The Grand Canyon of the East – Letchworth State Park

I remember someone telling me once that if you obey all the rules than you miss out on all the fun. Well, with our next adventure we definitely did not follow any of the rules but found the most beautiful locations by following our adventurous instincts. We just left Watkins Glen and we didn’t think we could find a location in the area more fascinating, but we were wrong. We researched places near Watkins Glen and that’s how we found the incredible Letchworth State Park. We decided to stay two nights and three days in this area. Letchworth was only about an hour away from us and we had to check it out.

One thing that was different than Watkins Glen was the admissions or parking fee to get into the park. It was $10 to get into the park and it is cash only. We learned that most places in the park were cash only. We also did not have any service and advise either planning your route to the park beforehand or getting map due to gps not being able to accessed. We also did not know how much walking there was until we got there. There are a lot more hiking opportunities than Watkins Glen, which the trails went from one-half to twenty miles, with difficulty from easy to moderate. The park was great since it did give you easy or hard hiking options in most places.

Our first goal was to get to the Lower Falls. If you follow the signs from the road saying Lower Falls, than there is a parking area for these falls. There are picnic tables to the left of the trail and the trail is the right of you. The trail follows a fence along the rim of the gorge, and there are some nice views of the gorge which are amazing. If you keep walking to about the middle of the trail there is a little corner in the trail you will see signs stating do not enter. The trail leads to a rock stairway, which takes you down to the Lower Falls We do have to say that the trail that you are not allowed on is a wet, muddy, grassy area right in front of the falls on the opposite side. There are no fences, platforms or other manmade structures. You are at the height of the top of the falls, and the mist makes everything wet. Although we were not allowed in this area and we greatly respect the park and their rules, we got the most stunning pictures.

Next we decided to keep going on the trail to get to the falls themselves. Again, we did see signs stating that it was prohibited to go but we figured if its dangerous than the photography will be awesome. When walking off the trail to the actual Lower Falls, it is extremely rocky and very steep. Tip: The trail continues past a sign that says the trail does not continue any further. Once you get down to the falls, the entire area is wet and slippery and any attempt to get lower would probably be very dangerous. We did see a couple attempting it and it was too scary for us to attempt. We were absolutely amazed by how unbelievable these falls were and how amazing it was to be right at the top of them. The green moss, the nearly clear water, the crashing sounds of the water below, and our heartbeats with adrenaline made the experience one for the books.

After being at these falls, we couldn’t have been more excited to seeing the biggest waterfall of the three falls at Letchworth. We heard that this was the largest fall and the easiest to access due to parking, an overlook right off of the Gorge trail. If you are trying to find this area just simply follow the signs stating Middle Falls. As soon as you park you can almost see the falls from the car. There is also an area in this parking lot for Hot Air Balloon rides which is really cool and something we would have done but they were not running the day we were there unfortunately. Once we saw the falls we were extremely impressed by how big these falls were. We did see on the sign that they actually light these falls up at night but we did not stay for the light show, maybe next time! There is also a little waterfall that we got some pictures and videos of with a rainbow. These falls are called Wee Water Willy (it’s okay to giggle at the name, we did too). This fall is only about 117-foot high ribbon falls with a two-foot wide crest. The upper half of the Falls is nearly vertical, while the bottom half is overhung. These falls can be seen from an overlook found on the Gorge Trail or at the top of the Middle Falls, which is where we got most of our shots from.

The trail eventually leads to The Upper Falls, which is great that you do not have to drive and park again. This trail is was also the only paved trail that we took that day, which made it an easy walk. The best part about this last waterfall we got to experience was there are many views of the falls and great angles for pictures due to how the trail was set up. The trail actually runs all the way up until it reaches the top of the falls, and keeps climbing up to the road right beneath the railroad bridge. We tried to find access to get closer to the falls or a restricted area but we couldn’t find another trail. So, we are unsure if you can actually get to the old railroad bridge or if you can access the falls in a different area.

After exploring all of the falls that we wanted to see, we did get some ice cream and headed to get dinner near water. We both wanted to have dinner where we could sit outside and closer to our hotel. We decided to go to a restaurant called “The Switz” or “The Switzerland Inn”, which is on Keuka Lake in the Hammondsport area. The view was breathtaking and the weather couldn’t have been better. We always try and find local diners or family owned restaurants to support local businesses and we were so happy to find this one. We also saw that they had live music most nights and had a lot of parking for cars and boats. The menu was huge and had a variety for everyone. We had a great experience here, minus Bob getting mayonnaise instead of butter on his baked potato, which he ate anyway! Sorry babe but it was funny. The Switz was only about a half and hour from our hotel which we went straight back to after dinner.

Overall, Letchworth was 100% worth the drive and the long walks! We undeniably would recommend this to anyone willing to drive and go on an adventure. Getting to experience these special moments together brought us even closer. From the exploring, to the giving a helping hand through the mud puddles, and laughing uncontrollably at each other slipping and falling was the best part about this day trip. We got lost multiple times getting to the park and getting home, we both were covered in dirt, bugs, and sweat, but we both were closer than we ever were before through it all. If we learned anything this trip, we learned that no matter the place, the best part of every trip is experiencing how the other reacts to the beauty in the world, no matter how filthy we both are…

Letchworth State Park Photo Gallery