Home » 1999 Road Trip to Niagara Falls

Letchworth State Park, NY

Sunday, October 10, 1999 - 4:30am by Lolo
75 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay

Travelogue

Letchworth State Park was a very pleasant surprise--a real gem, especially during the fall foliage. I had found out about this park in the National Geographic Guide to the State Parks of the United States; 2nd Edition (National Geographic Guide to the State Parks of the U.S.) , a book that has never let me down. The book described the park as the "Grand Canyon of the East," a pretty tough order to fill, but it didn't do too badly. At the Grand Canyon, you can't really see the river, just its results--but those results are pretty amazing. Here at Letchworth, things are on a much less grandiose scale, but beautiful in their own way. The Genesee River has carved a 17-mile gorge through the park with cliff walls rising as high as 600 feet from the river. Best of all are the three major waterfalls, all accessible by hiking trails.

Boys at Letchworth overlookBoys at Letchworth overlookIt was the perfect day for a hike, so we parked the motorhome at the Lower Falls trailhead and began our descent down the 127 steps to a wonderful view of the Genesee River Gorge and the water cascading over the Lower Falls. The foliage was pretty much at its peak, making the view even more idyllic. The trail then meandered upstream to the equally impressive Middle Falls and eventually on to the third major waterfall in the park, the Upper Falls, located beneath a high railroad trestle. The hike was about 2 miles each way, but so scenic that it seemed much shorter. Along the way back, the boys found a tiny 2-foot-high waterfall in a side stream and spent close to an hour sending leaves and twigs over the falls and chasing them downstream. Despite the grandeur of the three major falls in the park, I'm sure that this was their favorite one of all.

Herb and boys at Letchworth overlookHerb and boys at Letchworth overlookAfter our hike, we drove the park road north to the state park campground, stopping at scenic overlooks along the way. The campground was great, with large spacious wooded sites, some of them backing up to the canyon. There was so much room for the boys to explore that they even named the area behind our site the "outback." I think the campground might have a reputation for large group parties based on its regulation prohibiting "beer balls." I didn't even know what a "beer ball" was, but I admit that now I was kind of curious. However, the whole night passed quietly with no wild partying in sight.

There were bike trails right from the campground, so the next morning before heading home, we rode out to the Hogsback Overlook where the river bends around a rock formation resembling a very large hog. You have to use your imagination a bit or perhaps partake in one of the campgrounds forbidden "beer balls" first before really seeing it clearly. The bike trails in the park were very nice, but it was time to head back and hit the road for home.

Letchworth was definitely a great find and one that I am sure we will come back to.

Description

Letchworth State Park encompasses 14,350 acres of magnificent scenery along the Genesee River in western New York State. Its precipitous cliffs, dramatic waterfalls, and winding 17-mile gorge have earned it the name "Grand Canyon of the East." Within the park, the Genesee River cascades over three major waterfalls, including the 107-foot Middle Falls. Lights illuminate the Middle Falls after dark from May through October.

Letchworth Falls and LeavesLetchworth Falls and LeavesThe most dramatic way to see Letchworth is to enter from the north, stopping first at the Mount Morris Dam Overlook. From here you can view river flowing south through the twisting gorge. The river is pretty mild at this point, but it picks up steam as it passes 17 miles through the park, plunging over the three waterfalls. Continuing on the Park Road, there are various scenic overlooks. The most dramatic parts of the park are in its southern half, where the twisting river has cut a gorge with walls almost 600 feet high.

The park has more than 70 miles of hiking trails that range from short walks to 20-mile hikes. They lead through lush woodlands, around trout ponds and waterfalls, along gorge rims, down to the river's edge and over a stone bridge spanning a foaming flume.

The Gorge Trail allows you to walk 7 miles along the western gorge rim, passing all three waterfalls. The entire Gorge Trail runs between the St. Helena picnic area in the north to the Upper Falls in the south. The full distance of 7 miles takes about 4 hours to hike one way. A less strenuous variation can cut it down to 3.8 miles one way. The hike starts at the Lower Falls, leads upstream to the Middle Falls, and ends at the Upper Falls, which are spanned by a high railroad trestle. The hike takes you to a number of other scenic spots as well, including Table Rock, Cathedral Rock, and the Flume. The flume is the narrowest spot along the river. There is a man-made footbridge over it.

In addition to the hiking trails, there are more than 20 miles of biking trails. Other recreational opportunities include swimming in one of its two swimming pools, fishing, hot air ballooning , whitewater rafting, and horseback riding.

Within the park, the William Pryor Letchworth Museum houses a collection of Native American and pioneer artifacts. Across the road from the museum, is the Glen Iris Inn, which was once Letchworth's home. Today it offers guest rooms and fine dining.

There is also a 270-site campground with showers and electric..

Jon Vermilye on August 19, 2006

Letchworth is a favorite of mine - some photos of the falls at http://lakeshoreimages.com/waterfalls.html
Glad to see you are adding some of your earlier trips!

Herb on August 19, 2006

Hi Jon,
Thanks for noticing our efforts.
You've got lot's of great photos on your site. I've got to spend some more time exploring it.
We've just gotten back from a 2 week RV rental in Alaska. We're trying to get the photos and a trip travelogue on-line as soon as possible.

Praveen on September 9, 2014

I was on my way to Niagara Falls 2 days ago taking my sister's family during her first visit to US. On the way I saw Letchworth State park, then something hit me that I already knew this place, but could not recall immediately, went in and talked at the entrance and found it is around 18 mi. so we thought of coming back to this place after visiting the Niagara falls. And for sure we did come back and it is an awesome place. We took quite a few pictures at the lower falls and everyone liked it. Finally it dawned upon me that I had indeed read it on your site and showed others the pictures of yours as well.

I have been constantly following your blog, even though I don't travel by RV for now, I can see myself renting an RV and trying out the lifestyle you guys have been doing for more than a decade.

Thank you Herb and Lolo for your efforts and I wish you good luck.

Thanks,
Praveen

Herb on September 9, 2014

Hello Praveen,

Thank you for your kind comment. We are always glad to hear that our efforts are indeed helping others explore some of the places we have visited.

We plan to continue our travels and to document them well into the future. Maybe even a little international travel someday!

Safe travels,

Herb and Lolo

Letchworth State Park location map

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