9 Best Things to do in Letchworth State Park

I visited this place for the first time in early September of this year and have to say, it was one of the shortest, but also one of the best adventures I’ve ever had. While there are many things to do in Letchworth State Park, I want to focus on 9 particular activities that will give you the best experience possible in my opinion.

Here are the 9 best things to do in Letchworth State Park New York:

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  1. Start by visiting the Genesse Arch Bridge.
  2. Then check out Upper falls.
  3. Check out the picnic area by upper falls.
  4. Explore Middle Falls.
  5. Check out Inspiration Point in Letchworth State Park.
  6. Stay at the Letchworth State Park hotel (Glen Iris Inn).
  7. Hike the main trail parallel to Upper and Middle Falls.
  8. Check out Mt. Morris Dam.
  9. Stay at Letchworth State Campgrounds.

This list of things to do at Letchworth State Park is organized in consecutive order.

5 reasons why Letchworth State Park unlike any other state park in NY:

1) The park is easy to navigate through and you can get the above activities (and more) done in order without getting lost.

2) This park is easy to hike through in most areas regardless of what physical level you’re at. You can also hike parallel to the main 2 waterfalls (Upper and Middle Falls).

3) If you just want to enjoy a day of relaxation, this park is absolutely perfect for that as there are fields and places to rest at (and enjoy the views).

4) I found this to be one of the most serene parks I’ve ever been to. Even at night, it was a remarkable place to behold.

5) This is also one of the most well taken care of state parks in New York I’ve ever seen. Everything is well organized and clean.

Letchworth State Park map (and where you’ll find the 9 things to do):

letchworth state park map screenshot 08

I’ll be showing you details on each of these 9 things shortly, but before I do, I want to share something with you which is:

Why my visit to Letchworth State Park was so short:

The “day” I went to Letchworth State Park was actually closer to dusk.

I had just finished doing a near full day of hiking and exploring at Finger Lakes, which ended up in about 13 miles of hiking through 3 different parks.

Though I was pretty tired, I promised myself that on this day, I would absolutely explore Letchworth State Park no matter how little time I had left, because for years I had been wanting to do just that, and this particular day was the only opportunity I would have to do that.

If you’re wondering why this was all done in a day, the answer is that on this day, the series of events I did were part of an even greater road trip I set out to complete, which actually had me traveling all the way to Minnesota’s North Shore coast, and also crossing other beautiful areas like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

There was only 1 day I had to explore Letchworth State Park as well as the Finger Lakes area and this was it.

And afterwards, I would have to make my way as far west as possible to save time on the next day’s trip, as I had to arrive in a certain city in Michigan by nightfall.

My first impressions of Letchworth State Park NY:

letchworth park new 02

I had finished my exploration of Finger Lakes around 5 p.m. and with the remaining daylight rushed to Letchworth. I arrived around 6:30 p.m with a little over an hour of daylight to spare.

To be honest, I was already floored by the beauty in Finger Lakes that I figured there was no way Letchworth could top it.

But this park had many amazing surprises in store for me which honestly made it the best stop for me on that day (and that’s something that’s hard to do).

I arrived at the southern end of the park and made my way around as many areas on the above list as I could. I was actually surprised at how few people I saw there, and the scenery in this was place was just stunning.

Even though I had only spent about 1-2 hours there, I felt like I got a buffet of satisfaction by finishing my day in this beautiful park and I will definitely be going back the next chance I get.

But until then, I will remain nostalgic about what I saw there, and that brings me to the 9 things I recommend you do if you go there:

1) Visit Genesse Arch Bridge:

Genesse Arch Bridge letchworth state park 05

If you arrive to Letchworth State Park from the southern end, this will be the first main stop you’ll see.

There’s a parking lot available right by the bridge.

You will get a nice overview of the park, the bridge itself (which is active) and the Genesse River.

You can then elect to hike down parallel to the river to get to the next stops in this park, or you can just take the car to the next destination, which is Upper Falls (only 5 minutes away).

I chose the latter due to time constraints.

2) Check out Upper Falls:

upper falls letchworth state park 04

Upper Falls is one of the 2 main waterfalls in Letchworth State Park and it is a gorgeous one!

Just so you know, getting to the base of the actual falls is difficult, dangerous and not allowed (even though it looks easy), but there are plenty of viewing areas nearby which will get you pretty close to it (that’s where I took the following picture from).

Specifically, there is a very large parking lot nearby that I stopped at to get the picture you see above.

You can also get a great view of the Genesse Arch Bridge from there as well.

3) Visit the picnic area by Upper Falls:

picnic tables at letchworth state park 02

I’m rarely the type of person who will sit in one place long and enjoy the view, serenity and all that, but the picnic area by Upper Falls really floored me.

It was nearly empty when I was there, but the neatness of the grass, the scenery, and the tranquil vibes in this area really made me appreciate this park even more.

