Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
- How To Get to Letchworth State Park
- Getting Around Letchworth State Park
- What To See and Do
- Best Times To Visit Letchworth State Park
- Where To Stay in Letchworth State Park
- Where To Eat in Letchworth State Park
- Letchworth State Park Facts
- Final Thoughts
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Letchworth State Park, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is a park in Castile, New York. It features stunning waterfalls, towering cliffs, and lush forests. Many adventures await you, from hiking to horseback riding and snowmobiling to hunting.
Each year, approximately 800,000 visitors come to explore this beautiful park and discover all its magnificent wonders.
How To Get to Letchworth State Park
Where Is Letchworth State Park?
This state park is located in Castile, New York. One of the closest major cities to this park is Rochester, just 35 miles away. This park stretches over 14,350 acres and is 17 miles long and only 1.5 miles wide. There are 6 entrances to this park: Castile, Perry, Portageville, the Parade Grounds, Morris Dam, and Mt. Morris.
Opening Hours and Seasons
The park is open for activities at different times of the year. Camping season is from mid-May to early October, but if you want to stay in a cabin, you can come from April to December. Most facilities are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May to October. The facilities are open Thursday through Monday for the rest of the year. The park is closed on Thanksgiving Day each year.
The closest major airport to Letchworth State Park is the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC). It takes about 45 minutes to get to the park from this airport.
This airport offers nonstop flights to dozens of destinations, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. Airlines serviced here include well-known companies such as American, Delta, JetBlue, and United.
Once you arrive at this airport, you are just a short drive from the park. Plenty of car rental kiosks are available to help you arrange a ride for the final leg of your trip.
Driving To Letchworth State Park
There are several different routes for those who will drive to this park. Determining which entrance you will utilize will help you decide the route to take. Visitors coming from Ithaca will take I-86 W and I-390 N. For those coming from Rochester, I-390 S will be utilized.
Taking the Train
This state park has no direct train service, but there is an Amtrak station in Rochester. Taking a train is a great way to enjoy the journey to the park and let someone else take over the stress of driving. Once you arrive in Rochester, you must arrange a rental car or ride share to the park.
Getting Around Letchworth State Park
The best way to get around Letchworth State Park is to combine driving and walking. Plenty of parking lots are near the main attractions, and over 66 miles of trails wind through the park. A variety of maps are available to help you plan your itinerary.
What To See and Do
There is no shortage of things to see and do at this state park. From incredible hiking trails and museums to hot air balloon rides and whitewater rafting, there’s something every visitor can enjoy. Check out the top activities and sights at this park.
Autism Nature Trail
Letchworth State Park has a fantastic trail called the Autism Nature Trail (A.N.T.) that offers a safe and inclusive experience for visitors with autism or other related disabilities. This trail is the first of its kind and enjoyable for all ages and abilities.
This trail has 8 sensory stations set up to engage each processing sense. These stations include the Music Circle, Design Zone, Reflection Knoll, Sensory Station, and Playful Path.
Letchworth State Park is a phenomenal place for bird enthusiasts. This park features Letchworth Bird Conservation Areas, which must meet specific criteria, including a high concentration of diverse species, migratory birds, waterfowl, and at-risk species.
Some fascinating birds seen here include thousands of Canadian geese in the winter, blue herons in their rookeries with over 100 nests, 75 kinds of neotropical migratory songbirds, and over 30 species of warblers. Specific birds include the bald eagle, Cooper’s hawk, red-headed woodpecker, and turkey vultures.
Be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars and a camera when visiting this state park. You won’t believe the variety of birds until you see it!
» Related: The 10 Best Travel Binoculars 
Hiking is one of the top activities visitors enjoy at Letchworth State Park. Several different trails here range from a half mile to 20 miles. These trails vary in difficulty from easy to moderate, so there is an option for visitors of all ages and abilities.
The most popular trail here is the Gorge Trail. It is 7 miles long and begins at the Genessee Arch Bridge near the Portageville entrance. This trail runs along the gorge and passes Wolf Creek Falls and the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. Along this trail, some major points of interest include Inspiration Point, Big Bend, Tea Table, and Archery overlooks.
Some other popular trails include the Gorge Trail Hike, Lower Falls area, Lee’s Landing, Wolf Creek Area, and the Nature Hike. Along these hikes, there are countless opportunities to see highlights of the park, such as the Glen Iris Inn, waterfalls, dams, ponds, and forests. Hiking is one of the most adventurous and scenic ways to enjoy this park.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
A thrilling way to tour this park is from a bird’s-eye view, floating over it in a colorful hot air balloon. Balloons Over Letchworth is a private company that offers hot air balloon rides through the park from May to mid-October.
Floating over the Genesee River Gorge and above the Upper and Middle Falls is the true experience of a lifetime. Be sure to take your camera to capture the stunning sights of the river, the falls, the bridge, and the gorgeous landscape throughout your flight.
Humphrey Nature Center
The Humphrey Nature Center offers year-round environmental education opportunities for park visitors. Most of the programs focus on geology, botany, and wildlife. Many interactive exhibits teach about the park’s plants, animals, geology, and river ecology. A video shows the gorge in each season.
