Off we go on another adventure to Watkins Glen State Park in New York. This has been our furthest trip so far, taking us about 5 hours to get there. We drove the morning of and got to New York about 2:00 pm. We also booked a hotel for two nights so we could take our time exploring. We did plenty of research before deciding to drive this far and there were all positive reviews so we decided we needed to check it out ourselves. The hotel and the drive cost us money but Watkins Glen State Park was free to explore. The drive itself to the park was a scene itself with all the hills and there are a few scenic rest stops as well.
When we first got to Watkins Glen, it just looks like a small prestigious town right off the Seneca Lake. There is plenty of parking even later on in the day. We are unsure if you have to pay in these lots or not. We did not pay due to the pay meters not being where we were parked at and nor did we get a ticket of any sort. So, suggestion is to park towards the back parking lot to save some money! Walking passed the Visitor’s Center, you have no idea what you are about to see and how big these falls and rocks are. The visitor’s center is packed with useful information and food. There are two different entrances you can come into Watkins Glen but we recommend the Main entrance.
Walking up to the first scenic area, there are plaques and pictures of how Watkins Glen was created. If you are a history nerd like we are, you’ll love all the history and founders of the area they provided. Little did we know that there were 19 falls in one area. 19! We were so excited and ran like little kids to the first one. We started the journey with the Entrance Tunnel which includes the Entrance Cascade. The scene takes your breath away almost due to the caves, bridge, and waterfall you get to see in one area. Entrance Cascade is the 1st out of 19 waterfalls in Watkins Glen. From this point, we walked into the cave that brings you to either the Couch’s Staircase, which later on in the day I thought was a good idea to run up the 180 stairs, it wasn’t. The other way brought you to a Point Lookout over the first few falls in the park. The trail we took was called Watkins Glen Gorge Trail if you want to follow the map provided.
Walking the trails we saw so much to take pictures and videos of. There were so many cascades we could hardly keep up with the names. One of my favorite on this stretch of walking was the Spiral Tunnel. It was almost impossible to get good shot without people in your pictures due to it being one of the biggest falls and one of the two falls you could actually walk under. The trail to this point was easy to walk, even with the stairs but this area is very crammed and hard to walk around people. We did end up having to come back at a later time to get some shots in this area which leads to a little cave staircase to the next falls.
The next trail we took was called Lovers Lane. They called it this because of the heart shaped cascades located in this area. It is about 1/4th of a mile until you hit the next trails. The Narrows and Glen Cathedral were absolutely amazing as well. By this point, we realized that everywhere on this 1.5 mile walk that the views would all be beautiful. The trails so far were moderately hard for walking. There were a few areas that were slippery due to previous rainfall the day before.
About the halfway point of the trail, we were astounded by the Central Cascades and the bridge we saw. The cascades here not only were huge, stunning and heart-stopping but the sound of the falls was calming. We stayed in this area to rest for awhile and got some amazing video of this area. Again, it was extremely hard to get those shots without random families in them but this place was too beautiful not to shoot. The natural lighting in this area was great for photography as well.
Next was Bob’s favorite falls called The Rainbow Falls. This is the second waterfall you can actually walk underneath and stick your hard out to feel the water falling. Reaching out into the cooling waters of Rainbow Falls while passing under the falls along the Gorge Trail was one of the coolest experiences at Watkins Glen. The hair-raising feeling you get when the water is all around you and seeing the rainbow in the water is a magical moment. Not only do you get the Rainbow Falls in this area but adjacent to the falls is Triple Cascade. This area we got plenty of video, shots of the water, and some time lapses which was really cool. Repeatedly, it was time consuming to wait for others to move away from the falls for photography and time with the falls.
When walking a little further past the Rainbow Falls you get to an area called the Spiral Gorge. I ended up going off the trail a little bit to get some shots from below. The water felt amazing and it was such a quiet place to rest for a few moments. It was a very unique scene to see the spiral and going into other small bodies of water. This area felt like the deepest in the trail due to the coldness but in reality wasn’t. At this point of the trails we probably climbed about 800 stairs and were exhausted. We decided to go a little further on to do our final video at the Mile Point Bridge.
After being at Watkins Glen all day, we decided to get dinner on Seneca Lake at a restaurant called The Village Marina which was only about 8 minutes away from Watkins Glen. The restaurant did have outdoor seating but was extremely busy when we decided to go but we could still see outside from our seats. The food was good and after dinner was one of our favorite experiences on this trip. There are places to walk on the edges of the lake and the sun was setting which made the view even more stunning. Our dinner was right next to a Marina called Glen Harbor Marina. This walkway is more like a boardwalk that leads you to a rock walkway into the water. We got some great shots of this area and was a great experience after our long day of hiking.
Overall, we think Watkins Glen will be extremely hard to beat! Literally the entire mile there and back, was fascinating. No matter the angle, the area, or sunlight, there was still something so unbelievable about Watkins Glen. The coming together of man made walkways and nature couldn’t be more perfect. One of the best parts of this place is the stone walkways and bridges built many many years ago. Little did we know after doing research that there are plenty of other falls all around this area and driving distance. Our dinner on the lake could not have been more perfect and our hotel afterwards was extremely comfortable and was only about 35 minutes away from Watkins Glen. We chose to be further due to our trip the next day, which is to Letchworth State Park. The adventure continues tomorrow…