For the past few years, I’ve been telling people that I’m not a huge fan of hiking.
Why was that? What was it about hiking that I actually don’t like?
I love nature.
I love being one with nature.
I love the sounds of birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind.
I love the smell of new grass and fresh flowers I am, however, allergic the fresh-cut grass but that aside…
I am a Taurus, which is an Earth sign – if that actually factors into this current self-reflection I’m having.
Suddenly, I got hit with a flashback. The year was July 14, 2013, and the place was Cappadocia, Turkey. Yes, it was the time I ate that kabab my gut told me to avoid, got food poisoning and was sick for a little over a week. I used the washroom more times travelling through Cappadocia, Istanbul, Athens and Santorini than I did that entire Month.
This single event is responsible for me, several years later, launching the Travel Horror Stories Podcast.
Somehow, I became anxious about possibly needing a washroom and not being able to find one. Therefore, the thought of hiking was something far removed from my mind as washrooms would be scarce. Yeah, sometimes my stupid thoughts can get in the way of logical thinking but hey, I’m a city boy, so laugh if you must. In fact, when people from the country laugh at people from the city when they come to the country and start freaking out…
It’s me they’re laughing at.
So how did I end up here? Well, two of my good friends and co-hosts of our web series “Wait, What?!” fellow travel blogger, Kevin Wagar from the Wandering Wagars and Kathryn Dickson from Kathryn Anywhere decided to make a pit stop here since it was on our way back to Toronto. We had just left TBEX, a travel blogging conference that was held in Corning, NY and since our web series is about gently pushing each other out of our comfort zone well…here we are!
The History Of Watkins State Park
& The Watkins Glen State Park Trails
The “Glen” first opened to tourists on July 4, 1863, by local newspaper owner Morvalden Ells and landowner, George Freer with about 10,000 tickets sold in the first year. After changes in ownership over the years, New York State purchased the property in 1906 and opened the park to visitors – free of charge.
In 1924, the first established New York State Parks department in the Finger Lakes Region took over management of the park. Much of the stonework in Watkins Glen State Park was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was active in the park from 1935 to 1941. They built park buildings, trails, stonework, bridges, and many other projects.
How To Get To Watkins State Park
The closest Airport is the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, about a 35-minute drive from downtown Watkins Glen. Uber is available (though this is a rural area and it may be a little slower than you’re used to if you’re from a busy city) and there are also a number of taxi companies who serve the airport.
If you’re coming by bus, Greyhound has stations in both Corning and Ithaca and both are approximately 30 minutes from downtown Watkins Glen.
Watkins Glen is easy to get to by car with major highways going around the town. From the North, Routes 14 or 414 (which follow the west and east sides of Seneca Lake, respectively) from the New York State Thruway. The Glen is about 64 km south of the New York State Thruway (Exit 42 in Geneva). From the South take Routes 15 and 81 to Interstate 86. The Glen is approximately 28 km North of the closest I-86/Southern Tier Expressway Exit.
Special thanks to Brittany, Tourism and Marketing Manager of Watkins Glen for explaining the routes!
Places To Stay Near Watkins Glen State Park
Since I was just passing through I did not need accommodations but did come across these places that would of peaked my interest if I needed to stay
This completely restored, 1891 Queen Anne Victorian mansion features wrap-around porches, second and third-floor watchtowers and magnificent views of Seneca Lake.
Watkins Motel is a short walk to Watkins Glen State Park, with great restaurants and other attractions.
The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is a Four-Diamond Triple-A rated award-winning hotel and USA Today’s 2016 Best Waterfront Hotel located on Seneca Lake in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country.
Berta’s Cafe is a well-loved bakery and coffee shop set in an informal old house with a beautiful garden and optional outdoor seating.
Glen Mountain Market
This café serves a large selection of locally roasted coffee. Many of the local eateries and hotels get their bread and desserts from right here. The bakery keeps the café loaded with an assortment of old-fashioned cookies, French-style pastries, and chewy brownies & bars and gluten-free & vegan sweets.
I’m only in the area for one day but its good to have options
Watkins Glen Trails
Today, Watkins Glen State Park Trails is one of the top attractions in New York State. Considered a flagship park by the State of New York, this incredible destination has been leaving visitors spellbound for generations. It features 19 waterfalls in less than 2 miles.
There are over 800 steps on the Gorge Trail, with plenty of places to stop, rest, and enjoy the views along the way. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the cascading spray of caverns
The Gorge Trail is open seasonally – usually from mid-May through the end of October. The Rim Trail overlooks the gorge and is open year-round. Get your Watkins Glen State Park Trail Map
You can experience the dramatic landscape of Watkins Glen on the Indian Trail, South Rim Trail and the Gorge Trail.
The Indian and South Rim Trails follow the forested end of the gorge. Watkins Glen, in my opinion, is best experienced on the Gorge Trail, which follows Glen Creek past water-sculpted rock faces and 19 waterfalls.
The Gorge Trail can be accessed from the Main, South and Upper entrances. Most visitors walk uphill from the main entrance. then return back to the main entrance.
Others take a shuttle bus (when available) to the upper entrance and walk the 2.4 km back down to the main entrance.
If you prefer to explore the gorge with a guide, look for posters around the park listing times for tours offered weekly during the summer months.
In addition to Watkins Glen State Park, there are many other outdoor adventures to experience in Schuyler County including the Catharine Valley Trail, Finger Lakes National Forest, Finger Lakes Trail, and Sugar Hill State Forest.
Watkins Glen Cemetery (St. Mary’s Cemetery)
On April 10, 1912, Watkins Glen native Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild and her husband, Martin, boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France. A wealthy and childless couple, the Rothschilds were frequent travellers. Little did either know it would be the final journey for one of them.
Martin did not make it alive.
His body was buried in a mausoleum inside this cemetery that was built by his wife for him.
Rooster Fish Brewing Pub
Formerly known as Wildflower Crooked Rooster, it is a beer garden that serves the best-tasting Nashville hot chicken, bacon mushroom Swiss burger, steak and fries, pickled onion rings, kale salad, pretzel, blackened cod sandwich and more.
Jerlando’s Ristorante & Pizza Co.
Jerlando’s Ristorante & Pizza Co. serves Italian and American selections including a variety of pasta, steaks, seafood, poultry, sandwiches, veal, salads, pizza, wings, and burgers. They serve wines, local and craft beers.
At the sake of not grossing everyone out, let’s just say that I used the washroom prior to the hike and everything turned out ok.
That being said We probably could have completed this hike a lot sooner if we didn’t stop every so often to take pictures. But honestly, how can you resist?
This park is absolutely beautiful.