This weekend we took a family road road trip to Ithaca, New York. My dad frequents here so we thought we would give it a go but with three young kiddos we knew it would be the perfect drive time with plenty of inexpensive things to do as a family ( anything over 5 hours gets a bit hairy haha). We love hiking and decided this summer would be a great summer to introduce our kids to it. Our three kiddos are 9, 7, and 4 and love being outdoors and going on adventures so we knew they would love it. During this trip we used an App called @alltrails. It is the best app ever for hiking. It outlines hikes with location, difficulty, length and more information. If you are into hiking you should get this app. ALLTRAILS ….. get it.
We planned it out to make a few stops on the first day of our trip in Letchworth State Park and Watkins Glen State Park. Letchworth State Park, is often called the Grand Canyon of the East and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River runs through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs--as high as 600 feet in some places. There is over 66 miles of hiking trails much of which are very family friendly.
The first stop we made was Letchworth State Park and this was a place i went a lot as a kid with my dad. I grew up hiking, biking, swimming, boating an just about everything else outdoors however I hadn’t been to this park in about 8 years and my wife and kids had never been here. The park was voted one of the best state parks in the country and I would totally agree !!! The views are out of this world its super easy to navigate and there is a great variety of hiking for all abilities and ages. The only thing i would say to be mindful of is the height of the gorges and to be very careful explaining to your kids the dangers of sitting of the walls etc ( which we did explain prior to going).
I would rate this park a MUST SEE and we plan to go back for a day trip over the summer. There is swimming, playgrounds with a snack shack, camping, charcoal grills and picnic tables and a restaurant right in the park. The cost is $10 a car and they are collecting from May-October
1 Letchworth State Park
Castile, NY 14427
The next stop we made was Watkins Glen State Park. Unfortunately we weren’t able to hike most of the gorge trail because it was closed due to weather. What we did get to see was beautiful and the kids are excited to come back. We plan to make the trip back this summer to hike the whole gorge. All trails marks this trail Moderate and I would agree :) The cost is $8 a car and that includes your swimming!
1009 N Franklin St
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
The main event to our trip was visiting all the waterfalls and hiking in Ithaca NY. When we planned the trip we originally wanted to stay right in Ithaca however the hotels were over our price range so we opted for the drive a bit out of the city and stayed in Auburn NY at the Hilton Garden Inn ( HERE). The hotel was nice the breakfast came included in our package and it was a great price. The hotel also had a nice small pool that our kiddos loved.
The first stop we made was the Ithaca visitors center after a recommendation from my dad. They had a lot of information a nice small gift shop but most importantly you can snag the Ithaca visitors guide that gives you all the information for hikes and waterfalls all around the city. This was SUPER helpful since we didn’t plan our day out before hand.
We made a plan for a nice relaxing day and we would sort of see however many we got to in that day but we ended up getting to about 10 different waterfalls that day. The top ones for us would be Taughannock Falls, Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Enfield Falls Swimming Hole, and the Rim and Gorge Trail at Robert H Treman State Park.
The one thing I am going to put in my pocket for the next trip is to let the kids bring their bathing suits so they can swim in the natural pools and rivers. The hike to Taughannock was by far my favorite hike of the weekend it was an easy walk that you could do in flip flops with lots to explore. we could have spent more time here and we spent around 1 & 1/2- 2 hours. The kids liked exploring the river and climbing up the gorge.
We also went to Cornell University which was fun to explore and even has a hiking trail that runs from campus to downtown Ithaca. For timing we skipped this one but this has 5-6 waterfalls you can see on this trail alone.
Overall this was a great weekend trip. There is a lot to do with your family or with friends and it was fairly inexpensive the main cost was our hotel and all the parks were free to get into since it was pre-season. This year we are looking into getting the NYS Empire Pass that allows your whole household to get into most NYS parks for free. The pass is $80 but will pay for itself over and over again.
Until next time!