This New York State Park Is A Must-Visit For Fun-Filled Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor enthusiasts, what if we told you there was a gorgeous park in New York State that has 66 miles of hiking trails, camping, whitewater rafting, dozens of waterfalls, and a variety of winter sports as well? That place is Letchworth State Park, located about 60 miles southeast of Buffalo. The park sits on just under 14,500 acres and follows part of the Genesee River. 

Letchworth State Park won the 2015 USA TODAY Readers' Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States. Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," this location is a treasure trove of outdoor activities. It boasts a number of options in terms of camping style and also has a lovely and unique specialized hike that you might not have heard of before. You can even download the NYS Parks Explorer App to help you navigate the park and find your way on the hiking trails.

The hiking trails

With 66 miles of hiking trails, this New York state park has plenty to keep hikers occupied. One popular hike is the Gorge Trail, a moderate 7-mile journey that goes by three waterfalls and allows you to catch a glimpse of two others. The Hemlock Trail and the Mary Jemison Trail, both 2.5 miles long, are also good options. The Hemlock Trail provides views of century-old hemlock trees, red pine, and Pine Pond, while the Mary Jemison Trail showcases the old reservoir and is easy to get to.

If you're seeking a challenge, you can try the Letchworth Trail, which is part of the 900-mile Finger Lakes Trail. This one-way trip is 25 miles long and is recommended for more seasoned hikers due to cliff drops along the way. Shelters along the trail require permits, but camping on the trail is also an option. For information on winter closures, permits, camping reservations, and more, please refer to the park's website.

Lastly, Letchworth offers the Autism Nature Trail, the first of its kind catering to individuals living with autism and differing abilities. This 1-mile looped trail is relatively flat and features eight stations along the loop, including a Reflection Knoll for a quiet spot to relax, a climbing space, a music circle, a sensory station, and more. The trail is largely wheelchair friendly and conveniently located near the nature center, which provides restrooms, handicap stalls, and a diaper-changing area.

What to see in Letchworth State Park

You can choose from hundreds of campsites at Letchworth, including sites for tents, spots for trailers, cottages, cabins, and even pavilions that can be rented for events like weddings and parties. There are ten pavilions available, with capacities ranging from 80 to 184 people. In addition to camping, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, such as horseback riding, biking, cross-country skiing, whitewater rafting on the Genesee River, snow tubing, kayaking, hunting (a permit is required), and even hot air ballooning over the park.

Letchworth is also home to three breathtaking waterfalls that are a must-visit. The first is Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls, which translates to "Nameless Spirits" in the language of the Seneca tribes. It features a 150-foot cascade. The second waterfall, Inspiration Falls, is the largest in the state, with a 350-foot cascade. It is best seen after rain or snow melts. The third waterfall, Wolf Creek Falls, consists of four falls and has a 225-foot cascade. Additionally, there are the Upper, Middle, and Lower falls in Portage Canyon, as well as smaller falls scattered throughout the park.

For those seeking indoor accommodations, there is the newly-renovated Glen Iris Inn. After your outdoor activities, you can also visit the Humphrey Nature Center, which offers educational programs, or explore the William Pryor Letchworth Museum, which focuses on nature and local culture.