Tag Archives: Hiking

Celebrate a Centennial At Allegany State Park 1921-2021

A century ago this week, thousands of people flocked by car and even horse carriage to remote, wild and forested hills in southwestern New York’s Cattaraugus County, near the border with Pennsylvania, to celebrate the opening of a new State Park.

According to a contemporary account in the local Salamanca Republican-Press newspaper, the visitors to the new Allegany State Park used a roadway that had been quickly built over the bed of a former lumbering railway in the region, which also had been part of the state’s 19th century gas and petroleum industry. With people coming in from as far as Buffalo, parking was quickly filled and some people walked a great distance to reach the dedication site, located near an old lumber camp.

Enjoying a picnic of sandwiches, doughnuts, cookies, coffee, iced tea and “milk in unlimited quantities” as reported by the newspaper, the crowd listened as Albert T. Fancher, a former state senator from the region and chairman of the new park’s commission, vowed that Allegany was poised to quickly grow, with areas nearby suitable for creation of a man-made lake and game preserve.

Another speaker, Franklin Moon, dean of the state college of forestry, said the creation of public parks like Allegany were the best remedy for “national irritability,” as he reflected some of the trepidation in the U.S. over the then-recent rise of Bolshevism in Russia.

Some of the Opening Day crowd at Allegany State Park on July 30, 1921.

Today, Allegany State Park welcomes more than 1,500,000 visitors a year to explore western New York’s premier wilderness playground, created thanks to the vision of Fancher, a petroleum industry executive who was a political force in Cattaraugus County for several decades, as well as Hamilton Ward, a Spanish-American War veteran who later founded the Erie County Park Commission and became New York State Attorney General, and Chauncey Hamlin, president of the American Association of Museums and founder of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Fancher became the park’s first director until his death nine years later in 1930. Fancher’s original cabin, where he stayed at the park with his wife, is still there. Hamlin supported the creation of a science camp at the park.

Starting out in 1921 with about 7,100 acres purchased for $35,800 (equivalent to about a half-million dollars today, or about $70 an acre), Allegany State Park has grown over the years to encompass more than 64,800 acres and includes rare remaining portions of old growth forest with trees more than 100 years old that were left undisturbed during the area’s lumbering and petroleum boom that ran from the early 19th century to the 1920s. Park naturalists have mapped more than 5,200 acres of old growth forests of hemlocks and hardwoods, with the majority of that in the Big Basin area. Some experts believe this is the state’s largest contiguous track of old growth outside the Adirondacks.

Given the uncertainty of planning during the pandemic, the park is not holding a mass gathering like was done in 1921, but is hosting a virtual celebration on July 30th 2021 that will include a library of digital content. The park is also offering a summer series of interpretive programs highlighting the park’s history.

The virtual celebration and other digital content can be viewed HERE starting noon on July 30, 2021.

Additionally, a set of four self-guided interpretive booklets are for sale at the park which guide visitors to 100 points of interest within the park, and includes topics of interest such as early European settlement, the petroleum and lumbering industries, early ski facilities in the state, and the work of Civilian Conservation Corps crews during the Great Depression.

Now New York’s largest State Park, Allegany has a wide variety of recreational resources certain to foster tranquility and soothe any irritability. Due to its size, this sprawling park is divided into two distinct areas – Red House and Quaker Run. Red House has 133 campsites, 130 cabins, 16 full-service cottages, two group camps, five miles of paved bike paths, many miles of hiking and horse trails, and swimming at man-made Red House Lake, with boat rentals. Its historic Tudor-style administration building, completed in 1928, includes a museum of park natural history

A canoeist paddles past the park’s historic Administration Building.

One of the new cabins at Allegany State Park.

The Quaker Run Area has two lakes, 189 campsites, 230 cabins, 37 full-service cottages, two group camps, many miles of hiking trails and horse trails, swimming at Quaker Lake, a boat launch at the Allegheny Reservoir, which has 91 miles of shoreline and is popular for boating, fishing, kayaking and waterskiing. Named for Quaker missionaries and settlers who came to the area in 1798 at the invitation of Seneca Chief Cornplanter to assist with agriculture and education.

The new bathhouse at Quaker Lake.
A fishing pier on Quaker Lake.

