One day in the Finger Lakes just wasn’t enough for us so we continued west to Watkins Glen State Park. This is one of those swoon worthy places that you’ll constantly see on popping up on your Facebook and Instagram feeds so naturally I have always wanted to go and check it out. Watkins Glen is located at 1009 N Franklin St in the village of Watkins Glen, NY at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. Watkins Glen State Park is probably the most famous place to visit in the Finger Lakes region probably due to the fact that its home to a whopping 19 waterfalls! If you’re a waterfall chaser or nature lover then this place is surely for you.
What to Know Before You Go:
The park hours change with the seasons – Fall and winter months (September through March), it opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 5. Spring and summer seasons (June through August), it opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:30.
Parking will cost you $10 if you choose to park in the main parking lot but entrance from the Seneca Lake entrance is free! Of course during peak seasons the parking fills up fast so arriving early is best. The summer season brings the biggest crowds. The gorge trail is closed during the winter, however the Indian Trail is still accessible during this time.
Swimming is strictly prohibited in the gorge.
Free guided tours are available! Just click HERE!
You’ll want to allow at least 2 hours to explore all the park has to offer.
Shoes with good treads are a must! The trail can get wet in some parts due to the spray from the waterfalls.
As always on any hike, be sure to pack enough water to stay hydrated. And always pack out what you brought in so we can keep our parks beautiful for everyone.
The Gorge Trail is by far the way to go and is suitable for almost all ages and skill levels (within reason). This 1.5 trail features not only 19 beautiful waterfalls but also Glen Creek and of course the stunning gorge itself. You’ll need to navigate about 800 rock carved stairs as you make your way through tunnels and over bridges. But don’t let that scare you! There are plenty of places to stop, sit down and take a break so you can navigate this marvelous attraction at your own pace.
One of the most remarkable features of the park is Cavern Cascade. This is tallest waterfall that flows into Glen Creek and flows right over the gorge trail. The trail passes in front of this waterfall and also behind it, giving visitors the unique opportunity to reach out and touch it! Have a waterproof camera ready to get the perfect shot!!
You won’t wanna miss Rainbow Bridge and Falls, which is arguably the most photogenic spot on in the park! With that being said it’s also one of the busiest areas of the park that attracts the most tourists. If you’re looking for a tourist free shot the early morning hours will be your best bet. Changing leaves in the Fall offer a colorful backdrop and I have made it my mission to return someday so I can experience this firsthand. This was definitely my favorite place on the trail. It was an unusually dry summer during our visit and just like in Ithaca some of the waterfalls were not running at full speed. Even so, you can’t beat the beauty that surrounds the area.
After Watkins Glen we made our way north and headed towards Geneva stopping at our leisure to sample a few wineries and eateries along the way. Barnstormer Winery was our first stop! Look for the historic barn with roots that reach all the way back to the 1800s with the stunt plane on the side. The tasting room gives off some major down-home cozy vibes. Barnstormer has wine flights available in their tasting room as well as Farmed & Foraged Pairing Boards and a wide assortment of local cheeses, cured meats, and snacks to curate your own picnic. There’s a strong focus on dry red wines, Rieslings and dry roses, but they also have a few specialty wines like Nosedive Port and Late Harvest Riesling. Since they’re a small production winery, there is only a limited number of cases available on their vintage collection. Reservations of groups 6 or smaller are strongly encouraged especially during the summer months.
A leisurely drive along Seneca Lake would not be complete without a stop at Shtayburne Farm Creamery. Seriously run don’t walk to this place! This family-owned and operated dairy farm offers not only some of the best cheese in the area but even better…..ICE CREAM!!! Two scoops of the Caramel Macchiato flavor got the job done for me or order up and ice cream flight and try a little bit of everything. I think that’s probably the move! LOL I will be stopping here EVERY time I’m in the Finger Lakes I promise you that. The farm store is open Monday-Saturday 10AM-5PM March thru December and weekends only during the winter months.
With 24-hour advance notice you can take a more in-depth tour of the property and also visit the dairy cows. They also have cheese-making days where you can watch how the milk becomes cheese. Make sure you order up a cheese board and take in the fabulous view.
Continue just a 3 minute drive North and you’ll find yourself at one of my family’s favorites, Fulkerson Winery. I’ve been drinking the Matinee for years because my brother in law is obsessed with it but this was my first visit to the homeland. Fulkerson’s is a 7th generation soon to be 8th generation farm that dates all the way back to 1805 believe it or not. Grapes were a crop grown on the farm almost since the beginning but it wasn’t until 1989 that wine was introduced. They also sell grapes to the public and have quite the following of home winemakers.
We opted to sample a flight of course! Be sure to try a Sauvignon Blanc as Fulkerson’s was name the New York Sauvignon Blanc Winery of the Year for 2021. But my absolute favorite was hands down the Moscato. It had the perfect amount of sweetness for me and I’ll be buying a whole case on my next visit! It was SO good that I think it should be the official wine of summer. All summer. Every summer.
To be honest this was probably my favorite little section of the Seneca Lake Wine trail. There are so many wineries, creameries and country stores all within a few minutes of one another. Tabora Farms was next on our list for some more wine sampling and to grab a bite to eat. Gotta have a good base for all that wine tasting you know! Tabora has everything you need, a tasting room, a gourmet bakery, deli and market all in one place. I’m obsessed! The winery boasts 100% estate-grown, harvested and produced wines with minimal intervention but still maintain traditional winemaking practices.
The deli has a delicious assortment of sandwiches, salads and quiches. And you can find all sorts of cookies, cakes, donuts, pastries and even bread in the bakery. We split the Guinea Fowl’s Choice sandwich which consisted of perfectly cooked grilled chicken breast, topped with provolone cheese and pesto sauce served on a made from scratch sourdough bread. It was absolutely delish! We also snagged a Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting from the bakery cause how can you pass up dessert? I certainly can’t.
We were supposed to head home but we were having so much fun that we decide to stay an extra night. The Hampton Inn Geneva was the perfect choice because its not only right on the lake but also walking distance to downtown Geneva. This area was loaded with lots of fun bars, restaurants, shops and even a little bit of street art and totally walkable. So we decided to ditch the car, enjoy the weather and burn off some calories before piling them on again at dinner.
Dinner and drinks at the Rusty Pig BBQ was just what we needed. We dove right into the menu! I ordered the Hog Wallow Ultimate Mac + Cheese which is basically an ultra creamy, ultra cheesy macaroni topped with BBQ smoke pulled pork, double smoked bacon, and a wallop of house BBQ sauce. I really can’t think of anything better except maybe the Buffalo Bacon Potato Salad that came as a side. Hubby went with the beef brisket and fries cause it’s pretty impossible for him to go to a BBQ joint and not try the brisket. It was all to die for! Go, just go, now!!
And really can you think of a more perfect way to end a day like this than a beautiful sunset on the lake? This was the view from our hotel room at the Hampton Inn. Not too shabby for a spur of the moment detour! There’s a walkway that runs along the lake here too so if people watching is your sport this is a good place to park it and take it all in. Or go for a nice long walk along the water yourself. We popped open a bottle of wine and were happy to just be in the moment together. I just love days like this!
Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of our Finger Lakes Weekend!
Would you spend a weekend in the Finger Lakes? Start planning your trip here!