New York City gets the lion’s share of the publicity and attention from visitors to the Empire State. However, our recent travels around upstate New York and the Finger Lakes region opened our eyes to the green spaces and outdoor recreation possibilities just beyond the urban jungle.
We loved this park! It’s a hiker’s and photographer’s dream with gorgeous views and waterfalls around every bend. And while this isn’t a hidden gem by any means – you should hike early in the morning to avoid the crowds – its popularity is well-deserved.
There are three trails you can hike. They’re all fairly easy and manageable on mostly paved trails. The Indian Trail (1.1 mi) runs along the top of the gorge, the Gorge trail (1.5 mi) takes you right along the river and the South Rim Trail (1.8 mi) is on the opposite site of the gorge. Swimming is not allowed, but people were soaking their feet in portions of the river that were slow moving. A word of caution: wear shoes with good grip; some of the ground by the waterfalls can be slick.
RV/Oversized vehicle parking: We stayed at Watkins Glen State Park and enjoyed ready access to hiking the gorge. Make your camping reservations online early, if you can. Down the hill from the park is the town of Watkins Glen where you’ll have access to shops and restaurants.
Just past Watkins Glen Park is nearby Seneca Lake. People come here to boat, swim, fish and simply enjoy the scenery of the Finger Lakes. We got in some kayaking time of our own!
Letchworth State Park (also called Seh-ga-hun-da, “Vale of the Three Falls” by the Seneca Indians)
This park billed itself as the “grand canyon of the East”, a lofty statement in my book. (I mean, have you seen the Grand Canyon? 😉) And while I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it that, I enjoyed my time at this pretty park by lacing up my hiking boots and hitting some trails. The Gorge trail from the Picnic area near the Glen Iris Inn to the Footbridge Trail is about 5 miles round-trip and will take you past Inspiration Point and the Middle and Lower Falls.
RV/Oversized Parking: We stayed at Letchworth State Park and were surprised at how large the park was. We had to drive to access the trails mentioned above – they weren’t readily accessible by walking or biking – but the roads have numerous pullouts to admire the views.
Troy Farmer’s Market
A fun Saturday market filled with fresh produce, crafts and ready-to-eat items. Enjoyed perusing all the stalls, such as the Greymount Paper and Press booth, where I purchased the cutely illustrated birthday cards seen below. Also liked popping into the nearby storefronts and had a hard time leaving River Garden Studio empty handed (because plants🌱). Two thumbs up for this market!
Iconic Niagara Falls! 😍 We were excited to see this natural wonder and enjoyed the views from both sides of the border, including riding the Hornblower cruise (Canadian side) and the Maid of the Mist cruise (U.S. side). While we didn’t really have a favorite side, we compiled some pluses and minuses from both our experiences.
RV/Oversized vehicle parking: Finding parking was a little confusing, but we managed to find street parking on Livingstone and Stanley Ave, near the funicular.
- More head-on views of the falls for good picture taking
- Opportunity to zip line by the falls
- Seemed harder to figure out where to go, where to line up for tours, etc.
RV/Over-sized vehicle parking: Parking can be found on Goat Island in Parking Lot 3, at the south end. Fortunately, it’s near a shuttle stop so you can easily cross the street, pay $3 for the shuttle and ride it around Goat Island and onto the mainland.
- Seemed more logistically organized – parking areas led to trails or shuttles, which would drop visitors at various points of interest and tour starting points
- More opportunity to get up close to the falls. Besides the boat cruises, which take squealing visitors to the center of horseshoe falls to feel the strength of the spray, visitors on the U.S. side can also do the Cave of the Winds tour and stand on their iconic wooden deck and feel the force of the gushing water. You also get a pair of snazzy souveneir water shoes to take home. 😉
- The view of the falls was from the side and from over the edge, rather than head-on like on the Canadian side.