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Watkins Glen State Park - Stunning Natural Wonder!

Updated on December 27, 2012

Natural wonder in New York State!

Are you looking for a great place to hike or camp in the Finger Lakes Region of New York? Look no further! Watkins Glen State Park is a wonderful destination for people of all ages -- and is great fun for the whole family. I live in Western NY and have been fortunate enough to have visited this park several times and just recently spent a day at Watkins Glen taking plenty of beautiful photos! It's not simply for locals thought -- people from around the US and Canada enjoy visiting or camping at the park! While in the parking lot, I noticed vehicles with license plates from North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ontario, etc. I'm not surprised that it is such an attraction!

Have a look through this page and let me know what you think about this spectacular natural wonder -- I hope it convinces you to visit one day!

Watkins Glen State Park is beautiful all year, but some spectacular vistas await you in the autumn! I have updated this page with some photos taken at Watkins Glen in the autumn. Pretty, huh?

*I took most of the photos on this page - please do not use my pictures for blogs or websites without permission. Other photos are linked to the source and are licensed under Creative Commons.

How did Watkins Glen form? - A rich geologic history...

Thousands of years of glacial history has shaped the Finger Lakes region of New York, and water has played a crucial role in shaping the amazing features at Watkins Glen. During the past million years, water in the form of glaciers (or giant mounds of ice) advanced and receded over New York State several times, dramatically transforming the land in its path. When the last glacier receded about 10,000 years ago, water filled troughs carved by the glaciers, forming the narrow and deep Finger Lakes. Since then, water from Glen Creek has poured down the glacially steepened hillside, cutting away its soft sedimentary rock. This on-going process has formed Watkins Glen's rugged gorge and spectacular waterfalls. Evidence of how water has shaped this gorge is visible throughout the park.

"Glen" comes from an old Greek word meaning "small, narrow, secluded valley."

Have you ever been to Watkins Glen State Park?

Ever visited this beautiful place?

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What to do at Watkins Glen State Park

There's something for everyone!

The park is open year-round, although certain activities and facilities are only available on a seasonal basis. There are three trails that you can enjoy at the park: Indian Trail, South Rim Trail, and the Gorge Trail. I have walked all three and they are each lovely! The most scenic and popular trail is the Gorge Trail, which follows Glen Creek past water-sculpted rock and 19 waterfalls. You will enjoy walking through a tunnel, up a spiral staircase, and over several stone foot bridges. There are also two waterfalls you can walk behind on this trail! All of my pictures were taken from the Gorge Trail. :)

Hiking and photography are the main attractions at this park!

Most visitors walk uphill from the Main Entrance and return, while others take a shuttle bus (when available) to the Upper Entrance and walk the 1.5 miles back down to the Main Entrance.

There are over 800 stone steps in the gorge. Be sure to wear proper footwear as several sections of the Gorge Trail are wet and slippery from spray or springs.

In addition to hiking, Camping facilities are also available at the park. There are 54 electric and 251 non-electric campsites available. Additionally, there is an Olympic size pool and kiddy pools, picnic areas, concessions, picnic pavilions, play fields, playgrounds, interpretive walks, and comfort stations. *Information from the Watkins Glen map I was given at the park.

Official NYS Watkins Glen Website

Click here for camping reservations and more information before your visit!

Ecological microclimate within the gorge

A microclimate can be defined as: The local climate conditions, brought about by the modification of general climatic conditions by local differences in elevation and exposure.

There is an ecological microclimate within the gorge at Watkins Glen -- I observed this when walking along the trail -- and later read about it on a sign within the park. One gorge wall is North-facing and is thus constantly shaded from direct sunlight. These conditions, in combination with the constantly flowing stream, create a mini environment or microclimate that differs from the southern wall of the gorge. The cool and damp conditions enable plenty of ferns and mosses to grow! Other riparian species of plants, such as American hemlock, also grow along Glen Creek.

This picture shows the shadowed northern side of the gorge vs. the sunny south-facing side. The constantly shaded north side facilitates the microclimate.

Can you bring your dog to Watkins Glen?

The answer is YES! Pets are allowed at Watkins Glen, assuming they are up-to-date on vaccinations and are kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet. If you do bring your dog, be sure to have plenty of water available for you and your pet as there are a lot of stairs to climb!

More photos! - Rainbow falls

Narrow channel

The public has been admiring Watkins Glen for more than a century. The gorge was first opened to the public in 1863 and was privately owned until 1906.


Virtual Tour

Click Here for a virtual tour of the park!

A rare wildflower grows here!

You can find the threatened Leedy's roseroot, a Federally listed cliffside wildflower, growing here. According to the USFWS website, Leedy's roseroot is only found in six locations in New York and Minnesota. Another great reason to visit!

Where is Watkins Glen? - And how do I get there?

Enter your address into the box for driving directions.

Watkins Glen SP in the Autumn

A spectacular display of autumn colors and beauty!

Image credit: Dustin Jamison (Creative Commons License)

Image credit: blmiers2 (Creative Commons License)

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Be prepared with hiking boots!

Relaxing Watkins Glen video

A video short about the world famous gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in Watkins Glen, New York.

My sister and me at Watkins Glen :)

My sister and me at Watkins Glen :)
My sister and me at Watkins Glen :)

Please sign my guestbook! - I love hearing from people who stop by and please share your stories if you've been to this lovely place!

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    • profile image

      LaurasArtJewelry 5 years ago

      Great work Jennalee! This lens is interesting and full of important information for anyone who has or wants to visit the park :D

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Absolutely gorgeous photos; I love NYS but then again I'm a little partial. Awesome Lens, thanks for sharing.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      Amazing! Nature could be so wonderful, one can learn from Watkins Glen State Park. Lovely lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Gorgeous place. Thank you for the virtual hike through Watkins Glen State Park. Fabulous photos. I would love to visit.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I do remember it vaguely. Next time I pass the Fingerlakes area I should really make a stop at Watkins Glen. Thanks for reminding me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just stopping by to post to FB...what a beauty.....could fit in a few quizzes about Watkins Glen State Park.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is one of those places I would love to visit, especially since am in NYC and its not too far away. I have to remember to add on my list.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      So stunning and beautiful natural wonder you've presented here.. my dear friend :) This is my first time to know Watkins Glen. I've no idea how to climb the stairs with my own 7 dogs... Anyway .. It's as great challenge for me :D Additional point of mine.. You and your sister are so BEAUTIFUL ;) Pin it and tweeted to all my fans. Always love you.. dear friend. Blessing to you and yours. Have a wonderful time.. always.. dearest Jenna :)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Watkins Glen State Park is just as you say a natural wonder and your pictures are amazing to bring us into the experience. I like that you encourage proper footwear if planning on taking on those 800 stone steps...all worth it on this beautiful trek and 19 waterfalls on just the one path would be amazing. I love that you finish with a picture of you and your sister, beautifully presented Jenna!