Deceiving title. I see what I did there, Watkin’s Glen State Park is actually NOT in Canada but about 2 hours and 45 minutes outside of the border crossing at the Rainbow Bridge over Niagara.
Watkins Glen State Park is amazing.
Or so we imagine it to be. The truth is despite having spent a very, very rainy night parked under its canopy of beautiful trees, we have absolutely NO IDEA what Watkins Glen State Park is like.
Don’t feel like reading? Get the visual version of our adventure and watch our trip video!
Let’s start from the beginning. When planning our Canadian adventure, we looked at a lot of routes- A LOT. We made our final choice with a stop at Watkins Glen in mind. We’d been seeing pictures for years, and the draw was strong. With 19 waterfalls cascading through a gorge tucked away in the wilderness of the Finger Lakes Region of New York whats not to be intrigued by?
We had plans. Mother Nature had other plans.
When we rolled into Watkins Glen’s Campground at 7pm, the rain started and it didn’t stop; The storm raged through the night and when we woke at 6 am (really wanting to get a head start on the gorge before the light left and the crowds arrived) it was still raining.
What’s a little rain, we thought? We’ve hiked through much, much worse. We threw our coffee into our travelers, tossed on our raincoats, and looked for the upside of the weather – less crowds right? Yes, and no.
Parking at the entrance to the trailhead we noticed a lot of construction in and around the seemingly abandoned visitors center. No biggie- wet trudged past it and headed for the entrance to the gorge, anxious to see those waterfalls. Annnnnnnnd no. As we approached the entrance we were greeted by a big fat, “Gorge closed due to flooding sign”. Hmm. Well thats unfortunate. But we put our ingenuity to task- there are two entrances to the gorge the upper and the lower we were at the lower, ok so we’ll just try the upper entrance.
And that’s when we met Dwayne, the nicest park ranger ever. We chatted for a bit about his past and how long he’d been a guardian of the gorge, and eventually our conversation wandered to the weather. Apparently in very heavy rains ( like the one from the evening before) massive amounts of debris flood down the trail that traces the gorge and becomes hazardous for visitors, as a result the trail closes. The park does its best to get the trail cleared ASAP – at 6: 45 am when we were chatting up Dwayne they had just sent the first crew down to start working. He let us know that it was possible that in a few hours the trail would be reopened, but not guaranteed.
We debated do wait or do we wander on down the road? Dwayne suggested another nearby waterfall, and a place for a hot cup of coffee to ease our very cold, wet, and disappointed selves. Dwayne my friends knew whats up. Burning sometime and hoping the falls would reopen we wandered to the neighboring town of Mountour Falls, NY. Dead in the center of town, you literally can’t miss it, is Shequaga Falls. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the mood, but this little quaint town with its waterfall, well manicured gardens, old homes, and war memorial in the center of town belonged in a Hallmark Channel Movie. Seriously. It’s got Christmas movie cute written all over it!
We spent a quiet morning enjoying the sound and sights in Mountour Falls, and then headed back to Watkins Glen for warm sip, and a tasty bite at the Glen Mountain Market Bakery and Deli, because almost everyone we asked suggested it to us. It didn’t disappoint. If you’re in the area stop by, in addition to having freshly cooked tasty treats, they also sell a variety of locally sourced items, perfect souvenirs for the non-souvenir shopper.
This story might not have the storybook happy ending- we never got to see the falls of Watkins Glen, even after waiting it out several hours later as the rain kept pouring down the gorge remained closed. This story does come with a lesson- things will not always go as planned, everything in life ( like travel) will not go right, and you can’t control everything, but if you relax, accept the circumstances and make the most of your situation you might be surprised at how happy it makes you in the long run. Bonus points because we had extra time without having hiked the gorge we made a very well worth it stop at a Meadery along our way! All is well that ends well.
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