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Visiting Letchworth State Park For The First Time

Visiting Letchworth State Park For The First Time

Located in beautiful western New York, Letchworth State Park showcases the powerful Genesee River as it flows through a stunning gorge featuring three large waterfalls and numerous hiking trails. It’s a postcard perfect park with a scenic two lane road through lush forests displaying epic overlooks.

In this guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about Letchworth State Park including what to see and where to go.

Our Letchworth Experience

Man and woman sitting on stone steps near Upper falls at Letchworth State Park
Mark and Kristen sitting on the stone steps near Upper Falls

Kristen grew up about an hour away from Letchworth and we temporarily lived in the region when Mark first immigrated to the US in 2019. We spent the majority of the pandemic visiting popular NY state parks including Letchworth. Our upstate New York photos are featured in Gestalten’s Great American Road Trip.

Personally, we’ve spent a lot of time in Letchworth enjoying scenic hikes, soaking up the gorgeous fall colors and patiently shooting photography at various times of day. All of the photos in this guide have been taken by us from various trips throughout the years. We’re going to show you what not miss from a local’s perspective. Read more about us.

What Is Letchworth State Park?

Fast running water in the Genesee River
The beautiful Genesee River running through the park
  • Region: Livingston and Wyoming County
  • State: New York
  • Website: parks.ny.gov
  • Campgrounds: 257 campsites and 81 cabins
  • Activities: Hiking, photography, camping, swimming, waterfalls
  • Open: All year
  • Annual Visitors: ~800,000

Often called the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth was voted the most stunning US state park in 2015. It’s a large area encompassing more than 14,000 acres of land and it follows the Genesee River for about 17 miles with various points of interest you can access with minimal walking.

Over thousands of years, the Genesee River has relentlessly carved through shale, silt and sandstone rock, eroding deeper and deeper, eventually forming sheer gorge walls as high as 600ft. In its path of slow destruction, the Genesee created three significant waterfalls in close proximity, known as Upper, Middle and Lower Falls near the southern entrance.

But perhaps the greatest topographical achievement is a spectacular U-shaped 270 degree meander, similar to Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, but on a much larger scale now covered in trees instead of sand.

We love Letchworth because you can easily drive through the entire state park on paved roads. Many of the scenic overlooks are located very close to the road on the west side of the river. The south section is the most popular region in the park, but there are campsites and a swimming pool on the north side. The park is open year round from 6:00am to 11:00pm.

WATCH: Our Letchworth State Park YouTube video

Directions To The Park

Welcome to Letchworth State Park Sign
Visitor welcome sign highlighting points of interest

Letchworth State Park is located on the western edge of the New York Finger Lakes region about 40 miles south of Rochester. The park itself is shaped just like a finger as it follows the Genesee River into both Livingston and Wyoming counties.

  • Address: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427
  • Location: Google Maps

Here are distances from nearby major cities to the Castile Entrance:

  • Rochester, NY – 55 miles (1h) on I-390 S
  • Syracuse, NY – 130 miles (2h 15m) on I-90 W / I-390 S
  • Buffalo, NY – 55 miles (1h) on NY-400 S / NY-78 S
  • Toronto Canada – 250km (2h 50m) on QEW / NY-400 / NY-78
  • New York City – 330 miles (5h 20m) on I-80 / I-380 / I-81 / I-86 / I-360

If you’re flying into the Finger Lakes region, search for flights using Skyscanner and find airport hire cars with Rental Cars. We always use both platforms when booking trips. Here are the closest airports if you’re coming from further afield:

  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC)
  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

READ: How to book cheap flights

Which Entrance Is Best?