Other highlights of this nature center include a butterfly garden, a bird observation station, solar panels, and cisterns for collecting rainwater. Several trails leave this center and take visitors to points of interest, including Inspiration Point Overlook and Trout Pond.
Many visitors come to this state park for the amazing hunting opportunities. This park permits bow and shotgun hunting in several different areas of the park. The main hunting season is from October to December.
Most hunters will be able to get a deer, but there have been hunters who can get a black bear occasionally. Be sure to read over the rules and regulations before heading out for a hunting adventure.
There are 3 major waterfalls at Letchworth State Park. The Genessee River creates cascades known as the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls.
Upper Falls is the southernmost waterfall. It stands 70 feet tall and is located below the Genessee Arch Bridge. This fall is easily accessed from the Portageville main entrance.
Middle Falls is located near the Upper Falls. It can be viewed from the Glen Iris Inn. Middle Falls is 107 feet tall, the park’s largest fall.
Lower Falls is 70 feet tall. This cascade is accessed from the Gorge Trail. You can also view it from the Stone Arch Bridge.
Other waterfalls that can be viewed at the park include Wolf Creek Falls, best enjoyed when rafting on the river. Inspiration Falls is a seasonal waterfall that is one of the highest seasonal waterfalls in the state.
The Geneva River is incredible for whitewater rafting. It is a Class II-III River, ideal for experienced rafters and proficient swimmers. Adventure Calls Outfitters offers guided whitewater rafting trips. These trips are approximately 2 hours long and travel 6 miles.
William Pryor Letchworth Museum
The William Pryor Letchworth Museum is a wonderful place to visit while exploring Letchworth State Park. This museum tells the history of the park and honors the man who made the development of this park possible.
Many exhibits here teach about the park’s natural and cultural history, including the “Echoes from the Glen” display that tells the history of the Seneca people, Mary Jemison, and the Genessee Valley Canal. This museum is open from May to October, and visitors can donate $1 per adult, $0.50 per child, or $3 per family.
This state park is a dream for winter sports adventures. Endless snow tubing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing opportunities exist. Be sure to check ahead for any closures due to inclement weather, and refer to the park maps for the areas where winter sports are permitted.
Best Times To Visit Letchworth State Park
Any time you can visit Letchworth State Park, you are in for a treat. However, there may be better times than others to plan a visit, especially if you are hoping to participate in a specific event or activity.
Best Time To Visit in Winter
Letchworth State Park becomes a winter wonderland each year, offering visitors opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The waterfalls and gorge are simply stunning sights to take in when covered in a blanket of snow. The best winter month to visit this park is January. The temperatures range from 15 to 32 degrees, and there is quite a bit of snow this month.
Best Time To Visit and Avoid the Crowds
Exploring this park without crowds is an incredible experience and possible if you can plan your trip at the right time. September is a fantastic, less crowded time to visit this park, especially after Labor Day. This is when the park sees quite a dip in visitation.
Best Time To Visit Letchworth State Park for Fall Foliage
Autumn is a spectacular time to visit this state park. The trees are bursting with color, and the temperature is cool and crisp. The best time to visit here to enjoy the fall foliage is in October, when the trees are at their peak color. The temperatures are perfect for hiking and range from 40 to 60 degrees. There are about 9 days when rain occurs during October, so it is wise to come prepared for rain.
Cheapest Time To Visit
Traveling doesn’t always have to break your budget. With some planning and research, you can travel and go easy on your wallet. The best time to visit this park and save money is in September, after Labor Day. This is when flight and accommodation rates are low, which means you can save hundreds in travel expenses.
This state park regularly hosts a variety of community events. The majority of the events are community science projects for birdwatchers, car and walking tree tours, waterfall walks, and visits to old-growth forests. Some events take place annually, like the Christmas Bird Count.
Letchworth-Silver Lake Christmas Bird Count
For nearly 50 years, Letchworth State Park has held a Christmas Bird Count. This event typically takes place a couple of weeks before Christmas in the Perry area of the park. Birders will search a 15-mile circle and document the birds using the area. This helps the park keep records of the types of birds that live there and where they nest. It is a magical time for birdwatchers, so pack your camera and binoculars.
Where To Stay in Letchworth State Park
There are so many accommodation options when visiting this state park that you may have difficulty deciding where to stay. From camping to historic inns to luxury accommodations, there are many places to make your home base.
Inside the Park
From camping in the great outdoors to a stay in a primitive cabin to a more traditional type of lodging in a historical inn, there’s something for everyone here. Take a look at the different options available in the park.
Camping and Cabins
There are abundant options at Letchworth State Park for visitors who enjoy camping. There are 257 campsites and 81 cabins in different areas of the park. There are campsites available from mid-May to mid-October, and cabins are available from mid-May to late November. These campsites can be reserved in advance online.
