August 21, 2017
We left our hotel by 11 am (the official check out time).
It took us about 35-40 min to reach Watkin’s Glen State Park (1009 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891). You really need to watch for park signs as entrance to the park is quite unnoticeable. I booked our stay through www.reserveamerica.com from Canada; it was my first time booking camp sites from Canada for another country, so I was a bit nervous and expected some complications upon arrival, however we had no problems checking in. Park itself is huge. It has Olympic size pool that is open the whole day. There is also a smaller pool for tiny swimmers. If you are camping at the park, admission to the pool is free. You can exit and re-enter the park at any time, just keep your registration slip handy.
Camping area has 6 campsites, called villages. Onondaga village has direct access to the gorge trail. I did a very thorough research and read many reviews to be able to pick the best one. We picked Tuscarora village as many reviews were saying that this village is the most scenic, and quite. We picked non-electrical site that is suitable for a tent. As we arrived to the village, I was very pleased with the site I picked as it was in the woods, with shade and it was quite private. Campsites across ours surprised me very much as they backed into huge open field that ended with a playground and washroom/showers house. Playground, by the way is quite nice and big, kids love it. I personally would not be happy to camp at the site like that as there is no privacy at all and during sunny days there is no way to hide from the sun. In my opinion the best camp sites are 268, 269, 272, 273.
Be aware of ticks; this park is considered to be an endemic area for ticks that cause Lyme disease (there are also signs for it). Take precautions, wear long sleeves and long pants if hiking, wear light cloth and use bug spray with DEET in in (you can read about ticks and strategies to protect yourself from ticks by visiting posts Ticks: bites, removal, symptoms, protection and Natural tick repellents)
We did our grocery shopping at T-market close by. We cooked all our food and did not go out for dinners. You can buy firewood at the camp shop (2 bags for $7).
Be aware of the train that passes by. I looked at the map, and Tuscarora village seemed to be the furthest away from train tracks. However, it was very loud when train passes through the quite night; especially when you are sleeping in the tent close to the ground. This train did wake me up every time, however, it did not bother other members of my family; I guess I am a light sleeper.
Other than this inconvenience with the train, camping at the park was a very nice, pleasant experience. We camped during the week and it was not busy; I am not sure how busy it get during the weekend.
August 22, 2017
We planned to visit Watkin’s Glen Gorge today. We wanted to get to the park early as many reviewers pointed that gorge trail becomes very busy and crowded later in the morning. Thus we arrived at 8 am. I was really puzzled that there was no park attendant, nor was there anybody checking if you paid for parking. You can arrive as early as you want (provided it is a day light), and there is no fee to walk the Glen. You can pay for parking through the machine, put the receipt on the dashboard of your car and you are set to go. Wear comfortable shoes and have some water. Photo camera is the must!!! If you start hiking early enough, you will be able to use a tripod and take breathtaking pictures without people photobombing your background.
Dogs are not allowed on the gorge.
The trail itself is not very long and it does require some climbing up, but the increase is gradual thus you do not feel overwhelmed and tired. The view is stunning and there are no words to describe this amazing creation. You really need to see it and take pictures.
There are 2 trails on top of either side of the gorge. We took Iroquois trail as one of the park workers advised that this trail is the most scenic one. There is an old cemetery along the trail, it was interesting to visit it; you can also read interesting facts about some of the people who lived in the area long time ago.
It took us about 2 hours to walk both the gorge and the trail and we took our time. As we were coming back, I noticed that many more people came, trail became somewhat congested and I was really pleased, that we made to the trail so much earlier.
As we were done with our bucket list item to visit The Watkins Glen Park, we decided to cool off in the park’s pool. As I mentioned earlier the pool is very large and accommodates many people. There is no warm water in the showers, beware of it.
We spent it relaxing, enjoying campfire, swimming at the pool, walking around the city and enjoyed the lake.
Watking’s Glen is a small but very cozy place. There are many boutiques and brand name stores along Franklin street. We also discovered the World’s Smallest Diner. It is hidden at the intersection of Franklin and Fifth Streets. It is the tiniest diner, it can only fit one person. The owner is super friendly and nice. This diner serves your regular fast food items.
In the evening we decided to go fishing to a nearby marina. We tried few and it turned out that Glen Harbour Marina is the best one for fishing off shore. We tried to fish on the pierce, but was not very successful. Fishing off shore is good enough for children and will keep them busy for a while.
There is a nice restaurant at the marina and there are many boats that offer sightseeing cruises but we did not take any.