Watkins Glen State Park

An old railroad bridge very high up can be viewed from the trail.

A glen is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a secluded narrow valley.” This week, I went to a place I’ve never been before: Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is a village located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake. It’s a quaint and charming little place, and it’s also unmistakably a town that caters in part to tourists. Watkins Glen State Park seems to be one of the most popular destinations for visitors (for good reason!). Living in Ithaca, I sometimes take for granted the natural beauty of the gorges, the falls, and the lake, not to mention the walking trails and many swimming spots. Visiting Watkins Glen revived my appreciation for the natural wonders that surround me.

The park entrance consists of a little cave-like spiral staircase. Glen Creek (the gorge that cuts through the center of the park) is something that can’t just be glimpsed or viewed stationary – it really has to be explored. Multiple trails exist along the gorge. As we ascended, we walked along Gorge Trail, which is beside the water. The gorge is breathtaking – it’s impressive in its depth. The water that weaves and winds through it is has carved out a path that includes surprisingly rounded pools of water, waterfalls that flow and mist overhead, and ridged, multi-layered sides.

The trail concludes at a stone-staircase called “Jacob’s Ladder,” which leads to the upper entrance of the park. On the way back down, we took Indian Trail, which seemed to go quicker (the trail always seems quicker on the way back) and consisted of a more heavily wooded area, away from the water. It had a few nice lookouts along the way. We left the park just before nightfall. Watkins Glen State Park was a lovely and satisfying hike. Very refreshing! The park also has a historical undertone that is emphasized with descriptive plaques along the way. The water from the gorge in the past was used as an energy source.


kathleen malnatiStory and photo by Kathleen Malnati