It's easy to find just what you're looking for — from seating under a canopy of trees to a natural obstacle course.
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Throwing on a backpack and hitting the trails isn't always an easy task. And for some people with autism or other developmental differences, trudging along on a crowded trail can feel near impossible. That's where the Autism Nature Trail (ANT), which opened in October 2021, comes in. The hiking trail in western New York's Letchworth State Park was specifically designed for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park in New York
Credit: Courtesy of Letchworth State Park

Along the one-mile loop, hikers will find eight sensory stations that range from a station with a collection of moss, acorns, fossils, and leaves that hikers can touch and smell, to a Music Circle where nature-inspired musical instruments are available to play alone or with others. Those looking to run and jump can spend hours in the Meadow Run and Climb, which has an obstacle course and paths built for testing flexibility, strength, coordination, and confidence. And hikers looking for peace and quiet can visit the cuddle swings at Sunshine Slope or sit under a canopy of trees at The Nook. The trail ends at the Celebration Station, where visitors are supplied with tools to depict their experience on the trail through writing and drawing.

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park in New York
Credit: Courtesy of Letchworth State Park

Each sensory station is designed to engage people of all ages with visual, tactile, auditory, vestibular, and proprioceptive tools straight from nature. The trail itself is ADA-compliant and generally suitable for wheelchairs, and while the hike is self-guided, there is scheduled programming from the staff at Camp Puzzle Peace, a camp for families with children who have ASD.

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park in New York
Credit: Courtesy of Letchworth State Park

The ANT begins and ends at a large timber pavilion near the Humphrey Nature Center at the Castile entrance to Letchworth State Park. The park itself is known as the "Grand Canyon of the East" for its stunning gorge, three major waterfalls, and 66 miles of hiking trails. The park and the town of Castile, New York, are around an hour's drive from both Buffalo and Rochester.

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park in New York
Credit: Courtesy of Letchworth State Park

There is no cost to hike the ANT, but because the trail is within Letchworth State Park, you will be charged $10 per vehicle when entering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from the second week of May through the last weekend in October. For free access, ask if your local library has an Empire Pass you can checkout. Residents of New York State with a disability can also apply for a free or discounted Individual Access Pass.