(Last Updated On: March 6, 2023)

long exposure shot of Rainbow Falls Cascade at Watkins Glen State Park

Picturesque Watkins Glen State Park, probably the most famous of all of the Finger Lakes State Parks, surrounds rocky cliffs and cascading waterfalls 80 miles southwest of Syracuse. This stunning gorge and its 19 waterfalls lies nestled between downtown Watkins Glen and the surrounding woodlands.

Stone stairs, tunnels and arched bridges guide the way along steep trails up along the gorge and over the scenic falls. And in addition to these breathtaking views the park also offers opportunities for camping, fishing, swimming, bird watching, and picnicking.


Planning a visit to the Finger Lakes region or Watkins Glen? Don’t forget to schedule some time for a stopover at Watkins Glen State Park, located right within downtown Watkins Glen.

This charming New York state park has a lot to offer whether you plan to visit for the day or spend a few nights in one of the cozy campsites nestled within the woods. The park’s day use area features trails, a Gift Shop, and scenic picnic areas with tables, grills, restrooms, and playgrounds. The park also offers winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

entrance sign at Watkins Glen State Park

Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Watkins Glen State Park:

Hiking at Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park features a trail system that climbs up along the gorge and offers guests spectacular views of the gorge and its 19 waterfalls. The trail system is divided by a gorge trail that leads over and under the waterfalls, and several rim trails that overlook the gorge.

Because of the steepness of the trails the park provides a shuttle that picks up guests in the lower and upper portions of the park. It doesn’t, however, reach as high as the upper entrance to the gorge. This area is only accessible by climbing the Jacobs Ladder staircase.

Nearby Catharine Valley Trail and the Finger Lakes National Forest offer more opportunities for hiking as well as other outdoor activities.

Here are a few of the trails at Watkins Glen State Park:

  • The Gorge Trail – This popular trail provides a moderate to strenuous 1.9 mile hike that winds along Glen Creek, up a stone staircase, under the waterfalls, and through Cavern Cascade. For safety and accessibility this trail is only open between early spring and late fall.
  • Indian Trail – A moderate 2.4 mile trail that showcases beautiful views above Glen Creek. This trail has rock and wooden stairs to assist guests over steep sections.
  • South Rim Trail – Moderate 2.6 mile trail that winds along the top of the gorge and leads out to the campground.

people hiking up the stairs at Watkins Glen State Park

Fishing at Watkins Glen State Park

Be sure to pack your angling gear and pick up a New York fishing license on your way. Seneca Lake and Catherine Creek both provide excellent fishing conditions for patient anglers. Here you may catch rainbow, brown, and lake trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, salmon, sunfish, and yellow perch.

Birding at Watkins Glen State Park

During your visit to Watkins Glen State Park, take a peaceful walk through the woodlands. If you listen closely you may hear some of the many songbirds that frequent the area. At least 50 species of songbirds have been observed here during the spring.

If you’re quiet you may also get a chance to observe an American Crow, Bald Eagle, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Raven, Red-breasted Nuthatch, or a Dark-eyed Junco.

stairs winding around Cavern Cascade at Watkins Glen State Park

Nature and Wildlife at Watkins Glen State Park

Picturesque stone staircases lead up and through tunnels and across arched bridges as you climb to the top of the spectacular waterfalls inside Watkins Glen State Park.

This area was once only accessible to visitors who were willing to brave narrow paths and rickety wooden bridges. But thanks to the hardworking efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps, during the 1930s, all may now safely access the trails that lead to views of the falls.

As you hike through the woodlands and along the trails leading out to the falls you may observe turtles, deer, skunks, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, frogs, and salamanders.

Pets at Watkins Glen State Park

Well behaved and supervised pets are allowed within designated areas at Watkins Glen State Park. Pets should be leashed or crated at all times and owners should be prepared to provide proof of rabies inoculation.

long exposure shot of a waterfall in a cave at Watkins Glen State Park

Camping at Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park features 305 campsites and 10 rustic cabins nestled within the surrounding woodlands. All sites are near restrooms with hot showers.

Picnic tables, grills, food concessions, playground, an olympic sized swimming pool, and a dump station are all located within or near campsites and cabins.

Park Location

Watkins Glen State Park
1009 N Franklin St
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Phone: 607.535.4511

Park Website



Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Watkins Glen State Park: