A&A Travel Review Of Upstate New York; Letchworth State Park & Niagara Falls
End of Week #105
Moochdocking, Stone Lake WI
Miles traveled since last week's post = 0
Total miles traveled to date = 15,766 with trailer
All of our time spent in New York was the Upstate region, and it's an area of the country that has come to surprise us in many ways! I don't think either of us thought we would like New York as much as we did, nor did we understand all the beauty there is to offer in this part of the US. I've talked briefly before about our time spent in the eastern end of the Finger Lakes, and some of our experience near Lake George in eastern Upstate, and now this post will focus more on the western end of Upstate. No matter if you explore eastern or western Upstate New York, you surely can't go wrong, as there is something amazing to be explored in every corner!
A&A Travel Review Of Upstate New York
The last part of the Finger Lakes region that we got to explore in Upstate New York, was in an area referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East". This was our first stop on our route from Lake George, NY to Wisconsin. Located all the way on the western edge of the Finger Lakes, under 70 miles from Buffalo, was one of the most beautiful state parks I have ever been to.
While we were checking out this area, we did not stay at the state park itself, but instead at a Boondocker's Welcome host location just about 20 minutes from the park. The host was a small family owned cattle farm and there was a lot of room for us to spread out. It's too bad the weather was not warmer and drier throughout our stay as our host very graciously wanted to have a huge bonfire with us and pick our brains about our travels.
We were able to squeeze in one full day adventuring at Letchworth, checking out all the key highlights of the park. This is honestly one of the most scenically magnificent areas that we have visited in all the eastern USA. Just like the rest of the Finger Lakes region, this area dates back to extreme glacial formations that helped form these rivers, gorges and waterfalls. The Genesee River roars through deep canyons (before continuing north to Lake Ontario), twisting and turning, producing more than 150 waterfalls - 3 of which are some of the biggest you will find in New York. The gorge itself can stretch as deep as 600 feet, with around 60 miles of hiking trails along the rim. This park is open year round and you can hike, horseback ride, snowmobile, cross country ski, and in the fall you can even take a beautiful hot air balloon ride over the gorge to check out the fall colors. And if you're brave, you an go white water rafting too!
In the southern end of the park, we started from the "top", and worked our way down, south through the gorge. First we checked out an overlook next to the Upper Falls, where a high railroad bridge also stands above the falls. There was a trail down to the base of the falls to get a better look, but not without getting soaked from all the mist of the massive waterfall. The trail would technically continue on for about 20 miles or so, all the way to the Lower Falls, but we choose to drive in between places we wanted to stop to ensure we had enough time to see everything.... there is also no way we could hike that many miles, ha!
Continuing onto the Middle Falls, was one of my favorite views in the park. The Middle Falls is actually the largest of the 3 main waterfalls, coming in at almost 300 feet across, and more than 100 feet high. The drop over the gorge was so powerful here and it was amazing to see the viewpoints from behind the falls as it dropped, and in front of it too. Standing near this one got us the most wet, and it was a bit chilly out, so we continued walking on the trail less than a mile to another viewpoint. Inspiration Point provided insane views looking out through the gorge and the river, with both the Middle and Upper Falls, and the railroad bridge, all in the background. This is also the infamous backdrop shown in all the ads for hot air balloon rides in the fall!
Our last waterfall stop at Letchworth took us to the Lower Falls, where the gorge walls aren't as high, but the river is still just as powerful. We hiked down to a few different viewpoints, getting soaked of course at the bottom one. We also saw a neat trail that would have took you across the river and to the other side of the gorge via a foot bridge, however it was closed at the time we were there. There was also a lot of recent rainfall making for a lot of muddy hiking!
Driving out of the park, we continued on, stopping at multiple viewpoints, including another infamous spot called the Great Bend, where you could really see where the park gets it's reference to the Grand Canyon from! I could have honestly stared at this view for hours, it was so majestic, and so peaceful, and so expansive! I do not think New York gets enough credit for it's gorges, waterfalls, and mind blowing views.
I would absolutely plan another trip back to the Finger Lakes region, Letchworth State Park, and all the other gorges and waterfalls in Upstate New York that we did not get to see yet.
Niagara Falls (& Buffalo)
This will forever be one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life - getting to soak in the beauty and the power behind Niagara Falls, up close and personal from a boat! I honestly went into our trip to Niagara Falls with minimal expectations, after hearing from others who have visited there that it either wasn't as impressive as they thought it would be, or that they didn't like the USA side as much as the Canada side, as the border to Canada remained closed while we were there. I left Niagara Falls thinking this is one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had, and I can't wait to go back again sometime to explore even more!
We ended up only spending one night in this area, staying at another Boondocker's Welcome host south of Buffalo, in a residential neighborhood. We originally were going to stay for 2 nights and spend a whole day in the area, but we got here so early from our last location, that we still had an entire afternoon to burn. The skies were blue and the sun was shining and it was the perfect chance to see the beauty of Lake Ontario and the Canadian border.
