Saturday, July 12, 2014

so far, and close! {letchworth state park, new york}

Hello again!  I'm on the tail end of what I suppose is technically my summer vacation - (even though it was only 4 days long) - but hey, any downtime is a good thing, right?  Our travel budget is a tad tight at the moment, but ever-adventurous that we are, we still wanted a little getaway from the norm - so we opted to investigate beautiful Letchworth State Park in Western New York state, for a two-night stay.  It's officially a vacation when you leave the country, right? :)

Letchworth State Park had been brought to my attention by a co-worker about a year ago (thank you Jason!) :)  - and I must admit, I had NEVER heard of it - despite the fact that it's a mere 2-1/2 to 3 hour drive from where I live.  Billed as the "Grand Canyon of the East", Letchworth State Park is exactly that (albeit, on a somewhat smaller scale) - a 17-mile long gorge through which flows the Genesee River far below.  That in itself was quite a sight to see, but there are also three very large and prominent waterfalls along the route of the river (the upper, middle, and lower falls).  All three falls can be viewed from the beautiful "Inspiration Point" - with the picturesque Portage Bridge railway trestle towering above them all in the distance: 

Inspiration Point
The railway trestle was originally a wooden structure, completed in 1852 - at the time, it was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world.  Sadly, in 1875, the original wooden bridge was destroyed in a massive fire - to be replaced, however, by the steel bridge that still stands today (and continues to be in use!) 

Upper Falls and Portage Bridge Railway Trestle
Although I didn't get a photo of it, it's quite a sight to behold a train trundling slowly across that towering structure - amazing! 

What impressed me most about this park is how beautifully preserved and maintained it is - a true sanctuary for the nature lover.  Literally, at the moment we entered the gates of the park, a young deer pranced across the road in front of us to join up with its companions in a clearing (obviously not quick on the draw with my camera for that one!) :(  I found myself thinking how much more lovely the Niagara Falls area would be had it been simply left as a natural wonder and developed as a national park, instead of being turned into the neon circus tourist trap that it has become...but I digress! Who needs Niagara, when only an hour away, you've got Letchworth?
As we were there mid-week, it was sooooooooo quiet!  Oh, there was a scattering of vacationers/campers here and there, kayakers braving the rapids, and bus tours stopping to peer over the cliffs down into the gorge, but as I understand it, autumn is considered high season in Letchworth - and understandably so!  When the fall colours start to emerge, it would be a sight to behold.  As mentioned, the park is open to campers, and has cabins available to rent if a tent isn't your thing. We opted to get all fancy, however, and stayed at the gorgeous Glen Iris Inn, situated on park grounds:

The Glen Iris Inn
Formerly the home of William Pryor Letchworth (the park's namesake, obviously), this is a gorgeous old inn, beautifully restored to the decor of the time Mr. Letchworth was in residence.  I can't say enough about how lovely our stay there was - the staff were friendly and welcoming, from the housekeepers, to the front desk and restaurant staff.  Our meals in the restaurant were first class, (with vegan and gluten free options!).  We also enjoyed sitting in the Adirondack chairs on the large front porch in the later part of the afternoon and enjoying appetizers and drinks al fresco, while listening to the roar of the middle falls, which are situated directly in front of the inn:

Middle Falls
Rob in the Middle Falls mist
We were even treated to a rainbow! :)

Behind Middle Falls
A view from the front porch at the Glen Iris Inn
The grounds and gardens around the Glen Iris were impeccable:

Not a bad place for breakfast!
Surprisingly, however, the rates were extremely reasonable.  Perhaps again, this is due to the fact that the fall is considered high season here - but seriously, for the location, the service, and the natural beauty surrounding you, this was a superb place to stay.  We only wish it could have been longer!

With all good intention, we brought our bikes with us - but due to the short nature of our visit, we only had time for a day hike down to the lower falls, and the foot bridge that crosses them:

Lower Falls Footbridge
Unfortunately, photos can't begin to impart the scale of the landscape - nor can you hear the roar of the mighty waterfalls - but hopefully they can in some way convey the natural beauty of the surroundings - so I'm just going to shut up now, and let the photos do the talking (in no particular order):

Getting the lay of the land
Wolf Creek
Cathedral Rock, Lower Falls

Upper Falls (note the base of the railway trestle through the mist)
Lower Falls
Last but not least, on our second (and last) evening at Letchworth, we were treated to something rather special - the opportunity to watch the launch of two hot air balloons!  I had actually considered purchasing a ride in one of the balloons for Rob's birthday (as it fell on one of our days there), but it was just a taaaaaad pricey for my budget - but never say never!  It was a treat just to watch the launch of these beautiful balloons, from start to finish...up, up, and away!

Hmmm, well apparently, we like guitars - and musicians who play them... ;-) 
I took a LOT of photos while we were there - (believe me, you got off easy here... ) :) Suffice it to say, no matter how many photos I post here, this is a place you must see for yourself to truly appreciate.  If, like me, you live in Southern Ontario and this is all news to you, perhaps I've inspired you to take an easy cross border drive (we crossed in Fort Erie at the Peace Bridge) to something quite spectacular and surprising; or, if you've heard of Letchworth but have never been, maybe this will be the push you need to check it out.  Either way, I'd highly recommend it - in hindsight, a day and a half wasn't nearly enough to take full advantage of all the park has to offer - but it was certainly long enough to create some lovely new and lasting memories.

Until we meet again, Letchworth! :)

P.S. Please be sure to check out the links I've included above for more information about Letchworth's history, accommodation and camping info, and "Balloons Over Letchworth"! 


  1. Wow, that is so beautiful! Your photos are gorgeous and the colors of the balloons are so vivid. Looks like a beautiful place to visit.

    1. Thanks Donna! Yep, it's a hidden treasure, for sure...and watching the balloons launch was a very cool experience - maybe next time we'll take a ride! :)