Letchworth Elder of Genesee Falls cover

Explore Letchworth State Park

Award-winning Letchworth State Park, a little over one hour south of Rochester, covers more than 14,000 acres along the Genesee River in Livingston and Wyoming Counties.

Rochester author Arch Merrill captures my feelings about Letchworth so beautifully in his 1943 book entitled A River Ramble: Saga of the Genesee Valley, that through Letchworth, “nature touches the river with a magic wand and like Cinderella, it throws off its drab, workaday garb and dons robes of splendor. The commonplace stream becomes spectacular, magnificent.”

Whenever anyone asks about my favorite places, Letchworth is always my first response. Letchworth State Park offers a variety of activities, including hiking on any of the park’s twenty-nine trails, hot-air balloon rides, whitewater rafting on the Genesee River, dining at the historic Glen Iris Inn, picnicking beside a waterfall, and taking a scenic drive through the park. Whatever your interests may be, Letchworth has something for you to enjoy.

There are several entrances to the park from the north, south, and west, and it takes about thirty minutes to drive the length of Park Road, which stretches for 18 miles between Mount Morris and Portageville. And what a lovely drive it is! Take a moment at the scenic overlooks along the way for breathtaking views of the park. Cell service within the park may be limited. You can download trail and park maps from the park website before your trip.

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Letchworth compared with Manhattan

Fun fact: Letchworth State Park is about the same size and shape as the island of Manhattan, but while 1.63 million people live on the island’s 14,478 acres, only 870,000 people visited the park’s 14,427 acres throughout 2022. The Genesee River is our Broadway. No neon lights or celebrities here! Only the Milky Way with one hundred thousand million stars.

Plan Your Day Trip to Letchworth

Brian's USA Diner
Brian’s USA Diner

Breakfast

Brian’s USA Diner in Mount Morris is a great place to stop for breakfast before visiting the park. You can also make reservations at the Glen Iris Inn, which is open for limited hours for meals throughout the day. If you need an iced coffee or hot tea to kickstart your adventure, stop into Butter Meat Co. in Perry. With everything from brisket and BLTs to soft serve and steamers, it’s also a fantastic stop on the way to or from Letchworth.

Morning

Use the park’s Castile entrance as the most direct route to the south end’s major attractions.

Letchworth Trail 1 Following Park Rd
Trail 1

Trail 1 is a seven-mile pathway that follows Park Road and the Genesee River, connecting multiple scenic overlooks and waterfalls. You can begin at any point to enjoy views that are only observable on foot. Some sections are paved or flat, while others require navigating stone steps and tree roots.

There are sixty-six miles of trails through Letchworth.

Letchworth State Park train bridge spanning Upper Falls
Upper Falls
Upper Falls
Upper Falls lot
letchworth state park
After heavy rains
train trestle
train trestle

Upper Falls can be easily seen from the bottom parking lot by walking on a short, paved trail or from your car. There is also a parking lot near the train bridge above the falls. A set of stone steps connects the upper and lower lots.

Letchworth Elder of Genesee Falls
Elder of Genesee Falls
Date Night in Rochester: Letchworth State Park waterfalls
middle falls
Letchworth middle falls
middle falls
sunrise over Letchworth Middle Falls
sunrise over middle falls

Middle Falls is viewable from the landing at the Glen Iris Inn. You can also walk or drive to the lower lots to walk alongside the Genesee River.

If the water flow level is just right, you’ll be able to see the Elder of Genesee Falls. The profile of a face appears when the flow is light. To see it, walk along the pathway and stand near the end, right about here, for the best perspective.

William Pryor Letchworth Museum
Letchworth Museum

Across from the Glen Iris, visit the William Pryor Letchworth Museum to learn about the man who helped preserve this land. Follow the stone steps behind the museum or drive up the road to the Council Grounds to learn about the Seneca people who inhabited the land before European colonization.

Mary Jemison
Mary Jemison
Letchworth council grounds fall
Council Grounds
Letchworth Council Grounds
Council Grounds

The Council Fire was held on October 1, 1872. After the speeches and the rededication of the Council House, the Senecas held another ceremony, adopting Letchworth as Hai-wa-ye-is-tah—the Man who always Does Right. Before they left, the Iroquois and other guests, which included former President Millard Fillmore, planted memorial trees and signed their names in a special guest register.

