With the pandemic limiting our travel experiences, more Americans are beginning to discover beautiful places to explore close to home.
One of the more popular of these locations is Watkins Glen State Park, located just off of Seneca Lake in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upper New York.
Only four and a half hours by car from New York City, this park is home to several trails that run alongside its signature gorge, camping sites, a playground and a pool- plenty of activities for the whole family for only a $10 fee per vehicle.
We had taken an RV trip here and the campsite was nice and clean with tall trees that gave the sites a woodsy feel without being too cluttered. I’ve been in more spacious sites, but there was a decent mixture of tents and RVs so it didn’t feel overly crowded.
There was minimal light pollution so the stars were lovely at night, but we did get herded back to our campsite fairly quickly when we went to get a better view- if its dark enough to see the stars, its dark enough to surprise a car when you’re wandering around the roads.
Much of the draw for this park is the 400 foot gorge that cuts through fantastically distinct layers of rock. There are a few hikes to choose from to get different views of the gorge, but the most popular is probably the aptly named Gorge Trail, which runs right along the river. We dedicated a whole morning to checking out the trail. It’s a relatively easy hike but keep in mind that right at the beginning of the hike, we dropped down a steep 800-step staircase to walk along the beautiful gorge. The river that carved out these two huge cliffs creates nineteen waterfalls along the trail, some of which you even walk behind, which is always a favorite experience of mine- especially when it offers a soothing cool mist in the hot summer months. I loved seeing all the rock layers stacked on top of each other where the river wore them away and being close enough to touch them felt like running a hand over history.
The hike is neither long nor particularly arduous so its a great option for families, and the beauty of the gorge creates interest for hikers of all skill levels. It is extremely popular, so I’d definitely recommend beginning your hike very early in the morning as the trails can really begin to fill up as early as 10am.
We used Watkins Glen State Park as a base camp for our week of adventures so keep an eye out for future articles about more adventures in the area!