I have decided to start looking more into farther hikes from me, and that took me to Letchworth State Park in New York – voted the best park in the nation in 2015. I had my mother come with me, and she will be probably appearing in more posts as well! Honestly, I would feel 100% safe hiking solo since this is a busy park. The reason why it is named part 1 of 2 is because we only completed half of the Gorge trail since we decide to explore down to the Portage trail ( trail 6 – 1/2 mi ) Letchworth State Park Map I’d highly recommend printing the map and highlighting different possibilities for trails if you’re planning on staying there for a while and taking full advantage of the park.
“Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails” – Taken from Letchworth’s website
The park is accessible all year long, open from 6am to 11pm, providing many other activities other than hiking, it is a great family friendly park, pets are allowed but on a leash. We decided to take the “main” trail which is the Gorge trail, however, the main entrance for this trail named Portageville was closed, so we had to go around to the Castile entrance and then drive down to the closest checkpoint from the Portageville entrance. Entrance to the park cost $10 and they will provide you with a map.
The Gorge trail is marked as #1 on the map, it is approximately 7mi long point to point, so if you are planning on doing the whole trail in one day with just one car, be prepared to hike your way back, which is obviously another 7mi. The markings area bit on and off through the trail, but it is very hard to get lost, just follow the river. Some websites I’ve read prior to going said it was an orange marking, to me, it looks pretty yellow. Water and bathrooms were not a huge concern to us – you’ll be crossing a lot of parking lots/picnic areas with water fountains, maps of where you are, and toilets. I had my 3L reservoir with me, and did not need to refill it for the hike we did that day.
We have seen beautiful animals (squirrels, chipmunks, eagles, etc…) and lots of different kinds of mushrooms on the trail.
Right at the start of the trail you’ll see this beautiful waterfall, luckily there was a rainbow and it made it a pretty awesome picture!
There are great viewpoints at the beginning of the trail for pictures and to admire how beautiful the scenario is. This part is more “touristic” so be prepared for large crows of people and the wait for a picture to be taken.
Going up further, you’ll be able to take pictures of the waterfall where you started before going into a beautiful wooded area.
The terrain was not bad, some parts of the trail have detours since it has collapsed and it is blocked off, there are small elevations and stairs, nothing too brutal and doable to an out of shape hiker, just take your time! Bringing a trekking pole can be helpful and take some of the edge off your body.
We kept going until we reached the junction of the Gorge trail with the Portage trail (trail 6). Since my mother was not feeling too well, we decided to go down and see what the trail was all about since you’re able to see the lower falls. There will be a bridge crossing the river and you can be at the lower side of the park. It was very slippery! (I honestly cannot understand why some people go hiking in flip flops or cute summer sandals… as you probably have guessed, some were almost falling down stepping in the mud or complaining they were getting dirty…) I’ll let the pictures speak for how beautiful it was.
If you go down the steps and turn right, it will lead to a dead end with this view.
And if you turn right this is the view to cross the stone bridge to the Portage trail 🙂
Before we decided to make our way back, we stopped at one of the picnic areas and sat down to eat some snacks and rest. People were bbqing and there was a fair amount of children in the park, apparently if you keep going right past the junction to the lower falls, there is a spot for swimming!
TL;DR : $10 entrance, safe to go solo, beautiful views, heavy traffic, family friendly, dog friendly, well maintained, and lots of activities. 10/10 would go back.