Map of the west entrances at Letchworth state park
Our map showing the four west entrances

There are 6 entrances for Letchworth State Park and since the Genesee River cuts through the entire park, you must enter via the east or the west side. If you want to see the best of Letchworth, we recommend you enter from the west because this is where you’ll find the majority of the highlights in the park. But let’s look at each entrance individually:

West Entrances

  • Mount Morris – Located on the northern edge of the park and open all year, this entrance is located near the Mount Morris Dam Overlook, Highbanks Recreation Area and the Harvey Swimming Pool.
  • Perry – Closer to the northern half on the western side of the park, this is the main entrance for camping and the Maplewood Lodge.
  • Castile – This entrance begins near the Archery Field Overlook and Humphrey’s Overlook. It’s close to the main visitor center, the Humphrey Nature Center and Inspiration Point. We typically use this entrance because it’s close to Letchworth’s main attractions and it’s open all year.
  • Portageville – Located on the southwestern tip of the park, this entrance begins near Upper Falls and the railroad tracks. It’s close to the Glen Iris Inn, Middle Falls and the William Pryor Letchworth Museum. However, this entrance is closed in winter.

East Entrances

  • Mt. Morris Dam – Not far from the Mount Morris entrance, but on the eastern side of the river, this entrance gives you access the William B. Hoyt II Visitor Center, the Finger Lakes Trail and another viewpoint of the Mount Morris Dam.
  • Parade Grounds – Very close to the Portageville entrance, but on the east side of the river, this entrance gives you access to a picnic area, the Finger Lakes Trail and viewpoints of Lower plus Middle Falls from a distance. But it’s closed in winter.

The two east entrances are located on the remote side of the park and will require more driving if you want to see the highlights too. Keep in mind, the Mount Morris Dam, Portageville and Parade Ground Entrances all close in winter.

READ: Best things to do in the New York Finger Lakes

Entrance Fees

View of Middle and Upper Falls with fall foliage
Perspective shot of Middle Falls, Upper Falls and the Genesee Arch Bridge

You don’t have to pay an entrance fee and you don’t need a reservation to visit Letchworth State Park. However, you might have to pay $10.00 for parking your vehicle depending on the time of year you visit.

Most New York state parks charge a day-use vehicle fee to enter each facility. So while Letchworth is free to enter, the vehicle fee is collected from the beginning of May until the end of October between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm daily. So if you visit the park outside of this time frame, you don’t have to pay the vehicle fee.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the NY state parks, you should consider purchasing an Empire Pass. It costs $80.00 for one year and works very similarly to the National Park Pass. All you have to do is present the pass at the entrance station and the vehicle fee for day use is waived.

Where Should You Park

Large parking lot outside the Humphrey Nature Center
Large parking lot near the Autism Nature Trail

Since there are multiple entrances and various large parking lots throughout Letchworth, it’s pretty easy to get parked. However, if you visit in the summer during a holiday weekend, it can be extremely difficult to find parking near the main attractions.

We recommend you use our guide to figure out what things you want to do and then park by that specific activity or region. You can use this this north map or this south map to locate every parking lot in the park.

You can walk between many of the main attractions in the park near the south section. Short paved paths lead to Middle and Upper Falls as well as the Glen Iris Inn. Lower Falls is only accessible via a short but fairly steep hiking trail.

Or you can move your car to various parking lots if you want to minimize walking. Sometimes you can find parking spaces along the side of the road, but be sure to keep an eye out for no parking signs too.

Travel Tip: The parking lot by Middle Falls and the Glen Iris Inn or Inspiration point is always the busiest so if this is where you plan to go, we suggest you try to arrive early to beat the crowds.

 

Three Letchworth Waterfalls

Front on view of Middle Falls from a stone observation platform
Stunning view of Middle Falls in the fall season

There are 3 popular waterfalls in Letchworth State Park and each one has a distinguishing feature which make them unmissable. Let’s take a look at each one:

Lower Falls

Lower Falls at Letchworth State Park Western New York in Fall with beautiful foliage
Autumnal colors at Lower Falls

Lower Falls is the smallest, quaintest, quietest and arguably prettiest waterfall in the park. To reach it, you can park at any of the lots along Park Road between Inspiration Point and the Lower Falls Trailhead. Then walk along the Gorge Trail until you reach a brown sign pointing down a set of 127 stairs to reach Lower Falls and a stone footbridge.