Hikers have a wide variety of trails to choose from, with some highlights including:

  • Located on the park’s Quaker Run side, the Blacksnake Mountain Trail is one of the oldest trails in the park with a unique history. Parts of the trail follow the 1888 section of A&K Railroad (Allegheny & Kinzua), which is evident in the gentle slope on the north side of the three-mile loop. In 1933, the professors of the Allegany School of Natural History, also known as “the School in the Forest”, (located near Science Lake) mapped out a hiking trail they officially named the “Nature Hiking Trail” to conduct their field studies with their students.  It was later renamed “Blacksnake Mountain Hiking Trail” in 1980 after Governor Blacksnake, an Iroquois Indian chief for the Seneca Nation of Indians, who allied with the United States in the War of 1812. The trail crosses several streams with new bridges, and a short steep climb leads to mature black cherry trees estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old. Cucumber magnolia, tulip trees and hemlock are other trees of interest along the way. This is a favorite trail for spring wildflower lovers. Trillium, Dutchmen’s breeches, squirrel corn, and spring beauties are just a few of the ephemerals that announce the changing of the seasons. Near the top of the trail, look for a granite milestone marker which represents the border of New York and Pennsylvania, where you can put a foot in each state.
  • Bear Paw Hiking Trail is named after a style of snowshoe used by Native Americans and was originally designed as an interpretive snowshoe trail in 2015 by park naturalists. The 2.4-mile trail starts at the rear of the Summit Area parking lot. Look for brown numbered markers which highlight unique flora such as ground cedar, various hardwoods, and lowbush blueberries. Halfway along Bear Paw, at the end of the loop, hikers will be treated to the masterfully built Stone Tower, an Allegany State Park landmark, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The tower offers beautiful views of large open valleys, the city of Salamanca and Red House Lake. The second half of the trail traverses the south side of the ridge, through beech and maple forests and into a meadow. Depending on the time of the year, hikers may get to sample low bush blueberries or wintergreen growing in this area. The last section has a short, steep incline that adds a bit of challenge. Bear Paw ends at the Summit Warming hut.
  • The 5.2-mile Robert C. Hoag Bicycle Path is named after the former Seneca Nation President and was dedicated in June 1990. Starting at the Red House entrance of the park, the path passes old apple trees and large stands of spruce and Scotch pine, along with many varieties of hardwoods, shrubs and wildflowers. The most used part of the path is around Red House Lake, where a 3.4-mile trail offers the potential to spot such wildlife as beaver, muskrat, great blue heron, and many species of waterfowl. Spurs off the trail lead to the Red House Wetland Interpretive Complex, Beehunter Cabin Trail and Camp Allegany. Several benches are located along the way to relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.
  • Work on the new Quaker Multi Use Trail began in the summer of 2020 between the Taft cabin and the Quaker General Store. The second phase is in the final design stages and will continue the trail to Quaker Lake Beach.  Once complete, the trail will offer five miles of accessible paths winding though woodlands and fields along ASP Route 3 and Quaker Lake, including several scenic crossings of Quaker Run.

For birdwatchers, Allegany State Park contains a Bird Conservation Area, which provides breeding and migratory stopover habitat for forest-interior species such as Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager. Of the 75 neotropical migratory songbird species that breed in New York, 64 have been observed within the park. The park supports a large breeding population of Osprey and one of the largest breeding concentrations of Cerulean Warblers found in New York, both of which are state species of special concern. The BCA also provides habitat for other state-listed species, including Bald Eagle (threatened), Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk (all species of special concern). Find a map of the BCA here.

A birdwatching blind in one of the park’s wetland areas.

During the winter, the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski Area boasts 26 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. The area is named for an early park forester and ski advocate who later became assistant park manager and worked there from 1928 to 1968, earning the nickname “Father of Skiing” in western New York. For other winter sports enthusiasts, the Quaker Run and Red House areas also have a combined 90 miles of snowmobile trails.

Art Roscoe uses an axe to cut the ribbon to open up the new cross country ski trail network in 1972.
With 90 miles of snowmobile trails, Allegany State Park is popular with sledders.

Allegany also was the site of numerous fire towers, where observers would watch for signs of wildfires in the forests. One of those 60-foot towers, built in 1926 at the 2,365-foot summit of South Mountain, was restored and reopened to the public in 2006, and now offers a spectacular view of Red House Lake and the surrounding area.

