Everything you need to know for visiting the gorgeous Letchworth State Park
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Letchworth State Park
Letchworth is, quite literally, magical (it is the best state park in the country).
No matter the season, no matter the crowds, no matter how many times you’ve been before, Letchworth is, and always will be, magical.
That being said, there are ways to make your visit more magical.
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About the Park
Letchworth State Park is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” I thought that was impressive, until I realized how many places call themselves the “Grand Canyon of somewhere.”
BUT, having been to Letchworth, I can tell you that it is impressive. And it certainly deserves the title.
How Big is Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth is a large park, encompassing more than 14,000 acres of land. The Genesee River flows for 17 miles through the park, and over the three main waterfalls near the southern entrance to the park:
Middle Falls-center point of the original park
The most popular area of the park is centered in the southern half, around these three major waterfalls. A camping area and swimming pool are located in the northern half of the park.
History of the Park
Before the colonists arrived here, the area was inhabited by the Seneca Nation, but they were forced out of their land after the Revolutionary War, allegedly for supporting the British during the war.
In 1858 businessman William Pryor Letchworth rode a train over the gorge and was so inspired by the view, he purchased 190 acres around the Middle Falls in the next year. He built his estate on the land, which is now the Glen Iris Inn.
Letchworth continued purchasing land through 1906 to protect the area from being industrialized and ruined. He then granted the land to NY State as a public park.
His niece wrote this dedication to him, which is displayed on a plaque near Inspiration Point:
“God wrought for us this scene beyond compare,
But one man’s loving hand protected it
And gave it to his fellow-men to share.”
Map of Letchworth State Park
Green: Park Entrances
Orange: Things to Do
Plan Your Visit
There are 6 entrances to Letchworth State Park.
Portageville entrance-This entrance takes you to the Middle Falls parking lot and the Balloons Over Letchworth meeting area. It is a good entrance for the Glen Iris Inn, Inspiration Point, and the main attractions of Letchworth State Park. It is often closed in the winter, in which case you can just head up to the Castile entrance instead.
Castile entrance-This entrance comes in at the Archery Field Overlook, and is close to the visitor center, the Humphrey Nature Center, and Inspiration Point. This is also a good entrance for Letchworth’s main attractions.
Parade Grounds entrance-This entrance is very close to the Portageville entrance, but on the other side of the river. There is a picnic area and access to the 24 mile Finger Lakes Trail. This entrance is closed in the winter.
Perry entrance-This entrance is on the northern half of Letchworth State Park. It is close to the Maplewood Lodge and the campsites.
Mt. Morris entrance-This entrance is on the far northern edge of the park. It is close to the Mt. Morris Dam overlook point, and the park swimming pool.
Mt. Morris Dam Area entrance-Just down the road from the Mt. Morris entrance, but on the eastern side of the river, this entrance is close to the William B. Hoyt II Visitor Center and the Finger Lakes Trail.
Where to Park
There are an ample number of parking lots around Letchworth. A good place to park is the Middle Falls parking lot, at Inspiration Point, or at the visitor center.
In the busy season, especially on weekends in the summer and fall, parking lots might be over-flowing. You can also park along the side of the road during these times.
The park is open all year long, from 6 am-11 pm.
There is a $10 entrance fee to enter the park in season. In season means: between 9 am-6 pm in May-October. You can pay the entrance fee with either cash or credit card.
If you enter the park before 9 am (for instance, if you decided to wake up early for sunrise!), you will not have to pay the entrance fee (the perks of being an early bird).
There are no trashcans in the park.
Letchworth State Park is a carry-in carry-out park. That means there are no trash cans in the park. You have to carry out whatever trash (like from a picnic) that you brought in with you.
There is no cell service.
It is very hard to get reception in Letchworth, so you likely won’t be able to use your phone while in the park. There are several pay phones available.
Drones are allowed, by permit only.
Call the park visitor center for more information on obtaining a permit, and where drones are allowed.
There are plenty of bathrooms around (Note: Some of the bathrooms are closed during the off season. If the nearest bathroom is closed, just try another one).
