Set up the tent, and venture out. Watkins Glen State Park is the starting point for kayak adventures through the Finger Lakes, hiking sojourns through Watkins Glen and Finger Lakes State Park, and plenty of NASCAR races to keep the adrenaline stoked.

If you’re into swimming, sailing, boating, or hiking, you’ll find ample opportunity to raise the sails or lace up the hiking boots at Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes National Forest, or Keuka Lake.



Our campers have spent weeks (if not months) in the area. We’ve gathered their advice to set you up for a complete visit.

Camping at Watkins Glen State Park

Surrounded by weaving vineyards, Watkins Glen State Park offers plenty of opportunities to recreate on and off the water. Located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, campers can enjoy an action packed or totally relaxed weekend getaway from the city or upstate. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Bring Your Pup

watkins glen state park

Image from The Dyrt user Elliott B.

Don’t hesitate to bring Fido to Watkins Glen. Your pup will love hiking the extensive trail system and meeting new people along the way. Keep in mind, however, that the popular Gorge trail, which features 19 waterfalls, is not open to canine traffic. Have a member of your group stay behind with the pup, or skip this trail if you plan to stick together.

“The campground is dog-friendly, provided that you have a current rabies certificate and keep him/her on leash.” –The Dyrt camper Sophie D.

2. Look Beyond the People

Watkins Glen State Park hiking

Photo by The Dyrt camper Harry H.

In the summer and fall months, Watkins Glen books to capacity. However, careful management of the park and camping area relegate the crowds to a minor annoyance. While you may not be thrilled to nab one of the 280 campsites, the scenery will soon make you forget about your neighbors who pitched their tent a few inches from yours.

“Quiet hours are well enforced and campsite loops are regularly patrolled. You’re sure to get a good night’s sleep so long as your air mattress is properly inflated and you’re tired out from enjoying a day on the trails or on the water.” –The Dyrt camper Brian K.

3. Pack Your Fishing Rod

exploring Watkins Glen State Park

Photo by The Dyrt camper Sue T.

Stop at nearby Catherine Creek or Seneca Lake to take advantage of the rainbow trout run in the spring. You can fish from the shore, or schedule a charter with a local guide who knows the best places to drop your line. Check out the New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations before you go for specifics on legal fish species, sizes, and limits you can catch.

“There is also Seneca Lake nearby that many people go to fish in, however I didn’t go on this trip but plan to next time.” –The Dyrt camper Sue T. 

4. Enjoy the Waterfalls

sightseeing at watkins glen state park

Image from The Dyrt user Jeremy H.

Within the park, you’ll find waterfalls with varying flow rates. If you’re dead set on seeing falls at their peak, consider hiking right after a rainstorm. Gorge Trail weaves behind a waterfall for a unique mist experience that you’ll especially enjoy in the heat of summer.

“This place is amazing, it’s hiking trails are beautiful with many views of waterfalls. Many different difficulties as well!”–The Dyrt camper Michelle D.

5. Check out the Racetrack

watkins glen state park racing

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Every year Watkins Glen campground fills up with campers headed to watch NASCAR drivers compete at Watkins Glen International. Little ones and grownups alike will enjoy taking a break from tent or RV life to watch drivers carefully (read: recklessly?) navigate turns at ridiculously high speeds.

“This town is famous for two things: this state park and the racetrack.” –The Dyrt camper Kim B.

6. Consider Upgrading to an RV

camping at watkins glen state park

Image from The Dyrt user Amanda H.

There are 289 campsites available at Watkins Glen. However, you may want to opt for an RV site to provide extra privacy, and minimize noise, from the nearby railroad and racing at Watkins Glen International. If an RV isn’t your style (or budget), consider bringing earplugs for a quieter night.

“We stayed three nights in the Seneca Loop. Great place for RV’s. Not so great for tent campers.”– The Dyrt camper Scott M. 

Whether you want to pop in for a quick hike, a fishing session, or to make Watkins Glen State Park campground your basecamp for a few days, you’ll enjoy the impressive scenery and on-site amenities like electric hookups and showers. If you want to avoid high traffic times, check out the park website for information on local wine festivals, NASCAR races, and other local festivals that often fill the campground months in advance. Then head over to Reserve America and make your campsite reservations.


Hatie Parmeter

Hatie Parmeter

Hatie Parmeter is a current Chicagoan but will always be a Minnesotan at heart. She is the founder of Whoa Mag, an online magazine about women who inspire others with their love of the outdoors. She enjoys paddling wood-canvas canoes in the BWCA and walking her dog Norah Jones.