What’s even cooler is that like I said, I had arrived to this park around dusk and there are several light posts that make this picnic area even more beautiful at night.

There wasn’t even a single bug there!

4) Check out Middle Falls:

letchworth state park waterfalls new 09

 

Middle Falls is the largest of the Letchworth State Park waterfalls you’ll find here and it is amazing.

After you check out the Upper Falls area, Middle Falls is further downriver and if you were impressed by Upper Falls, this one should be just as impressive if not more so (it’s actually much bigger too).

You can also get close to it, but there are limits to that as well.

Never the less, you can get some pretty nice views of this waterfall from multiple angles, at least 3 by my count, even though there’s probably more options available.

Not only that, but it is by a gigantic gorge area you can also enjoy checking out (and hiking deeper into if you wish).

To date, I’d say Middle Falls (and Upper Falls) are some of the largest waterfalls in New York State that I’ve ever seen and I personally think they are also some of the best ones in the state too.

There are other waterfalls in the park, but nothing comes close to Upper and Middle Falls.

5) Check out Inspiration Point:

inspiration point letchworth state park 04

Inspiration Point is slightly north of Middle Falls and from it you can get a pretty decent view of Middle and Upper Falls in Letchworth.

However, this view isn’t the iconic one you might see in other pictures and I was told there is a way to get a closer view of both waterfalls, which I didn’t have time to find.

In my case, I had to zoom my camera in to get the above shot.

Either way, Inspiration Point has more to offer than just the overlook to the waterfalls.

It also has a nice little pond nearby, a hiking trail to explore and a beautiful stone house in the parking lot, which I think is a bathroom, but either way, the scenery of the whole place is just stunning.

6) Stop at Glen Iris Inn (one of the best places to stay in Letchworth State Park):

places to stay letchworth state park new 03

 

I was told by someone at the park that the Glen Iris Inn is where I can get a closer view of the waterfalls and so I went to go check it out.

The Inn is a bit south of Inspiration Point, but only by a few minutes.

I didn’t get to check out the view I wanted and at best, I just got closer to Upper Falls than anything else (which isn’t anything to complain about).

But overall, the inn itself is a place I recommend you check out, if not to stay the night, then to eat and just enjoy the outdoor setting available there.

It’s very neat, clean and just a great place to stay at. Furthermore, the views and how close you are to the falls (and because it’s literally inside the park) makes this an awesome place to stay at.

Out of all the options of where to stay in Letchworth State Park (camping sites, hotels nearby and so forth), I’d say the Glen Iris Inn is the best place for that but its also very popular so if you’re serious about staying here, reserve a room as early as you can and I’m talking several weeks before you visit Letchworth State Park.

7) Explore the popular Letchworth State Park hiking trails:

letchworth state park hiking new 05

 

There’s a number of hikes and trails you can take inside Letchworth State Park. Here is a list of the most popular ones:

1) The Letchworth State Park Gorge Trail:

This trail is about 14 miles long (in and out) and basically has you start at the picnic area by Upper Falls and work your way north across the park.

You will basically be hiking at the top of the park at first (over the gorge) and parallel to the Genesse River (on the left side of it).

Then as you get further north into the trail, it will descend to the point where you can walk next to the river itself.

If you want to get as close as possible to the waterfalls in this park and then get a nice view of the river and little waterfalls further downstream, this is the trail I recommend you take.

2) Letchworth Finger Lakes Trail:

This is a nearly 20 mile long trail (in and out) that basically has you walk all across the eastern side of Letchworth State Park, from the Genesse Arch Bridge (point A) all the way to Morris Dam (Point B) which happens to be the next place I recommend you check out on this list.

8) See Mt. Morris Dam:

mt. morris dam letchworth state park 06

This area of Letchworth Park was one I didn’t have time to explore and to be honest, I had no clue this giant dam even existed until recently.

But this is a dam that you will find in the northern most part of the park and you can either hike and/or drive right up to it.

In my case, I saw the single road that goes into Letchworth State Park going in that direction, but figured it probably continued to some picnic and camping areas (and it’s true).

But as long as you stay on that single road and follow it, you will reach this dam and the ride should only take abou 10 minutes (if you start from Inspiration Point).

9) Letworth State Park camping (yes you can camp there):

letchworth state park camping 03

If camping is your thing, then the great news is that Letchworth State Park also has this available there. It’s called:

The Letchworth State Campground:

And it is located slightly south of Morris Dam and does require prior reservations.

I’ve included a link so you can choose what days work for you. This campground is also located very close to the Genesse River.

This park is very popular so make sure to plan ahead. Also do note that there are cabins available in the park as well, and they too sell out quickly.

What about other campgrounds near Letchworth State Park?

Yes there are others including:

  • Woodstream Campsite.
  • Letchworth Valley Campground and Resort.

