Letchworth State Park is located in Western New York. It’s 17 miles long and has an area of 14,427 acres, with 66 miles of trails spread throughout. For reference, it’s roughly the same size as Manhatten, and for a park, that’s a lot of ground to cover!
Given its size, when considering visiting the park, it makes sense to question if you can drive through it and how long it takes to do so.
Letchworth State Park is roughly 17 miles long, and to drive from the top entrance of Mount Morris to the bottom entrance of Portageville, takes 25-30 minutes. There are six entrances to the park, four on the West side and two on the East side, and those on the West side have access to the main Park Road, which runs the entire length of the park.
Letchworth State Park entrances
Letchworth State Park opens daily from 8 am to 11 pm. At the park entrance, you’ll pay $10 per car, which includes parking at locations throughout, such as overlooks and parking areas. The entry fee applies from late May to late October, between 9 am to 5 pm.
There are six entrances to the park, four on the West side and two on the East side, and to be able to drive through the park via the main Park Road, you’ll need to enter from one of the four entrances from the West.
Most of the park’s attractions are located on the West side of the river, which Park Road and the byways run through. The opposite side of the river in the East has been left mainly untouched, and while there are some hiking trails and places to set up a camp, for the majority of people, you’ll want to enter from the West.
For this reason, it’s essential to choose which side of the park you plan on entering by, as once you’re on the grounds, you can’t cross the river to access the other side.
The Castile Entrance is at the middlemost point of the park and is open all year round.
It leads onto Park Road, and it’s the most practical way to navigate to the South end’s attractions, such as the Visitor Center near Inspiration Point, Glen Iris Inn, and the Lower Falls Restaurant. You’ll also be able to maneuver between the upper, middle, and lower falls in the shortest time.
This entrance is located at the South of the park, leading onto Park Road. However, it’s closed during the Winter months.
Similar to the Castile entrance, entering here provides close access to the most popular sites in the park, including gift shops, picnic facilities, the Glen Iris Inn, the Lower Fall Restaurant, the three main waterfalls, surrounding views from the gorge, and lodges.
The Perry entrance to the park is open all year round and is located on the Northwest side of the park, leading onto Park Road. Entering here puts you in the heart of the park grounds, close to the campground registration office.
It’s North of the Highbanks Recreation Area and Harvey Public Swimming Pool, and also the Mount Morris Dam Overlook, which provides great views of the surrounding canyon, and North of the Trailside Lodge and Glen Iris Inn. There are also trails nearby, accessible to hike or mountain bike through.
Mount Morris entrance
The Mount Morris entrance is open all year round, and also the Westernmost entrance area of the park, which connects to Park Road.
Here you’ll have access to the Dam Overlook, Visitor Center, gift shop and grill, and other attractions at the higher end of the park, including Harvey Swimming Pool and surrounding trails.
Parade Grounds entrance
This is the Southeast entrance to the park and is closed during the Winter months. You won’t be able to drive through the park from this entrance, as it leads only to cabins, campgrounds, and wildlife located East of the river.
If you’re looking for a different perspective of the gorges and waterfalls, then this entrance will serve you well.
Mt. Morris Dam & Recreation Area entrance
This entrance is open all year round and is located at the Northeast end of the park, but it doesn’t provide road access from one end to the other.
You’ll have great views of the dam, and access to trails. You’ll also be able to access the Mt. Morris Dam & Visitor Center, where you can view displays and photos of the dam and watch a short video on its construction and history. There are also guided tours of the dam available between 11 am to 2 pm on certain days.
Additional driving info
As previously mentioned, Park Road is the main road running through the park on the West side, and the four entrance roads from the West connect here. As you drive through the park, you’ll encounter twisting byways that run through forest areas, connecting to campgrounds, lodges, ravines, and so on.
Speed limits throughout the park are rather slow. If you’re entering via an entrance at the top, and plan to drive through to view the falls and visitor center located closer to the bottom, then it’s going to be faster to drive around the outside of the park and use an entrance closer to the Southside, such as the Portageville or Castile entrances.
There are also seasonal road closures throughout the park. Most roads are active during the peak season, but due to extreme weather, from the Winter until Spring, sections of Park Road and the byways are shut down, along with two park entrances and various trails.
Finally, during periods of road construction, there have been reports of road closures preventing driving the full length of the park.
For more information on park closures, visit here.
The Gorge and Genesee River
The park is otherwise known as “the Grand Canyon of the East” as a result of the large, deep carved-out gorge and flowing waters.
As you drive through the park, you’ll travel along the edges of the river flowing through the gorge, which at points reaches over 500 feet high. There are several pullovers, so you’ll be able to stop at an overlook for breathtaking views and to take some pictures.
The park trails
There are 28 trails throughout the park, with over 66 miles of walkable ground. There are plenty of signs providing driving directions to the trails, and also parking is available at most locations, so in general, you won’t have to walk far from your car to start your hike.
For instance, parking is available at both ends of the highly popular 6-hour Letchworth Gorge Trail, and nearby other scenic locations, such as the three waterfalls, where you can park your car, walk and climb steps to view them.
During the Winter months, some trails become inaccessible.
Travel distance and time to the park
Let’s have a look at how long it takes to drive to the popular Castile entrance of the park from five surrounding locations.
- Buffalo, New York, USA, 58.5 miles, 1 hour 11 minutes via the NY-78 N
- Rochester, New York, 55.2 miles, 1 hour 5 minutes via the I-490 E
- Syracuse, New York, 127 miles, 2 hours 14 minutes via the I-90 E
- Pennsylvania, 154 miles, 2 hours 33 minutes via the US-15 S
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 248 miles, 4 hours 6 minutes via the I-90 W and I-79 S
You can drive through Letchworth State Park, and driving from top to bottom takes 25-30 minutes. You can connect to the main Park Road from one of four entrances located on the West Side.
During the Winter months, the Portageville entrance is closed, leaving three available entrances on the West side. Additionally, depending on weather conditions and roadworks, roads might be temporarily blocked or closed, which can prevent driving through and to certain locations in the park.
wiki voyage: Letchworth State Park (link)