Affectionately known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Letchworth State Park is an awesome sight where visitors can gaze upon the powerful Genesee River as it roars through the gorge and between cliffs. These waters come rushing down three different waterfalls surrounded by lush, picturesque forests. Located just outside of Rochester, this 14,000-acre park spans across both Livingston and Wyoming counties.
Many visitors come from all over the world to see Letchworth’s famed waterfalls. However, that's not all that there is to see and do here. Other activities in Letchworth State Park include horseback riding, white water rafting, ballooning, and educational programs at the Humphrey Nature Center. Summer months bring hikers, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts, while colder months give way to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. There are over 66 miles of trails to choose from and a rich history to explore.
The Letchworth State Park Campground features 257 campsites for RV and tent camping. The grounds can accommodate trailers up to 50 feet in length and offer electrical hookups. Other amenities included here are flush toilets and a dump station for RVs. A pool, playground, and picnic areas make this campground an extremely family-friendly spot to camp.
The park has six entrances to choose from, but guests will want to make the choice wisely. Once in the park, there is no way to cross back over the river. All amenities, including the main road of the park, are found on the west side of the river, while the east side hosts a number of trails and a few campgrounds. Most of the east side is largely wild and undeveloped land and is closed during winter months, but during the rest of the year, it boasts views of the falls as well as the gorge. Besides these scenic routes from the eastern entrances, the rest of the park’s roads are largely paved and easy to navigate.
The inner campgrounds aren’t the only space campers can find room to park. RVs and buses will fit in the lots at the Visitor Center, as well as at the museum. Most of this park is taken in best on foot.
Weave through the lush forest on the 100-acre scenic Houghton/Letchworth KOA. With sites fit for 40-foot rigs, each is equipped with 50-amp electric service. Campers can connect to the free Wi-Fi in the community lodge or set up a board game beside the fireplace. Houghton/Letchworth KOA is perfectly located to be within easy driving distance of Allegany County or Letchworth State Park” with bountiful rushing waterfalls and scenic gorges.
The Letchworth State Park Campground features 270 campsites with electric hookups. Site lengths vary, but RVs and trailers from 30 to 50 feet in length can be accommodated, depending on the site. Other amenities include flush toilets and a dump station for RVs.
The campground is open from the beginning of May until mid-October. Loops 100, 200, and 700 are pet-friendly, while the other loops do not allow pets. Generators are permitted during certain hours of the day. All site bookings during peak season must be made by reservation. A pool, playground, and picnic areas make this campground an extremely family-friendly spot to camp.
There are no designated first-come, first-served campgrounds at Letchworth State Park. However, during the off-season, sites that are not under reservation are open to walk-ins and same-day reservations. Guests will need to be sure that they check in with park officials before making their way into the grounds.
The historic house of William Pryor Letchworth was preserved over time and has since been converted into the Glen Iris Inn. This secluded inn has 10 guest rooms and four suites that visitors can reserve for overnight stays. The inn overlooks some of the breathtaking waterfalls of the park and has a large dining room overlooking the water. Here, all park visitors can come to enjoy home-cooked meals and stunning views of natural beauty.
This large facility is located in a secluded section of the park and is perfect for business retreats, large group training, and organized educational purposes. The conference center can be reserved for day-use as well as overnight stays and is equipped with basic furnishings, a private kitchen, as well as several private bedrooms and bathrooms. The Conference Center is best-suited to fulfill the needs of small, professional groups rather than large families looking for a family reunion or vacation spot.
For larger groups such as families looking for a nice vacation spot, the Maplewood Lodge is a perfect choice. The Lodge is centrally located within the park and can comfortably sleep up to eight people. It comes equipped with basic furnishings, a private kitchen that includes basic utensils and appliances, as well as a fireplace. Guests should be aware that no linens are provided. The Maplewood Lodge is particularly sought after by snowmobile enthusiasts due to its direct connection to the NYS snowmobile trail system.
