Watkins Glen State Park & Village of Montour Falls - Finger Lakes Region, New York
Updated: Jul 12
The Watkins Glen State Park is located in the heart of downtown of Watkins Glen, a village in Schuyler County, New York. The "Glen" is considered one of New York’s “flagship” parks and one of the top attractions of the state. Indeed, even off season, we found a lot of visitors in the park. Must be mobbed in summer. I can understand why, it is by far the best and most spectacular gorge we have ever been to.
WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK
The gorge has less than two miles of stream descending 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, with 19 waterfalls. It is wise to wear sturdy shoes, or hiking boots on this trail, it was wet and slippery in most parts. It was chilly as well; we are glad we brought along our rain jackets in addition to our fleece jackets.
Watkins Glen was first opened to tourists in 1863 by private owners. It changed ownership over the years until New York State purchased the property in 1906 and opened it to the public free of charge. The New York State Parks took over in 1924. The Civilian Conservation Corps (active in the park from 1935-1941) built much of the projects in the glen. The trail ends at the upper parking lot (you can get a bus back down to the visitor center, for a fee) but we decided to follow the Rim Trail back down. The trail has over 800 steps, in increments. You have to be careful. And the trail goes over and under the waterfalls in some parts. Fun!
VILLAGE OF MONTOUR FALLS
Three miles south of the town of Watkins Glen is the village of Montour Falls, the southern gateway to the Finger Lakes Region. They named the village after the waterfall found at the end of West Main Street, the She-Qua-Ga Falls. The village itself, named after a prominent Iroquois leader, Queen Catharine Montour, is a national historic district. The village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. There you will find mid- and late 19th century structures.
Aunt Sarah's Falls
Before reaching the village of Montour Falls, watch for Aunt Sarah's Falls, located on the right side of the road, along State Route 14. Unfortunately, there is no parking area by the falls, but you can park at the parking area to the other side, just be careful crossing the road.
The falls measure 90 feet and approximately 15 feet wide. This falls are said to be spectacular in spring and or winter when the water freezes. Legend has it that the falls were named after the wife of an early settler who jumped over the falls and died.
She-Qua-Ga Falls, meaning “tumbling waters”, is 156 feet high. It is very impressive, big and wide. The falls is hidden behind houses along South Genesee Street. You will miss it if you are not looking, we did. There is a small parking slot by the street, just enough for two cars, but you can park along Main Street.
The source of She-Qua-Ga Falls comes from Shequaga creek. It cascades under the bridge along Mill Street, as it plummets down to the pool. The last king of France, Louis Philippe, made a sketch of this falls while touring the region in 1820. The sketch is on display at the Louvre Museum in France.
There is a concrete barrier in front of the waterfalls, as well as private houses on each side of the small park, so you will be limited in taking pictures.