A stone bride crossing the Genesee River in front of Lower Falls
The stone footbridge by Lower Falls

Take the next path down to the gorgeous stone bridge for an amazing up the gorge view of the waterfall. Cross the bridge and follow the cliff-hugging path as it turns left before arriving at an obvious overlook point.

We like Lower Falls because photography opportunities easy to come by. There are a number of small rocky outcrops to get shots between trees but be careful with your footing and please leave no trace. Crowds will also be much thinner here when compared to the other waterfalls.

Middle Falls

Middle falls from small observation platform in front of waterfall
Middle Falls during a warm summer day

Standing at 107 ft tall and over 250 ft wide, Middle Falls is Letchworth State Park’s powerful centerpiece. It resembles a much smaller version of Niagara Falls with huge volumes of water crashing over its relatively short drop. This is the most popular cataract waterfall in the park. You should park at either the Glen Iris Inn and Middle Falls parking lot or Upper Falls parking lot for easiest access.

We like Middle Falls because you can get up close and personal. There is a rounded stone observation point right in front of the waterfall or you can stand almost in touching distance on its right hand side. The likelihood of getting wet from water vapor in both places is very high.

Rainbow alongside Middle Falls in the fall season
Hidden rainbow at Middle Falls

Middle Falls has a colorful surprise if you visit on a sunny day around lunchtime or mid afternoon. Standing right by the side of the waterfall, turn to look into the canyon and through clouds of water vapor you should be able to see a bright rainbow shining deep inside the gorge.

Upper Falls

Upper Falls in autumn with stunning fall foliage blue sky and awesome waterfall
Upper Falls with railroad bridge in the background

Last but not least, Upper Falls curves like a narrow horseshoe and is framed by its outstanding man made feature, a steel arched railroad bridge. Upper Falls and the railroad bridge can be seen in the distance behind Middle Falls from Inspiration Point. This is one of our favorite photography locations in the park.

You can park at either Middle or Upper Falls for front-on views or a smaller lot close to the bridge for side-on views. Parking at the bridge means you’ll have to take steps down to see the waterfall but the elevated steps also offer excellent views of the waterfall.

Upper falls with a train crossing the railroad bridge framed by beautiful red foliage
Upper Falls with freight train crossing the Genesee River

At the bottom of the steps you can take a lovely shot of the waterfall with the railroad bridge and if you strike it lucky, a freight train will pass over the Genesee River. If you visit in summer, all trees and vegetation surrounding the waterfalls are lush green. Personally, we prefer visiting in peak fall season with naturally vibrant colors and tones creating stunning images like in the photo above.

READ: Where to find waterfalls in the Finger Lakes

Letchworth State Park Hiking Trails

Woman hiking a trail in upstate New York during Fall
Kristen hiking a section of the Gorge Trail

There are 29 hiking trails at Letchworth spanning through 66 miles of the park. Distances range from 0.5 to 21 miles with seven beautiful miles along the popular Gorge Trail. Each trail corresponds with a specific number and dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are leashed.

The gorge trails on the west side are by far the most heavily trafficked and you can expect extremely crowded trails in summer, especially on the weekends. If you’re looking a peaceful hiking experience, enter the park via one of the two east entrances and hike part of 24 mile stretch of the Finger Lakes Trail through Letchworth.

If you’re a first time visitor, we recommend you start with the hikes listed below:

