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Backpacker Magazine – September 2012

Top 3: Wine Country Hikes

The fine fall colors and comfortable weather of harvest season will make you want to raise a glass.

by: Kenzi Wilbur

Mt. St. Helena (Heller Family Vineyards)
Mt. St. Helena (Heller Family Vineyards)

Watkins Glen State Park, NY
Gorge Trail

Revel in rocky cliffs and first-rate Riesling.

When glaciers retreated from this area, they left behind two gifts: deep lakes that moderate air temperatures, and topography that helped streams carve dramatic gorges through sandy soils and bedrock. Those conditions make for great hiking, and they also help produce the best wine in the East. Enjoy both in a day: Begin a 4.5-mile semi-loop by climbing the Gorge Trail’s 800 shale steps past (and behind) 19 waterfalls in a 400-foot-deep chasm. Turn left toward the South Rim Trail near mile 1.3; white blazes lead to beaver-inhabited Punchbowl Lake. Go .2 mile to tick off one last fall, then return via the Finger Lakes Trail. Next, drive the three miles to Lakewood Vineyards ( to taste crisp, dry Riesling (the area’s specialty). (607-535-4511; data

The way From Ithaca, take NY 79 W for 21 miles to NY 414 S. Turn left into Watkins Glen Village; the park entrance is in the middle of the village.

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This is not a 'fire road' it's a road! There is a communications complex at the summit and service trucks use this road. The day I walked it there were at least 10 trucks going by. Also since this is mostly a road, it's not that interesting.

I would recommend it as a bike route.

A better walk is the trail south from the same parking area to Table rock (4.4 mi. out and back).

If you go in the summer bring lots of water. It gets HOT!

Dave Duma
Sep 20, 2012

I don't know how the author picked Lakewood from among all the wineries on Seneca Lake.


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