Watkins Glen: Tales of Gorge Trails and Racing Minivans

Day 29 – Monday, July 2nd

Watkins Glen State Park – Gorge Trail

So, let’s talk about our time at Watkins Glen.

We were told the trails around the park open at dawn. Our plan was to get an early start to try and beat the heat. I would say we were fairly successful. We left our campsite around 7:30am and were on the trail a little before 8:00am.

The air outside felt much cooler than what we had been experiencing lately and the trail was far from crowded. I’d say getting an early start had more than just one benefit.

The gorge trail is a 1.5 mile hike that follows Glen Creek through the park. We decided to drive to the top of the trail and work our way down. There is a shuttle bus at the bottom.

We could immediately see why the gorge trail and the park in general have such good reviews. Everywhere we looked there was something beautiful to see.


We decided to take a family photo early in the hike, just in case the boys or one of us ended up melting down later on.


From towering rock ledges…..

rock wall

to picturesque walking paths….


the first part of this trail had so much to offer.

Before we started, we told the boys this trail had 19 waterfalls. Naturally, every time the water in the creek dropped off the smallest ledge we would get asked, “Is that one of the 19 waterfalls?” But hey, at least it kept the boys occupied for a while!!

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how amazing something is. We found ourselves in that situation several times throughout our time on the gorge trail.

Here’s a video of that same area: Gorge Trail

There weren’t many waterfalls during the first part of our hike. However, that changed quickly as we got further down the gorge.


Here’s a waterfall we were able to walk behind. That was a neat experience.

walk behind waterfall

I know it’s hard to see from the picture so I also shot a video of this waterfall: Walk Behind Waterfall

Hello there little rainbow!!!


It seemed the further into the gorge we went, the more beautiful it became.

daddy with boys walk behind

Like, is this place even for real??

bridge with waterfall

Breathtaking views were around every corner.

four waterfalls

There were tunnels carved out of the rock.


The tallest of the waterfalls was near the bottom of the trail. After making it through the Spiral Tunnel, we got to walk behind the Cavern Cascade waterfall.

This trail was definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip so far. It took about an hour and a half to make it down to the bottom and we were very thankful to have a shuttle bus that took us back to the top. It was already getting balmy out at 9:30am.

By the end of the trail, poor Everett (our 3 year old) was spent and couldn’t take another step without me holding him. That is, until we came across a playground after riding the shuttle back to the other side of the park. All of the sudden, his strength came back and his legs started working again. Hmm!!! That’s interesting.

Watkins Glen International

Next up was a trip to good old Watkins Glen International. I’m not sure why I said “good old”. Anyways, I had read you could drive your own vehicle on the track and thought it would be a neat experience for all of us.

We got to the track at 11:00am and purchased our ticket. It was $30. That bought us three laps around the track. They do this “Drive the Glen” thing twice each day at 12pm and 5pm, so we had an hour to wait.

Lucky for us, the sport car race was held here yesterday and some of the drivers were still here, testing out new tires.

Here’s a video of the cars going by: Sport car practice


We watched the cars go by for about 30 minutes, then went back to the air-conditioned car. Before we knew it, 12pm was upon us. It was go time.

One of the rules they have is that you aren’t supposed to go over 55mph. That had me thinking, “Okay this is just going to be a leisurely drive around the race track.” Boy was I wrong!!!

Let me first explain that Watkins Glen isn’t your typical race track. It’s a road course, which means it’s not shaped like an oval. The turns are sharper and there are more of them than on a normal track.


The guy working at the race track was driving a red truck and was the pace car for our group. I was the fifth car in line and there were times where we completely lost sight of the cars in front of us. Let me also say, another one of the rules was to keep no more than two car lengths between you and the car in front of you. Hahaha!!!

I doubt they get too many minivans driving around the race track. I literally couldn’t keep up with the cars in front of us. The turns were so sharp and I couldn’t accelerate fast enough to stay with them.

I feel like I need to offer a disclaimer before you watch the video of us driving around the track. You are going to watch the video and think to yourself, “That’s fast??” I can assure you, there were times where I felt like if I tried to push it any further, we were going to end up flipping the vehicle.

Here’s the video: Watkins Glen in a minivan

We stopped at the Finish Line during Lap 2 so everyone could take pictures.

finish line

We also accumulated a nice coating of tar on our tires during the drive around the track. I forgot to mention, the track is 3.4 miles long. It felt like every bit of it while we were trying to keep up. During our stop to take pictures, one of the guys driving behind us, asked if he could get in front of us for the last lap to “run with the sports cars”. We gladly obliged.

It was still a neat experience and one we would recommend to fans of racing or anyone really. We are not avid watchers of any type of racing, but driving around the track was definitely enjoyable.

Taughannock Falls State Park

After all of our morning activity, the boys were more than ready for their nap. During nap time, we drove to Taughannock Falls State Park. This was one of the places on our to-visit list. I knew, with the heat, we wouldn’t be able to hike any long trails. Luckily, you can see the falls right next to the main parking lot. Obviously, it would have been neat to hike down to the bottom and see the falls from that perspective but that would have been a disaster in the making.

At 215 feet tall, Taughannock Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

taughannock falls

Evening Activities

Between the intense heat and thunderstorms, we needed to find some kind of indoor activity. Naturally, we went for bowling. The boys had a blast!!!

It’s hard to believe this was all one day.

One more night in a tent and then it’s hotels the rest of the way. We can do it!!

Until the next adventure!!

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