  • Gorge Trail (#1) – This is the most popular trail in the park running parallel to Park Road. It connects Upper, Middle and Lower Falls plus many scenic viewpoints including Inspiration Point. The trail is 7.0 miles one way, but most people only hike a small section depending on what they want to see.
  • Mary Jemison Trail (#2) – This is an easy 2.5 mile hike through the woods with access at the Council Grounds and the railroad bridge parking area.
  • Hemlock Trail (#2A) – A 2.5 mile hike featuring century old hemlock trees and Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls.
  • Lee’s Landing (#5) – An easy 1.0 mile trail following an old wood launch which was historically used to transport lumber to the city of Rochester.
  • Portage Trail (#6) – Short 0.5 mile trail from the 1930’s that originally helped portage canoes travel down the river avoiding the park’s three big waterfalls.
  • Footbridge Trail (#6A) – This 0.5 mile trail connects the eastern side to the western side of the park.
  • Genesee Valley Greenway (#7) – A 5.75 mile trail along the former path of the late 1800’s Genesee Valley Canal.
  • Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) – A 24 mile option following the eastern rim of the gorge and passing through many of Letchworth’s best sites. It’s marked with yellow blazes.

Hiking can be tricky because there are no official trail signs located along the roads. You basically have to drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled for a small sign stating the trail number. But you can typically find popular trails based on the number of cars in the parking lot.

With so many hiking options, it can be overwhelming when it comes to knowing where to start. Use this detailed map to help you identify the trails.

Here is our typical route when hiking in Letchworth:

Park at the Lower Falls Trailhead because it’s typically less busy and hike down to Lower Falls. Then continue past Inspiration Point, Middle Falls and Upper Falls before returning back along the same trail to the car. This hike ends up being about 4-5 miles roundtrip.

READ: Best hiking and outdoor apps

Best Photography Locations

Letchworth is an incredibly photogenic New York state park. We’ve spent many mornings and nights in the park and it never gets old. As soon as the fog creeps over the valley, the scenery is breathtaking. Here are some of the best photography locations:

  • Lower Falls
  • Middle Falls
  • Upper Falls
  • Great Bend Overlook
  • Inspiration Point

Since you already know about the 3 waterfalls, this photography section will cover the popular viewpoints.

Great Bend Overlook

Sunrise photography spot at great bend overlook letchworth state park new york
Great Bend Overlook early in the morning just before sunrise

In our opinion, the best time of day to visit Letchworth is between civil twilight and sunrise. So if you plan to shoot a sunrise, ignore the waterfalls and instead set up between Great Bend Overlook near Archery Field Overlook.

We think the Great Bend Overlook is the best sunrise photography location at Letchworth. To get here, enter via the Castile entrance, turn left on Park Road and about 50 meters ahead next to fence, there is a small section of roadside parking with about 3 spaces for cars.

Look to your right and you’ll see the most incredible scene in the park, a horseshoe shaped bend in the Genesee River with towering cliffs and a massive center island dotted with thousands of trees. The sun will rise directly behind the island and if you’re extra lucky, there will be mist and clouds down in the horseshoe shaped gorge creating a mesmerizing scene.

We’ve personally woken up early and arrived at the park before civil twilight 5 times. Four mornings were cloudy despite weather forecasts saying otherwise but one lucky morning was clear and beautiful.

Inspiration Point Overlook

Middle and Upper Falls with beautiful gorge in fall spectacular colors new york
Middle Falls and the Genesee Arch Bridge view from Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point Overlook is the best waterfall, sunset and astrophotography viewpoint at Letchworth. After the sunrise location described above, Inspiration Point is our second favorite spot. Views from Inspiration Point are sublime, looking straight down the deep Genesee gorge flanked by colorful trees until it reaches Middle Falls, Upper Falls and the railroad bridge.

But one of the major photography problems here is the sky. It can be washed out and very grey instead of bright blue showcasing large fluffy cotton clouds, a photographers dream. At this viewpoint, the most outstanding features are east and southeast facing, which can also make shooting at sunset challenging.

If you’re interested in astrophotography, the good news is that two these waterfalls are directly southwest of Inspiration Point. So if you visit in late summer or early fall when the Milky Way becomes visible and time it right for a clear night with no moon, it’s an amazing view.

View of Eddy's Lookout withview of the gorge and Genesee River
The fall foliage at Eddy’s Overlook

Now we’ve told you our favorite viewpoints in the park, but there are many more to see if you have extra time. Here are a few more to keep an eye out for:

  • Eddy’s Overlook
  • Archery Field Overlook
  • Hogs Back Overlook

Use our interactive map at the end of this guide to locate all the overlooks in the park when you visit.

