Letchworth State Park: Best Time to Visit, Waterfalls, and Trails

We’re heading to a fantastic location in the state of New York today. There’s a solid reason why Letchworth State Park isn’t as well-known as other state parks. It’s known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” because of its breathtaking views. It also has a ton of amazing hiking paths and vistas. It was named the top attraction in the entire state of New York in 2017.

Described as “one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S.” on its official website, New York State Letchworth offers an abundance of amazing landscapes and activities. We’ll also talk about the best times to visit and the cost of admission. Let’s begin by discussing the park’s past and work our way forward.

History of Letchworth State Park

With more than a century of existence, Letchworth State Park has left a significant outdoor recreation heritage for New York State. The park was officially established in 1907 by state governor Charles Evans Hughs, although its history dates back much earlier.

Indigenous Origins

The Seneca people, descended from the original native inhabitants of the region, termed this lovely location “Sehgahunda.” These ancient tribes used this area for dwelling, hunting, and fishing. A few of these tribes were forced to watch as their hallowed ground became the white man’s western frontier. In the sake of progress, the area’s early settlers stole and ruined the land for a number of years. Seneca people were driven from their ancestral lands after the American Revolutionary War, and progress was ultimately responsible for the annihilation of native tribes. Because of their ties to the British, these persons were prohibited from returning to their own country.

Progress Takes its Toll

The Genessee River region was developed in a number of ways as people exploited it for agriculture and towns. Around 1830, the pioneer age came to an end, and more extensive development started on the settled territories. Canals and railroads were brought to the area due to the need for supplies to be imported and exported quickly. The areas that would eventually become Letchworth State Park suffered greatly from the effects of the Industrial Revolution, which was in full force at the time. A number of causes contributed to the area’s devastation, including tourism, the civil war, and the increased need for mills and timber. Most of the old forests had disappeared by the time of the Civil War, and mills had begun to use and harness the waterfalls.

A Savior Steps in

American businessman William Pryor Letchworth was born on May 26, 1823, and passed away on December 1, 1910. He held the view that everyone should have access to advancement and preservation. He spent a lot of time in his appointed role with the New York State Board of Charities and had a strong devotion to charity and humanitarian endeavors. Letchworth was in charge of conducting inspections of juvenile correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and orphanages. After examining each of these locations, he concluded that children less than two should not reside there. Children under the age of two were consequently taken out of any state asylum, orphanage, or group home.

Letchworth was somewhat of a legend by the time he retired at age 46. He was well known for treating his staff well and recognizing their worth independently of their output. Using his own resources, Letchworth carried out more study on facilities for the underprivileged, kids, and epileptics. He traveled throughout North America and Europe during this period to look into how we handle those who are impoverished, those who have epilepsy, children living in poverty, and those who are dealing with other mental health concerns. In defense of these ideas and this study, he wrote two volumes. Having an idea of what the lands may become if they were brought back to their former splendor, he bought the lands that would eventually become the center of Letchworth State Park when he retired to New York. This marked the start of something truly amazing.

Developing the Park

Letchworth invested all of his time and money on the properties he bought, from their purchase in 1859 until their donation in 1906. The estate bears his name, Glen Iris. He engaged William Webster as his landscape architect and subsequently expended an alleged five hundred thousand dollars to enhance the property. We used a statistic based on the dollar’s worth in 1875 to examine the conversion over time for that amount of money. In 2023, 500,000 dollars would be equivalent to around 14 million dollars.

Letchworth purchased and developed a 1,000-acre tract of property that forms the core of Letchworth State Park. He gave the state of New York full ownership of this estate in 1906. There were two significant conditions attached to this donation. The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society was to oversee the area, according to the first clause. This would guarantee that it will be preserved and honored for many years to come. Letchworth was granted a life tenancy over the lands by the second clause. Before he passed away on December 1st, 1910, he would enjoy this tenancy for an additional four years.

Entry Fee and Location

The distance between Letchworth State Park and Rochester, New York, is 35 miles south. The park has five entry points.Two of these are closed during the winter, and three are open all year round. You may access Castile, Portageville, Perry, the Parade Grounds, and the park next to Mount Morris, New York. The park’s address is listed on the official park website as follows:

1 Letchworth State Park Castile, New York, 14427

The following is the entry fee:

$10.00 for every car
$35.00 for each charitable bus
$75.00 for every business bus

The park accepts checks or cash for payment of the fees. The charge is collected daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from May 7 to October 24 of each year. The collection time is seasonal.

Best Times to Visit

Although you can visit the park year-round, there are a few things to remember before you go. Letchworth experiences its highest volume of business throughout the summer, and this is a well-deserved fact. This implies that there will be a lot of others using the trails at the same time as you, and you might have problems finding parking or camping in some places. This also applies to early fall weekends: New York is well-known for its displays of shifting fall foliage colors. In New York, the weather in September and October is generally pleasant, and many people look for opportunities to spend time outside and in nature.

Considering all of this, we advise going on weekday mornings in the summer and fall. If you don’t mind chilly mornings and the possibility of precipitation, late spring and late fall are great times to go camping. We advise making several visits to the park in order to fully experience the range of delights it has to offer throughout the year.


Camping is permitted in Letchworth State Park. Campsite fees range from twenty-seven to thirty dollars per night, with an additional five dollars for out-of-state residents.

The weekly rate for each cabin ranges from $132.00 to $568.00, and the nightly charge is roughly 1/4 of the weekly rate. Residents from outside the state must pay an extra $7.

For a more indoor, all-inclusive experience, consider staying at the Glen Iris Inn; pricing are available on their website.

Additionally, you can rent a few lodges and hideaways while you’re there. The average nightly fee at Maplewood Lodge is $350.00, and there is a two-night minimum. During holiday weekends, the tariff increases to $523.00 per night with a three-night minimum stay. During the busiest time of year, Parker’s Hideaway charges $1,000 for a five-night stay; single-night bookings are not available. The weekly rate is $1,000 during off-peak season, with a $300 nightly rate.

Hiking Trails

You can explore a variety of paths at Letchworth State Park, ranging from easy boardwalks to longer, more challenging hikes. There are at least thirty hiking trails to choose from, ranging from many easy and kid-friendly routes to several more difficult ones that will test most hikers. A brief listing of the paths that park visitors highly suggest is presented.

Waterfalls at Letchworth

Letchworth State Park has three extremely well-liked waterfalls, and the park and gorge are home to up to fifty more. While some of these falls are important stops that we highly recommend viewing, others are only accessible during specific seasons. We will only cover the three main waterfalls, two of which may be accessed in a wheelchair from the museum and visitor center. We suggest that you locate and explore a few more waterfalls, such as Horsetail Falls and Inspiration Falls.

Lower Letchworth Falls

Of the three big waterfalls we describe, Lower Letchworth Falls is the only one that is not wheelchair accessible. Still, the walk to the viewing spot is not too long—just about half a mile and 125 steps down. This waterfall is quite beautiful and is less than 50 feet high. You get to gaze up to see the viewpoint, which is located at the foot of the falls!

Middle Letchworth Falls

The tallest of the park’s three main waterfalls, Middle Falls is situated between Lower and Upper Falls. It plunges a staggering 107 feet into the water. The ancient Glen Irish Inn is nearest to this waterfall.

Upper Letchworth Falls

The second-tallest and most southern of the three main waterfalls is called Upper Falls. It is shaped like a horseshoe and descends 70 feet, with a big bridge rising above it. This railroad bridge is still in use and is situated more than 200 feet above the river.