Letchworth State Park, located in upstate New York, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the state. Visiting Letchworth State Park in winter provides a totally different experience than visiting in other seasons, but an experience worth having, nonetheless.
Centered around the vast Genesee River Gorge, the state park has been awarded the #1 attraction in New York state. Letchworth has also been recognized as the top state park in America according to USA Today. Also known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth is a bucket list state park to visit.
While summer and fall are the most popular seasons to plan a visit, winter transforms the park into a whole new world. While not all the amenities and activities of summer in Letchworth are available, what remains open and available to explore certainly makes the park worth visiting. Those who love to get outdoors during the winter will find plenty of activities to keep you entertained during your visit.
Will it Snow During My Winter Visit to Letchworth?
Yes, it snows in Letchworth! It doesn’t snow every day, but there is plenty of snow to go around in western New York. There is an excellent chance that you’ll experience a winter wonderland, especially during the months of January and February.
Check the weather forecast ahead of time! While a few snow flurries are great, you probably don’t want to visit during a complete snow storm, there is a chance that even more of the park roads will be closed. If you’re within a day’s drive, planning a last-minute visit during the winter months is the best way to go.
One of the perks of visiting the state park in the winter is that there is no entrance fee during this time of year! You can experience stunning snow-covered waterfalls without additional costs.
Be sure to check ahead of time because roads do close temporarily due to weather conditions at times in the park. As a final check, you can always stop at the Visitor Center on your way into the park to update yourself on the latest road and trail conditions.
Closed for the Winter Season
Some roads are always closed during the winter seasons. These include:
- Lower Falls Road
- Park Road from Portageville entrance to the Glen Iris Inn
- Park Road from Perry to Castile entrance
- East Park Road from Parade Grounds Entrance
Some roads are only temporarily closed when there are poor weather conditions. You’ll definitely want to check the weather ahead of time to plan accordingly. The most important route includes:
- Middle/Upper Falls Access Road
Any road can close temporarily, though, with the poorest weather conditions. Again, just check conditions ahead of time, just prior to your visit.
Don’t Miss: the Letchworth Waterfalls in Winter
Viewing the three major waterfalls frozen and covered in snow is extremely beautiful. You can see many of these views without much of a hike as long as park roads are open.
Park in the large parking lot near Middle and Upper Falls, as long as the access road is clear, and you’ll have only a short walk to both of the waterfalls.
Even though the walk is short, you want to plan accordingly by wearing a warm coat, hat, gloves, and winter boots. The park is well cared for, but you may have to trudge through some snow to reach the overlooks. This is upstate New York, after all!
If the access road to these waterfalls is going to be closed during your visit, you’ll have a much harder time viewing these falls. You’ll have to hike quite a distance or settle for views of these cascades from Inspiration Point.
Driving through Letchworth: A Winter Wonderland
You won’t be able to drive the entire Park Road from the north entrance to the south entrance like you may have during other seasons. Getting around to the points of interest that you wish to see in winter takes a little extra planning.
When there is a lot of snow, navigation will be quite easy. You’ll be able to clearly see which roads are open and which are not based on the amount of snow still covering the roadways.
If you want to check ahead of time, you can certainly call the Visitor Center for the most up-to-date conditions. You can also plan to stop at the Visitor Center to ask questions or grab a map when you first arrive at the park.
These are some must-see spots that are typically accessible during the winter months in Letchworth.
When you see photos of Letchworth’s waterfalls, if taken from a distance, the view is most likely from Inspiration Point. Although it’s more of a bird’s eye view than up close and personal, you can take in the entirety of the landscape. From Inspiration Point, you can really appreciate the magnitude of the deep gorge, snow-covered trees, railroad bridge, and beautiful waterfalls.
The road to Inspiration Point is almost always open, and there are sidewalks to reach the overlook. While walking conditions can be icy, you won’t likely have to trudge through three feet of snow to get to the views. Just take it slow on icy sidewalks!
Glen Iris Inn ‘Ice Volcano’
The next stop on your visit to Letchworth in winter should be the Glen Iris Inn.
The inn itself is a historic structure in the park. The fountain just outside Glen Iris is always flowing, no matter what time of year. Because the winters are so cold, the fountain flow freezes and forms an “ice volcano“.
This frozen formation has been known to reach over 30 feet in height! This frozen fountain is quite a unique attraction in Letchworth State Park and is different every year, depending on weather conditions.
Letchworth’s Upper Falls, which is actually the most southern waterfall on the Genessee River, is typically the easiest to view during the winter. As long as the Upper and Middle Falls access road is passable, the viewpoint is just a short walk from the parking lot.
There is a paved sidewalk, and while it’s still maybe icy, access is not typically difficult.
There are viewfinders at the overlook here, too, to get a closer look up at the waterfall and the ice formations that cover the sides of the gorge.
Middle Falls is just a short walk from Upper Falls, or a short drive through the parking lot. If you’re able to see one, you should be able to see the other!
While you might not be able to get up close and personal on the viewing platforms due to the ice cover, Middle Falls is still worth viewing.
The icy formations are beautiful, especially from the Glen Iris Inn.