For campers who want to take a break from the RV for a while, Letchworth State Park has 81 cabins for rent. The cabins are spread out across five different areas (A, B, C, D, and E). Each cabin area has slightly different layouts, and they come in a range of sizes with some cabins accommodating from two to six people each. All of the cabins are equipped with basic furnishings. However, campers will need to bring their own linens and utensils as they are not provided in any of the cabins.
Only cabins located in Cabin area C are pet-friendly with a maximum of two pets allowed per cabin. Guests will need to make sure that their pets are on a leash at all times. Cabins are available by reservation only with variations on the minimum required stay depending on the season.
There are more than 25 miles of trails that pass through ornate scenery at the park, leading visitors to many scenic overlooks. Snowmobilers will love the arctic journey to see the frozen falls and beautiful white-covered slopes. A popular area to traverse is between the Perry and Castile entrances, as the trail follows the main park road. It’s a spectacular stretch that offers riders views that they would otherwise not see. Snowmobile rentals are not available inside the park but can be rented nearby.
The Humphrey Nature Center is open all year-round to support educational opportunities. Guests can participate in a multitude of Ranger talks and interactive exhibits that are sure to delight visitors of all ages. Many of the exhibits highlight the area’s wildlife and geology and delve into the general ecology of the park system. These exhibits are a perfect pastime for families or nature enthusiasts. The Nature Center can also offer a nice break from a day filled with outdoor adventures.
Hunting is permitted within the grounds of Letchworth State Park but you will need to acquire a permit ahead of time. Hunters can embark on big game hunting as well as turkey hunting excursions. The only legal hunting weapons include crossbow, bow, muzzleloaders, shotguns, or handguns. Guests should be aware that rifle hunting is not permitted. Rangers remind hunters to follow safety practices and keep a vigilant eye out for other visitors in the area.
Many visitors flock to the park during the off-season, usually locals that relish the grounds outside of peak times. However, more and more out-of-towners have discovered the winter fun waiting to be had once snow is on the ground. Park visitors can participate in a variety of winter sports fun, including snow tubing and sledding. However, there are no equipment rentals available within the park, so guests will have to come prepared with their own sleds and tubes.
Letchworth State Park is one of New York's crown jewels. In the off-season, guests will find that it's a sublime area for all sorts of winter sports, including cross-country skiing. The air is as crisp as the snow, and skiers of all ages will love zooming down the steep, white slopes. There are no places to purchase or rent skis within the park, so visitors will have to come prepared with their own equipment and supplies.
Mix up your trail exploration by taking in the views from horseback. While Letchworth State Park does not offer horse rentals within the park grounds, visitors can make arrangements for horse rentals just outside of the park. You are also welcome to bring your own horses and horse trailers to the park. The trails are easy-going and clearly marked for horse use. Horseback guides can lead trail excursions for riders of all skill levels, which makes this a great activity for groups and families.
Guided tours are a great way to really dive into the beautiful New York surroundings. Interested guests can schedule a walk or hike with park guides who will accompany them on the trail to share facts and call attention to points of interest along the way. Guided walks are a perfect way to ensure that guests don't take the natural landscape for granted. To book a guided tour, contact the Visitor Center before your arrival.
River runners are going to love making their way down the Genesee River. With low-level rapids, the waters are fairly mild, making this the perfect place for first-time and beginner level rafters. Several companies offer rafting packages that provide apparel and safety vests, among other rafting equipment. All visitors are required to wear helmets when out on the water. Call ahead to the park Visitor Center for information on rafting tour reservations and options for large groups.
While there is no swimming permitted in the Genesee River, swimming is all the rage at the Harvey Pool. Visitors can enjoy an escape from the heat of summer by diving in from late June until Labor Day. Guests can find the pool at the north end of the Highbanks Recreation Area. Lifeguards are always on duty when the pool is open. Visitors are expected to abide by posted safety rules and regulations while in the pool area.
Letchworth State Park provides one of the most notable examples of gorge scenery in the eastern United States, and it makes for a breathtaking experience when viewed from way up in a hot air balloon. Hot air balloons are a popular activity in Letchworth State Park, so it’s best to book your excursion well in advance. Flights usually last about an hour, though weather conditions may influence liftoff times and length of the trip. For more information and reservations, contact the park's Visitor Center.