Hiking thru Middle Earth in Watkins Glen
Geographically speaking, the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is in the Finger Lakes region of upper New York state. But it doesn't take much of an imagination to think you've been transported into the realm of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. You hike over stone walkways, up and down hundreds of steps, as you view 19 waterfalls. The glen is a narrow gorge that has been worn away by centuries of water rushing through.
The hike through the gorge is spectacular. During the spring there tends to be more water rushing over the various waterfalls, but even in the middle of summer the place is gorgeous. The trail takes hikers through caves, behind waterfalls, and past towering cliffs. The are stone bridges that cross the gorge at a few different locations. These provide some of the best photo opportunities in the park. It's a good idea to wear sturdy footwear, since all the water and spray tends to make the stone pathway and steps very slippery. From the main entrance to the upper entrance the Gorge Trail is 1 1/2 miles long. But because of the over 800 steps, it can be quite strenuous. Once at the end of the trail the hiker can return via the Indian Trail on the north rim or the South Rim Trail. Taking a rim trail after hiking the gorge gives you a different perspective what you've just walked through.
The city of Watkins Glen sits at the southern end of Seneca Lake. The entrance to Watkins Glen State Park, and the start of the Gorge Trail, is just a few blocks from the center of downtown. The state park has almost 300 campsites located in six different loops. Several of these loops have access trails that lead the camper right to the middle of the gorge. The park also boasts a swimming pool and day use area. In town there are plentiful hotel and lodge accommodations, as well as a variety of restaurants. The surrounding area is a well known wine region.