Hiking at Letchworth State Park

Geneseo, NY

About ten mile south of Geneseo is Letchworth State Park.  Since we are always looking for a good place to do some hiking wherever we go the park beckoned to us, so off we went on a sunny Friday afternoon for a little walk in the woods.

The park is named after William Pryor Letchworth (1823-1910), an industrialist from Buffalo who in 1906 bequeathed the 1,000-acre estate that forms the heart of the park to New York State.  The park is roughly 17 miles long, covering 14,350 acres of land along the Genesee River as it flows north into Lake Ontario.

Within the park, there are three large waterfalls on the Genesee River and as many as fifty waterfalls found on tributaries that flow into it.  The gorge formed by the river, with rock walls rising up to 550 feet in places and which narrows to 400 feet across above the middle of the three falls, prompted the area’s reputation as the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

At the north end of the park is the Mount Morris Dam.  Completed in 1954, the Mt. Morris Dam is the largest flood control device of its kind (concrete gravity) east of the Mississippi River. It is 1,028 feet in length and rises 230 feet  from the riverbed.  When you first see the dam it looks a bit strange, as there is no water  behind it.  The dam is only used for flood control and proved its worth during the Hurricane Agnes in 1972, saving thousands of acres of farmland from flooding.

Mount Morris Dam

OK, who pulled the plug and let the water out?

We parked at the south end of the park at the trailhead for Trail 1, The Gorge Trail, which winds along the river with views of the three falls on the Genessee River.  The trail begins by going down a long, winding set of stairs.  We never like hiking “down” at the beginning of a hike as we then know what will happen on the return trip!

Toward the bottom of the stairs the path crossed one of many small waterfalls created by streams making their way to the river.

Looking back at Upper Falls you get a nice view of the Portage Railroad Bridge.

Upper Falls with the Portage Bridge above

In 1852 the Erie Railroad Company built a wooden trestle bridge over the river.  At the time, it was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world.  In 1875 the great wooden railroad bridge was destroyed in a tremendous fire. The bridge was a total loss, leaving only the concrete bridge abutments.

Immediately after the fire, officials of the Erie Railroad Company moved quickly to replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel design.  Construction began June 8, 1875 and opened for traffic July 31, 1875. The bridge is 820 feet long and 240 feet high.  It is still in use today.

We hiked about a mile further downstream before coming upon the upper part of the Middle Falls.

Water cascading over Middle Falls

Middle Falls

One of the many small falls as creeks make their way to the river

Its been a while since we had “Lunch with a View”

Looking back north toward Middle and Upper Falls

A zoom of the picture above

At times the trail leveled out to a nice cool walk through the trees

Lower Falls

There is only one point where a trail crosses the Genesee River, over a beautiful stone bridge just below Lower Falls.  We hiked down to the bridge, where we turned around for the return hike.

Stone bridge over the Genesee River

Looking north from the bridge

The trail from the rim of the gorge down to the bridge involves going down 127 steps (at least that’s the number on a sign at the top).  Of course, what goes down must come back up!

As we neared Middle Falls on the return hike, the light was just right for some great rainbows in the mist.

As we neared the Upper Falls it was time to re-conquer the long set of steps that seemed so easy at the beginning of the hike!  Total steps for the day…1,082 round trip!  Only a former elementary teacher would think to count all the steps.

One last glimpse of a rainbow above Upper Falls

This was one of the nicest hikes we have found on the East Coast, with challenging elevation changes and great water views!  The sunshine, warm temperatures, and low humidity made for a great day.

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36 Responses to Hiking at Letchworth State Park

  1. Sue says:

    Its so nice to see the lunch time “footsies with a view” pictures again! Glad you enjoyed our neck of the woods.

  2. What a lovely gorge and waterfalls! Glad to hear the humidity was fairly low…You guys are looking happy and fit!

  3. Beautiful waterfalls! What a great hike.

  4. Leigh says:

    Looks beautiful. What are your favorite NY places to camp? I’m planning for next summer!

    • placestheygo says:

      Leigh, we haven’t stayed in any parks when in NY! We stay in a friend’s yard when at my mother’s and we are on another friend’s property now. Sorry I can’t help.

  5. Our family used to go camping at Letchworth SP many years ago. I don’t think I appreciated how pretty it is there when I was a kid.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Good to see you guys back on the trail. I’ve missed photos of those hiking shoes having lunch 🙂

  7. Yeah, finally a decent trail. I can relate the feeling after being in FL for months. Isn’t it great to be back hitting trails ? Beautiful pics of the waterfalls too.

