Last fall four of us decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park, southeast of Rochester, just at the bottom of Seneca Lake. As referenced in the last NY posting (Letchworth State Park), Watkins Glen was nominated for the best state park in the nation back in 2015 and came in third place! There are absolutely stunning photos all over the internet of Watkins Glen, but I just brought my cell phone camera with me for the day, in the interest of not holding other people up while I took pictures.
A park map can be found here. We somehow missed the main park entrance and parked at the Upper Entrance. As this was in early November, all the gift shops and concession stands were closed, but the park shuttle was still running. Only a couple of weeks later on November 18th, the park closed for the season. Although it was wet and cool, we picked a pretty good day to visit. Crowds were minimal and we were able to take our time exploring.
From the upper parking lot we took the Gorge Trail all the way back down to the main entrance. Although we probably did the trail backwards from most people, I think that our route actually saved the best views for last, right by the main entrance. However, if you do this route, it’s similar to a Hawaii hike, where you go down into a canyon or gorge and then climb back up, rather than climbing up and then down a mountain. Either way, the elevation change is very moderate, and the direction you hike the trail won’t make a large difference. On our way back, we hiked up to the top of the canyon along the Indian Trail, where we came across a beautiful cemetery. The distance from one parking lot to the other is about 1.5 miles.
I enjoyed this “hike” (maybe better referred to as a “stroll”) more than Letchworth State Park, which was ranked the #1 Best State Park in the country. To reiterate what I said in that blog post, I probably didn’t make the best choice in hiking trails at Letchworth, so hopefully one day that will be corrected. As for now though, Watkins Glen is my vote on the place to be near Rochester. My favorite place in New York goes to Chimney Bluffs State Park.