Several of the blogs I reviewed had highlighted Watkins Glen as a “must do” when in the Finger Lakes. Last Sunday promised to be a beautiful day in the mid-80s, so we made our way to the south end of Seneca Lake, with the goal of hiking the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail and taking a boat tour of Seneca Lake.
There’s a new large parking lot across from the main entrance, and the entrance area of the Gorge is still under construction. It looks like it will be very nice when it’s complete . . . probably next summer.
We picked up a map and headed into the Gorge.
There were several walking sticks left at the entrance . . . but we had brought our own. I was glad we had them with us – very helpful on all those steps!
Through the first tunnel, and over Sentry Bridge,
We soon reached our first waterfall – Cavern Cascade (in the background).
As we walked into the Gorge, we were climbing toward the top of the canyon. There were a lot of steps – but they came in batches, leveling out in between, so it wasn’t bad.
We passed under the suspension bridge, which connects the South Rim Trail with the Indian Trail along the north rim,
and reached the section of the Gorge referred to as The Narrows.
The Gorge open up after the Narrows – an area called the Glen Cathedral,
the one area where the walls of the canyon can get dry. The majority of the Gorge trail is shady and damp, which on a hot day feels really good.
Next up is Central Cascade,
Rainbow Falls is another area where the trail passes behind the waterfall. It must be really spectacular in the Spring when there is much more water flowing in the Gorge!
We crossed the bridge back over tot he other side of the Gorge, with a view of the pools down below.
Back on the other side of the Gorge, we entered Spiral Gorge,
a dark and narrow area of the gorge where very little vegetation can grow.
I love the contrast between the dark, bare rocks and the bright green vegetation up on the top of the canyon wall.
One more set of steps,
and then we came to a decision point – do we turn around and go back the way we came, or do we take one of the rim trails back to the main entrance?
We decided to walk back along the rim, and chose the South Rim Trail because it was supposed to be shadier.
We climbed to the top of the canyon, and followed the edge towards the main entrance. The trail was fairly easy, although with some loose stones in areas, and quite a few tree roots. We couldn’t see the Gorge from the top, but there were a few interesting sights along the way.
An old picnic area?
Maybe a picnic shelter in a past life?
We reached the suspension bridge,
and walked across to check out the view from up high.
Down the last couple sets of stairs, and we were back!
After our hike through the gorge, we had about an hour to kill before the next boat tour of Lake Seneca, so we walked through a few shops in the village and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone at Ben & Jerry’s.
There are some interesting places in Watkins Glen.
At 3pm, we arrived at the Harbor and checked in at the Stroller IV.
We met Captain John, and with just 6 people on board it was time for our tour.
It was a breezy day, and there were some pretty good waves on the lake as we travelled north.
There were quite a few sailboats enjoying this beautiful day on the lake – the temperature was perfect, and the breeze really helped them get around.
As we made our way up the lake, Captain John provided some of the history of the Finger Lakes area,
and then our first mate, Ryan, explained the salt extraction process that takes place on the lake. US Salt is one of the major producers of salt and is located on Seneca Lake.
There is a large salt vein deep below the lake. The company drills into the vein and injects water into the salt. As the salt is dissolved in the water, it’s pumped up into the holding tanks at the plant, and heated to evaporate off the water, leaving the salt behind.
One thing that I was surprised to learn was that all salt – table salt, rock salt for the roads and water softener salt all come from the same place. Interesting!
The rest of the tour was a leisurely ride around the lake. We continued to watch sailboats as they moved past us,
We passed by a waterfall (not a lot of water flowing right now),
and some petroglyphs on the rock – some ancient, and some not so ancient.
Captain John also pointed out an old foot trail that the Indians used to reach the lake (diagonal line in the rock, right to left).
We made our way back around the southern end of the lake,
and back to the harbor. The tour was very enjoyable – we learned a lot about the area and it was nice to be able to see the landscape from the water.
We asked Captain John for a recommendation for dinner in town, and he sent us to the location where all the locals hang out – Seneca Lodge. It’s at the top of the gorge, across from the state park campground. We decided to give it a try, and it was very good.
All in all, we had a great day in Watkins Glen,
it was definitely a highlight of our visit to the Finger Lakes!