These and more camping spots are available as are trails which take you closer to the river north of Upper Falls. Letchworth State Park has tons more to offer than what I just shared, but these 9 activities are very plentiful if you do them in a single day (or over a few days).

Frequently asked questions about Letchworth State Park:

Can you camp anywhere in Letchworth State Park?

No, there are a few designated spots on the south and north ends of the park. There are also campgrounds outside the park too.

What is the best part of Letchworth State Park?

Inspiration Point because you get to see both major waterfalls (Upper and Middle) in the park.

How much does it cost to camp at Letchworth State Park?

$25 a night. You would need a reservation first.

How many days do you need to spend at Letchworth State Park?

2-3 is enough. You can even do a one day trip there like I did.

A quick note about Letchworth State Park in the winter:

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I’ve been asked this question a number of times and there’s a few things you need to know:

  1. Yes the park is open then.
  2. Access to the park is free during winter.
  3. I would be very careful and check the road conditions beforehand.
  4. Hiking might be very difficult at the park when it’s icy or snowy.
  5. The views are still beautiful if you can make it to the main viewing areas.

4 things to do near Letchworth State Park:

1) East of Letchworth State Park (1 hour drive) is Finger Lakes and I highly recommend going there. Some of the waterfalls there are just as stunning. The best area to explore would be Watkins Glen State Park in my opinion.

2) For my next day’s road trip, I ended up visiting Cayuhoga Valley National Park, which is about 4 hours west of Letchworth State Park and after that, many more adventures.

3) South east of Letchworth is Allegheny National Forest which is a stunning area for hiking.

4) If you have the time, I highly recommend visiting Hocking Hills State Park (5 hours south east of Letchworth). The views there are completely different and it’s an extremely popular/scenic park to explore!

5) If you have a chance to visit Letchworth State Park in the fall, do it! It’s one of the best places to see fall foliage in New York.

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8 thoughts on “9 Best Things to do in Letchworth State Park”

  1. I’m going to share this post with my daughter and her husband. They love to visit parks like this and just got back from exploring Shenandoah National Park. Looks like there is plenty to see at Letchworth State Park and I especially love Inspiration Point. My daughter is big on photography and that looks like the sweet spot when it comes to taking breathtaking photos! Thanks for sharing your experience here.

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome Alicia! I’ve heard of Shedandoah National Park and I believe it’s part of the Blue Ridge Mountains area (also part of the Appalachian Mountains). I know your daughter will enjoy that place and I highly recommend she and her husband check out Finger Lakes east of that and if they have time and are headed west, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and/or Hocking Hills State Park.

      Reply
  2. What beautiful pictures you took of this state park.  It sounds like such fun to go hiking in this beautiful area.  At my current level of fitness I would probably have to travel by car and just walk a little bit around the stopping areas on the tour.

    I loved the pictures of the falls and I’m glad the park puts the dangerous areas off limits. Still, I would definitely want to take a camera. Most people don’t get to experience such beautiful nature settings.  

    The winters are probably very cold there. Is the park still open in the winter? How hot does it get in the summer?  What is the best time of year to visit?  I’m retired so I could plan a trip around factors other than vacation from work.

    Reply
    • Hi Lilly, there’s a lot of opportunity to explore this park without having to do much hiking and most of the areas surrounding the scenic spots here are built for tourists anyway. 

      Regarding WHEN to visit, honestly, I prefer Spring-Fall as the colors there are very nice during that time. And yes, it is open during the winter time too, but it does get very cold in that region (during night time as well regardless of the season).

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I might want to visit the park in the winter when traveling there to meet my cousin. Do you think it’s good to explore during the winter season? I really love the waterfall and dam panorama. My nephew loves to paint them, so he will be excited when I bring him to the park 🙂

    Reply
    • It’s amazing to me how many people ask me about visiting this place in the winter lol, but I’m pretty sure it’s fine to do it then. I prefer less snowy seasons personally, but keep in mind certain trails might be inaccessible (including the scenic drive) if there is some sort of snowstorm (it takes longer to clear these areas out during winter).

      Reply
  4. I have been pinning a few of your pictures onto my USA Pinterest board. Letchworth State Park looks amazing. 

    Although the falls and the gorge look the most beautiful, I also liked seeing your pictures of and hearing about the bridge and the dam.

    Now that I have a dog, I am getting out into nature more often, usually fairly close to home but am planning a few trips further away. This is inspiring me to do more!

    I am not the most physically fit person, so nice places that are not too arduous to walk around are definitely what I am looking for. And a nice place to eat at the end of the day would round it off nicely.

    All the best,

    Julia

    Reply
    • Hi Julia, you’ll certainly find that Letchworth State Park is ideal for you then. It’s very scenic and doesn’t require much hiking (but you can certainly find trails there if you wish). 

      Reply

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