The fire tower at the South Mountain summit offers panoramic views of the region.

For another gorgeous view, the Stone Tower, built between 1933-1934 by crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps, stands at 2,250 feet and overlooks the city of Salamanca. On a clear day, the view can stretch for up to 20 miles.

CCC crews also helped establish the park as a regional center for skiing, building a downhill ski center and two ski jumps, which allowed for competitions that would draw thousands of spectators through the 1970s, when the jumps were closed.

Top, one of the Civilian Conservation Corps crews stationed at Allegany State Park. Below, the Stone Tower that was among the projects built by CCC members.

Allegany also has a unique geological and natural history compared to elsewhere in the state. The park is part of a geological region called the Salamanca Re-entrant, which is the only area in New York that was never reached by glaciers during the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. This gives the region its distinctive soils, topography, surficial geology, and flora and fauna.

The well-known “Thunder Rocks” in the park’s Red House area may appear to casual observers to be some of the massive boulders scattered throughout much of the state by  Ice Age glaciers but this unusual “rock city” is actually bits of ancient inland seabed created some 400 million years ago, and revealed through geological uplift and erosion.

Thunder Rocks are sections of an ancient inland seabed that has been exposed through geological uplift and erosion.

Wild turkeys, now widespread throughout New York, owe that comeback to Allegany State Park, the Regional Park Commission, and the Conservation Department. These birds were largely absent from the state by the beginning of the 20th century, due to overhunting and habitat loss, but in the 1940s, a small population of birds had come into the park, likely from Pennsylvania to the south. From the 1950s to the mid-70s, wild turkeys in the park were live trapped by wildlife officials, who used net-firing cannons to safely capture the birds, which were then taken to the Catskills, Adirondacks and elsewhere in New York state to reestablish the birds in the wild. Some turkeys were even sent to other states in the Northeast and to Canada as part of wildlife restoration efforts there.

All this only begins to scratch the surface of the park’s fascinating history and what it has to offer. So, in honor of the venerable park’s centennial and its next century to come, plan a visit to explore. Interactive maps of  Allegany State Park can be found here and here.

Above, wildlife managers fire a net from a cannon to trap wild turkeys as part of restoration efforts in New York and throughout the Northeast. A plaque now marks the location of the first efforts.

Cover Shot – A colorized historic postcard of Thunder Rocks in Allegany State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks

Early morning mist rises from Quaker Lake.

Seek and You Might Find: Geocaching In NYS Parks

I am not stealthy. This is not new information, but I didn’t realize how sloppy I was at sneaking around until I tried geocaching—a worldwide game of locating some of millions of little hidden stashes.

This outdoor activity relies on the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, where participants place caches of trinkets, also known as “hides,” in various places, and record locations with GPS coordinates to the website geocaching.com. Cache-seekers then use those coordinates with their own GPS devices to locate the caches, and can take some trinkets and leave some of their own for subsequent seekers to find.

And there are a lot of little hidden treasures out there. For example, the website above indicates there are more than 2,800 caches hidden around the Albany region.

On my first go at it, I found myself lifting low-lying tree limbs and creeping around bushes in search of tiny containers along a busy section of the Empire State Trail, the new 750-mile multi-use trail that connects New York City to the Canadian border, and Albany to Buffalo. While I was doing this, a woman in an SUV noticed me and I could tell I was acting a bit too suspicious for her taste. She stopped her car, watched me, and didn’t continue driving until I left that section of sidewalk.

After this inauspicious start, I was in awe of more experienced hobbyists, known as geocachers or cachers. After examining the map on the official geocaching app, it turned out there was a cache hidden close to my home. Strangers had been snooping around the area to try to find it and I hadn’t even noticed them! Luckily, the 2021 New York State Geocache Challenge is here this summer, so I will have plenty of time to hone my skills.

Volunteers and New York State Park workers have concealed more than 230 geocaches with items like stickers, toy cars, and figurines in 56 State Parks and Historic Sites in Central New York, the Saratoga-Capital Region, and the Hudson Valley. Adventurers who find at least 45 caches (at least 35 in a specific region, and up to 10 in either of the other two regions) will receive a geocache challenge geocoin representing the primary region.

The obverse of the geocoin for the Saratoga Capital Region.

The geocoins are trackables, each with a unique identifying number that can be activated online and then tracked as coins are located, reported and moved to new locations by subsequent geocachers.

So far, the geocoin that has traveled the furthest from a State Park is from the 2015  Saratoga-Capital District Region Geocache Challenge. Now settled outside Salt Lake City, Utah, the token (TB6Y60Y) has so far trekked 160,500 miles to such places as the Mediterranean island of Malta, Germany, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in India, Japan, Israel, and nearly three hundred other places.

Some geocachers are nearly as well-traveled. Larry Eaton is the Saratoga-Capital region’s geocache volunteer coordinator and during his two decades, he has logged about 17,500 caches, with about 1,500 of those found in State Parks. Though this seems like a daunting number to some, Larry knows cachers who have found hundreds of thousands of caches.

Eaton and his companion, Sadie, out on the trail.

But most geocachers start with smaller beginnings. David Brooks is the education manager at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and serves as the park’s liaison for this year’s Saratoga-Capital District Regional Geocache Challenge. As more geocaches came to his site, he became more interested in the hobby. He decided to try it with his son after being inspired by a volunteer at his historic site named Barbara, who used the hobby to spend more time with her son.

When putting out caches in the historic site, Brooks likes mixing the environment and history of Schoharie Crossing, which focuses on the history of the Erie Canal. One year, he and Barbara put created an innovative cache that involved a small boat on a pulley system.

Some geocachers take pride in creating such clever hiding places. Eaton said once a geocacher in the Capital Region built a replica of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz out of an old furnace and hid a cache inside of it. There are also different kinds of caches for folks to get creative with, including puzzle caches and different types of challenge caches that require specific skills and tasks to obtain.

A cleverly disguised cache made from an owl decoy.

All the State Parks geocaches that are part of the challenges are free to find and access, though there may be fees to enter the parks. To participate, you can download the pick up a passport in person from a park or historic site or find it on their website.

For passports, click on the name each region involved to download a PDF, which outlines which Parks contain the geocaches: Central, Saratoga-Capital and Taconic.

To find the caches, download the Geocaching app or follow the coordinates of the caches listed on the Geocaching.com website. When you find a cache, stamp your passport with the stamp inside each cache the turn it in to the state park indicated on the passport. Remember to leave the stamp behind for others that come after you. The challenge runs through November 11, 2021.

Stay on or near trails, take care not to trample vegetation, put everything back as you found it.

And please, don’t set up your own geocaches without checking with your Park manager first. State Park rules require that any geocaches in State Parks must be approved beforehand and follow rules to protect sensitive environmental or historic areas and public safety. Keep it safe, keep it fun! Happy seeking!



Cover shot – The reverse side of the 2021 New York State Parks Geocache Challenge. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Jessica Andreone, Environmental Educator, Central Region of New York State Parks.

Get Out and Explore … The Allegany Region of New York state Parks

Spanning Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties at New York’s wild southwestern border with Pennsylvania, this region contains the largest State Park – the 65,000-acre Allegany State Park.

The region also has a dramatic shoreline along Lake Erie that contains a historic lighthouse and is important habitat for many migratory waterfowl. This area is a wonderful place to experience dramatic sunsets over the lake.

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 Allegany 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.

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 or carry a paper copy as a back up

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 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 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 “summit fever” (a desire to reach a specific destination) make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in spring and 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.

Cattaraugus County


Allegany State Park, 2373 ASP Route 1, Salamanca, NY (716) 354-9101: This 65,000-acre park offers an outdoor paradise with forests, mountains, meadows, amazing rock formations, three lakes and numerous streams and ponds. The park’s two developed areas – Red House and Quaker – have more than 90 miles of hiking trails and naturalist walks. Here are some staff picks.

Located on the park’s Quaker side, the Blacksnake Mountain Trail is one of the oldest trails in the park with a unique history. Parts of the trail follow the 1888 section of A&K Railroad (Allegheny & Kinzua), which is evident in the gentle slope on the north side of the three-mile loop. In 1933, the professors of the Allegany School of Natural History (located near Science Lake) mapped out a hiking trail they officially named the “Nature Hiking Trail” to conduct their field studies with their students.  It was later renamed “Blacksnake Mountain Hiking Trail” in 1980 after Governor Blacksnake, an Iroquois Indian chief for the Seneca Nation of Indians, who allied with the United States in the War of 1812.

The trail crosses several streams with new bridges, and a short steep climb leads to mature black cherry trees estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old. Cucumber magnolia, tulip trees and hemlock are other trees of interest along the way. This is a favorite trail for spring wildflower lovers. Trillium, Dutchmen’s breeches, squirrel corn, and spring beauties are just a few of the ephemerals that announce the changing of the seasons. Near the top of the trail, look for a granite milestone marker which represents the border of New York and Pennsylvania, where you can put a foot in each state. 

In this slideshow, start with the old railroad grade, then see the new bridge at Murray Brook, a painted trillium and the granite marker marking the New York/Pennsylvania border.

Bear Paw Hiking Trail is named after a style of snowshoe used by Native Americans and was originally designed as an interpretive snowshoe trail in 2015 by park naturalists. The 2.4-mile trail starts at the rear of the Summit Area parking lot. Look for brown numbered markers which highlight unique flora such as ground cedar, various hardwoods, and lowbush blueberries. Halfway along Bear Paw, at the end of the loop, hikers will be treated to the masterfully built Stone Tower, an Allegany State Park landmark, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The tower offers beautiful views of large open valleys, the city of Salamanca and Red House Lake.

User the slider bar to compare the view from above Stone Tower (left) to a sunset view from just below the Tower (right).

The second half of the trail traverses the south side of the ridge, through beech and maple forests and into a meadow. Depending on the time of the year, hikers may get to sample low bush blueberries or wintergreen growing in this area. The last section has a short, steep incline that adds a bit of challenge. Bear Paw ends at the Summit Warming hut.

Find a map of this trail here.


The 5.2-mile Robert C. Hoag Bicycle Path is named after the former Seneca Nation President and was dedicated in June 1990. Starting at the Red House entrance of the park, the path passes old apple trees and large stands of spruce and Scotch pine, along with many varieties of hardwoods, shrubs and wildflowers. The most used part of the path is around Red House Lake, where a 3.4-mile trail offers the potential to spot such wildlife as beaver, muskrat, great blue heron, and many species of waterfowl. Spurs off the trail lead to the Red House Wetland Interpretive Complex, Beehunter Cabin Trail and Camp Allegany. Several benches are located along the way to relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.

The Thomas L. Kelley Bridge along the bike path.
Use the slider bar to compare Red House Lake, with a view of the spillway and dam (left), to a sunset over the lake (right).

Work on the new Quaker Multi Use Trail began in the summer of 2020 between the Taft cabin and the Quaker General Store. The second phase will start this season, and will continue the trail Quaker Lake Beach.  Once complete, the trail will offer five miles of accessible paths winding though woodlands and fields along ASP Route 3 and Quaker Lake, including several scenic crossings of Quaker Run.


Find maps to Allegany State Park here and here.


Pat McGee Trail, Little Valley, (716) 354-9101: The recently-acquired 12.1-mile Pat McGee Trail connects the city of Salamanca and village of Cattaraugus. This multi-use trail along a former rail bed has connections with the current Finger Lakes Trail System, which has about 1,000 miles of trails in southern and western New York, and the truly sprawling North Country Scenic Trail, which in turn provide links to Allegany State Park and the Allegany National Forest in Pennsylvania. Named for former state Sen. Pat McGee, the trail opened in 2005 and is used for bicycling, hiking, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. It features a 1.8-acre community park with pavilion and two gazebos in Little Valley, along with five trailheads with parking areas. It also contains six former rail bridges that were rehabilitated for trail use.

One of the former rail bridges along the Pat McGee Trail.

Find a map here.

Chautauqua County


Long Point State Park, 4459 Route 430, Bemus Point, (716) 386-2722: A one-mile loop, the multi-use Minturn Trail leads to the point of a peninsula that extends into Lake Chautauqua. Some of the sites along the trail include the house foundation of the former Minturn Mansion, wildlife viewing areas and various fishing access points. The marina area at the end of the trail features a boat launch and spaces to sit by the lake. The trail is a popular place for many different activities including hiking, fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.

Find a trail map here.

The Minturn Trail is gentle and popular among hikers of all abilities.

A great blue heron (left) and a much-smaller kingfisher (right) share a branch at the lake.

The marina on Lake Chautauqua as seen from the trail.

Lake Erie State Park, 5838 NY-5, Brocton, (716) 792-9214: Hike the East Trail and from the bluffs explore sights of the shallowest Great Lake. This wide trail is great for families and beginner hikers featuring breathtaking sights of Lake Erie and a vernal pool tucked along the wooded path. This multiuse trail is commonly shared with disk golfers and migratory bird watchers. Wildlife commonly seen at Lake Erie State Park includes the common tern, red headed woodpecker, black squirrel, deer and bald eagle.

There are spectacular wide-angle views of Lake Erie from the East Trail. A great place to catch the sunset.
Relax in a shaded gazebo along the East trail as you take in lake views.

Find a trail map here.


Cover shot- Red House Lake at Allegany State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Get Out and Explore Other Regions in New York State Parks

The “Get Out and Explore” series outlines staff-recommended hikes in other regions of New York, including Genesee, Finger Lakes, Central, Palisades, Taconic, Saratoga/Capital and Thousand Islands.

King of the Road at Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The words John D. Rockefeller and “Do It Yourself” might not naturally come to mind in the same sentence.

But visitors to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve – the former Hudson Valley family estate of petroleum magnate John D. Rockfeller, who was one of the 20th century’s richest men – will see one of this state’s most ambitious DIY projects.

The preserve is part of the 3,000-acre the Rockefeller Pocantico Hills Estate Historic District, recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, which is honeycombed by more than 55 miles of historic “carriage” roads that gracefully showcase its woodlands, vistas and the river valley.

Near the start of the 20th century, many miles of these roads _ and the picturesque views each step of the way _ were envisioned and laid out on foot by “Old John D” as he was known by neighbors at the time. He passed along his passion for road building to his son, John Jr., who completed and enhanced his father’s vision for the extensive network into the 1930s.

As the head of the Standard Oil conglomerate, Rockefeller was fabulously wealthy, and could have hired any engineer he wished to create the road network for the Westchester Country country estate where he, and his brother William, were to each have luxurious mansions.

John D. Rockefeller St. (Photo Credit- Oscar White/Wikipedia Commons)

But Rockefeller knew what he wanted his roads look like and where they ought to be, so he did it himself, traipsing around the woods with his surveyor’s tools to get it just right.

And he wanted the roads to be suitable for travel in a horse and carriage, which is how he wished to tour the estate. That meant roads with crushed stone surfaces, gentle grades and good drainage to prevent erosion.

In the nominating form for listing the site on the State and National Historic Register, State Parks researcher William Krattinger located some of Rockefeller’s own words recalling his road work..

“I have spent many delightful hours studying the beautiful views, the trees and the final landscape effects of that very interesting section of the Hudson River … I had the advantage of knowing every foot of the land, all the big old trees were personal friends of mine, and with the views at any given point, I was perfectly familiar.”

“In a few days, I had worked out a plan so devised that the roads caught just the best views at just the angles where in driving up the hill, you came upon impressive outlooks and the ending was the final burst of river, hill, cloud and great sweep in country to crown the whole; and here I fixed my stakes to show where I suggested the roads should run.”

Roberts, Ann Rockefeller (1990) Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads: The Untold Story of Acadia’s Carriage Roads & Their Creator
There are miles of carriage roads at Rockefeller State Park Preserve surveyed and laid out by industrialist John D Rockefeller Sr. at the turn of the 20th century. (Photo Credit- NYS Parks)




A contemporary newspaper account in the Dec. 31, 1904 edition of the Utica Journal also expressed admiration for Rockefeller’s skill as a surveyor and road builder:

“With only an assistant to carry the transit and hold the rod, the old man (Rockefeller was 65 at the time of the article) has trampled all over his vast estate on the Pocantico Hills and has made his own surveys for the huge park which he is laying out there.”

