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FROM THE VAULT: Family adventures in Watkins Glen (2011)

FROM THE VAULT: Family adventures in Watkins Glen (2011)

Family Focus: A Trek through Watkins Glen, a natural wonder in our backyard

By Carol Boughner

What to do with the family this summer? Gas is expensive and vacation funds are low. Well, you don't have to drive hundreds of miles to experience awe-inspiring beauty and have a family adventure! There are many places in this area to visit that will make you feel like you've gotten away and one of the best is Watkins Glen State Park in Watkins Glen, New York.

Not quite the Grand Canyon but a unique park that is mostly trails that overlook gorges with waterfalls both below and above the trail making it one the most beautiful places to visit. The entire route consists of about 3 miles of trail. It is one and a half miles along the gorge then return back one and a half miles with 500 foot elevation and 832 steps including 19 glistening waterfalls.

It is somewhat physically demanding and use caution as the steps can be slippery from being wet. The temperature fluctuates with the spraying water so dress accordingly. Plan to wear comfortable, slip resistant shoes because there also tends to be some muddy areas where the path is close to the water. The rocky gorge paths wind over and under waterfalls and through the spray of cavern cascade.

The scenery is absolutely beautiful. For the older, younger, or hikers with physical limitations, there are also alternative trails. There is an upper entrance to the park to walk down through the gorge instead of up the gorge. Once at the bottom (main gate) there is a shuttle that can take you back to the upper gate. The main gate is located on Rt-14 in downtown Watkins Glen. You can also park at the main gate and ride the shuttle to the upper gate then walk back to the main gate which is down the gorge instead of up the gorge. It's $8 per car to park and there are no other fees.

There is also an Olympic-sized pool near the entrance that's usage is included in your parking fee. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy both the pool and the waterfalls. And, take in the beauty of Seneca Lake and walk along the pier. Go sailing, try a guided kayak tour, take a dinner cruise, rent a watercraft, or bring your own vessel!

Don't let gas prices prevent you from having a wonderful family vacation. There are so many beautiful places to visit that don't cost a lot. And, although you won't be far from home, it will feel like you're a world away at a site of unmatched natural beauty.

Note: Pets are not allowed on the gorge trail or the pool area.

For more information on Watkins Glen's area attractions, camping, and more check out:
http://nysparks.state.ny.us/ or www.iloveny.com