Other Letchworth Activities

Man sitting the edge of a footbridge near Lower Falls
Mark sitting on the beautiful footbridge near Lower Falls

Letchworth State Park is well known for hiking and waterfalls, but there is something here for the entire family ranging from swimming pools and whitewater rafting to hunting and balloon rides. Here are other popular things to do in the park:

  • Genesee Arch Bridge – Make sure you snap a photo of the famous steel 1875 railroad bridge near Upper Falls. We always like to catch the train going across the bridge.
  • Humphrey Nature Center – Opened in 2016, this is a great place to take the kids because it features interactive exhibits about history, geology and river ecology. It’s open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm from May 1 – October 31 with various programs. Here is the schedule of events. We like the tree slide and the short hiking trail to Trout Pond.
  • Autism Nature Trail – A 1.0 mile loop designed for visitors with autism spectrum disorder showcasing eight unique learning stations. From the Castile entrance, it’s about a 5 minute drive.
  • Letchworth Visitor Center – Located near Inspiration Point, you’ll find a staffed desk, informational kiosks, gift shop, and restrooms.
  • Mount Morris Dam – A fully functional dam created by the US Army Corps of Engineers and one of our favorite attractions. You can book a 1.5 mile dam guided tour here.
  • Harvey Swimming Pool – Found at the Highbanks Recreation Area, this Olympic sized swimming pool is open late June to Labor Day in September from 11:00am to 5:45pm Monday to Friday or 11:00am to 6:45pm on weekends and holidays.
  • William Pryor Letchworth Museum – A collection of Indigenous and pioneer artifacts from the Genesee Valley.
  • Bird Watching – The park is filled with bird conservation areas including Great Blue Heron rookeries. Keep an eye out for other species too.
  • Balloons Over Letchworth – Originating in the parking lot of Upper Falls, a hot air balloon ride will traverse the Genesee River. Prices start at $425/person.
  • White Water Rafting – Float down the Genesee River for 5.5 miles through rushing rapids and beautiful scenery. It costs $50/person and you can book with Adventure Calls Outfitters.
  • Picnic At Wolf Creek – Look for a small parking area near Wolf Creek right off E Park Road. There are several picnic tables located in the shade.
  • Council Grounds – A lesser known area with two old dwellings and the gravesite of Mary Jemison.

Best Time To Visit

Orange leaves lining a hiking trail
A hiking trail littered with leaves during the fall season

Letchworth State Park will be extremely busy on weekends between May and September, especially during holidays. If you plan to visit at this time of year, just know it may be difficult to find parking near the gorge trail and waterfalls.

The park is typically cold and temperate, with short hot summers followed by long cold winters. However, having visited in all for seasons, we think there is no wrong time to visit. Here are the highlights:

  • Spring – From early March to late May, you can see the waterfalls running at their fullest. This time of year brings beautiful blooming flowers, but the weather can be unpredictable with both cold and warm days.
  • Summer – June to August are the peak months at Letchworth. Hiking trails will be crowded, accommodation including campsites fill up quickly, but you can enjoy activities such as white water rafting.
  • Winter – The months from December to February often bring lake effect snow and road closures. However, hiking trails are open for cross country skiing and sometimes the waterfalls freeze over which is amazing to see. But we wouldn’t recommend this season for a first time visit, especially if you’re not used to the snow.
  • Fall – This is the most picturesque time of year to visit Letchworth in our opinion. Late September and early October bring vibrant hues of reds, oranges and yellows. The weather is perfect for hiking and the crowds are small if you visit early in the day.

No matter the time of year, we think sunrise and sunset is the best time of day to visit because most visitors arrive between 10:00pm and 4:00pm. We always try to arrive for sunset and if you arrive before 9:00am, you’ll avoid the parking fee. At sunset, the crowds often thin and the golden hour provides the best light of the day. We also like to stay late into the night to see the stars light up in the sky over the gorge.

