Waterfalls are beautiful and unique. Some of them are even more photogenic with the perfect sunlight or need a heavy rainfall to unfold its beauty.
Read our detailed guide to find out the best time to visit Watkins Glen State Park and enjoy the spectacular views of the Gorge Trail without the massive crowds. Additionally, you'll find a great review and tips by a local as well 10 amazing tips tips you need to know before you visit.
Highlights (Gorge Trail, Flow, Foliage)
Gorge Trail: Only the Gorge Trail offers the stunning views of the waterfalls and all the caves. The trail is open from mid-May until late October. It's closed from the beginning of November. Depending on the weather it could be a little earlier or later.
Flow: There are a total of 19 waterfalls in the park. The peak flow is usually in spring. Especially with a strong flow, you can feel the earth tremble even more while standing next to or behind a waterfall. The flow gets worse in summer and often better during the months of fall.
Foliage: In autumn the park offers a beautiful show of fall foliage with vibrant displays of gold, scarlet, and orange. The best time for the fall colors is usually early October until mid-October.
Avoiding the Crowds
Summer (mid-June until August) brings the most tourist crowds. It's ridiculously busy, especially on weekends. The trail itself is packed as well as the entrance area and the parking lot. Regardless of the season, you should go early in the morning and on a weekday. Be there after sunrise right before the gate opens at 8:30 AM: Official Website - Opening Hours. We highly recommend to stay at a nearby hotel (see below), hike the Gorge Trail first thing in the morning and then choose one of the nearby activities. Alternatively, you may dodge crowds when you arrive in the late afternoon between 4 and 5 p.m. However, it's usually still busy later in the day on weekends during the peak months of July and August.
Spring and fall usually bring very pleasant weather conditions. A mild climate and often average temperatures up to 70°F (21°C) can be experienced in May and September. In the summer it doesn't get too hot with average highs of 82°F (28°C). However, the short but strenuous hike uphill can be a challenge for some visitors in the summer. The area also has some slightly muggy months. The least humid month is April and the most humid time is late August and early September. Winter brings the coldest conditions. In January temperatures range between 15°F and 33°F (-9°C and 1°C). The area can receive heavy snowfall, especially in January and February. Detailed Monthly overview: Watkins Glen Weather
Sweet Spot Months
Best months without the massive summer crowds, great views, open Gorge Trail and pleasant weather: mid-May until early-June or September (after Labor Day) until late October. But still, try to avoid weekends or go early. It's worth it!
Visiting in Winter: The beautiful gorge trail is closed. However, the Indian Trail cuts across the gorge and you can see many of the waterfalls toward the bottom. Regardless of the closed gorge trail, we'd say it's definitely worth seeing when everything is frozen over and snow is covering the cliffs. It's also significantly less busy. Sometimes you hardly see anyone else.
Make your Iguazu visit unforgettable! The insights we compiled from our own visits and from speaking with locals, you’ll find nowhere else:
Avoiding the Crowds (Worst Time to Visit)
With 1.5 million visitors each year Iguazu is pretty busy most of the year. Usually 5 – 6 thousand visitors come here each day. On average 10 thousand people visit the park in the peak season. There are even more during carnival, Easter and on bank holidays which are on the same days in Argentina and Brazil. The peak season lasts from late December until the end of February (school holidays in Argentina and Brazil). July is crowded as well. If possible avoid weekends. Important to know: The park gets closed with roughly 12 thousand visitors inside. This can happen during the peak season from midday onwards.
Opening Hours / Tickets
The Argentinian side is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the entrance is already closed after 3 pm. The Brazilian side of the falls opens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tip: It's often mentioned that you should be at the ticket counter already before 8 a.m. to avoid queuing. We experienced the opposite. Lots of people come early and have to wait while we arrived after 9. It took us just a minute to get the tickets although it was crowded inside the park.
To take marvelous shots with the perfect sunlight consider the following order in terms of hiking to the falls:
- Hike to the Lower Falls in the morning
- To the Upper Falls around midday
- To the highlight Devil’s Throat at the end; in the afternoon.
The Iguazu Falls are spectacular with a high level of water but more difficult to experience and photograph with lots of spray. If it’s too dry, they might be less immense. The best months for a visit depend on what you would like to experience. During the summer season the level is higher and after the winter season July, August, and September it’s a lower level.
It’s a subtropical and humid climate. There is a high amount of precipitation around the year more than 1.800 mm. The winter months are a little drier from late May to mid-September. The day temps are more pleasant and nights are quite cold. In summer roughly from November to February day temps are on average around 30°C / 86°F and can be up to almost 40°C / 104°F.
The Color After Rainfall
They are not any longer clear as they were more than 40 years ago. Due to forest clearance, the unprotected soil gets washed out into the river. As you can see in the pictures, the color is brown-red nowadays. The harmful side effects fish can’t reproduce, birds and mammals can’t spot their prey.
