Watkins Glen Stories and Tips

Watkins Glen State Park/The Gorge Trail at the Glen

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail Photo, Watkins Glen, New York

After a restful sleep Friday night, we decided to go out on Saturday morning after breakfast at the camp and see the sites. Of course, the most popular is the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen; a 1.5 mile long hike at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.

The hike can be accessed from the lower level entrance through a tunnel and then follow the numerous steps upwards over stone walkways and bridges created back in the 1930s as a result of a public works project. Or you can choose to do what we did and pay three extra dollars per person and take the bus to the top and start from there. Either way will lead you past approximately 19 waterfalls, depending on how arid the weather has been, and numerous cracks and crevices just waiting to be explored along with beautiful pools created by the continuous flow of water from nearby Glen Creek. When we arrived it had been a very dry season and the waterfalls were down to meer trickles in many places, but we did have some pleasant surprises as seen in the photos.

The gorge can rise up to 300 feet high in some places and is comprised of sand and mud from an ancient sea that has been compressed for over 350 million years. This is called shale and in many places will crumble right in your fingertips. The gorge was created by glaciers that cut through the soft rock over 10,000 years ago. Many mosses and ferns live in the area and rely on the continuous supply of water in the area to thrive. While many places are shaded there are large areas that are in full sun so the plant life is extremely varied. I think at one point we saw wild strawberry plants right long the gorge bottom. The water level was so low that we were able to walk along the bottom of the gorge.

The hike was fairly easy as it was all down hill. Unless you start from the bottom I would say it is very suitable for families with young children. We took Heather who is four and she made it all the way with energy to spare, although her dad did carry her on his shoulders for a brief time. Lil’ Robert had the easiest way being carried on his mother’s back with a baby sling with nothing to do but look around and enjoy the sites.

The Trail is closed from early November to mid-May depending on the weather as the shale steps are extremely slippery when wet with rain or snow. There is a gift shop and bathrooms at both the top and bottom entrances. Pet are allowed on the trail but must be on leash. There is no cost to hike the gorge, but parking is $6 per car unless you are staying at the campsite then it is included with your site rental fee. Again, I would recommend taking the bus to the top and working your way down.

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