Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail – Hiking a Natural Landmark

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My Dirty Life and Times

“I park my car at the base of a hiking trail; then I walk away from my car. Until I eventually turn around and…walk back to my car.” – Patton Oswalt

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is a beautiful scenic hike for all ages. It has been rated as one of the best hikes in the Finger Lakes region.  It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Within two miles, Glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade.

The Journey

Hiking the gorge trail became an option as I had been more aggressively researching scenic waterfall hikes near me. Having been “fooled” on a few occasions this summer with the promise of falls. Only to find trickles and/or barren riverbeds due to the lack of rain this summer gave me pause. It certainly looked beautiful and “trustworthy”, so I opted to make the three and half-hour trek. In an attempt to be efficient, however, I decided to couple it with visiting the New York State Fair. The fair is two and a half hours closer. I try to make it to the fair every year and this was the perfect opportunity.

The following Thursday, I packed an overnight bag and headed out to the fair. It was bit of a rainy day making the potential fair experience not optimal, but that wasn’t the real goal, was it? As happens with much of my travel, I find something that draws me to a location and then explore all along the way.

A Fair and a Ride

My Dirty Life and Times
My Dirty Life and Times

The Nightly Digs

Still, I did overachieve in my daily steps for the day as well as indulged in various fair fare, including a Lobster/Steak roll and Strawberry lemonade so how bad could it be. End of the day, tired and a little wet I headed out to Watkins Glen.

A little over an hour later, I was in romantic wine country. Large sprawling wineries emblazoned with family names one would expect to be in the wine business.

All are beckoning you to stop in to sample their rich and bold aromas. (Increase Your Vocabulary with Wine Words). I wasn’t in town for either, so I turned to my phone to find me a place to wrangle the ponies for the evening.

My Dirty Life and Times

Settled on the Colonial Inn and Creamery. Reasonably priced and promise of ice cream. While I did not achieve the ice cream goal, given the Bates Motel feel, I was certainly happy to make it ’til morning without a major axe incident.

Showered and ready, I headed out, looking for a hearty breakfast to begin my day. And based on the choices and the Motel’s recommendation, I found myself at Curly’s Family Restaurant, named after the original owner, Curly Personius, circa 1955.

The Hike

My Dirty Life and Times

Fortified with a Swiss cheese and Mushroom omelet and three cups of coffee, I traveled the 1.8 miles to the Gorge entrance and parking lot. As my research had gathered early was the best time to hike, certainly less peoplely. The parking lot was empty. Armed with my backpack of phones, snacks and water I proceeded to the entrance of the trail.

The trail is about two miles long and it took about three hours to complete. With the 400 feet descent, 19 waterfalls and 832 steps, the gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. 

When you reach the top, you find yourself at more of the park with a gift shop and a large parking lot should you chose to start there. There is also a bus service that goes back and forth so if you only want to do “one way” you can get back to where you started from. I opted to return the way I came for a different perspective. Plus, down is easier right?


The trail was not too difficult, but it does have a few steep sections, mostly near the end. I certainly could have accomplished it in under two hours but the veering off on different trails with the question “Wait, where does that go?” and the stopping to take video and pictures (see below) added to this time. It definitely began to become peoplely later in the morning (I began @ 9:30 AM) and the parking lot was full when I returned. 

So was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. There are some breathtaking views and if you like to chase waterfalls then this is certainly a place to check out. Also being single and retired, I am in no hurry and have no place I have to be.

Til Next time.

Bryan Lawrence http://bryandlawrence.com

Elder Gen X - Born in the Mid-1900's

My life is a collection of poorly made decisions with music playing in the background.