Letchworth State Park winter waterfall cover

State Parks: Our Favorite 5 to Explore

Within a 2-hour drive of Rochester, there are 49 New York State Parks all worthy of exploration, but try our favorite five if you haven’t already!

As different as these parks are from one another they all have on thing in common—fresh, flowing water. Or frozen when you visit in winter.

ice volcano

1. Letchworth State Park


With 3 incredible waterfalls, a gorge trail that is 7 miles end-to-end, and a nature center, it’s no wonder why this is top on many national lists of places to see.

There are several scenic overlooks along the length of the park, and you can park your vehicle right next to them making the spectacular views very accessible.

You can glimpse 2 of the 3 major falls from a vehicle or overlook as well. And, Letchworth is the best state park for a fall-foliage drive!


Taughannock Falls winter hiking
Taughannock Falls

2. Taughannock Falls State Park


Taughannock’s cascade is higher than Niagara Falls, and highest this side of the Mississippi.

Unlike the other gorge parks, this is a flat walk making the falls accessible to travelers of all abilities, and is open year round. Also unlike the other gorges, you can swim in the creek.

Outside the park there is a breathtaking scenic overlook absolutely worth seeing for yourself.


Golden Hill New York State Parks

3. Golden Hill State Park


Even thought this is a website dedicated to day trips—meaning no need to sleep away from home—I consider bending the rules for this one particular park because you can rent a yurt!

There is a magnificent historic lighthouse, and the park is right on Lake Ontario between Niagara and Rochester meaning the sky at night is pretty dark.

It is a quiet park without major activities to distract you from watching the sunset, or taking a relaxed stroll high above the shoreline.


Niagara Falls Winter NY USA Horseshoe Falls

4. Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls

People travel across the world to witness the power of the Niagara River over the falls.

On the New York side, you can stand at the crest of Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and American Falls at Goat Island, Luna Island, and Prospect Park.

From the Cave of the Winds and the Crow’s Nest you can stand close enough to be soaked! It’s awe inspiring and refreshing at the same time.


Watkins Glen State Park lower entrance

5. Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen

People travel from far and wide to climb the 800+ steps through the 2-mile glen. Among all of our incredible gorge parks, Watkins Glen is the most spectacular, mainly because of its 520′ rise in elevation from the Main Entrance to the North Entrance, affording magnificent views from above.

You can walk behind cascades, and through the rock walls for a truly unique experience from May through roughly mid-Fall when the gorge trail closes for the winter.


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Which are your favorite state parks?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


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