Letchworth State Park NY is one of those hidden gems that can be described in one word: majestic! It is one of the most picturesque areas in the US. In fact, I would say it levels pretty well with Niagra Falls as the Genesee River majestically roars over three major waterfalls. Surrounded by majestic waterfalls and lush green forests, there is a rich history that goes along with the many things you can do at Letchworth State Park, name #1 state park in the country!
What to See and Do in Letchworth State Park NY
Before we dive into the whole area lets talk about the history of the area. It's pretty remarkable!
History of Letchworth
At Letchworth, you can enjoy hiking through 66 miles of trails, horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, nature, guided walks, tours, whitewater rafting, kayaking, swimming, and hot air ballooning. Although the experience is unforgettable, so is the history that goes along with the park.
Related: Chimney Bluffs State Park NY
William Pryor Letchworth saw the destruction of the lands of the Seneca people. He saw what wasn’t there and believed that it could be there again. He purchased the land around the Middle Falls and established the Glen Iris Estate. He held on to this land for fifty years. During this time, he carefully restored the natural beauty of the land that was once there.
When Mr. Letchworth passed, he gave the Glen Iris Estate and its rich history to the People of New York State. From there, it became a place of natural beauty filled with rich history called the Letchworth State Park in dedication to Mr. Letchworth.
Mary is a story of a woman who had a rough life. She and her family ventured to the “New World” to acquire religious freedom. During the French and Indian War, French soldiers and Shawnee warriors captured her and her parents. However, they abandoned her and she was adopted by a nearby tribe called the Senecas. Her name was changed to Dehgewanus, and she married Shenijee. They traveled to the Genesee River (their homeland) to seek refuge from another war. During this war, the Senecas gave up their lands.
Today, visitors to Letchworth park can visit the famous Mary Jemison statue and grave sight that Mr. Letchworth dedicated to her. It depicts Mary with her son on her back and the trek she took from Ohio to Genesee Valley and the remarkable life of a woman who lived two lives.
Explore The Park
We entered the park from the Mt Morris Entrance and the first thing we saw was the Mt Morris Dam and the Mt Morris Dam Overlook Area. In this area, we saw a lot of wildlife along with being able to take in many signs with the history of the park. There was a lot of birds in the area, and it would be a great place for a picnic. There was also the child chair in the picture below.
We drive the Park Road the whole length of the park. There are many places to pull over and see wildlife, we saw some deer and smaller animals and there are many places to pull over and see the river.
Along the drive, you can see many of the mountains in the area but there are so many flowers in bloom. We were there just before the fall leaves started to change and I'm sure it would be amazing with the fall colors.
One of my favorite photo stops was the St Helena Picnic Area. They have picnic spots and grills and bathrooms in the area. There is lots of tree cover from the sun as well. Plus who doesn't love having a lunch by the river?
From there we took in the Lower, Middle, and Upper falls which all can be viewed easily from the Portageville Entrance of the Park. There is a museum at this end of the park, a visitor center, a lodge, camping, and the Gleen Iris Inn where we had dinner.
Glenn Iris Inn
We spent a bit of time at the Glenn Iris Inn before we had dinner. You can see the Middle Falls and Upper Falls from here without much effort. This is the famous falls with the railroad going overhead.
You can also take a short path and a set of stairs down to get a closer look.
Once down the set of stairs, you can step out onto what I can only call the selfie landing to grab your waterfall pictures! Be prepares you will get misted while there because you are so close to the waterfall!
The Glen Iris has a beautiful porch you can sit on while you wait for your dinner or just because and take in the falls. They offer drinks out here as well.
In the front of the Glen Iris is the famous ‘ice volcano' fountain from January 2018 that went viral. You can read the details and see videos of it here. But below is a picture of it not frozen!
Stepping into the Glen Iris they have a small shop when you first walk in and some beautiful original details like the staircase.
Once seated the service was amazing, they had local wines, and the food was to die for. I had steak and it was cooked perfectly. The dining room had windows all over with views of the park.
When we left we got a great view of the falls at night. They light them up and while the drive back out of the park at night isn't as beautiful it was still a great drive!
If you haven’t been to Letchworth State Park NY, you need to add it to your bucket list. This majestic place is one you have to visit!
I visited with Kerwin from Passrider and he shared his Letchworth State Park post, he caught an amazing train photo that I'm so bummed I missed!