  8. pmbweaver says:

    What a fabulous hike! I love everything about this hike.

    The waterfalls are so pretty. Now for that railroad bridge. I don’t care if it was rebuilt out of titanium, I would ever be on it and you can take that to the bank!

    My rear hurts just reading about all those steps. You two are obvious a lot younger than us. We would be dragging by time we reach them.

  9. LuAnn says:

    I was doing a lot of smiling and a lot of sighing when I read this post. So excited for you two that you found a beautiful trail to hike and wished we were there too. I’m with you, a descent at the beginning of a trail is not my idea of fun. I had to chuckle when you told us the number of steps you climbed. I have not been a teacher, but maybe the finance gal in me has me counting steps as well.

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, I think it was the sign down to the Lower Falls that said 127 steps that got me wondering. So coming back I decided to count. It challenged the old brain because I had to remember five different numbers for the groups of steps.

      • LuAnn says:

        Always good to challenge our old brains. For whatever reason, I am a counter, which always makes Terry chuckle a bit.

  10. Sandra Silva says:

    Hi Dear Friends This looks like a wonderful hike. When we first started full timing we would take hikes like this. It was always so exciting finding new places and sights. I am a bit surprised to find out that you are still in the east. I thought you were going west again this year. Have your plans changed? In September of last year I called Fantasy Tours to ask if using my disability scooter would be ok on the New York City tour we had book the year before and which was scheduled for September this year. They told me everything would be fine as the scooter could be put in the tour bus lower compartment as long as I could board the bus on my own. I called again several months later to confirmed the information I has received was correct. Again I was told all would be fine. Well, last week I got a call from the tour company to say that if I needed my scooter I would only be able to attend about half the functions on the tour. Over half the activities are not ADA, such the need to climb two flight of stairs to attend functions, etc. They were so very generous as to return our full payment (isn’t that nice). Two say the least we are very disappointed and upset. We planned this whole trip around the NYC tour and would not be in the east if we had not booked it. Oh well, we are still having a good time. We have not changed our travel plan except that we will not be in NYC for a week. In a way I would like to start west again after our grandson leaves us in early July but have not made that decision yet. I think I am still in a bit of shock. Our grandson, Nathan, joined us in Williamsburg and we have been exploring Washington DC for the past week and a half. We still have two more days of planned sightseeing then we move on to Hershey for almost two weeks. He leaves us after we go to Niagara Falls. Lots of Love Sandy and Bob Silva Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2014 20:10:22 +0000 To: randssilva@hotmail.com

  11. Janna says:

    Looks like a beautiful way to spend a Friday afternoon!

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    What a beautiful hike! I love the railroad bridge over the falls, great shot. And perfect timing on the return to capture the rainbows. The stairs – not so much. You’ll have “buns-of-steel” if you do many more of those!!

  13. Gay says:

    What an awesome hike….I love waterfalls…the sound alone is so peaceful!
    Thanks for taking us along…

  14. Everybody seems to be hiking today. What lovely views!

  15. Sherry says:

    Wow what a beautiful waterfall hike. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past week or so, Michigan waterfalls. I’m putting this one on my list. We haven’t spent much time in NY. Looks like we should. Seems that waterfalls always require a lot of steps UP whether they are boardwalks or not. Ours were up steep banks and through mud today. Your pictures are terrific. Love the Lunch foot shot and your selfie.

  16. Laurel says:

    Beautiful hike and gorgeous waterfalls! We were also wondering how we would do hiking out west after 5 months as “flatlanders” — I was a bit apprehensive, especially when we started hiking at 10,000 feet! (It’s been great, whew!) I’m with you — I don’t like hikes (or bike rides) that start off downhill. I’d rather get the hard stuff out of the way first!

  17. Erin says:

    What a great hike … any trail that has waterfalls to view is a winner in my book.

  18. rommel says:

    So many falls to fall in love with – Ha! 🙂 Seriously, beautiful falls, Pam. I always always find peace and tranquility when it comes to waterfalls. Thanks for the tour at the Grand Canyon of the East. Must had been a tiring but fulfilling walks up and down the trails. Awesome captures.

  19. We too hate trails that descends first, but this one looks lovely. Love the stone bridge.

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