Travel Tip: In winter, the Portageville entrance is closed to Upper and Middle Falls. You should enter via Castile. Restrooms are available at Inspiration Point, Middle Falls, Trailside Lodge, Highbanks and the Dam Overlook.

Letchworth Restaurants

Exterior view of Lower Falls Restaurant
Exterior view of Lower Falls Restaurant

If you’re getting hungry while exploring the park, the two main restaurants are the Glen Iris Inn or Lower Falls Restaurant. There are also a few snack bars scattered throughout the park, but all of these options are only open seasonally.

The Glen Iris Inn overlooks Middle Falls and offers a high-end American restaurant. Caroline’s Dining Room at the Inn serves meals all day and you’ll need a reservation. Lower Falls Restaurant has mixed reviews. It’s been offering the same food for decades and honestly, the food isn’t great but it’s a good atmosphere and an easy food option.

Here is food at the south end:

  • Glen Iris Inn – Breakfast, lunch + dinner in a historic building
  • Letchworth Gift Shop – Coffee, drinks + snacks
  • Lower Falls Restaurant – Burgers, subs, sandwiches, salads, ice cream
  • Upper Falls Snack Bar – Ice cream, drinks, grilled + fried food
  • Footbridge Nature Shoppe – Drinks and snacks

Here is food at the north end:

  • Dam Overlook Cafe – Coffee bar, snacks + ice cream
  • Highbanks Camp Store – Coffee, ice cream, groceries, wood, ice + camping supplies
  • Highbanks Pool Snack Bar – Food + drinks

You can also find a few food options located outside of the park in the surrounding towns of Mount Morris and Perry. Here are popular restaurants nearby:

Travel Tip: If you don’t mind a little driving, we recommend you eat at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. This restaurant is about 45 minutes or 40 miles from the Castile entrance located in downtown Rochester. Kristen grew up on Dinosaur BBQ and it has since become one of Mark’s favorite restaurants since moving to the US.

Where To Stay In The Park

Exterior view of the Stone House, a rentable lodge in the park
A beautiful cabin for rent inside the state park

Letchworth is a popular spot for families in the summer because there are many camping options including both campsites and cabins. Amenities include a comfort station, convenience store, laundry, picnic tables, showers, swimming, volleyball and a water fill-up station. Reservations can be made anywhere from 1 day to 9 months in advance and you can book on the official website here.

All campsites are open from May until October. The 257 campsites are available in numbered loops, #100-800. It costs $27-30/night plus there is a $5.00 out of state resident fee/night. The Perry entrance is the best way to enter for Highbanks tent and trailer camping.

The cabins are available in alphabetical sections, A-E. Each section is open slightly different times of the year:

  • A Cabins: May – Nov
  • B Cabins: May – Oct
  • C Cabins: May – Nov
  • D Cabins: May – Sep
  • E Cabins: May – Sep

The cabins cost $132-568 per week or 1/4 the weekly charge for a nightly rate. The Castile entrance is the best way to enter for the A and B cabins. The Parade Grounds entrance is the best way to enter for the D and E cabins, but it’s closed in the winter. The Perry entrance is the best way to enter for C cabins.

Renting A Lodge

Historic Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth State Park
Stunning yellow Glen Iris Inn near Middle Falls

In addition to the campsites, there are a few rooms and lodges you can book.

  • Glen Iris Inn – A recently renovated historic building with 11 standard rooms and 4 luxury suites. Rooms range from $145-305 per night. Additional options include the Pinewood Lodge, Pinewood Lofts, Caroline’s Cottage, Stone House and the Chalet House.
  • Maplewood Lodge – Another historic lodge near the Highbanks camping area that fits 8 people with 3 bedrooms. It costs $175/night with prices increasing for peak season from late June to August.
  • Parkers Hideaway – Close to the Perry entrance, this lodge fits 6 people with 2 bedrooms. It costs $130/night with prices increasing for peak season from late June to August.