Glimpses of the Past People, Places, and Things in Letchworth Park History

Here, you can also learn about Mary Jemison, the White Woman of the Genesee, who was kidnapped as a teenager by the Seneca and chose to stay with them, serving as an interpreter and advocating for their rights to the land.

After the war, the Seneca, as allies of the defeated British, were forced to give up their lands to the victorious United States. During negotiations with the Holland Land Company held at Geneseo, New York, Mary Jemison proved to be an able negotiator for the Seneca tribe. She helped win more favorable terms for surrendering their rights to the land at the Treaty of Big Tree (1797).

Wikipedia
Carolines Courtyard Glen Iris Inn Letchworth
Caroline’s Courtyard
Glen Iris Inn
Glen Iris
Glen Iris Inn breakfast
Glen Iris Inn
perfect picnic spots cover letchworth
Tea Table Overlook

Lunch

One option is to pack a picnic to enjoy anywhere in the park. Another option is to make reservations at the historic Glen Iris Inn, William Pryor Letchworth’s country estate. The inn is open from mid-April to October.

Letchworth Ice Volcano
ice volcano

While the Inn closes for winter, the spring-fed fountain outside flows year-round. An ice volcano begins to form when winter’s temperatures stay below freezing for a few days. If it remains frigid for weeks, the sculpture becomes massive and quite the spectacle.

But don’t let the cold stop you—you can see the ice volcano easily from your car. The Castile entrance is the only one open year-round.

Letchworth State Park Humphrey Nature Center
Humphrey Nature Center
Humphrey Nature Center building
Humphrey Nature Center
Tapped Maple Trees Letchworth
maple trees

Afternoon

Spend some time at the Humphrey Nature Center and walk along the Autism Nature Trail. The Nature Center is the hub of year-round activities, including guided hikes, maple sugaring, and star gazing.

Autism Nature Trail entrance
Autism Nature Trail entrance
Autism Nature Trail winter
log rounds
Autism Nature Trail path
stone dust path
autism nature trail music circle
music circle
Autism Nature Trail instruments
music circle
Letchworth October Autism Nature Trail
cuddle cocoons
Autism Nature Trail swing
swing
autism nature trail meadow
meadow
autism nature trail winter meadow
meadow
Autism Nature Trail walking cover
Autism Nature Trail

The ANT’s one-mile flat, stone dust pathway, lined with carefully designed activity stations and alone zones, is an excellent way to experience the calming effects of connecting with nature.

Designed specifically for those with ASD, all visitors are welcome to enjoy a leisurely walk along the ANT.

Watch the TEDxBuffalo talk on how this one-of-a-kind trail came to be and that “when we begin with the end in mind in providing opportunities for a group of under-served individuals, everybody wins.”

Lower Falls stone foot bridge
Lower Falls stone footbridge
Letchworth-State-Park-lower-water-fall
lower falls
Letchworth-State-Park-lower-falls-area
lower falls
lower falls gorge Letchworth
lower falls gorge

Then, drive to the Lower Falls, the most difficult to reach of Letchworth’s three major waterfalls. To see them up close, walk down 127 steps. Then, walk down 30 more steps to find the stone footbridge spanning the Genesee River. After viewing the falls, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Letchworth State Park Wolf Creek bridge
Wolf Creek bridge
Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek fall
Letchworth Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek

Continue driving north on Park Road to find Wolf Creek as it plunges into the gorge. Although it may be difficult to see the waterfall in the relaxing area, you will hear it.

Letchworth October overlook
Tea Table Overlook

While you’ve most assuredly stopped at every overlook you’ve come across, make time to appreciate Tea Table Overlook. Every scenic view into the Genesee River gorge is unique.

Letchowrth pool
Harvey Pool
Pool Letchworth
pool building
letchworth pool
changing facilities
Letchworth Mount Morris Dam
Mount Morris Dam

Continue driving toward the Mount Morris exit to enjoy a refreshing swim in Letchworth State Park’s Harvey Pool and the Mount Morris Dam Overlook view.

Alternatively, exit the park in Castile after visiting Wolf Creek and head to Perry.

