Look no farther than Watkins Glen State Park in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York for a stunning outdoor adventure. The park’s 19 waterfalls may be found along the glen’s winding hiking paths, which also provide breathtaking views of Glen Creek. On this Watkins glen state park winter guide, we will be sharing all the things that you need to know before going.
As long as you can climb stairs, the park’s trails vary from simple to moderate, so there is something for everyone to explore. Bring your camera with you if you wish to record the splendor of this park! You definitely don’t want to miss it since it has been ranked as one of the most stunning state parks in the whole country!
Watkins Glen State Park is where?
Over 700 acres of Watkins Glen State Park, which is accessible directly from the town of Watkins Glen, are situated in the Finger Lakes area of New York. Only a few blocks separate it from Seneca Lake’s southernmost tip. The park has camping spaces, picnic spots, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and a variety of hiking paths for hikers of various ability levels.
Accessing Watkins Glen State Park
It’s nearly simple to ignore Watkins Glen State Park since it’s so convenient to get there from the city. Going away from the lake on North Franklin Street, it is just 0.5 miles to Seneca Lake’s southernmost point.
On the right side of North Franklin Street between 9th and 10th Streets, traveling south and away from the lake, is the primary entrance to Watkins Glen State Park. This location has a parking lot; however, it is on the tiny side and becomes busy early in the morning during busy periods. Across North Franklin Street on 10th Street, there is a bigger parking lot.
Other parking alternatives include a sizable lot next to the pool and picnic area immediately inside the south gate and another parking lot accessible from the upper entrance on the other side of the park.
Visiting the Watkins Glen State Park in winter
Watkins Glen State Park is accessible for hiking and exploration from dawn to dusk. Even though the park is always accessible for exploration, not all areas of it are always accessible. Due to the extreme winter weather and the amount of snow and ice that covers it, the gorge path does shut for the season. During certain hours, you are still welcome to go around some of the park’s other sections. By Memorial Day, the whole park is usually open, but before your visit, be sure to check with park employees or social media postings for the most recent information.
Rates & Fees
Watkins Glen State Park charges an entrance fee for vehicles, much like all other state parks in New York. Using the parking lots at Watkins Glen is part of this. Personal vehicles must pay $10, while non-commercial buses must pay $35.
From mid-May through mid-October, these admission fees are collected daily from dawn to sunset. At the town’s parking lots, there are pay stations. You must pass through ticket booths at the drive-in entries where you may either present your park pass or pay the daily price.
Trail along Watkins Glen Gorge
The gorge path passes by many interesting places. Numerous of these locations have signs to help you stay on course, and the park map is well defined. These are some of the locations you’ll come across along the route in Watkins Glen, so be prepared for what you’re about to experience. If you start your journey on the gorge route at the main entrance, the places of interest are listed in the order you should expect to discover them.
Sentry Bridge and the entrance tunnel
You will start your journey by going through the Entrance Tunnel, which is close to the broad, concrete paths that are surrounded by colorful lights. This will set the stage for the remainder of your journey if you can successfully navigate the semi-circular course via the carved-out pathway.
The tunnel isn’t very long, and the steps are spacious. Not to worry. Additionally, the tunnel is illuminated, so you won’t have to be concerned about getting lost. A mill formerly stood where the main tourist center is now as well as the region next to Sentry Bridge.
Looking up Couch’s Staircase at Watkins Glen State Park’s 120 steps. The bottom of Couch’s Staircase is the next location you’ll pass on this trip. This stone stairway, which has 120 steps, leads you from the gorge trail’s base to the South Entrance’s facilities.
Avoid using this path! From the bottom of the stairs, just awe at the craftsmanship. Enjoy the lush vegetation that surrounds the staircase while appreciating the fact that you don’t have to go up those steps! But don’t be concerned. The gorge path has a ton more to offer.
Cascade and Spiral Tunnel in a Cavern
Cavern Cascade Waterfall, a tall and thin waterfall This will be your first time trekking above, below, and through waterfalls on this path, as they claim. The lengthier spiral tunnel and the subterranean cascade are both immediately accessible from the Watkins Glen gorge path. Observe the underground cascade with awe. It’s considerably higher than it seems at first! Depending on the wind and the season, you can get a little wet when you pass below the falls.
Compared to the one at the entrance, the spiral tunnel is a bit longer. Consider yourself one of the workmen that manually carved the rock to create this tunnel in 1927 as you pass through it. It’s incredible to think that the whole construction was made by hand!
Glen Cathedral and The Narrows
The narrows are the next interesting location as you continue down Glen Creek as you cross into the gorge. Shale and sandstone rock walls provide a deep route for the water to flow through, and they are pretty stunning.
