State Routes 14 & 414
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Named in 2005 as one of Reserve America's Top Outdoor Locations and one of the Top 100 Campgrounds in the nation.
Privately owned and operated as a tourist resort until it was purchased by the State in 1906, Watkins Glen State Park has a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. The oldest and most famous of the Finger Lakes state parks, Watkins Glen offers an amazing amount of scenic beauty in a relatively small space.
Watkins Glen State Park is located in the village of Watkins Glen. The park has three entrances: the main entrance is on State Route 14 between 10th and 11th streets; the south entrance is on State Route 329 at Walnut Road; the north entrance is on State Route 409.
Focus of the Park
The park is long and narrow, encompassing 776 acres that run in basically an east-west direction. It contains two lakes and dozens of waterfalls, some quite long and beautiful. The main focus of the park, however, is a gorge through which runs Glen Creek as it winds its way for miles from the Town of Reading into the Town of Dix, through the park and its gorge, through the Village of Watkins Glen, finally flowing into the inlet to Seneca Lake. Within the 2 mi./3.2 km. of the gorge, Glen Creek descends 400 ft./122 m. past 200-ft./61-km. cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. Over thousands and thousands of years, Glen Creek has carved the rock of this narrow gorge into a myriad of shapes and provides a photographer's paradise.
The gorge has three main trails and numerous shorter connecting trails. The Gorge Trail is the most popular trail and winds over, under, and through the gorge's waterfalls. Indian Trail runs through the woods along the north rim of the gorge, and the South Rim Trail--part of the Finger Lakes Trail system--runs through the woods along the southern rim of the gorge. During the summer, there is a shuttle bus at the west end of the Gorge Trail that will drive you back to the main entrance if you are too tired to walk.
Notes Concerning the Gorge Trail
1. Make sure you pick up a free brochure at the park entrance, which provides lots of information about what you will see along each trail.
2. The trail in the gorge is steep with 800 stone steps. Make sure you wear "appropriate footwear." Sandals and dress shoes are NOT appropriate footwear.
3. The gorge can be hot in summer, so don't forget to bring water to drink. There are no facilities of any kind in the gorge.
4. Smoking is not appropriate in the gorge.
5. Do not litter.
6. Do not throw anything, even stones, in the gorge.
7. The gorge is meant to be a quiet place. Do not yell or scream in the gorge.
8. In the summer, people come by the busload. The narrow trail of the gorge can become congested with people. Do not stand in the trail and block people from passing you.
9. Visitors are required to stay on the trails and not to wander as doing so may be fatal.
Uniform park staff patrol the trails to enforce regulations.
Notes for Professional Photographers
This gorge presents a real challenge to photographers. It is steep and generally dim, even on days when the sky is cloudless. Many of the waterfall sequences require a long depth of field. Consequently, shots of 2 seconds or more are not uncommon. A tripod is a must for good shots, however, on busy days, a tripod can become a traffic problem on the narrow trails of the gorge. Visitors are not permitted off the trail, which restricts the point from which you can shoot. (Stone walls create a barricade along the outer edge of the trail.) Some photographers recommend using a neutral density filter and shooting on overcast days. Shooting in the off-season, such as in autumn when the leaves have turned color, can be rewarding. It would not be uncommon for a serious photographer to spend three hours or more in the gorge.
There is a concession stand, picnic area, and bathrooms at each of the three entrances. There is a gift shop at the main entrance and at the north entrance. Although the south entrance does not have a gift shop, it has other facilities the other entrances don't have, including a beautiful two-story stone pavilion for group events, a lily pond, a butterfly garden, a large campground, an Olympic-size pool with bathhouses, and a playground.
The park is open year round, however, the Gorge Trail is closed whenever weather conditions make the trail unsafe and is usually closed all winter. Camping is available from early May to mid-October.
Dogs must be leashed at all times. Dogs are not permitted in the pool area or on the Gorge Trail.
776 acres, 305 tent/trailer sites (54 electric)
Park plans (pdf)
Key to Services
C-Boat Launch Sites
J-Empire Passport Accepted
Updated 6 January 2013