Here are some places you can find bathrooms in the park:
The Visitor Center
The Middle Falls parking lot
The Lower Falls recreation area
St. Helena picnic area
Swimming pool area
William B. Hoyt II Visitor Center
There are 30 hiking trails covering over 66 miles in Letchworth State Park! These trails range from easy to moderate, so they are good for people of all skill levels.
Here are some of the most popular trails:
Gorge Trail-This is one of the most popular trails, and one of the best, in my opinion. The 7 mile trail passes all of the best parts of Letchworth State Park. You can pick it up anywhere along the way.
The Finger Lakes Trail-This 24 mile trail runs the whole length of Letchworth State Park, from top to bottom, yet it is only a portion of the more than 1,000 miles of the Finger Lakes Trail system. It runs along the eastern side of the Genesee River.
There are plenty of other hiking trails to choose from throughout the 14,000 acre park, most of which are under 3 miles. Here is a guide to the 6 best hiking trails in Letchworth State Park.
Things to Do
There are so many things to do in Letchworth State Park, besides just walking the trails and enjoying the stunning scenery, which itself is worth the visit.
Canoeing/kayaking-Call the park office to acquire a permit for this.
Humphrey Nature Center-open all year, Thur-Mon,10 am-5 pm.
Autism Nature Trail-(at the Humphrey Nature Center) A great place to bring kids! Some exhibits are up year-round, fully opens in mid/late spring.
William Pryor Letchworth Museum-open May-Oct. near the Glen Iris Inn.
Guided walks are offered throughout the year. Check the upcoming events tab for times.
Cross country skiing in the winter.
Balloons Over Letchworth-an early morning or late afternoon hot air balloon ride over the gorge.
When to Go
Please, please, whatever you do, don’t visit on a weekend in October.
But also, please, please visit in October!
October is definitely the best time to visit Letchworth State Park. The leaves are absolutely stunning. That being said, it’s also the most popular time to visit Letchworth. The weekends in October are CROWDED!
I will say, that even with the crowds, Letchworth is magical. So if the only time you can come visit is a weekend in October, do it anyway.
Really anytime of year is good to visit Letchworth. It is absolutely breathtaking, no matter the season.
Winter is calm and serene. You will only pass a few people as you explore, which means you can stand on the edge of the canyon in complete silence, overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of it. It truly is an experience.
Early spring will be much like winter, though with (usually) less snow. Late spring the crowds will start to pick up, but it won’t be overcrowded, making this an excellent time to come.
In the peak of summer and fall is when you will get the most crowds, but if you come on a weekday, you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding them.
The Letchworth Arts & Crafts Show- This annual festival takes place over Columbus Day weekend in the nearby town of Perry. So if you are going to come on a weekend in October, please, please, please DO NOT come this weekend!
I mean, unless you’re coming specifically for the arts and crafts show, then do come this weekend. But if not, AVOID THIS WEEKEND AT ALL COSTS, as it will be the most crowded ever.
Where to Eat in the Park
Can you eat in Letchworth State Park?
Yes, there are plenty of picnic tables in Letchworth, so feel free to pack a picnic! Just remember that there are no trash cans, so whatever you bring in, you have to bring out again.
Here are some picnic spots:
Upper Falls parking lot
Lower Falls recreation area
Trailside Lodge by the Humphrey Nature Center
St. Helena picnic area (there are several picnic areas near here)
Mt. Morris Dam & recreation area
On the campsites
Do they sell food in Letchworth State Park?
Yes, during the season, there are places you can buy food in Letchworth.
There are a few concession stands throughout the park, offering things like chicken fingers and french fries. Be aware that these have limited offerings and are very expensive! There are also some small coffee shops in the visitor centers.
