The Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park

A bridge across the gorge of Letchworth State Park.

Letchworth State Park is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. It is full of history, science, and recreation; all nested among spectacular views. There are more than 20 different trails to hike at Letchworth State Park along the North Section and South Section, ranging from .25 miles to 7 miles. My children and I took the hour drive south from Rochester to explore the Autism Nature Trail and enjoy the changing leaves sprinkled throughout the landscape.

The Autism Nature Trail (ANT)

The Autism Nature Trail opened in 2021, creating an inclusive public space at Letchworth State Park. It is a well-maintained, one-mile trail, with 9 Activity Stations, each focusing on a different sensory experience. The main trail is stroller-friendly, although some of the minor pathways may be a bit narrow or winding. The whole experience is thoughtfully designed and the website includes a lot of great information, including a trail map and resources such as social stories to offer support before you visit.

Trails at the Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park.

We entered the park and followed the signs for the Humphrey Nature Center. We parked near the Nature Center and saw the signs for the Autism Nature Trail near the main sidewalk on the northeast corner.

The trail begins at the Trailhead Pavilion, where a guest sign-in sheet and laminated maps of the trail were available. My girls loved using the map to know where they were on the loop and what they had to look forward to.

Entrance to the Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park.

The trail has piles of stacked stones along the edges to serve as cairns to guide people along the trail. We had made a game of looking for and running to each stack in between the activity stations.

At the entrance to each Activity Station stood a tall marker with a plaque showing you where you are. These stations had a range of sensory experiences including touch, hearing, and proprioception, and use both fine to gross motor skills.

Autism Nature Trail Activity Stations

  • Trailhead Pavillion
  • Sensory Station
  • Sunshine Slope
  • Music Circle
  • Reflection Knoll
  • Meadow Run & Climb
  • Design Zone
  • Playful Path
  • Celebration Station
Letchworth State Park

We enjoyed and appreciated the thought that went into each station. While we spent about 2 hours on the trail, we could easily have spent much more time savoring what each station had to offer.

The nearby Humphrey Nature Center has clean bathrooms with a baby changing station, informational and interactive displays, a wealth of programming, and a welcome table with Aided Language Displays and noise cancelling headphones.

Other Highlights Along the Gorge

After our adventure on the Autism Nature Trail, the girls and I made sure to drive the length of Park Rd to see the spectacular views from the overlooks and picnic areas. The park offers a wide variety of sights and activities for visitors of all ages and abilities. A visitor could spend days at the park and never be bored. Here are a few highlights of the available amenities and activities:

The gorge at Letchworth State Park.

North End Amenities

  • Hiking Trails
  • Scenic Overlooks
  • Picnic Areas
  • Gift Shop/Concession Stand
  • Mount Morris Dam overlook (Visitor Center on the eastern side)
  • Public Pool
  • Playground
  • Campground
The gorge at Letchworth State Park.

South End Amenities

  • Hiking Trails
  • Scenic Overlooks
  • Picnic Areas
  • Concession Stand
  • Fishing Dock
  • Humphrey Nature Center
  • Autism Nature Trail
  • Glen Iris Inn
  • Views of the Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls
  • Civilian Conservation Corps Statue
  • Mary Jemison Statue
  • Council Grounds/Seneca Council House
  • William Pryor Letchworth Museum
  • Parade Grounds (eastern side)
  • Portage Bridge
  • White Water Rafting
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides
  • Check out the programming put on by the park
  • Visit the Humphrey Nature Center to learn about the area’s geologic history, flora and fauna
  • Enjoy a hike along one of the many trails of the park
  • Find some of the many Geocaches at the park
  • Research the species of birds in the park that is designated a Bird Conservation Area
  • Study the snake species in Letchworth (Common Garter Snake, Black Rat Snake, Northern Water Snake, Milk Snake, Timber Rattlesnake)
  • Visit the Mount Morris Dam Visitor Center or take a tour to learn about the importance of the dam and the Genesee River
  • Visit the William Pryor Letchworth Museum
  • Study the history of indigenous (Seneca/Haudenosaunee) people of the area
  • Read a book about Mary Jamison and visit her statue/burial site
  • Study the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal and take note of their contributions in the park
  • Read a book about the changing colors of fall leaves
  • Study hot air balloons and attend the annual Balloon Festival
  • Bring a camera to practice nature photography

Additional Information

There is no cell reception in most of the park, so make sure you download any needed information, such as maps, ahead of time. For those looking for guided tours for all ages; there are many field trips and programs available at the park.