As stated on the park’s website description “spellbound” is exactly how you would feel as you proceed deeper into the gorge trail, until you reach its climax point called “Rainbow Bridge”, then you have to stop and wonder if you might have somehow been magically transported into a setting of Rivendell.
Watkins Glen Park is located right outside the town of Watkins Glen, New York. It consists of three trails: Indian, Gorge, and Southern Rim. While the Indian and Southern Rim trails run along the wooded borders of the gorge, the more scenic Gorge trail interweaves through small caves, cascades, plunge pools and 19 waterfalls along the narrow Glen Creek stream. The geographical structure was created through decades of erosion, started since the Ice Age left a hanging valley overlooking Seneca valley. It eventually evolved into the deep gorge of Watkins Glen. The rock gradients you will find here combine layers of soft shales, sandstone, and limestone.
The Gorge Trail is around 2 miles long and can be done from bottom to top in under 2 hours. There are a few ways you can go about beginning and ending the trails. I began mine at the bottom entrance around 9 am, made my way to the top picnic area, and took the Indian Trail down. It is a gorgeous walk up and can be just as beautiful coming down the same way. However, being that I came on a Sunday it became quite crowded by tour crowds by 11 am. As some of the pathways are quite narrow, it can wear on a person’s patience to wait around for groups of people to finish posing for their photos.
The trail is actually a state created flat stone path that includes over 800 stone steps. Someone who is much older or not in the best of health will need to catch their breathe a bit by the time they reach the top. There are resting benches as you make your way up the last stairway before the picnic area. One could also choose to take a $5 shuttle to the top and walk down, or vice versa. The top was where the tour bus drop of was and where a lot of the crowds descended. I was wondering why there were so many people coming down when I did not see that many come up.
If you are coming from far away and need a place to stay overnight then I would recommend looking for something that is a little bit outside of the town. It can be quite expensive or booked up for anything in the town, being that it is a busy tourist area. I found the Rodeway Inn that was about a 20 minutes drive away in Horseheads, NY. It was a simple motel that offered a small continental breakfast. This was enough as I only needed some place to crash for the night and it also had a small restaurant a few feet away. There are picnic tables at the back of the inn facing a wooded area that was a nice way to enjoy an early breakfast in the misty mornings.
Stay tuned after the photo jump for links and more information.
Camera used: Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Olympus 12-50mm lens Date taken: September 2015
Official website: Watkins Glen State Park
GPS Location: Don’t just simply search Google map for “watkins glen state park” which was what I did and was taken to a different area. You have to enter this specific address for it to take you to the main entrance: 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Fees and Rates: park entrance is FREE, but there is an $8 parking charge if you park in the Southern Entrance lot. If you get there early I would suggest just drive around the town to look for parking and walk over to avoid this cost. Website’s info: Fees and Rates
Operating Hours: The park is opened year round but do check on the website during the winter season as trails can be closed due to weather conditions. Website’s info: Hours of Operations
Hickory House Restaurant (located in front of the inn) : TripAdvisor Reviews
Other accommodations in Watkins Glen : TripAdvisor’s Listings