Hotels Near Letchworth

Person sitting on wooden bench at Letchworth State Park along the Autism Nature Trail
Kristen sitting a wooden bench along the Autism Nature Trail

One of Letchworth’s downsides is a lack of easy access hotel options and nearby amenities. If you don’t want to camp or stay inside the park, you’ll need to find a hotel in a small town nearby which will require a short drive.

Mount Morris and Geneseo are the best options for those who like to have amenities at hand. However, there is a fantastic isolated B&B option much closer to the major highlights.

Here are the top rated hotels nearby:

  • Letchworth Farm (Nunda) – Six miles from the Portageville entrance, this equestrian themed B&B is run by an English couple.
  • Country Inn & Suites (Mount Morris) – Located right outside the Mount Morris entrance, this hotel offers an indoor pool, breakfast and a small gym.
  • Temple Hill B&B (Geneseo) – A beautifully preserved historic building serving a delicious breakfast with outdoor pool and hot tub.
  • Oak Valley Inn (Geneseo) – Another B&B with large garden, shared lounge, restaurant and an outdoor fireplace.

READ: How to find cheap hotels

Interactive Letchworth Map

Click on our interactive map to zoom in or out and familiarize yourself with the area to find all of our recommended points of interest, restaurants and hotels.

  • Yellow – Entrances
  • Bright Red – Points of Interest
  • Maroon – Restaurant recommendations
  • Blue – Hotel recommendations + camping options

You can also access our map via this link.

Travel Tip: Sometimes Wifi can be spotty in the park so make sure you have our map open before you lose service.

Photography Tips

Sony camera positioned near Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park
Sony camera pointed towards Middle Falls

If you’re heading to Letchworth for photography, you won’t be alone. This is an incredibly photogenic place and it’s very difficult to take a bad photo. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Drones are allowed with permission. In order to fly a drone, you must contact the park at least 10 days ahead of time and receive the proper clearance. Helicopters regularly fly through the park so this is a safety concern. Here is the drone permit.
  • Arrive as early as possible. The best time of day is the start of civil twilight when you can see light on the horizon but not the sun. If you arrive at this time, you can choose your photography spot before others turn up. Enjoy the stunning deep blue hues before sunrise.
  • Continually adjust your shutter speed. Aim for a shutter speed between 0.6 to 2.0 seconds when shooting the waterfalls at Letchworth. Try each interval and look through your viewfinder on playback to see which setting you prefer.
  • Be patient – As the days goes on, the park will become increasingly busier. Start with the major photography locations first and then hit some of the lesser known areas later in the day.

READ: Gift guide for photographers

What To Do Nearby

Woman sitting on large wooden chair near the Mount Morris Dam
Kristen sitting on the famous big wooden chair (sadly no longer allowed)

If you’re visiting Letchworth as part of a larger upstate New York road trip, there are many things you can do in the area.

Here are the best things to do in the region:

Here are museums and wine trails near the park:

The Morgan Conclusion

Woman walking up the path to the stone house at Letchworth State Park
Kristen walking up to the Stone House

Letchworth State Park is a hidden gem in the New York Finger Lakes region. It showcases many outdoor activities including hiking, waterfalls, bird watching, photography and various winter sports like cross country skiing.

But is Letchworth State Park worth visiting?

Yes, we think Letchworth is worth it because it’s a stunning state park offering something for the entire family. The three waterfalls are a major highlight and the easiest way to see them is to drive to the Glen Iris Inn and park in the nearby Middle Falls parking lot. From Middle Falls, you can follow the Gorge Trail left for 1.5 miles to Lower Falls or take the Gorge Trail right about 0.5 miles right to Upper Falls.

Technically, you can visit Letchworth in two to three hours, but this wouldn’t do the park justice. We think first time visitors should plan to spend at least half a day in the park. The Portageville and Castile entrances in the southwest are the best entrances because you’ll have immediate access to popular attractions.

