Watkins Glen State Park–19 Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes, NY

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What will surprise you the most is how you access this beautiful state park in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.  You don’t drive down a winding country road or veer off a highway in the middle of nowhere. It’s located in the middle of town, across the street from the County Sherriff’s office!  This is not the only thing that will surprise you about this waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes

Cavern Cascade in Watkins Glen Waterfalls in Finger Lakes of New York @DownshiftingPRO_2018 - Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes
Cavern Cascades in Watkins Glen State Park

You arrive at a brand new Welcome centre and then you will begin climbing 832 steps to see 19 waterfalls. Your journey will take you through a 500 foot elevation via stairs, through stone tunnels, behind at least two waterfalls while crossing both stone and suspension bridges.

Consider this a moderate hike, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Take frequent breaks as you gawk at the natural beauty of Watkins Glens State Park. Take your camera too as there are plenty of pictures to capture.

Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes - the gorge at Watkins Glen Park

History of the Gorge

Before it was a state park, Watkins Glen was a private resort. The park opened to the public on July 4th, 1863 with stairs ascending from Cavern Cascades to the top of the gorge. In 1873 the Grand Glen Mountain House opened. It was beautifully landscaped and capable of housing 300 guests. A suspension bridge was built linking the two sides of the glen.

This area was the location of both a Swiss Chalet and a Sanitorium after hot springs were discoved in the region. Eventually, the the Glen Mountain House burned down in 1903 and the park became state property in 1906 making it one of the first state parks. It’s great luck that Watkins Glen State park provides public access to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

The Narrows
Watkins Glen State Park Trail Map
Watkins Glen State Park Trail Map

Suggested Route

In Watkins Glen State Park, you have three trails you can hike: the Indian Trail (slightly elevated but less crowded, forested path), the South Rim Trail (forested natural path, also quiet) and the Gorge Trail (stone steps, stone tunnels, bridges, closer to the actual Gorge, most travelled). The best way to experience Watkins Glen is hiking the Gorge Trail, which follows Glen Creek past water-sculpted rock and 19 waterfalls.

Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes - Looking up towards the suspension bridge - Watkins Glen Park
Looking up to the Suspension Bridge

You can access the Gorge Trail from the Main, South and Upper entrances. Most visitors walk uphill from the Main Entrance and return. Others take a shuttle bus (when available) to the Upper Entrance and walk the 1 ½ miles back down to the Main.

Watkins Glen State Park myTBEXflx @DownshiftingPRO 2 e1588524879346

We hiked the Gorge Trail and walked uphill to Mile Point Bridge where we crossed over and descended on the South Rim Trail.  The latter provided a beautiful walk in the woods with a few viewpoints along the way.

Once we descended Couch’s Staircase we then looped back to the main entrance. Although, the access seems unusual, you will delight in the waterfalls and deep canyon carved out by Glen Creek.  Within two miles, the stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating different waterfalls along its course. You can access the Rainbow waterfalls by pathways and stairs. Be sure and have a look at some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.

Take a tour of Watkins Glen State Park

What you need to know

1009 N Franklin St
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Trail Shuttle runs between all 3 entrances ($5 each way):
Main- 1009 N. Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
South- 3530 Route 419, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Upper- 3310 Route 409, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Phone: (607) 535-4511
Admission Price: Day pass is $8 per vehicle
Hours Opened: 9 am to 5:30 pm. Park is Open between May and October.
Keep in mind the busy traffic dates for this upcoming summer:
Wine Festival July 12-14th, NASCAR August 2-4th, Woodstock 50th Anniversary August 16-18th, and Vintage Grand Prix Festival September 6th
Amenities: Washrooms are at the main entrances. There are snacks and a gift shop available at the Entrance on N. Franklin Street. Ther is Olympic size pool, camping facilities and Pavillions for day use.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.

2 thoughts on “Watkins Glen State Park–19 Waterfalls you need to see in the Finger Lakes, NY”

  1. This is an amazing state park! So much beauty in a condensed area. The crowds here can be insane though. We found the last 2 hours before park closing on the weekdays to be the best time to visit.

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