Located in Schuyler County, Watkins Glen State Park is the southernmost part of the Finger Lakes. The natural beauty of its deep wooded canyons and rushing streams attracts visitors throughout the year. The cliffs of the gorge attract rock climbers from all over North America, some people camp throughout summer to watch them climb.
Watkins Glen has long been appealing for more than just its rocks; it’s had a history of attracting people looking for fun. The first settlers came to Watkins around 1794. By 1807, David Woodcock had opened Watkins’ first hotel on Seneca Lakeshore near today’s Route 14A (Woodcock Road). It was popular with farmers bringing their produce to sell at Watkins’ Farmers Market. A good place to stop on the way back home, Woodcock’s inn had both overnight accommodations and a tavern.
The first business in Watkins Glen was started by Dewitt Clinton Wells in 1826. He built a hotel called “Wells House.” As waves of people came to see the Seneca Lake Valley, more businesses were established, including three more hotels that are still standing today, Watkins Mansion Inn Bed & Breakfast, The Stone Lion Inn B&B, and Woodlawn Inn.
Today, the park is known for its scenic beauty, waterfalls, and hiking trails. Here’s what you can do at Watkins Glen State Park:
There are twelve different trails to choose from; some are easy while others are more difficult. No matter which one you hike, they each lead to breathtaking views of the glen. The trails include Canyon Trail, Hemlock Falls, Bear Trail, Gorge Trail, Pinnacle Rock (Pictured), Surprise Lake/Aunt Sara’s Glen Loop, and Seneca Point. There are so many ways to enjoy this park! You can play disc golf or go swimming in the lake during the summertime. Go horseback riding in Spring/Summer/Fall or cross-country skiing in the winter.
Watkins Glen has some good fishing spots, such as the Upper and Lower Falls, Whirlpool Rapids, and Seneca Lake. During the spawning season, you can catch trout in the lake and creek.
There are two cliff areas: Enfield Glen and Lucifer’s Gorge. You must be an experienced climber to climb here because of how slippery it is on the cliffs. However, if you do go up there, please watch your step! The last thing we would want is a major accident happening due to climbing carelessness or lack thereof.
There are three different swimming areas: Lower Falls, Whirlpool Rapids, and the Lake. Whirlpool Rapids is where people will most likely be; there’s a beach area here with lifeguards. The other two areas are better for those who want to do some cliff jumping or tubing.
The park has several picnic areas throughout the wooded part of the gorge. There are no designated camping sites, but 1-2 tents can fit underneath each picnic shelter. You can also camp in larger numbers at nearby Letchworth State Park (Pictured). The camping season runs from May 15 to October 31st, but during Winter you can cross-country ski through the woods!
Each year in June, the park holds a fishing derby for kids.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
I wouldn’t recommend Watkins Glen State Park itself being on the wine trail, but if you want to explore further and see all of Schuyler County’s wineries, this would be a good way to do it. The area is well known across NYS for its delicious wines (Pictured). They even hold an annual Summer Wine Festival at the end of August every year!
The park is an ideal escape from the bustling city for those who are just looking to get away from it all. If you’re planning on visiting.
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