Home of the awe-inspiring and world famous Niagara Falls, this region stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario to the shores of Lake Erie, encompassing sand dunes and waterfalls, old growth forests and reclaimed agricultural lands, grasslands and gorges, urban and rural greenspaces, rivers and wetlands.
Covering Niagara and Erie counties, this diverse region includes 18 parks, two historic sites, and many miles of hiking trails, as well as several Bird Conservation Areas, an Internationally Significant Important Bird Area, and a Ramsar designation for the Niagara River as a wetland of global significance.
To start, any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Niagara region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available every State Parks facility across the state.
Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time to your phone or tablet, and maybe even carry a paper copy as a back up to aid your hike.
As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be mindful of wildlife and give it appropriate space, particularly in areas marked as protected, such as for shorebird nesting.
Always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.
Hiking poles are also useful on longer hikes and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.
Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let a desire to reach a specific destination make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.
State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.
Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.
Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, click HERE.
Buffalo Harbor State Park, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, (716) 822-1207 – The only state park in the city of Buffalo, this park is located within Buffalo’s Outer Harbor area and covers about 190 acres on the shoreline of Lake Erie. It has a nautical themed playground for the kids and slips for up to 1,000 boats.
The Shoreline Trail along the waterfront is a multi-use trail for walkers, runners, cyclists, and people of all ages and abilities. Visitors can enjoy the brisk breeze coming off the lake on a hot summer day while watching kites and gulls soar high above, see the sailboats, kayaks, and motorboats gliding across the waves, and witness stunning sunsets.
This trail is particularly important for its connection to a larger trail system. The Shoreline Trail connects all the way through Niagara Falls to Fort Niagara State Park, and also links to the Empire State Trail, the 750-mile trail from Buffalo east to Albany and New York City, and north to the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks.
Evangola State Park, 10191 Old Lake Shore Road, Irving, (716) 549-1802 – Located 24 miles west of Buffalo, this Lake Erie shoreline park has more than five miles of trails within its 733 acres of forest, marsh, meadows and vernal pools.
Starting behind the Evangola Nature Center, the half-mile Rim Trail traverses high bluffs with picturesque views of Lake Erie. During summer, trail hikers experience a leafy canopy overhead and a moss green carpet trailside, while enjoying cooling lake breezes and the the sound of waves crashing far below. Belted-Kingfishers, Bald Eagles and a variety of gulls can often be spotted soaring above the water here.
During the winter, the park’s plentiful lake-effect snow provides cross-country skiers and snowshoers with a chance to glimpse unique ice formations and spot artic ducks found here seasonally. The trail is a place to watch a sunset, catch a cool breeze or see the power of a storm rolling in across the lake.
Find a trail map here.
Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, East Aurora, (716) 652-0786 – Covering 633 acres, this park is the former country estate of Seymour H. Knox, a Buffalo businessman who co-founded the F. W. Woolworth stores. He purchased the property in 1890s to train standardbreds and carriage horses. Primarily grasslands that are home to a variety of grassland bird species, the site includes some woodlots and wetlands.
The park contains about seven miles of trails, including the Library Trail, which is reached directly from the parking lot. It leads into a field active in summer ith bobolinks, a grassland bird related to blackbirds and orioles. From there, the trails leads to a small woodlot with towering sugar maple trees and a small library in the woods.
Find a trail map here.
Golden Hill State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – This park contains Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, built in 1875 to warn ships of a rocky shoal and shifting sandbar in Lake Ontario. There were several shipwrecks in the vicinity; the most famous being the HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank Halloween night in 1780. An active light until 1958, today the upstairs cottage is rented year-round and the foghorn building is now a visitors’ center with displays on the lighthouse and local maritime history.
There are three trails at Golden Hill, with the likely favorite being the scenic Red Trail which travels along the lakeshore and leads to Golden Hill Creek. Along the creek is an oak grove with trees up to 300 years old. Bald eagles are known to frequent this area, as well as great blue herons and wintering waterfowl. After crossing the creek on the footbridge, the trail branches off – east to the marina or west along the creek with stands of apple, beech and hop hornbeam trees.
Find a trail map here.
Wilson Tuscarora State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – Established in 1965, the park on Lake Ontario encompasses 476 acres bordered by the east and west branches of Twelve Mile Creek. It has approximately seven miles of trails.
Nestled along the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek is the one-mile Interpretive Trail, which moves through several habitats, including wetlands, successional fields (a field transitioning to a forest), shrub lands, and ending in a mature beech-hemlock forest. This trail is best known for its spring wildflowers – notably white trillium, New York’s largest flowered trillium – that appear on the forest floor in May.
Find a trail map here.
Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, 450 South 4th Street, Lewiston, (716) 754-7766 – Founded to promote the visual and performing arts, this park is on the lower Niagara River below the world famous falls. It contains two trails that are a part of the Niagara Gorge Trail System.
Trail 7, also called the Artpark Gorge Trail, takes a path through the Niagara Gorge, providing views of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the New York Power Authority, and the vibrant blue green waters swirling in the lower Niagara River. Along this trail are seen fossils from the era of the Silurian Sea, before the time of the dinosaurs. After a climb around boulders and a waterfall view, a set of stairs leads down to the river’s edge to Trail 8, which is popular with fishermen who seek the river’s salmon or lake trout.
If the stairs are not taken, the trail traverses a shale slide and woods before emerging in a flourishing grassland ecosystem that connects to Trail 2 heading toward Devils Hole State Park.
Find a trail map here.
Get Out and Explore Other Regions in New York State Parks
The “Get Out and Explore …” series outlines staff-recommended hikes in State Parks across the regions of New York, including Genesee, Finger Lakes, Long Island, Central, Palisades, Taconic, Saratoga/Capital and Thousand Islands.
Cover Shot – Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park.