The best time to visit Burney Falls? Find the answer right here. Additionally, we included a complete guide with tips you must know! Although the park gets crowded in the pleasant summer months (read our crowd tips below) and cold in the winter, Burney Falls is an amazing year-round destination. The flow at 100 million gallons every day is excellent throughout the year. Other waterfalls have the most impressive flow during certain seasons only. The reason is its source from volcanic underground springs.
The climate around Burney Falls is controlled by its predominantly mountainous topography. The highest elevation in the park is almost 3,100 feet (950 m). Please keep in mind that regardless of the season it’s cooler at the base of falls. Due to the mist visitors often say it feels about 10 degrees (about 5°C) colder down there at the pool.
Spring (March, April, May)
- Weather: Mild, rainy in March
- Crowds: Light in March, busier in April/May
Temperatures starting to rise, getting more pleasant. However, in March it’s often still chilly and drizzly (average high 57°F / 13°C). March is the month with the most rainfall in spring (early March snowfall is still possible). In April it’s getting a little warmer (average high 62°F / 17°C) and there is considerably less rain. But still, check the weather forecast and always bring a rain jacket and dress in layers as weather can change quickly. Although half of the trees at Burney Falls are coniferous and provide an evergreen forest year round, the other half (mostly California black oak) blooms in spring. Depending on the year and the varying temperatures, the trees begin to bud as the weather in April warms, leaves begin to shoot out and grow as we progress into and through May and by June the foliage is pretty full. There is also a period of nice flowering along the creek in mid-spring. Crowds: In April it starts to get busy, especially on weekends and public holidays, even more in May, when temperatures rise even more.
Summer (June, July, August, September)
- Weather: Warm and mostly dry
- Crowds: Very crowded
Warm and lots of sunshine. The highest temperatures at Burney Falls can be experienced during the summer month with an average maximum of 89°F (30°C) in July and August. Even in September temperatures are still very pleasant. Rain is rare in the summer. When it gets hot in the summer months the waterfall and the mist at the pool provide some nice cooling effect. However, it can get chilly down at the falls at times, even in the summer months. Better bring an extra top. Highlight: In the morning with enough sunlight you can spot rainbow reflections in the mist above the pool. However, the waterfall itself is always in the shadow, even on the sunniest day. Unlike other waterfalls, Burney Falls has an impressive flow even during the dry summer months. It’s high season and heavily crowded, with a peak from mid-June until the end of August.
Fall (October, November)
- Weather: Still pleasant, colder in November
- Crowds: Lighter but still busy in September, less crowds in October
It gets colder but October is usually still pleasant (average high 69°F/21°C) while it’s getting chilly in November. There is also a possibility of snow later in November. The leaves start turning in October and you can experience the beautiful fall foliage with vibrant displays of gold, scarlet, and orange. Especially when you are down at the falls, you’ll spot beautiful reflections in the pool from the rich hues of autumn leaves. Although crowds start to dissipate slightly after Labor Day weekend, it’s still busy in September. In October crowds thin out even more, although it can still be busier on weekends. However, October is significantly less busy compared to summer and spring of course.
Winter (December, January, February)
- Climate: Cold, snow, and ice
- Crowds: Virtually none
It’s getting cold (average high 43°F / 6°C). However, even in the winter, it's a stunning experience when sometimes the whole park is covered with snow while the waterfall is still flowing.The mist from the falls is freezing in the trees, covering everything. It looks like you’re in a fairy tale. Also, tiny icicles decorate the cliff and make it even more gorgeous. A downside in the winter: Due to ice and snow it's sometimes impossible to get to the bottom to see the falls. This happens quite often from December to January and a few times in February. Even without snow, the path to the falls can be quite icy which makes it dangerous to walk down. Although there are some rails where you can hang on to, there is a danger of slipping. Especially kids or seniors should be very careful. Keep in mind that when you are down at the falls, it gets a lot colder because of the mist.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
It can get busy between April and October, especially on weekends and public holidays (California Public Holidays). The peak months with the highest visitation are from June to August. How to avoid the crowds:
Early / Weekday:
Try to go mid-week and be there around 8:30 or at least by 9 AM. Arrive even earlier if you visit on weekends. It usually gets crowded between 10 and 12 AM, with a constant stream of visitors on the trail into the afternoon. Particularly parking becomes quite difficult during peak season and on weekends. The parking lot is packed and tour buses come and go. Please note that if you park along Highway 89 outside of the park, your car can get towed! When you go on a weekday and combine it with getting there early, you’ll experience a much quieter park even in high season. Also, the light is perfect in the mornings until noon. If you visit in the winter months, it's possible to have this beautiful place all to yourself.
Sweet Spot Months:
In September after Labor Day (first Monday of Sept), the whole park gets a little quieter while it's usually still busy on weekends. The temperatures are still great and the light is wonderful. But still, try to visit mid-week in September if possible or be there early (see above). October is even better in terms of crowds. If you'd like to visit before the busy season starts, try late March or early April.
