The Finger Lakes are home to some of the greatest state parks in the nation. For the people who live in the region, we know this to be true. USA Today confirmed our insider’s knowledge with the announcement this week of the top 10 state parks in the ENTIRE United States of America. American voters have designated Letchworth State Park as the #1 in the US. And as if that wasn't enough, Watkins Glen State Park came in at #3! 

Finger Lakes Visitors Connection would like to extend our congratulations to our friends in Livingston and Wyoming Counties, home to the "Grand Canyon of the East", Letchworth State Park. Kudos to our friends in Schuyler County, home to Watkins Glen State Park, the oldest state park in the Finger Lakes region.

I have had the unique experience of spending time at both parks and they are totally deserving of this recognition. I remember going to Letchworth as a child with my family. We would go for the day, swimming in the pool, picnic lunch overlooking the spectacular gorge and learning the history of Mary Jemison, who was captured by the Seneca Indians in the mid 1700's and settled in the area. We have the distinct honor in Ontario County to be the home of Ganondagan State Historic Site, where thousands of Seneca Indians lived over 300 years ago. Ganondagan Manager, Peter Jemison, is a direct descendent of Mary Jemison, the White Woman of the Genesee. More recently, as an avid hiker, I love exploring the amazing trails that go throughout the park, witnessing the beauty of the Genesee River and the incredible waterfalls. I had the opportunity to go whitewater rafting in Letchworth. It wasn't a complicated rafting trip - level 1 & 2 rapids - but the beauty of the gorge was spectacular. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again! 

My most recent visit to Letchworth was this past February to see the "ice volcano", the fountain at the Glen Iris Inn, that had frozen over in the bitterly cold winter. It wasn't a planned trip and it was quite the adventure. Be aware that the main road through the park is closed at about the halfway point during the winter - we had to reroute ourselves and had some nail-biting moments. The end result was worth it, to see the very tall, frozen fountain that was still spraying a mist of water out of the top!

Watkins Glen State Park is a must-see destination while visiting the Finger Lakes. The park is approximately 1000 acres and the centerpiece is a 400-foot deep narrow gorge which has been cut through the rock by Glen Creek. There are a total of 832 stone steps throughout the park, including Jacob's Ladder, which has 180 stone steps itself. There are 19 waterfalls and the Gorge Trail runs over, under (yes - you actually walk under waterfalls!) and beside the waterfalls, with stone bridges and steps. Near and dear to me, the Finger Lakes Trail connects through both of these award winning New York State parks.

Outdoor beauty is what we’re known for in the Finger Lakes. (Of course, our wines too).  So perhaps your next explore in the Finger Lakes can start at one of these parks and extend to some of the other great parks throughout the region.  Come and visit us and our parks in the Finger Lakes. Experience all of the natural beauty that we have to share and experience in Nature's Health Club! #FLX