Letchworth State Park | 8 Things to do


“To us leaf peepers who get excited every year during fall, our visit to Letchworth State Park wasn’t just a coincidence. As we watched the 110-drop waterfall crash into the Genesee River Gorge leaving behind rich mist sprinkles in the air, the lush patches of fall foliage on the Archery Field Overlook, the convenience the park had laid out to everyone we were convinced that we made the right choice.”

Voted as #1 state park in the US and also known as Grand Canyon of the East, I felt that many may not have heard or known of Letchworth State Park, thanks to its big brother Niagara Falls (1.5 hours) in the vicinity. But boy, how wrong I was! The parking lot at the Middle and Upper Falls was almost full by the afternoon and visitors were in thousands.

We had gone on the weekend of 19-20 Oct. The drive from Newark, New Jersey is about 5 hours. We also stopped at Walmart Corning to stock up our road trip food. If you ask me whether the fall foliage was at its peak on the weekend that we had gone, I would say, our road trip to Letchworth State Park had plethora of places en route where we could view the peak fall foliage.

However, the foliage at Letchworth left me confused. There was enough white frost on the lush green grass to make it a perfect scenery especially in the morning however as the day cleared, the fall seemed mid peak. At places we felt that it was yet to come. At some others we felt that due to frost, the leaves were already shedding. I am writing this because, perhaps you can still take your chance this weekend to go and view it. If you are lucky enough, you might see fall at its peak (the colors look better on Fall Foliage on IloveNY) for this weekend. Going by the foliage map, this weekend seems to be a better viewing weekend in the region.

Fact: There is hardly any cellular network inside the state park but there are phones in the park.

Why we went there?

Prior to our visit, we had seen some amazing Instagram pictures online of the waterfall with the sight of Hot air balloon over the waterfall and lush fall foliage surrounding it, and we were inspired. Turns out those pictures were from the famous inspiration point in the park. “How could we miss such a beautiful place?” we thought to ourselves.

Whether you are a novice hiker or a laidback driver this park is all about choices you are given on the table. Do you wish to hike the Middle and Upper Falls? If yes, then take the rimmed trail. The trail is easy and more like an evening walk. If you still do not wish to hike, you do have an option to park nearest to the waterfall. The lower falls also gives you options – whether to take the easy trail route and a normal trail route that has steps. This park is all about choices, and each choice makes it so easy to see the prime spots in the park.

If you are hungry, there are eateries in the park including the Glen Iris Inn formally a country estate of William Letchworth overlooking Middle Falls that serves good food.

5 Things to do in Letchworth State Park

  1. Visit the Visitor Center first: There are 5 entrances to the park - Mount Morris, Perry, Castile, Portageville, and the Parade Grounds. There is vehicle use fee of $10 per car. Your first visit in the park should be Visitor Center. The Visitor Center rangers give you adequate information and maps on where to go and what to see in your timeframe. If you want to save some time, and have just half a day, enter through Portageville entrance at the SW end of the park.
  2. Visit the Middle and Upper Falls region: There are various vantage points from an easy paved road. You can drive from one fall to the next or walk on the trail. The view of Upper Fall with the bridge has the most photogenic view, whereas the Middle Falls looks wider and closer from the trail. You need to hike on a few stairs at the Upper Fall trail if you are on the trail.

    If you are hungry eat at Glen Iris Inn, we had French Onion soup and it was great!

  3. Visit the various vista points including the popular Inspiration point & Archery Field Overlook: The Archery Field Overlook is a wide overlook that gives us a wide view of the Canyons and the Genesee River flowing down below. 

    The Tea Table overlook provides visitors with a beautiful view of the valley and in the distance Wolf Creek Cascade. There are many overlooks on the road as you drive. Another popular spot is the Great Bend just north of Archery Field Overlook. The best place to photograph sunrise would be Archery Field Overlook and the best place to photograph sunset would be inspiration point

  4. Visit the Lower Falls: There are two hikes in the lower falls region (the easy route - i.e. the route with the view from the top) and 127 steps to the bottom of the falls. We did both. One thing to note about lower falls is though, that during our visit last weekend, the stone bridge was closed, and after a few steps hike from the 127 steps, we witnessed marshy wet mud land. The view was great of the Lower Falls but the hike after the steps necessarily isn’t.

  5. Visit the Mount Morris Dam: We had entered through Mount Morris. In fact, our first stop while entering in the area was of the sunrise over Genesee River. We also got to see the view of the Dam. The Mount Morris Dam area also has the Giant Chair made mostly from cedar limbs, the chair is 9 ½ feet tall and about 4 ½ feet wide and deep. There are free guiding tours of the Dam that runs from April to Oct (Monday to Thursday - 2pm, Friday to Sunday - 11am and 2pm)

3 More Things to Do Near Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park is a boon for outdoor enthusiasts and the places around it has plenty to enjoy as well. Here are some of the recommendations that I read about from the Visitor Center Guidebook:

  1. Hot Air Ballooning over Letchworth: Soar over Letchworth State Park in a hot air balloon and be awe-stuck as you pass over the 600-foot rock wall up of the Genesee River Gorge and the Middle Falls. Letchworth State Park also hosts Red, White and Blue Balloon Rally on the Memorial Day weekend.
  2. Whitewater rafting over Genesee River: Tame the 5.5 miles of whitewater in the Genesee River as you raft through the Grand Canyon of the east with Adventure Calls Outfitters.
  3. The Arcade and Attica Railroad: The Arcade and Attica railroad is one of the only steam locomotive excursion trains in New York and it's an enjoyable 2-hour ride. This weekend they are also having Ale and Cider Tasters Special Train Ride (5pm) and next weekend they are having Haunted Halloween Train Rides (11 am and 2pm).

You can also enjoy drive in movie at Charcoal Corral & Silver Lake Twin, Rodeo at Attica Rodeo, Up close with exotic animals at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, Wyoming County Barn Quilt Trail ( a growing moment and the county is home to over 100 handprinted wooden quilt blocks), Letchworth Arts and Crafts Show in mid-October, AppleUmpkin Craft Festival,Agri Palooza (Spend the day on a working county farm in June),New York Maple Weekend’s (March) to name a few of the other things to do in the region.

We did not stay in Letchworth State Park. But you can. There are plenty of campsites (inside the state park and outside), cabins, motels and hotels in the area. We drove and stayed in Finger Lakes.


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