Letchworth State Park in Western New York State
A beautiful hidden oasis, one of many natural wonders in New York State, has earned the title of the “Grand Canyon of the East”.
Why, you wonder? In addition to having three natural GORGEous waterfalls, Letchworth State Park also contains wonderful overlooks of the gorge that has been carved out by the Genesee River.
Anyone can drive into to the park for a $10 fee per vehicle, which covers the cost of the whole day. There is also an abundance of camping options, from tenting to bringing a camper, to staying in a cabin or renting out a shelter for a day.
My friends and I – fresh home from college and looking for an outdoor adventure, decided to drive the hour or so and make a day trip. We found what USA Today described as the “Best State Park in the Nation of 2015.”
We parked at the High Falls and started hiking north to the middle and lower falls. Yes, this river flows south to north! Along the way there were breathtaking outlook points and an easy-to-follow trail that kept us mostly next to the river and gorge. The park offers an additional 66 miles of trails to choose from!
Our trail included several steep walking sectors where various levels of stairs eased the trek and climb, both on the way there and back. We explored a small creek that ran under a bridge, waved hello to other hikers, and stopped at various outlooks to stare in awe at the intriguing beauty of the Devonian bedrock, shale and limestone, that make up the sides of the gorge.
The Upper and Middle Falls aren’t extremely distant from each other, only about a half-mile; it’s the Lower Falls that’s the most remote and takes up a majority of the hike.
All in all, hiking the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls and back again is a 7-mile excursion (this includes, of course, taking closer looks at “that tree over there” or “this really cool stream over here”). We all had a fantastic time! It was a beautiful day and reaching the Lower Falls was worth the effort of the hike, especially with it adjacent to a stone bridge that crosses the gorge.
After we hiked back to the car, we drove through the park at the far entrance so we could view so many of the other wonderful views. There are many “pull-over” points designated as “Photo-Spots” along the drive. This park has a diversity of activities and accommodations, including a restaurant, museum and gift shop, while offering kayaking, cross-country skiing, exquisite bird watching and thrilling white-water rafting.
For more information on visiting this park, check out http://nysparks.com/parks/79/details.aspx
Kiley Voss, student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry