Grand Canyon of New York: Letchworth


Yesterday Tom and I drove by Letchworth State Park, which is known, not just as the “Grand Canyon of New York”, but as “The Grand Canyon of the East.”  There are at least two other places that call themselves the “Grand Canyon of the East” so I am going to be a little more restrictive with Letchworth and call it “The Grand Canyon of New York.”

The magnificent canyon at Letchworth State Park was created by the Genesee River which roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between 600 foot high cliffs.  Tom and I spent some time at Letchworth in January of 2007 and the pictures in this post are from that time.  It is, of course, easier to see the gorge in the winter when the foliage does not get in the way.  But Letchworth is impressive no matter what season you visit.  We are not the only ones who think so, because Letchworth was voted as the #1 Best State Park in the United States in the USA Today poll.

Letchworth State Park encases 17 miles of the Genesee River Gorge, located in the center of western New York.  The best way to get there is to take Exit 7 off 390 and then take NY 408 south until you get to Nunda. Then take NY 436 west until you get to Letchworth.

There are 66 miles of hiking trails at Letchworth State Park.  We hiked the Gorge Trail from the Upper Falls to Inspiration Point and then walked back along the rim to the parking lot.  We got to see the most spectacular part of the gorge, and I’m sure it is the busiest part of the park in the summer.  In January there were few other visitors.

There plenty of other things to do at Letchworth State Park, although the gorge is certainly the main attraction.  The campgrounds are very nice with spots for RVs, tents, and cabins you can rent year round.  There are trails for hiking, horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.  In the summer there are natural history and performing arts programs, guided walks, tours, a lecture series and whitewater rafting.  You can even get a ride in a hot air balloon which would be an amazing way to see the gorge.  If you don’t want to stay in the campground, you can stay in the historic, completely restored Glen Iris Inn from April 1 to the end of October.  You can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Inn.

Letchworth State Park was created in 1907.  The central piece of the park was the private 1,000 acre Glen Iris estate of wealthy industrialist William Letchworth who left the estate to the state on his death in 1910.  The Parade Grounds, on the other side of the river, were used as a training camp during the Civil War.  You can read more about the interesting history of Letchworth here.

Letchworth State Park is, indeed, the “Grand Canyon of New York.”  The spectacular scenery, impressive roaring river, and well-developed trail system make it one of the best places to visit in New York.