The Lower Falls at Letchworth State Park is by far the least visited of the three main waterfalls in the park.
There are several reasons for this. It’s a bit farther down the river and deeper into the park than the Upper Falls and Middle Falls areas (which are very close to each other). It’s also a bit farther away from the road, and really only accessible by a bit of a hike.
That’s not to say that the Lower Falls area isn’t worth a visit. It definitely is, especially if you’re looking for a reward at the end of a fun, slightly challenging hike.
You just might not make it to view this waterfall if you’ve only got a day to explore Letchworth. If you have a bit longer in the park, make sure you add the Lower Falls area to your list.
The Lower Falls area actually has a lot going for it in terms of amenities and activities. It offers picnic shelters and tables, a snack shop, playgrounds, and more.
You can also find several great hikes leading off from the main recreation area.
There are several picnic shelters available for use with a reservation.
There are plenty of picnic tables and grills scattered throughout the area as well, for use on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Lower Falls area is a great option for a picnic or birthday party location, as it is slightly more off the beaten track.
If things are really hopping in the park, on big holiday weekends, for instance, you’re more likely to find an open picnic spot or an available pavilion at the Lower Falls.
Plenty of big open green space for a game of ultimate frisbee or touch football is ideal for large gatherings of family or friends.
“Restaurant” Snack Shop
The snack shop located down at the Lower Falls area still has the label “Restaurant” on it, even though it hasn’t been an actual restaurant for years and years.
Here you can find the usual gift shop odds and ends, as well as some grill-type snacks. And don’t forget the ice cream, a sweet reward after a hot and sweaty hike!
The snack shop also offers a mining adventure for the kids, where you can purchase a bag of dirt with hidden fossils or semi-precious gemstones hidden in the mix.
When poured into a sieve tray and immersed in the mining sluice, the hidden treasures are revealed.
There are two great playgrounds to be found in the Lower Falls area, and one of them is brand new.
I don’t know about your kids, but mine are always begging for more playground time, so this is sure to be a hit with the younger set.
Save time before or after the hike to try them out (where do they get all that energy?!).
The older playground is near the largest parking area right as you enter the Lower Falls recreation area. Even though it’s worn and seen some years, it’s safe and fun and offers plenty of climbing and sliding fun.
The brand-new playground is up the road a bit, closer to the Lower Falls overlook and the start of the hiking trail.
This playground is next-level creativity and fun, and a fun exploration for all of my five kids, ages 2 through 9.
There’s also a grown-up “playground” with calisthenic-type exercise machines, a pickle ball court, and a concrete ping-pong table. Things for younger kids to climb on and explore mean that the whole family can stay entertained.
This area is located just behind the Adventure Calls office, where you can schedule your whitewater rafting adventure through the Letchworth Canyon.
Lower Falls Trail
If you want to take a quick peek at the Lower Falls to check it off your list, there is an overlook quite close to the parking area. It’s not a really great view of the falls, so if you want to get up close, you’ll have to take the trek.
The Lower Falls hiking trail is one of my favorites in Letchworth, if only because there’s such an impressive reward at the end of the hike. It’s just challenging enough to be exciting but not so hard that the whole family can’t do it, 70-year-old grandparents included.
You can start out from the main parking area, or from the upper pavilion parking area (near that brand-new playground). Either way, you’ll have a bunch of stone steps to navigate (127, to be specific, at least on the main downward section).
The trail is uneven at best, with lots of roots and rocks, steps and mud puddles to pick your way across. It is not a trail for those with mobility challenges, and don’t try to take a stroller on this trail. We put the littlest one in a backpack.
I enjoy the challenge of a less groomed trail, and the kids have a great time hopping from root to root, or climbing up on rocky outcrops. Once you get down a bit closer to the gorge, however, make sure the kids stay a bit closer, and well away from the steep descent to the riverbed.
Also, keep a keen eye out for poison ivy on this trail. It’s nice and shady, just the way poison ivy likes it, and it’s everywhere! If you do stumble into some, make sure to wash well with warm water and lots of soap.
At the bottom of the steepest section of trail, you’ll come to a decision point – right, or down and to the left. I always choose to head down and to the left, onto a large flat stone patio-like area.
Here you can see a good view of the Lower Falls just upriver, and look down onto an arched stone bridge below.
From here, you can follow the trail down to the stone bridge, which allows access to trails on the eastern side of the river – the only place inside the park you can actually cross the river!
If you’re not planning to hike over to the other side of the river, enjoy the views from the bridge, then head back up the trail to the Lower Falls.
You can get fairly up close and personal here, but depending on the time of year, the foliage may obscure the view somewhat.
Heading back up the trail the way you came, you can again choose to go back across the flat table, or keep left and make a straighter line back to the steep stairs heading back up the side of the ravine.
Plan on about one to one and a half hours to complete this hike round trip, especially if you have younger legs with you that may travel a bit slower.
Lee’s Landing River Access
The Lower Falls recreation area offers what not many other parts of Letchworth Park offer – a way to access the river for fishing, boating, or just splashing around in the water.
Adventure Calls Outfitters, the whitewater rafting company located in Letchwork Park, can offer you a guided kayaking or whitewater rafting tour through the northern part of the Genesee river running through Letchworth Canyon.
Lee’s Landing gives access to the river via a gravel road leading from the Lower Falls area.
If you have your own kayak or canoe, you can apply for a permit to put in at the river in this location as well, though you will probably need to walk your boat down, as vehicle access is restricted.
If you’re up for a bit of a hike on an easy, smooth trail, this gravel road is just right. About a thirty minute walk along the 1.4 mile road will bring you to the river’s edge.
Although the exact river conditions will change year to year, this part of the river tends to be fairly shallow, wide and not too rapid, the perfect place to skip stones, get your feet wet and look for fish.
If you plan to do some fishing, keep in mind that a New York State fishing license is required for anyone aged 16 and over.
Plan to spend some time at the water’s edge, and maybe even bring your picnic down with you for a relaxing afternoon playing in the water. Just make sure to leave enough time and energy for the hike back up the road to the parking area.