|Middle Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth Gorge|
6 miles round trip, 950 feeet elevation gain
Access: Paved road to trailhead, $8 New York State Parks day use fee
This hike is a little out of the usual range covered in this blog, but since it's still in an area geologically related to the Appalachians and it's still on the East Coast, I'm including it in the blog.
Letchworth Gorge is nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the East," and I'm inclined to agree with that assessment. I drove to the park through mile after mile of rolling upstate New York countryside when all of a sudden, the ground dropped away, revealing a chasm between two 500-foot tall vertical walls of sandstone. The Gorge Trail visits the very best of the park, starting near the Lower Falls, passing through the most spectacular portion of the Gorge and ending at the Upper Falls. Along the way, the Genesee River makes three large drops, each of which are among the most impressive waterfalls in the East. The park and the falls would almost certainly be much more famous if Niagara Falls weren't two hours away.
I did this hike with my cousin on a warm, cloudy August day. We left Rochester in the early morning as the forecast called for rain; we hoped to do the hike and return to Rochester before the rain set in, which we did successfully. From Rochester, we followed I-390 south to exit 8, where we took US 20A west to Geneseo and Leicester before taking the fork for New York Route 39 about two miles out of Leicester; we continued to Castile, where we turned left on State Route 19, and a mile later from 19 on Denton Corner's Road, which led into the park. There was a small admission fee to enter the park. Once in the park, we right turned onto the park road, where we got our first stunning glimpse of the canyon, and soon took another right to follow the road leading to the Lower Falls parking area. We parked in the large Lower Falls parking lot to begin our hike.
The first part of the hike was a downhill visit to the Lower Falls. The parking area was most of the way down the canyon; but we had to descend a little further into the canyon by stairs until we came to a broad rock platform on the lower canyon rim. From here, we followed a narrow grassy trail to a grassy ledge not far from the falls themselves. The sandstone here formed almost perfectly flat layers; the falls occurred where the Genesee River reached the edge of the particular table of sandstone. The walls of the canyon soared above us.
|Stone bridge downstream of Lower Falls|
|Middle Falls from Inspiration Point|
|Upper Falls and the Portage Bridge|