Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Exploring Upstate New York


We squeezed as much as we could into our short time in upstate New York. We crossed off bucket list hikes in Watkins Glen State Park and Letchworth State Park. We saw Niagara Falls at night, in the daytime, and hiked under the falls. We dipped our toes into Lake Ontario and marveled at Toronto across the lake. Every part of it was an unforgettable, unique, and amazing experience. The only rough part of it all was the lack of cell service driving all of the small highways in between state parks.

The Finger Lakes region was truly gorgeous and filled with hikes galore. Thankfully, we didn't have the dog with us because many of these hikes weren't dog friendly (which I knew in advance and the reason we squeezed them in because we usually travel with our dog in tow). All of the state parks required an admittance fee ($8 per vehicle for Watkins Glen and Letchworth) minus Niagara Falls State Park, but you do have to pay for parking.

We left Atlantic City bright and early. We had a peaceful, scenic drive along the Delaware River, on the boarder of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Of course, any scenic drive is going to take longer. Add in road construction and lane closures throughout Pennsylvania and the drive took MUCH longer than expected.

Watkins Glen State Park was everything I hoped for. We did the Gorge Trail, filled with waterfalls, staircases, and many, many people. We went towards the end of the day and the trail was still packed. From the little part we hiked, the upper gorge trail was not as crowded, but also didn't have that magical, unique feel. Be prepared for the Instagramers and influencers galore, just looking for that perfect shot. It was rather frustrating....especially when they were getting in the way of my perfect shot!

We arrived in Niagara Falls just in time for the nightly fireworks show. I'll never forget hearing the roar of the falls and the way the ground vibrated as we stood near them. I've heard the falls are a better view from Canada, but there's nothing quite like standing over and next to such powerful waterfalls.

We wanted to experience the falls at night and during the day. The next morning we were up and buying tickets for Cave of the Winds, which literally takes you under the falls where you experience hurricane force winds. That was one of the boy's most favorite thing. They acted as if it was a water park and happily got drenched despite wearing the fancy plastic covers.

I wonder how many people glanced up at the hotel room window and saw two kids bouncing around, waving at the street below? It gave me a giggle at least. We stayed at a hotel down the street from Niagara State Park (where the Falls are), which had free parking. This was a steal because parking around the falls and at the state park was expensive. More expensive than DC expensive. However, we were able to park at the hotel (and stay parked once we checked out) and walk to the falls.

We learned ALL about the falls. Things like how much power they produce, that the American Falls are the most rocky and most powerful, oh and that the falls have actual names (American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls), and Horseshoe Falls is actually the largest.

Next up was Fort Niagara State Park. We paid $8 so we could put our toes in Lake Ontario. This means we only have ONE of the Great Lakes left to visit (Lake Huron). 

Our last New York adventure was Letchworth State Park. We hiked the Lower and Middle Falls trail (starting from the swimming pool area). It was A LOT of work, with a lot of up and downs throughout the gorge. Unlike Watkins Glen, you don't go fully into the gorge (midway at the most). There were some gorgeous views, but all of the viewpoints were quite crowded. I can't imagine how crowded this park gets with visitors mid-day.

Inspiration Point was gorgeous, but other people brought full picnics and photography equipment. That was a bit distracting and took away from the nature aspect of the trail. This is definitely not the trail if you're looking for solitude.

They found a tree stump and pretended to be the Statue of Liberty.

Then we were road warriors to make it home. The computers and our Amazon Music playlists were a huge help for the long drive.