“So wait… You want to drive over 600 miles… to hike 4 miles?”
“Yes, that seems to be the case.”
Ever since Buzzfeed published, “27 Surreal Places to Visit Before You Die,” and its sister article, “29 Surreal Places in America to Visit Before You Die,” (as well as these two others as well [A & B]). I’ve been on a personal mission to do exactly that. One of those places is Watkins Glen, which happens to be in New York, up in the Finger Lakes region.
So, what is it? Watkins Glen is a gorge cut between the mountains in beautiful upstate New York, where your soul can reconnect with nature. To speak frankly, it’s a bunch of waterfalls that you can actually walk through. I’ve described it to friends as a scene from Lord of the Rings. Agree?
Some advice, if you’re interested in visiting:
- The gorge trail is where it’s at. There are outer trails to hike, but they really aren’t worth your time.
- Make sure to check the park’s site to make sure the trail is open. The trail isn’t open year round, and special weather conditions can cause its closure… I mean, you ARE walking between waterfalls, you know.
- Go early. Jennilyn and I left at 4am from Brooklyn, in order to be at the park by 9am (which was an awesome adventure in itself). Early mornings are perfect – not too many people will be competing for the best viewpoints. By about 2pm it becomes open season for tourists.
- Wear hiking clothes, even though you’re not reaallyy hiking. Sneakers will help you with rougher, wet walkways, and the clothes will keep you comfortable in the heat.
All in all, the gorge is absolutely beautiful, and definitely worth the visit.
Now! Here’s the secret to it all… If you successfully visited early in the morning, and are thoroughly relaxed and “in touch,” go hit the wineries. The area is famous for its wine, and they are located all along the edge of Lake Seneca – which is conveniently around 10 minutes from the park.
The area is known for its Riesling (fun fact: the soil in the area is actually very similar to areas of Germany, so PROST), but they have all sorts of wine – dry and sweet, red and white. Go tasting!
They have an official wine trail for the area, but you can also just pick and choose sporadically like we did. We went to Glenora, Magnus Ridge, Lakewood, Castel Grisch, Barnstormer, and Pompous Ass. Make pit stops along the way – the views of Lake Seneca are magnificent. After stocking up, have dinner at one of the wineries. Perfect end to a perfect day.
Oh, and if you need a place to stay, check out Seneca Lodge. Extremely convenient (it’s actually in the park, at the south entrance), affordable (not to mention, you skip the park fee), and cute in a woodsy sort of way (just beware of banjo players – right, Nick?) Glen Motor Inn was our runner-up, as it has a beautiful view of the lake, but lost in the battle.
Special thanks to the bestie, Jennilyn for full-heartedly attacking this adventure with me. The journey was in the works for a while (two birthdays to be exact), but well worth the wait. A big thanks also to Tiffany and Brian for making the journey as well, and for joining us on the gorge portion of our trip. It was an awesome group – glad we got to experience it together.