The Lower Falls are much more difficult to see during the winter months. The Lower Falls Road is typically closed during the winter, as it is much steeper and more winding.
The trails are also not always open because they get covered with a significant layer of ice. You may be able to view it from the side, or higher up from a bird’s eye view.
You can still enjoy the gorge’s winter characteristics with snow-covered ledges and giant icicle formations lining the walls.
There are 66 miles of hiking trails through Letchworth State Park, so you should be able to find a hike that suits your abilities and intentions.
Many of the park’s trails are multi-use, so use winter trail etiquette. Hikers should avoid stepping on cross-country ski tracks. Always take care and leave no trace!
While some parts of the trails do close due to their proximity to the gorge walls, access to much of the park is possible.
You can certainly check ahead of time, but there will be well-marked signage on closed trails. Be on the lookout for “trail closed” or “do not enter” signs.
Park staff is just looking out for your safety, most likely in regard to things like steep drops and icy conditions.
Snowshoeing is a great way to see the park in some of the lesser visited corners, especially when there is significant snow accumulation on the ground.
The snowshoes will make navigation easier, and you can see some more solitude.
There are no rentals within the park, so you’ll have to bring your equipment. Reserve rentals with Endlessly Outdoors Company in Perry, if you want to try the activity before you buy your own. They do provide hourly and daily rentals, which you can bring to Letchworth, or any other area park, with you.
Otherwise, this is a great activity to get out, get some exercise, and enjoy some beautiful scenery.
Cross-country skiing is possible on many of the park trails. There are only a few which do not allow this activity!
The Kisil Point Trail (18) is only partially open to cross-country skiing. This will be well-marked.
Trails Closed to Cross-Country Skiing:
- Gorge (1)
- Portage (6)
- Footbridge (6A)
- Autism Nature Trail (ANT)
Otherwise, check current conditions, but you should be able to find plenty of different terrains to explore.
The park does not rent equipment here, so you will have to find another spot outside the park and bring it with you. There are options with local sporting goods stores in the region.
For the kids, and the kids at heart, a snow tubing hill can be found near the Humphrey Nature Center. Head to the Trailside Lodge, and bring your own inflatable tube.
There are no sleds or toboggans permitted in the area. There are also no rentals available.
Bring your inflatable tube and enjoy the hill. There is a warm-up space in the lodge to take a break and enjoy a cozy fire when you get cold.
Bring your sleds! There are miles of snowmobile trails in the park, and it is possible to connect with others to extend your ride even further.
Trails Completely Open to Snowmobiling:
- River Road (8)
- Bluejay (8A)
- Big Bend (10)
- Deer Run (11)
Trails Partially Open to Snowmobiling:
- Mary Jemison (2)
- Hemlock (2A)
- Trout Pond (3)
- Genesee Valley Greenway (7)
Packing Tips: What to Bring on Your Letchworth Winter Adventure
Exploring this area of upstate New York can be quite chilly during this time of year. Winters and be quite brutal. Add to it the breezes from the Genessee River, and you will experience mother nature at its finest.
Your packing list will certainly depend on the types of activities that you plan to partake in during your visit, but there are some staples that you should always have during a winter visit to Letchworth.
Don’t forget that, even though it is cold, and you might not feel as dehydrated, you’ll still need to drink plenty of water to keep yourself fueled for exploring.
We also love to keep some warm drinks, such as water for making hot cocoa, in our Stanley thermos in the car to enjoy when we return from our adventures. Liquids seem to stay hot in these for such a long time!
Here are a few things that we think are absolutely necessary to pack for Letchworth in winter:
- Kahtoola microspikes/trail crampons
- Winter jacket with wind-breaking capabilities
- Winter hat
- Day pack
- Water bottle
- Warm drinks in the car
Where to Stay Near Letchworth in Winter
If you aren’t experienced in driving through winter conditions, I’d recommend sticking to main roads and highways when outside the park during your visit to the area.
Winter conditions can be unpredictable, and in the event of heavy snow, the more traveled roads receive more attention from plow trucks. This may not be the time to reserve an off-the-grid cabin.
With that being said, here are a few great and easily accessible places to stay while visiting Letchworth State Park.
Right outside the northern entrance to the park, this hotel is close to the Mount Morris Dam. While driving to the waterfalls and points of interest in the southern half of the park will take some time, there are trails and views to explore on this side, too.
Although this property is not managed by the park, it is very close to the southwest boundary! It is an operating horse farm, with plenty of outdoor areas to explore on the property itself. Guests love the cozy accommodations and the full English breakfast.
A little further to the north, but still only 10 minutes from the Mount Morris entrance, this lovely little bed & breakfast can be found in the town of Geneseo. If you want a more homey place to stay during your visit, consider this spot.
Visiting Letchworth State Park during the winter is definitely worthwhile, and we hope this makes you excited to visit.
There are many activities available to enjoy throughout the year, but the winter offers visitors a chance to see the park in a different natural state. And while the weather isn’t always perfect, the beauty of the landscape certainly makes up for any inconveniences.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Letchworth State Park when the snow starts falling.