Carved out millions of years ago from the sheer force of the encompassing Genesee River, the vast 14,000 acres of picturesque parkland and forest is a multifunctional base where you can readily enjoy 66 miles of hiking, fishing, horse riding, snowmobiling and even hot air ballooning. With the Finger Lakes and the Niagara Frontier close by, Letchworth State Park is right at the heart of New York State’s holiday region, and an ideal spot to start exploring the surrounding areas.
Although you can visit the park as a day-trippper, it’s thoroughly recommended that you bite the bullet and stay within the grounds for a day or two. The park is overflowing with great amenities and there are some comfortable cabins available for those with an aversion to camping. If you’re seeking something more upmarket, stay at William Letchworth’s former country estate, Glen Iris Inn, which offers stunning views across the Middle Falls and first class fine dining at the in-house restaurant, Caroline’s.
The magnificent gorge covers some serious ground and features three huge waterfalls and cliffs that reach up to 600 feet high in some places. The largest, and by far the most impressive waterfall within the park is the Middle Falls. Watching the Genesee River cascade over the colossal 107-foot drop has a mesmerising effect, especially from May to October, when it’s illuminated with lights after dark. Inspiration Point lookout offers expansive views out across the canyon, making it the perfect place to stop off and soak up the scenery.
Adrenaline junkie? For an adventurous way to see “˜the Grand Canyon of the East’, take a hot air balloon tour of the park. As the only operator to launch from within the park, Balloons Over Letchworth offers thrilling trips that take in the massive, sprawling site. The elevated passage over the various waterfalls simply cannot be matched by any on-the-ground experiences. End your flight with a glass of champagne and proudly accept your certificate commemorating your ballooning experience.
Another highlight during the autumn season is the annual Letchworth Arts & Craft Show, a three-day event sponsored and organised by the Arts Council for Wyoming County. Usually held in October, visitors can browse and buy artwork from over 300 different artists based across the country. Finish up by tucking into a whole host of foods from local vendors, before settling down to watch live performances and music.
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Have you visited the Grand Canyon of the East? Share your experiences of Letchworth State Park with us in the comments section below.
Written by Chantelle Symester