opted to take a the north Rim Trail back which was a very easy walk and quicker than taking the Gorge Trail back (it was getting a little dark by this time!)

We had high expectations of Watkins Glen State Park based on everything we had read and we were not disappointed. If you are in the Finger Lakes region and love the outdoors then definitely put this down on your plans.

The amazing power of the waterfall in full flood
Beneath the fall give you a unique perspective of the power of water
Streams join the main river as waterfalls
Karen on the Gorge Trail

In summary …

  • A wonderful place to visit. If you are in the Finger Lakes region make sure it’s on your list of places to see!
  • It’s a fairly easy hike to the top of the gorge and back. Leave about 90 minutes to 2 hours for your visit.
  • Go early or late to miss the crowds especially during the summer.

Planning your visit to Watkins Glen State Park

Address:1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY
Website:https://parks.ny.gov/parks/142/
Telephone:T: 607-535-4511
Hours:

Watkins Glen State Park is open every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall, winter and spring. Memorial The park is open everyday from dawn to dusk. The gorge trail access is seasonable and closes for the winter months.

Admission Fees

Entry to the Park is free but there is a $10.00 fee for parking

Best time to visit Finger Lakes

The best time to visit the Finger Lakes region is from May to September, when there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the area’s outdoor pursuits. Expect higher accommodation rates in the peak months of June to August and longer lines at attractions and wineries.

Other places to visit near Watkins Glen

1. CORNING MUSEUM OF GLASS

Corning is well known for its manufacture of glass. It is not all boring stuff as a trip to the Museum of Glass will show you. There is a marvellous collection of art exhibitions ranging from avant-garde to very traditional artwork.
 
There are also displays and exhibitions of glass-making which are really interesting.
 
The museum is pretty large so you can easily spend several hours looking around. If you are interested in glassware you could spend the whole day here!

2. ROCKWELL MUSEUM

The core of this interesting and diverse collection was gifted by Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners who amassed an incredible collection of American art and artefacts. 

The Rockwells had keen eyes for art and exquisite taste.  They owned a department store in the area and used their store as a venue to display their remarkable collection of American art and artefacts, Carder Steuben glass, classic firearms, and antique toys.

Their collection quickly outgrew their department store.  In 1974, the Rockwells and a group of executives from Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) began working together to turn the collection into a museum for the benefit of the Corning, NY community. The Rockwells would donate their collection, and the company and the community would support the museum moving forward.

3. TAUGHANNOCK FALLS STATE PARK

Pronounced Tuh-GA-nick. The falls’ name is believed to have derived from the Algonquian Taconic (“in the trees”) or Taghkanic (after a Lenape chieftain killed in battle nearby). Taughannock Falls carves a 400ft deep gorge through layers of sandstone, shale and limestone that were once the bed of an ancient sea. With a 215 foot plunge, this waterfall stands three stories taller than Niagara Falls.

Where to stay near Watkins Glen

1. THE BLACK SHEEP INN AND SPA

Located just outside Hammondsport and within walking distance of Keuka Lake, the Black Sheep Inn & Spa is a truly singular escape. The historic, octagonal-shaped structure is done in an Italian stucco style and offers five uniquely appointed guest rooms, along with plenty of cushy perks, including locally sourced farm-to-table breakfasts, special packages for beer and wine lovers, and an on-site spa offering Swedish, deep-tissue, and hot-stone massages. For the artistically inclined, innkeepers (& Brits) Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman create art with creatively repurposed materials at the property’s F.L.A.V.O.R Studio & Gallery.
 
Vegan breakfasts are available. Yea!

2. TAYLOR FARM BED & BREAKFAST

Wildlife lovers will adore the bucolic Taylor Farm B & B, located just west of Keuka Lake. Book a room in the homey bed & breakfast or rent the Carriage House featuring two sleeping lofts and master bedroom spread over 1,200 feet (including a massive balcony). The 315-acre farm also features scenic walking trails, providing guests with the opportunity to encounter area white-tailed deer, beavers, and pileated woodpeckers.

3. GAFFER INN

Lodging at the Gaffer Inn (formerly named The Inn at the Gaffer Grille), opened in 2010, offers charming, boutique accommodations featuring the city’s history of glass creation and design. The Inn is located on historical Market Street in downtown Corning, New York. Corning’s Gaffer District is a unique area with many shops, the widely known Corning Museum of Glass and The Rockwell Museum, along with many other activities. Located above Burgers and Beer of Corning, you are only a few steps away from a relaxing meal or social gathering.

The Inn rooms include many features and amenities to maximize relaxation and comfort during your stay. In each room you will find new wall to wall carpet throughout, pillow-top mattress, plush leather couch in front of a fireplace, desk, smart TV’s, wet bar and small dining area.

 

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