“More than this, he has shown himself to be an expert road builder. When all the roads he has mapped out are completed they will stretch for nearly 40 miles and “Old John D.,” as the whole countryside calls him, has planned every foot of them himself. Landscape gardeners and civil engineers alike agree that, whether from the viewpoint of artistic effect or mere utility, the work could not have been better done.”

The roads themselves, of course, were built by hired workers following the Rockefeller’s routes.

A carriage road passes along a meadow. (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

The carriage roads are a favorite of equestrians. (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

Rockefeller’s vision for his estate was also different from that of many opulent estates of his day, in that he did not want an elaborately designed, geometrically landscaped estate of exotic or imported plants.

Rather, Rockefeller wanted to showcase the natural beauty of the land, sky and river valley.

As described by Bill Krattinger: “The outer estate landscape of the Pocantico Hills estate was not designed, in the formal sense, but was instead “culled back” to reveal or otherwise highlight what were deemed to be the most desirable existing features and views … it might more properly be defined as a refined or culled landscape, in that its creation was not so much a process of introducing new plant and tree material and adding or modifying topographic features, but instead one of honing the existing landscape’s natural features to bring to the forefront those characteristics which were deemed to be the most desirable and beautiful.”

Rockefeller’s work was picked up and continued by his son, John Jr., whose instincts for landscape design and road building were as sharp as his father’s, so much that John Jr. was bestowed with an honorary membership in the American Society of Landscape Architects in the late 1930s.

Long popular for walking, riding, jogging, and carriage driving, the trails lead through varied landscapes and past natural and historical features, such as Swan Lake, the Pocantico River with its wood and stone bridges, gurgling streams, colonial stone walls and rock outcroppings.

The Park Preserve occupies about 1,700 acres in this district, with the rest privately held.

So, come experience the beautiful carriage roads here at Rockefeller State Park Preserve as the fall leaves turn color, and as you take in the views, imagine one of the country’s richest men, happily tramping through his woods and envisioning what you now enjoy today.

For a trail map, click HERE.


Cover Shot- Walking the carriage trails at Rockefeller State Park Preserve (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks

Get out And Explore … The Thousand Islands Region of New York State Parks

While it may be best known for world-class boating and fishing, the Thousand Islands region of State Parks also offers miles of hiking trails along shorelines and through forests, stretching from Lake Ontario north along the St. Lawrence River and finally to the shores of Lake Champlain.

Covering Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties, the region  includes 26 state parks, two golf courses and a historic site that cover a stunning mixture of woodlands, islands and water.

Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Thousand Islands Region, 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.

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 water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. 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 and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Be sure to download maps ahead of time or carry a paper copy as a back up

In addition to the name and distance of each designated trail in a park, the maps include facilities such as parking, comfort stations, park offices, nature centers, campsites, and boat launches. To learn more about NYS Parks trails CLICK HERE.  

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, 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.

Parks 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.  To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, CLICK HERE.

Clinton County


Point Au Roche State Park, 19 Camp Red Cloud Road, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 (518) 563-0369: The park’s Long Point Trail is a must-see, with its panoramic views of historic Lake Champlain, vistas of Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east, and New York’s own High Peaks visible to the west. The two-mile out and back trail features hardwood forests, steep cliff edges, diverse bird viewing, opportunities for world-class fishing, and much more. This state park is rich in history from the iconic Camp Red Cloud boys’ and girls’ summer camp to the famous ‘Fantasy Kingdom’ amusement park. Hikers will find a memorial to those who attended Camp Red Cloud, marked with a plaque on a rock at an outdoor amphitheater and lecture area. This area was used for chapel service around 1950 and today is used for outdoor seminars, college lecturing, actor performances, a music venue, and more.

Find a trail map here…

A view of Lake Champlain and the nearby mountains from the Long Point Trail at Point Au Roche State Park.
The trail passes the marker for the former Camp Red Cloud.

Jefferson County


Black River Trail, 25534 Ridge Road, Watertown, NY 13601 (315) 938-5083: There are three parking lots to access this trail _ Brookfield Power parking lot:  253W + 84 Black River, Rutland NY; the Ridge Road parking lot at 25534 Ridge Road in Watertown; and the Walker Avenue parking lot at the end of Walker Avenue in Watertown. This 4.5-mile, fully accessible paved multi-use trail is suitable for hikers of all abilities, as well as as perfect for running, walking, biking, and cross-country skiing. A converted railroad bed, the trail winds through a mix of forests, agricultural lands, and quiet neighborhoods. Along it are many small bridges and other concrete features that will remind you of the trail’s past as part of the New York Central Railroad. Several illuminated crosswalks allow safe transition between the multiple access points and parking lots. A newly completed extension allows connectivity to the city of Watertown’s network of trails.