This location was given its name because it resembles a large cathedral. This vista is amazing and a wonderful reminder of mother nature’s strength.
The gorge route runs beside the central cascade, and a bridge spans it. This waterfall in the gorge is the highest and descends roughly 60 feet. Even though it isn’t the park’s most popular picture location, you shouldn’t pass this one up.
You’ll undoubtedly see a lot of Rainbow Falls in any pictures of Watkins Glen. This section of the route is particularly beautiful since there is an abundance of vibrant foliage growing there. In the autumn, it is extremely lovely!
On your trek, you’ll pass this waterfall, but you may not know how close you are until you get there. The moment you round a trail curve, you’ll be treated to this breathtaking scene. During the summer weekends, this location may become fairly crowded with people snapping pictures and enjoying Rainbow Falls, so you might want to schedule your visit appropriately. You may even be able to see why it is called Rainbow Falls if you go on a beautiful day. Although there are 18 other waterfalls on the Watkins Glen gorge route, Rainbow Falls is one you’ll undoubtedly remember.
Cliff with a frown
Another location where the gorge widens and is quite threatening is Frowning Cliff. Even though the gorge has become somewhat smaller at this stage, it still serves as an excellent example of how sunshine promotes plant growth. Sun-loving plants abound on one side of the gorge. Only plants that need very little light may survive, on the other hand. You’ll see that the plants growing from one side to the other are really different if you turn your head back and forth.
Mile Point Bridge with a view of Glen Creek and further gorge views
You would believe there is nothing further left to see on this path after crossing all of those breathtaking vistas and waterfalls. But you just hiked a little over a mile to witness all these sights! Before you reach the mile point bridge, continue down the gorge path to observe additional cascading falls and water features. This bridge, which is appropriately called, may also be utilized to access the South Rim Trail.
You may use this bridge to go back to where you started if you hiked from the campsite or the parking lot at the south gate. It’s a route alternative worth noting even though you’d miss ascending the Jacob’s Ladder steps to the higher entrance and the (somewhat) quieter section of the gorge path.
The final challenge is Jacob’s Ladder! To go back to the top door, you must ascend 180 steps from this location. You have choices from here! There is a shuttle available, and you may take it back to your vehicle for $6. If you’re up for another 1.1 miles of trekking, we’d advise taking the North Rim Trail back. The majority of this section of the path is flat or downhill.
Although the views from this walk are often quite different than those that can be seen deep within the valley, you will also get to see a few gorge overlooks. Lover’s Lane and Lookout There is a stone stairway leading up to the rim path on Lover’s Lane.
While this location may not appear noteworthy, for history buffs, it is the sole part of the historic path that still exists after floods in 1935 had devastated most of the region. Look at the stairwell. The year it was constructed may be imprinted in the concrete. You may also use this location to access or depart the gorge route at any time.
You’ll soon come upon an antique suspension bridge that was constructed in 1870 after crossing Lover’s Lane. Think about the laborers who built the bridge across the gorge more than 150 years ago! The gorge offers a fantastic aerial perspective of the area you just passed through since it is located around 85 feet below the bridge.
Go over to the lily pond while you’re at the suspension bridge. This is the location of Glen Mountain House, a former exclusive resort in Watkins Glen. Although getting there required a lot of work, it was a rather well-liked holiday spot. Sadly, the resort burnt down in 1903, and now there isn’t much to show for it but a few pictures in the lily pond.
Before heading back to the main gate, here is your only opportunity to see the gorge in any way. If you can, take one final look at the stunning location. Sometimes, as the summer wears on, the vegetation and tree growth might impede the vistas.
Go back to the main entrance using the North Rim Trail
The track has mostly disappeared by this point. You may have parked your vehicle at the main entrance, which is just a short walk away. The Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is the one.
Watkins Glen State Park swimming
Absolutely no swimming is allowed in any of Glen Creek’s pools along the gorge route. Because of how quickly the water conditions may change, it can be highly hazardous. Undercurrents and wet rocks might lead to tragedy! However, there are other places nearby where swimming is allowed! Visitors at Watkins Glen State Park have access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Walkins Glen?
The Gorge Trail is closed in the winter because Watkins Glen often experiences severe weather. Make sure the route is hikeable if you want to explore the state park to the fullest! The gorge route typically opens in the middle to end of May and closes in the first few weeks of November. Simply inquire beforehand through social media or the park office. They will provide you with full information on trial conditions and closures.
The greatest time to go is in the early summer since Glen Creek will be flowing as much as it can, allowing you to experience all of the waterfalls in their full capacity. The route is incredibly gorgeous!
Keep this Watkins Glen state park winter guide in mind and visit the state park. Then you will be able to secure the best experience during the time that you are spending in here.