Driving towards Niagara Falls from Buffalo, you could already see the mist coming out from the gorge from MILES away, in fact at first we really had no orientation or understanding in what we were seeing - we could just see a mist cloud. It wasn't until we got closer into the Niagara Falls State Park that I fully understood the direction the falls were facing, and how they were creating this plume. As soon as we entered the state park, you could see the river rapids getting more powerful, until they seemingly just fell right off the face of the earth.
Niagara Falls is a dramatic joining of the free-flowing waters from four of the Great Lakes, into the Niagara River Gorge. One thing I didn't know until visiting here, is that this is the OLDEST state park in the entire United States, established in 1885! How cool is that?? The park itself stretches across about 400 acres, with around 150 of those acres underwater. The three main falls you see here are the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. There are several islands to explore, located right in the middle of the river, just at the edge of the falls, to showcase some of the most stunning cliff views I have ever seen - but most definitely not for the faint of heat or those with extreme fear of heights. We were able to take the footbridge path over to one of the islands for some views, but ran out of time to see every viewpoint before we had to head to Buffalo for dinner reservations. If we would have had more time we absolutely would have ventured down, alongside the American Falls, to check out what is called "Cave of the Winds" - essentially a platform to explore right at the base of the falls.
The main attraction at Niagara Falls is absolutely the Maid of the Mist boat tours. I would do this tour again in a heartbeat - and it doesn't matter if you are on the USA side, you still get all of the same incredible views as you would from the Canada side. I still want to experience the Canada side someday - as we have been told that it is a lot more lively and full of night life, not to mention it sits up higher on the gorge to offer more expansive direct views, but I am still 100% pleased with our experience on the USA side. If you want to be technical, we really did get to cross into Canada for a minute while we were on the boat tour, as the border TECHNICALLY sits in the water itself, but I'm not sure I'm going to count that one for my records.
Since we were here on a weekday, we had no problem getting into the Maid of the Mist boat tour, as you are not able to make reservations in advance. We only had to wait in line about 30 minutes and the boat tour itself only took about 30 minutes too. From the top deck of the boat we were able to get the most jaw dropping views of all 3 falls, and we were able to truly FEEL the power behind them. The boat rocked and shook, and we were absolutely covered in mist. Once we were in the true thick of the Horseshoe Falls, you couldn't even see out past the falls, as the mist was so overwhelming. This was one of those experiences that is hard to explain as it was just so raw and intensive in every way. I am still shocked that no one either fell overboard trying to get their view, or that no one dropped their phone in the water, because the boat really did rock from the power of those falls!
More fun facts about Niagara Falls & Maid of the Mist:
Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls — the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls — that overlap the international borders of Canada and the United States.
3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every SECOND.
Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the US and Canada.
Four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) drain into the Niagara River before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply.
The average depth of the water below Niagara Falls is 170 feet, which is as deep as the Niagara Gorge banks are high.
The Maid of the Mist boats are 100% electric, Tesla boats!
The first ever Maid of the Mist steamboat set sail to the falls in 1846, with twin smokestacks and it was large enough to carry stagecoaches and horses.
The last thing we did while we were in the Niagara Falls and Buffalo region, was check out a good restaurant to get buffalo chicken wings. Adam's one and only request for the entire duration we were in New York was to eat buffalo chicken wings in Buffalo.... We ended up going with a place called Bar Bill - a small, quaint restaurant with reservation seating only, cash payments only, and it honestly probably only held no more than 30 people at once. Adam got himself some signature wings, and I had their chicken tenders in a very unique honey barbecue butter something or other sauce. We also shared a huge helping of their beer battered fries, and I topped everything off with a blueberry beer. It was excellent and I would definitely eat there again, but when asked about it - Adam still can't confidently say that these were the BEST buffalo wings he has ever had. He still thinks a restaurant in Woodbury, MN called Ray J's might give them a run for their money!
All in all, our time spent in Upstate New York was fantastic. There is so much to do, see, eat and explore, we by no means even touched it all. This state surprised me in so many ways, and I still have not even been to NYC itself. I think Upstate New York is very underrated and does not get the credit it deserves for all it's hidden wonders. I can't wait for our next trip back to explore more of the Adirondacks!
Just as I wrote about around the same time last year, I think it would be fun to talk again about what things we would do differently, now two years into full-time RVing. There are always so many options out there on how to get started in this lifestyle, and how to live this lifestyle, and no one decision is better than the other - it's just different. So lets go over some of the things we would do differently!
I have recently become affiliated with Amazon, through the set up of my own storefront page. Here I am able to list and link all of the items I have purchased through Amazon and would recommend for various needs. I have lists set up for fulltime RVing, camping in general, traveling with cats, health and wellness, and even curly hair! Plus, as an added bonus, I will make a small commission on any items purchased through my link.
If you want to check out more of my storefront page, here is the link: Spark Fire Swan's Amazon
I will continue to add items as time goes on, as we are always finding something new on there that becomes quite useful to our lifestyle or for our feline friends. As a rule of thumb, I only ever link things we have actually purchased, kept, and use on a frequent basis!