It’s November now, and in Western New York that means the snow can fall at any time. That’s reason enough for any outdoor enthusiast to get out and enjoy every remaining minute of this beautiful fall season. So last weekend we set out to do exactly that by making the drive down to Letchworth State Park.
Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is located almost 60 miles south of Rochester and was voted the best state park in the country by readers of the USA Today and 10Best in 2015. The park features three waterfalls surrounded by lush forests and offers 66 miles of hiking trails and plenty of other recreational activities.
We got a late start, leaving Rochester in the early afternoon, and hoped to hike a portion of the Gorge Trail, which offers some of the best views of the park’s waterfalls and scenic gorge. We set out from the parking lot at the Portageville Entrance and planned to hike four miles out to the Great Bend overlook and back, for a total distance of about 8 miles.
The Gorge Trail follows Park Road for much of the section we hiked, with easy access to and parking areas near most of the scenic overviews along the trail. While this is great because it allows folks of all fitness levels and physical abilities to take in the magnificent scenery, it was quite a different experience than the type of scenic hiking we are accustomed to.
When climbing a high peak, for instance, you might spend several hours in the deep woods before summiting and after your hard work you are (sometimes) rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view. I imagine stopping at these overlooks amongst park-goers in their street clothes, fresh out of their warm vehicles, is similar to climbing a mountain that also has summit access by car or chairlift. Your journey wasn’t the same, and you may have had to work a little harder, but the shared appreciation for mother nature’s beauty is undeniable.
Do you have a favorite state park? Share your experiences in the comments below!