Entrance fee: $8. Open From sunrise to sunset. In the summer from 6 AM - 6 PM. However, rangers at Burney Falls usually don't close at 6 PM sharp.
Clothing (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter)
Depending on the season and climate you need different clothes at Burney Falls. In general, it's best to pack lightweight clothing items that work for every kind weather at the falls. It's also recommended to dress in layers if you visit in late autumn, winter or early spring, as it gets a lot colder when you are down at the falls. Dressing in layers allows you to make quick adjustments. We love to check Amazon Outdoor Clothes regularly. From our experience, they offer the best variety of high-quality clothes and other outdoor gear: Outdoor Recreation
It's a tourist trap with massive crowds almost year-round. Spring, summer and fall bring the most crowds. Especially when the weather is pleasant.
How to Avoid the Crowds
A) Avoid weekends and public holidays:
Visit mid-week. Even less people during pouring rain: It's a great experience to hike to the top in quality rain gear.
B) Be there in the morning around 7:30 AM (at least before 9 AM):
The earlier you get there the better your chances of less tourists and getting a space to park. Maybe even right before sunrise, which is beautiful. Check times at: Sunrise Sunset Troutdale
C) Visit in the winter from November until February:
It's usually much less busy. But still, try to be there in the morning to ensure a solitude experience. Winter is also beautiful snow covered. Check the winter photos below. Quote from an employee: ' In winter, I have sat in the visitor information office and not had 4 people all day'.
Combine A) + B) and it's possible to have the place almost for yourself even during high season. Make sure to hike the very top and not just walk to the bridge like most people. Even better: Hike the Multnomah - Wahkeena Loop (see below) to get away from the crowds at any time.
Peak flow in late winter and spring: Higher water levels increase the flow and intensity. In summer months the waterfalls aren't flowing as much. However, it does not dry up as much as other falls.
During summer from July to September, the Park is often covered in fog while the inland has sunshine and warm temps.
It is quite a popular park due to the close location to San Francisco. The Alamare Falls are much loved, and the Palomarin car park already fills up early morning at weekends. If possible hike to the falls mid-week. If you can’t get a parking space, you have to queue or leave. Shoulder parking is not permitted.
Best time to start the hike:
Start your hike to the Alamare Falls around two to three hours before low tide depending on the trail you choose.
Tide times for the hike to the Alamere Falls or check at the Bear Valley Information Center
Tip for photographers:
Best light for a good shot of the falls is after midday.
If you do the hike on a hot summer day bring your bath cloth for swimming in the Pelican Lake, the last on the right on your way back.
Points of interest inside the park:
If hiking to the falls try to combine your visit with one of the other attractions depending on the day and month of your visit;
Point Reyes Lighthouse built in 1870
300 steps leading down to the picturesque lighthouse with a spectacular view if it is not foggy. Unfortunately, only open from Friday to Monday.
The overlook is close to the lighthouse to spot elephant seals while breeding during December to March. Many visitors want to observe the spectacle which causes much traffic and shuttle buses are offered.
Tule Elk Reserve on Tomales Point
These specific elks were reintroduced in 1978. It’s a more than 9 miles / 15 km hike on the peninsula to Tomales Bluff and back. A shorter option is the 2 miles / 3.2 km hike to Windy Gap and back where you may spot elks at a spring. The Tule Elk Rut Season from around August to late October/beginning of November is a spectacular time.
- Migrating gray whales can be spotted around the lighthouse and Chimney Rock between mid-January to mid-March and again late April/beginning of May together with their calves.
Weather / Climate:
Point Reyes has a coastal climate with dry summer and cool winter. Only very view rain occurs from mid-April to October. Most of the precipitation happens from December to March. It’s often windy at Point Reyes, and very strong winds are common in November and December. Fog occurs in summer mostly from July to September. If it’s hot in the backcountry, the fog might stay until the afternoon.
If visiting for hiking start early morning to beat the midday heat. We even spotted a gray fox close to the Lodge although they are nocturnal. Foxes, skunks, and raccoons can be seen during the night.
The Pfeiffer Falls are very popular either hike to them in the morning or late afternoon. At the moment they are not accessible, the trail is closed due to the powerful storms that flooded the Big Sur Coast with nearly 100 inches / 2540 mm of rain.
If you like camping under the amazing redwood trees book the tent or RV site in advance at least 3 months before. Reservations can be made six months in advance on the first day of the month. The campground is extremely popular even in the winter due to the mild climate. Click here for campground reservation
It’s a moderate cool coastal climate with moist air. The average temperature is between 50 to 65°F year-round. Most of the precipitation occurs from October to April with up to 50 inch / 1270 mm. Fog happens between May and October usually from evening until late morning. If it’s hot in the backcountry the fog might stay until the afternoon. It provides moisture for the redwoods along the coast in the dry summer months.