This is one of the jewels of upstate New York. The stream has cut a deep chasm through the rock cliffs, creating numerous waterfalls and scenic vistas. The Gorge Trail winds through this beautiful place. Two other trails follow the tops of the cliffs. It's a moderately strenuous hike, OK for a fit hiker with good hiking shoes.
Strolling about Watkins Glen, one can get plenty of information at the Visitors Center, have lunch or a cup of coffee, or just enjoy the views. This is a very picturesque town. Look for the plaques along the sidewalk, which are dedicated to some of the NASCAR drivers who have competed here.
My wife and I have enjoyed wine for a number of years, however we are certainly not wine snobs. When we lived in California we made several visits to Napa and Sonoma Valley and enjoyed the wine tasting. When we retired to Florida and met many people in our retirement community that moved here from upstate New York kept telling us about wine in the Finger Lakes Area of New York. With Judy researching the area we decided that an addition to our first road trip of the year should include a couple days of wine tasting.
When we arrived in Watkins Glen we went to the local chamber of commerce and got some information but more importantly pointed us to the local wine association offices where we bought a Riesling pass ( for $12) which allows us to taste wine at 27 different wineries. Now I know we will not go to that many wineries but it will still be cheaper than paying for tasting at each one we visit.
We tasted wine at nine wineries. OK, So that is a lot, but we tasted normally only a couple at each winery and Judy being the designated driver was very careful. Of course we stopped for a long lunch overlooking Seneca Lake. First let me talk about the wine. The Riesling here are exceptional with most wineries specializing in that variety. We also found some nice chardonnays and some other sweet wines that were quite good. The people in the tasting rooms were well versed in wine and were extremely engaging and interesting. The wineries being smaller than the ones in California had us visiting with the owners of some of the wineries. Now about the area that we are visiting is outstanding. Seneca Lake is beautiful and of course being the spring of the year a lot of the plants are just blooming making the area even more interesting.
I didn't have time to visit the wineries in this beautiful part of New York. But it's a popular thing to do, so here's some information on it. The sight of so many vineyards beside the road made taking photos irresistable. Just to be safe, I recommend a tour with a driver; after a while, those small wine samples can add up.
This is the largest, deepest, and in my opinion most scenic of all the Finger Lakes. The cruises are from the waterfront in Watkins Glen. The one I took is the Stroller IV, which offers short, narrated cruises around the southern end of the lake. See the US Salt Works, towering cliffs along the eastern shore, 165-foot Hector Falls, and great views of the town.
Captain Bill's Seneca Cruises has both sightseeing cruises and meal cruises. For $8, you can take a 1 hour sightseeing cruise which takes you past Hector Falls, lots of wineries, etc. They give you a lot of historical information, too, which is really interesting. They run from May - October from 10-7. (I think weekdays in May and June might start at 11 or 12).
Another option is a lunch or dinner cruise. Lunch cruises are 2 hours long; dinners are 3.
Dinner Cruises run Tues. - Friday 7pm & Sunday 6pm and cost $32.95.
Saturday nights, they leave at 6pm and cost $36.95
Lunch Cruises run on Wednesday & Saturday at noon and cost $22.95
Call for availability on other days
Teen Cruise , Monday Nights 7 - 10 - ~ June - Labor Day
DJ playing your favorites and all you can handle Pizza and Soda
Moonlight Cocktail Cruise (2 hours), Saturday Nights 9:30 - $10 ~ July - Labor Day
Yes, there is an actual Watkins Glen. This is a state park and is a fantastic place to hike, to look at great rock formations, to wonder at the force of water as it wears down rocks . . . . The glen is actually a mile and a half long with 19 waterfalls, and cliffs reaching up to 300 feet. The people at the park say that the trail has over 800 steps, so definitely take your time! There are also over 300 campsites and a swimming pool.
The trail is open from May to October, and there is a fee to enter.
The city is in a basin on the southern tip of the Lake. I know all about it because I cycled from Ithica in to Watkins Glen and cycling out the other side and kept going west. There are 1km vertical hills to get in and out of the city. The hills roll! It is a picture perfect place. Have a seat at the pier and watch the reflection of the moon on the water
FINGERLAKES WINE FESTIVAL This annual event is held every summer usually in the second week in July.I have attended it the past two years and it is really fun and classy too. There are more than a hundred wineries represented and you can try all their wines and buy them too! There is also live entertainment, food and arts and crafts.
What a great place to hit the wineries. Bring a designated driver. There's about 40 around Seneca Lake alone.
You have got to take this trail through the Gorge. Simply breath-taking experience (in more ways than one)