Watkins Glen State Park Entrance Sign

Where is Watkins Glen State Park

Located just south of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen State Park resides in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The closest town to Watkins Glen US State Park is the village of Watkins Glen. Glen Creek, which was created through processes associated with the ice age, is the park’s crowning feature. Watkins Glen State Park also contains three hiking trails, several waterfalls, a campground, and fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing access. The state park is 150 miles or a two hour and thirty-minute drive from Buffalo, and about 80 miles or an hour and a half drive from Rochester or Syracuse.

How Large is Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park covers over 700 acres. The park’s lower section is near the village of Watkins Glen, whereas the upper region of Watkins Glen State Park is open woodland. The most impressive feature of the state park is Glen Creek. Not only was the creek formed during the ice age, but the creek also rests inside of a 400 feet deep gorge that was cut by a stream that ran through the area. The park’s three hiking trails are also quite impressive. These three trails allow visitors to access the park’s gorge. One of these trails, the Gorge Trail, contains over 800 stone steps which leads hikers by the park’s 19 waterfalls.

Waterfall Canyon in Watkins Glen State Park New York

Watkins Glen State Park Weather

The weather of Watkins Glen State Park varies depending on the season and time of year. Summers in Watkins Glen State Park normally bring temperatures between 55- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, winter temperatures in the park average between 15- and 35-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest months in the park are July and August. The coldest months are January and February. On average, Watkins Glen State Park receives over 100 days of precipitation per year. The park averages about 41 inches of rain per year and around 86 inches of snow. Snowfall totals in the park are highest in January and February. 

When did Watkins Glen Become a State Park

The land that now makes up Watkins Glen State Park was originally purchased by New York State in 1906. At this time, the state established the Watkins Glen State Reservation, which was maintained by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. New York state took full control of the state park in 1911. The park’s present manager, the Finger Lakes Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has managed Watkins Glen State Park since 1924. Before the park was owned by the state a private company built a private resort on the land and opened the land up to the public. The resort remained open on the land from 1824 to 1906.

Sun Setting on Rocks Stacked Along Hiking Trail Watkins Glen State Park New York

Things to do in Watkins Glen State Park

Visitors arriving at Watkins Glen State Park will find a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation.  List of Parks outlines some of the fun adventures below.

Make Camping Reservations

The campground at Watkins Glen State Park contains 288 campsites. Nine of these 288 campsites are cabins that can also be reserved by visitors. Reservations for the park’s campground or cabins can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. The cost per night for campsites and cabins changes periodically throughout the year as availability fluctuates.

Hike the Gorge Trail

The Gorge Trail is the most popular hike within Watkins Glen State Park. This hike takes visitors through various park’s environments and allows visitors to experience the roaring flow of Glen Creek and its 19 waterfalls. During spawning season, visitors hiking this trail may be able to spot the occasional rainbow trout swimming through the creek’s waters.

Hike the Indian Trail 

The Indian Trail at Watkins Glen State Park lies near the Gorge Trail. The Indian Trail also provides visitors with sights of Glen Creek and its 19 waterfalls. However, the trail also meanders through the park’s woodland habitat. In the spring and summer, visitors hiking the Indian Trail in Watkins Glen State Park may experience fields of blooming wildflowers. 

Hike the Finger Lakes Trail

Hikers who are looking for a longer trail than the Gorge or Indian trail can complete the Gorge trail and connect with the Outer Rim and Finger Lakes Trails. This three-trail loop passes through most of the park and totals 7.6 miles. 

Take a Dip in the Olympic Sized Swimming Pool

A great way to cool off from the summer heat, the Watkins Glen State Park swimming pool is open to overnight campers and day use visitors. The swimming pool is Olympic sized and contains other facilities such as showers, changing rooms, and restrooms.

Look out for Wildlife 

Watkins Glen State Park and the surrounding area is home to a variety of woodland species. Common species spotted in the park include white-tailed deer, raccoons, turkeys, and squirrels. Other species present in the park include various avian species, foxes, skunks, and other small mammals. 

Winter Activities in Watkins Glen State Park 

In the winter, several trails in Watkins Glen State Park close. However, this doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had within the park. Winter activities in Watkins Glen State Park include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

View of Waterfall in Mountain on Sunny Day Watkins Glen State Park New York

When to Visit Watkins Glen State Park

The best time to visit Watkins Glen State Park is spring or summer. However, a trip during the fall and winter is still really enjoyable. Spring and summer in the park bring constant sunshine, premier hiking, and a strong flow of Glen Creek. Wildlife and wildflowers are also most visible during the spring and early summer. During the fall, the park’s foliage begins to change colors. These changes normally appear in late September through early October. Winter is perfect for skiers and snowshoers who are hoping to visit the park.

Must Have Items to Bring to Watkins Glen State Park

It's no surprise that every trip outdoors requires some packing and planning. A trip to Stone Mountain State Park is no exception. Our State Park Visitors Guide recommends considering the items listed below when packing for your trip to the park.

Water & High Energy Snacks 

Water is essential for every hiking and camping trip. High energy snacks are also a great item to bring with you on the trail. Snacks like beef jerky, trail mix, and protein bars can do wonders at replenishing energy and providing a needed boost. 

Sturdy Hiking Boots  

A pair of sturdy hiking boots are essential for a successful trip to Watkins Glen State Park. Several of the park’s trails venture over various terrain and can become quite hazardous during rain showers. Visitors should look to invest in a waterproof pair of boots for added comfort and protection.

Lightweight Rain Jacket

A solid lightweight rain jacket should be protective enough to wick away rain and other precipitation, but not too thick that it becomes uncomfortably warm. Visitors of Watkins Glen State Park should look to purchase a completely waterproof jacket instead of a water resistant one.

Camping Supplies

When packing for any camping trip, creating and using a camping equipment checklist is a helpful practice. A checklist will make sure you don’t forget any necessary equipment when packing for your trip to Watkins Glen State Park.

New York Wildlife Field Guide 

Wildlife enthusiasts looking to visit Watkins Glen State Park should bring along a North America or New York specific wildlife field guide. The best field guides contain color images and species descriptions that make species identification educational and simple. Visitors interested in the variety of wildflowers that bloom in the park can also purchase a wildflower specific field guide to aid in identification. 

Waterfall Runing Through Mountain and Over Hiking Path Watkins Glen State Park New York

Where to Stay in Watkins Glen State Park

Visitors looking to stay within the boundaries of Watkins Glen State Park should make a reservation for the park’s campground or cabins. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors of Watkins Glen State Park who would prefer to stay in a hotel will want to check out the various options located in the Watkins Glen village. Other lodging options await visitors in nearby towns such as Montour Falls, Odessa, and Burdett.

Food Near Watkins Glen State Park

The nearest food to Watkins Glen State Park is located in the Watkins Glen village. The village is home to a number of restaurants, bars, and taverns that are sure to suit a visitors' food and drink pallets. Other nearby food and drink options are located in the towns of Montour Falls and Odessa. These cities contain several other options that may better suit visitors of Watkins Glen State Park. 

Watkins Glen Waterfall Canyon in Watkins Glen State Park New York

Airports Near Watkins Glen State Park

The closest international airport to Watkins Glen State Park is located in Buffalo. The Buffalo - Niagara International Airport is 139 miles and about a two hour and thirty minute car ride from the park. Other airports near Watkins Glen State Park are located in Syracuse, Rochester, and Ithaca. However, these airports are not international airports and do not provide direct flights to a majority of the United States.

State parkState park guideWatkins glen state park