Concessions are available at these places throughout the park:
Upper Falls Snack Bar-between the Middle and Upper Falls
Lower Falls Restaurant & Lounge-by the Lower Falls
Letchworth Gift Shop-located in the visitor center
Dam Overlook Cafe & Gifts-at the Mt. Morris Dam overlook area
Highbanks Pool Snack Bar-by the pool in the Highbanks campground
Highbanks Camp Store-in the center of the Highbanks campground
There is also a restaurant at the Glen Iris Inn near the Middle Falls. The restaurant, Caroline’s, is pretty expensive, but they have good food and good views, so it could be worth a splurge.
Where to Eat Nearby
There really isn’t much close to Letchworth… but here are a few options in the small towns nearby:
3 Bums Pizza
(in Houghton, 15 min. from the Portageville entrance)
There is absolutely nothing fancy about 3 Bums Pizza in Houghton, NY. The stark white walls make no difference, however, when you have a hankering for hot cheesy goodness. You will find delicious pizza and subs here, just down the street from Houghton University. Eat in or take out.
Ace’s Country Cupboard
(in Belfast, 30 min. from the Portageville entrance)
Ace’s Country Cupboard is a good old-fashioned country restaurant. Nothing fancy, but good, classic comfort food. It’s a bit of a ways from Letchworth, but if you are staying in Houghton at the Inn, then it’s just 15 minutes from there (which is as close as anything you’ll find to Houghton).
(in Portageville, 2 min. from Portageville entrance)
Letchworth Pines has pizza, burgers, and daily specials including Mexican Mondays and Fish Fry Fridays. They even have live music, an arcade, and bowling.
(Just outside the Mt. Morris entrance)
Located at the far northern end of Letchworth State Park, Mt. Morris is a small town of about 4,500—the largest population you’ll find this close to the park. There are a lot of local restaurants to eat at in downtown Mt. Morris. Here are a few:
Where to Stay
The Glen Iris Inn
The beautiful Glen Iris Inn is right in the heart of Letchworth State Park. It is open seasonally, from May-October. They also have several guest houses you can rent and a second lodge.
The Inn at Houghton Creek
Just 15 min. from the park in Houghton, NY, the Inn at Houghton Creek is clean, comfortable, and very affordable. It is situated just outside the entrance to Houghton University. The inn is open all year long.
Letchworth Farm Guesthouses
Less than ten minutes from the park, Letchworth Farm Guesthouses has two cozy cabins to rent. They also have a horse farm and offer horseback riding excursions around the area, so even if you aren’t staying here, be sure to check out their horseback riding experiences.
The Genesee Falls Inn
The Genesee Falls Inn is a Victorian style bed & breakfast that is open seasonally. It is right on the edge of Letchworth State Park.
Country Inn & Suites
At the far side of the park, you can stay at the Country Inn & Suites in Mt. Morris. This hotel is located just outside of the Mt. Morris entrance.
Camping in Letchworth
You can camp in Letchworth State Park from May through October. Some areas close in September, and some are open through November, so check the website for specific dates. You can rent a cabin, or a campsite for a tent or RV.
Road Trips from Letchworth
Letchworth State Park is right in the middle of a lot of great locations! As such, it is easy to pretty much get anywhere in western NY in less than 2 hrs. from one of Letchworth’s entrances.
These are all good places to day trip to Letchworth from, or to visit in conjunction with Letchworth on a road trip through western New York:
Buffalo is just over an hour from both the Mt. Morris entrance and the Perry entrance. Here are some great things to do in Buffalo:
Jamestown is about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from the Portageville entrance. Here are some great things to do in Jamestown:
Corning is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Letchworth. Here are some great things to do in/near Corning:
The Finger Lakes
The beautiful Finger Lakes (FLX) region starts just to the east of Letchworth State Park. Geneva, the heart of the Finger Lakes, is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Mt. Morris entrance. Here are some things to do in the FLX:
Visit a winery
Rent a boat on (one of) the lake(s)
The FLX Sweet Treat Trail
Waterfall chasing in Ithaca
Rochester is less than an hour from the Mt. Morris entrance. Here are some great things to do in Rochester:
Any more questions?
If you have any more questions about visiting Letchworth State Park that aren’t answered here, don’t hesitate to email me.
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