Are you contemplating a perfect weekend getaway or a long laid-back vacation? Finger Lakes, NY has it all. As the name indicates it is a region of about 11 fingers like long lakes in the New York state of USA. The two most famous and longest are the Seneca and Cayuga lakes. We chose to have a relaxing weekend trip to the famous Watkins Glen state park New York.
Our first stop was at Taughannock Falls.
TAUGHANNOCK FALLS STATE PARK
After entering the Finger Lakes region, the brief drive overlooking Cayuga lake brought us to the falls taller than the Niagara Falls.
There are two ways to enthrall the charm of Taughannock falls – by viewing its beauty from the Overlook point or by experiencing its might by hiking the easy Gorge trail to the bottom of the falls. We chose the latter.
The cloudy weather also favored us. Gorge trail is an easy ¾ mile-long trail along the Taughannock creek with tall rocky cliffs standing tall. Most parts of the path were shaded by tall trees.
The true magic begins as you reach the bottom of the falls. The thunderous water raging down, mist flowing and you get drenched in that aura.
As if we didn’t have enough water, the kids while walking back got down into the shallow part of the stream. Some splishing-splashing, wading on the rocky bed, just enjoying every bit of water. But be cautious, the water-bed is slippery at most places and rocky at others, so keep holding onto hands of kids.
There are interesting stories behind the name of these falls. One says that it is derived from a combination of words meaning “great fall in the woods”. The second indicates that the name is after a Delaware chief Taughannock who tried to invade and hence thrown off the cliff into the falls.
This history wasn’t going to fascinate the kids, but the big playground near the trail was sure inviting. While the kids burnt off up and down the swings and slides, we embraced the tranquility of the Cayuga Lake in the vicinity. We could just sit there whole day watching the flying seagulls, people fishing, kids swimming, boats sailing and still not get jaded.
After an exciting day, it was time to head off to our campsite for good night sleep. The campsite was at Watkins Glen State Park about 30 minutes drive.
WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK
It is the most visited state park in the Finger Lakes region at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.
Glen Creek flows through the rugged gorge terrain making way for 19 gorgeous big and small waterfalls.
The best way to explore this nature’s marvel is to hike the 2-mile-long gorge trail. This trail is the perfect companion to the creek all along its path. The majestic downfalls of the stream, carving its path between the narrow gorge making its way for cascading waterfalls is a feast for your eyes. The trail mainly made of paved stone has about 800 steps along the path. But the trail winds through a varied landscape – with bridges, caves, walking under the waterfall, water spattering all in that 2 miles. What more adventure can one desire.
The way tends to get wet and damp, which requires comfy footwear and caution. There are no restrooms or water on the trail and it can get a bit hot during summer, so be prepared.
There are 3 entrances to the park – Main, South and upper. If you just need a sneak peek at Glen’s beauty, you can just enter from the main entrance and exit from the south entrance. Or drive/ take a shuttle bus to the Upper entrance and hike down. We started our hike on a gorge trail at the South entrance, but could not climb the complete stretch as our kids got tired. But our kids got an insight into exploring and appreciating nature’s beauty.
The 2 other trails to hike to explore greenery are – Indian Trail and South Rim trail.
For hiking enthusiasts seeking more adventure, the trails join to a 1000 mile long Finger Lakes trail. In turn, the trail interconnects many state parks of NY state.
The rustic grey cliffs, bright green plantations, and the water give the perfect contrast of colors that cannot be missed.
WATKINS GLEN TRAVEL TIPS
- The gorge trail gets wet and slippery, hence wear proper footwear.
- To avoid the crowds at Watkins Glen during summertime, try visiting at early or late hours.
- Paid shuttle bus service runs between the main and the upper entrance during summertime. Check the timings.
- The South entrance has a big playground for kids, picnic area and swimming pool. The park has a minimal entrance fee of $8 per vehicle which also includes access to the pool. But since we were camping at the state park, we did not have to pay this.
- If you have more time to explore around, visit Clute park to savor the beauty of Seneca Lake.
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