Caroline’s Cottage is a short distance from the Glen Iris Inn. This option is a charming 3-bedroom, furnished home that can accommodate up to 6 people. The home has a full kitchen, dining and living areas, and a bathroom. It is off of the main park road in a secluded area. This option is ideal for family vacations.
The Chalet was part of the original estate of William P. Letchworth. It is in the park’s southern region, up the hill from Glen Iris Glinn. This home is the perfect option for families or groups traveling together. It has a stocked kitchen, a cozy living room with a gas fireplace, 3 bedrooms, and 2 full bathrooms. This option can accommodate up to 8 guests. The views from The Chalet are stunning.
Glen Iris Inn
The Glen Iris Inn is a historic inn with 15 guestrooms. Guests can choose from standard rooms and suites. The rooms are decorated consistently with the period when William Pryor Letchworth lived there.
The standard rooms feature 1 double or 2 twin beds and a private bathroom. The suites have a bedroom with a queen bed, a private bathroom, and a spacious living area. Glen Iris Inn also boasts breathtaking views of the gorge and Middle Falls.
Pinewood Lodge is above the inn on the ridge. This accommodation option has 7 luxury rooms. Each room has a queen bed and sleeper sofa, a private bath, a living area, and a kitchenette. These rooms are great for families and small groups.
The Stone House
The Stone House is a 2-story, 4-bedroom home on the park’s main road. It is across from Inspiration Point, one of the park’s most popular overlooks. This fully furnished home features a living room with a fireplace, a sunroom, a dining room, a kitchen, and 2.5 bathrooms.
Towns Near Letchworth State Park
Since there are so many entrances to this state park, there are a variety of gateway towns to the park. Once you decide where to spend most of your visit, you can easily decide which town to stay in. We detail the main town where the park is located and what it offers, but remember, many more are available.
Castile, New York
Letchworth State Park is located in Castile, a small town with less than 3,000 residents. This town has a variety of restaurants and lodging options and is in an excellent location for recreation.
The majority of the restaurants and accommodations are small, family-owned establishments. The town is in the perfect location for exploring Letchworth State Park and the surrounding attractions.
Where To Eat in Letchworth State Park
Thanks to Letchworth State Park’s location, there are countless dining opportunities. Whether you are in the mood for a quick sandwich or an elegant meal in a formal dining room, you can find the perfect restaurant in or near the park.
Caroline’s Dining Room at the Inn
Caroline’s Dining Room at the Inn is a restaurant at the Glen Iris Inn. This restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
The menu here features a continental breakfast, flatbread pizzas, fresh salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and top-quality steaks. Customers rave about the chicken marsala, filet mignon, the Mediterranean plate, and the prime rib poutine.
You won’t want to miss the chance to dine at Caroline’s. It is convenient, being right in the park, and the food and customer service are unmatched.
The Whistling Farmer Pub
The Whistling Farmer Pub is located 8 miles from the park in Nunda. This 5-star restaurant offers relaxed dining and drinks for lunch and dinner.
This restaurant offers traditional Italian American cuisine and classic pub fare, using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. The menu features seafood, steaks, pasta, sandwiches, and desserts. Some of the most popular menu items include the bourbon chicken sandwich, the NY strip steak, and the linguine alfredo.
This restaurant is located on the Woodlyn Hills Golf Course in a restored 19th-century farm complex. It offers a spectacular meal and gorgeous views of the surroundings.
Letchworth State Park Facts
1. A New State Park
This state park was established by the New York State Governor Charles Evans Hughes in 1907. The park was a gift from William P. Letchworth, a retired businessman and philanthropist.
2. What’s in a Name?
Letchworth State Park was named after William Pryor Letchworth, who founded the park. He donated his 1,000-acre estate, which became the park.
3. The Original People of the Park
The original inhabitants of Letchworth State Park were the Seneca people. This tribe hunted, fished, and built villages that would later become the park.
4. Best State Park in the U.S.
In 2015, this park won the USA Today Reader’s Choice Award for the best park in the nation. Letchworth ranked among 19 other state parks nominated out of over 6,000 nationwide parks.
5. Story in the Rocks
The bedrock in the gorge is composed of Devonian shales, sandstone, and limestone. Many marine fossils are found here, meaning the rock was laid in a prehistoric inland sea.
Letchworth State Park is a mesmerizing park to experience. There is much to see and do here, from camping to viewing towering waterfalls, birdwatching, and thrilling winter sports. This park has a fascinating history and beautiful sites to explore. Book your trip to this state park today and discover what brings in 800,000 visitors each year.
Featured Image Credit: Clay Banks via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to visit Letchworth State Park?
A vehicle fee is charged upon entering the park. It costs $10 per vehicle. There are other fees collected for various facilities and activities here.
Which entrance do most people arrive at when visiting Letchworth State Park?
Most visitors will enter on the park’s west side at the Castile entrance.
Can I swim in the river or near the waterfalls at Letchworth State Park?
Swimming is prohibited in the river and near the falls, as it is hazardous. The park has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, should you want to swim.
Where can I purchase my pass to Letchworth State Park?
Passes can be purchased at one of the park’s main entrances: Portageville, Castile, and Perry.
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