Mount Morris Dam interpretive sign
Visitor Center

To find the Mount Morris Dam Visitor Center, leave the park and drive through the village of Mount Morris. There, you can learn about the dam’s history and take a ranger-led walking tour. Keep in mind that the road leading to the top of the dam is steep and descends one hundred feet into the gorge.

Zeppo’s Ice Cream Parlor
Zeppo’s Ice Cream Parlor flight

Dinner

Find a tasty meal in Mount Morris at The Borikén Restaurant, Questa Lasagna, or High Banks Tavern, followed by hand-crafted ice cream at Zeppo’s Creekside Creamery. In Perry, spend time at the Charcoal Corral playing arcade games and miniature golf, eating pizza and ice cream, and enjoying a double feature at the Silver Lake Twin Drive-In movie theater. Alternatively, you can sit down to delicious homestyle cooking at John & Sarah’s.

Letchworth in Wintertime

Letchworth upper falls winter cover
upper falls
Letchworth winter middle falls
middle falls
Humphrey Nature Center winter trail
nature center
letchworth winter walk middle falls cover
middle falls
Letchworth-Glen-Iris-Inn-winter-1
Glen Iris Inn
Letchworth Ice Volcano
ice volcano
icy upper falls winter letchworth
upper falls
icy middle falls winter letchworth
middle falls
letchworth i love you winter
I Love You, Letchworth

The Castile entrance to Letchworth State Park is usually open all year, but it may be closed in extreme weather. You should check the park’s website before you go. North of Castile, the park is ideal for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The Humphrey Nature Center is open year-round and has a restroom, Wi-Fi, and warmth. Though the Glen Iris Inn is closed, you can still check out the ice volcano that forms in the fountain after several days of freezing temperatures.

Plan a First Day walk at Letchworth on New Year’s Day.

More Information for Your Letchworth Day Trip

Hint, borrow an Empire Pass from a Monroe County Library before you leave Rochester for free entry into the park.

hot air balloon launch
balloon launch
balloon launch upper falls park
upper falls field
Hot air Balloons over Letchworth
Balloons Over Letchworth
Photographing balloon launch
Balloon over middle falls

Hot Air Balloon Flights

Balloons Over Letchworth, operated by Liberty Balloon Company, offers hot-air balloon rides throughout the Memorial Day weekend. Approximately 20 to 30 balloon pilots from around the country come to the event to launch their balloons over the gorge. Stop by to witness one of five launches scheduled for 2023 on Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday, and Sunday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

A Note About Balloon Launches: Balloons over Letchworth typically offer morning and evening flights from late May to mid-November. However, they may cancel flights if wind speeds exceed eight miles per hour. You can confirm a launch by calling their hotline at (585) 493-3340. Pilots typically make a go/no-go decision two to three hours before the launch. Cell service within the park may be limited, so you may need to drive to the Upper Falls field to check the launch status. Even if you don’t plan to ride in a balloon, it is lovely to see them launch just before sunrise and sunset. The exact launch times may vary slightly depending on the season.

This page contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

The Letchworth State Park Atlas: Exploring Its Nature, History, and Tourism through Maps
by Stephen J. Tulowiecki

Library | Bookshop | Amazon

Letchworth State Park
by Thomas A. Breslin, Thomas C. Richens, Thomas S. Cook, and Russell A. Judkins

Library | Bookshop | Amazon

Hiking Waterfalls in New York: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes
by Randi Minetor

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200 Waterfalls in Central and Western New York – A Finders’ Guide
by Rich and Sue Freeman

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Waterfalls and Gorges of the Finger Lakes
by Derek Doeffinger

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Waterfalls of New York State
by Scott A. Ensminger, David J. Schryver, and Edward M. Smathers

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New York Waterfalls: A Guide for Hikers & Photographers
by Scott E. Brown

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W is for Waterfall: An Alphabet of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State
by Aileen Easterbrook and Johanna van der Sterre

Library | Bookshop | Amazon

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

Contrary to popular belief, the Genesee River is not one of the few rivers flowing north globally. At least five rivers in New York State alone flow north: Genesee, Niagara, Black, and Oswego, which drain into Lake Ontario and La Chute, connecting Lake George to Lake Champlain, ultimately draining into the St Lawrence.

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What do you enjoy most about a day trip to Letchworth?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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