Our Letchworth Photos

We love spending time at this park and always take many photos. Here are some of our favorites so you know exactly what to expect:

Brown trail sign pointing down to Lower Falls
Sign pointing down to the Lower Falls Trail
Hiking trails at letchworth state park in new york with bridge and beautiful fall colors on the ground
Footbridge covered in bright red leaves
Trailhead for hike #2 the Mary Jemison Trail
Trailhead for the Mary Jemison hike
Exterior view of the Letchworth Visitor Center
Main visitor center during the spring
Woman playing a musical instrument along the Autism Nature Trail
Kristen playing a musical instrument along the Autism Nature Trail
Fall foliage surrounding the Mount Morris Dam
Mount Morris Dam surrounded by fall foliage
View of the towering walls gorge
The towering walls of the Letchworth gorge
Exterior view of the William Pryor Letchworth Museum
Exterior view of the William Pryor Letchworth Museum
Small waterfall at Letchworth State Park with fall leaves
A small waterfall located off one of the hiking trails
Exterior view of Harvey Swimming Pool
Harvey Swimming Pool closed for the season
A bird flying high over the Letchworth gorge in spring
Beautiful bird soaring high above the gorge
Waterfall in New York lit up at night with purple and blue sky
Middle Falls lit up at night
View of Letchworth gorge during the fall season
Trees just starting to turn color during the fall season
A railroad bridge next to an ornate stone staircase
The stunning Genesee Arch Bridge above Upper Falls
Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park
Exterior view of the Humphrey Nature Center
Genesee River view with bright fall colors
Genesee River running through Letchworth State Park
Empty hiking trail with leaves on the ground
Peaceful hiking trail with leaves scattered on the ground
Stone bridge and cascading waterfall at Wolf Creek
Small cascading waterfall at Wolf Creek
Two historic cabins at Letchworth State Park at the council grounds
Two historic cabins at the Council Grounds
Best time to visit new york is fall for colorful foliage river running through gorge
Genesee River view from a scenic overlook

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We hope our guide featuring best things to do at Letchworth State Park helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting this park or upstate New York in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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Holly

Saturday 17th of June 2023

Looking forward to heading there in a week and this is fantastic information, the best we've seen out there! One question - we are interested not in going up in a hot air balloon but taking photos of them above the gorge. Is there a time and place you'd recommend for that, or does it depend?

Thanks again!

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Sunday 18th of June 2023

Hi Holly, thanks so much for reading our guide... Unless you area heading to Letchworth for the Balloon Festival (which takes place at the end of May), it can be really hit or miss when it comes to seeing hot air balloons in the park. You could call Balloons over Letchworth to see if they have any scheduled launches (typically morning or evening) and try to time it with your visit to the park. Best of luck and have a wonderful trip!

Lisa

Monday 10th of April 2023

Hi, First thank you for your explicit detail on how to navigate Letchworth. I just spent two days exploring the park. Everything worked out just as you mentioned in your guide! It was spectacular! Definitely going back in the Fall.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Monday 17th of April 2023

We are happy to hear you enjoyed your visit to Letchworth, Lisa! Fall is our favorite time of year in Letchworth, the colors are stunning and temperatures are perfect for hiking. Have a fantastic return trip!

Selena

Saturday 25th of March 2023

Exactly what I was looking for so we could have a fun visit to this park when we go see our RIT kid for Easter weekend! Thank you for your hard work and detail. It will save us so much time.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

Thank you so much for your comment Selena and we hope you have the best time in Letchworth! P.S. Kristen also graduated from RIT so we hope your kid is enjoying their time in the Rochester area.

zet

Tuesday 28th of February 2023

good articl

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Tuesday 28th of February 2023

Thanks, Zet!

Kristen

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

Thank you for all this information. We are going next week to Letchworth State Park for the first time and didnt know where to start with planning out what we wanted to do while there. This was so helpful! Great photos as well.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Friday 7th of October 2022

We're more than happy to help, Kristen! Thanks for letting us know. We'll be heading back to Letchworth ourselves in the next few days to enjoy the park at its colorful best. Have a great trip!