Just outside the small town of Watkins Glen, NY is the hidden Watkins Glen State Park. It looks unimpressive from the parking lot, just a little tunnel into the rock. But once you come out the other side, an amazing gorge opens up in front of you. You’re at the base of the Gorge Trail, ready to hike up!
The hike up is comprised mostly of stairs, muddy trails and narrow passageways. Yet with proper shoes (hiking boots would be good, but tennis shoes you don’t mind getting muddy work too) & a little patience (it is a lot of stairs), the hike is great & very accessible. Waterfalls dot the entire trail. If you only have time for an hour or so, hike to Rainbow Falls & you’ll feel satisfied by the amazing view you’re rewarded with.
There are a few options for your hike: you can hike to the top of the gorge & back, you can take the seasonal shuttle bus to the top & hike down or you can park in the small upper parking lot & hike down (& then either hike back up or take the seasonal shuttle bus). Be prepared for it to be crowded: the early summer day we were there saw everyone from bachelorette parties hiking in veils & little sandals to hard core hikers outfitted in lots of gear.
Despite the crowds, we had a fantastic hike. It’s absolutely gorgeous & feels like a hidden gem in the middle of a busy town.