A Weekend Getaway to Watkins Glen, NY
July 10, 2013

A few weeks ago, we took our kids on a three-day getaway to Watkins Glen State Park in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York. As a child, I lived nearby for several years and had been to the park with my family, but I had forgotten how truly breathtaking its gorge hikes are. Since it’s just a 3.5-hour drive from our home in the Lehigh Valley (or a 4-hour drive from Philadelphia), it is the perfect destination for a convenient yet unforgettable long weekend outdoors.

The park offers three main trails: Gorge Trail, Indian Trail, or South Rim Trail. Indian Trail and South Rim Trail take you along the forested top of the gorge, offering a look down at the landscape below. If you pick up Indian Trail, part of your hike will cross an 85-foot-long suspension bridge above the creek. 

Hiking Gorge Trail—which is what we chose to do—takes you along Glen Creek, where you will see stunning landscapes, water sculpted rock formations, and nineteen cascading waterfalls. Gorge Trail is only about 1.5 miles long, but boasts 800 stone steps. Steep or not, this trail is worth the hike!

You can walk behind two of Gorge Trail’s waterfalls: Cavern Cascade and Rainbow Falls. (Make sure you have extra shoes and a change of clothes for your kids because if your children are anything like mine, they will have fun getting wet from standing under the waterfalls!) Another notable waterfall is the Central Cascade, which is the largest in the gorge at more than 60 feet high. At Spiral Gorge, you can cross Mile Point Bridge to take Indian Trail or continue on the Gorge Trail for the remaining ½ mile hike along a quiet and serene section of the stream. At the end, you will walk up the final 180 steps named Jacob’s Ladder. This takes you directly to the Upper Entrance where there are restrooms, picnic tables, and a playground. Once at the top, most people turn around and come back, but you also have the option of taking a shuttle bus back to the Main Entrance, when it is available.

We opted not to bring our baby carrier since we really have a hard time keeping 18-month-old Miles content in it anymore. We alternated between carrying him and letting him walk, which worked out just fine. He loved climbing the stairs, walking through dark passageways with dripping water while listening to our voices echo, and watching the waterfalls. Lucas  had no problem hiking the entire Gorge Trail and back. He enjoyed reading the various signs posted along the trail, revealing facts about the gorge. Remind your kids to walk, not run, since most parts of the gorge are wet and the shale can be slippery.

Hiking Watkins Glen is a good half day hike. The park is much less crowded early in the morning and late in the day. There is a picnic area at both the Main Entrance and the Upper Entrance but you can find plenty of family friendly restaurants in the town of Watkins Glen. 

To fill out your long weekend in the area, consider stopping by Farm Sancutary, a beautiful 175-acre shelter for rescued farm animals. Other nearby state parks for hiking and camping are the Robert H. Treman State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Newtown Battlefield State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park. If you choose to walk the gorge at Taughannock Falls, make sure you cross NY-89 and spend some time on the beaches of Cayuga Lake. This portion of the park has designated swimming areas with life guards, areas for skipping rocks, and an enormous playground for your kids to play on. For more information on any of these state parks, visit www.nysparks.com


April 20, 2015 (9)
America’s National Parks are getting a lot of welcome attention right now, due to the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016.
September 2, 2012 (6)
Need some fresh ideas for outdoor fun with your kids? Here are a few free or low-cost suggestions gathered from AMC experts!

By: Guest
Posted: 08/04/2018 04:47

This was definitely such a wonderful place for children. From this post, i came to know more about this Watkins Glen State Park. This place provides lots of fun elements for kids. Keep share more pictures of this place.http://privateparistours.com/paris-city-tours/private-tours-paris/

Report this »

By: Guest
Posted: 06/08/2018 01:32

This post about the Watkins Glen proved to be a really interesting one. From the image that is shared here on the page, I found the place so inviting. I will surely visit this place with my kids and family. Thank you so much for sharing.

Epson Printer Troubleshooting

Report this »

By: Guest
Posted: 06/04/2018 08:05

Wow!! I am so happy to see the pictures of this Watkins glen in New York you have shared here. I think this is one of the perfect place for kids as well as parents to enjoy their weekend and relax their mind. Keep share more pictures of this place.washington dc tour

Report this »

By: Guest
Posted: 11/24/2017 08:29

The arrangement of outdoor activities for the kids is the best way to aware them about the beauty of nature and also explore the world as well. I like this update and enjoy while reading this detailed park trip of your with your kids. The hiking Watkins Glen is beautiful and I just amazed while browse this site and seeing this.

Report this »

By: Guest
Posted: 11/18/2017 12:24

I am relaxing after got coin heart vegas  online which let me get heart of vegas coins and cash.

Report this »

Get outdoor tips & trips
Yes, I want to receive expert advice on getting my family outside!


Tip of the Day

On rainy days, chunky colored sidewalk chalk and bathtub crayons take on new dimensions outdoors, and can be fun even for older kids. Try creating watercolors on the sidewalk, or body art with the crayons, and have fun getting wet.

© 2019 Appalachian Mountain Club | 10 City Square, Boston, MA 02129
About | Privacy Policy | Contact Us