Find a trail map here…

Robert G. Wehle State Park, 5182 State Park Road, Henderson, NY 13650 (315) 938-5302: The former estate of businessman Robert G. Wehle, whose family owned and operated the Genesee Brewing Company, this park boasts 1,100 acres and more than 17,000 feet of spectacular Lake Ontario shoreline. The park’s Snake Foot Trail is a moderate 4.9-mile multi-use loop trail. And no worries _ this yellow marked trail is not named for reptiles underfoot, but after Wehle’s prize-winning English Pointer named Elhew Snakefoot. Wehle was a recognized as a top breeder of pointers.

A statue representing Robert G. Wehle’s prize-winning English Pointer dog, Elhew Snakefoot, at the namesake New York State Park that was once his former Lake Ontario estate.

This spectacular trail runs along the scenic cliff faces of Lake Ontario and is truly meant for all seasons. The shoreline picnic area is equipped with a shelter, tables, and grills that are perfect for a summer BBQ. Fall is ablaze with turning leaves illuminated by the setting sunlight. The trail is among several groomed snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, however the dynamic crystalline waterfront of the Snakefoot is an amazing winter experience that should be enjoyed by all. And in spring the calls of Long-Tailed ducks and other migratory waterfowl can be heard from the rocky outcroppings. Caution!!  The Snakefoot Trail parallels the natural coastline and its steep cliffs, and there is very little obstructing the view _ or the fall hazards that come with outdoor exploration. Watch your step and pay attention especially when taking pictures!!!

Find a trail map here…

Fall colors and evening light can be a magical time at Robert G. Wehle State Park atop the rocky bluff at Lake Ontario.

The power when Lake Ontario’s waves roll crashing onto shore

… contrasts with a lake that also can be placid and flat

Lewis County


Whetstone Gulf State Park, 6065 West Road, Lowville, NY 13367 (315) 376-6630: The park’s North Rim and South Rim gorge trails are a 5.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall and spectacular scenic vistas. The trail is rated as moderate and highlights a park that is built in and around a stunning three-mile gorge cut into the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau. Primarily used for hiking, nature trips, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, the trail is best used from March until November. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be kept on leash. The gorge is steep, so be sure of your footing and stay on the trail at all times.

Find a trail map here…

St. Lawrence County


Jacques Cartier State Park, Route 12, Morristown, NY 13664 (315) 375-6371: This park on the St. Lawrence River might be best known for its excellent fishing, but it also features several short trails through the forest that crisscross the park entrance road into the park. The Krooked Kreek Trail can be accessed on either end from the entrance road trail head or the trail head located on the park office road. This easy-to-walk trail is slightly more than a half-mile long, and meanders along several winding streams through an open hardwood forest. The streams are rock filled with several drop off ledges making for small water falls at high water. The openness of the forest makes for great plant and wildlife viewing along the way. Come spring, hikers can spot a large assortment of forest flowers including Trillium, Jack In The Pulpit, Carnal Flower and Solomon Seal to name a few. White tail deer, mink, owls and hawks are common sighting along the streams. A rare treat is a glimpse at an elusive fisher (a member of the weasel family) prowling the shores along the trail. Two bridge crossings offer wonderful location to pause and reflect as the stream passes beneath and on down through the forest on its way down to the river.  In the winter months, the main park entrance road is closed and not plowed. This adds plenty of great opportunities for cross country skiing and snow shoeing with side excursions down the trails looping around and back to the road.

Sign at Jacques Cartier State Park for the Krooked Kreek Trail.


Cover Shot- Sunset on Lake Champlain at Point Au Roche State Park. All photographs by New York State Parks.


And learn about hikes in other State Parks regions in previous posts in the “Get Out and Explore…” series. See you out there!

Get Out and Explore … The Palisades Region

With autumn leaves now turned, hiking in the Palisades region of State Parks offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills to go with a fascinating history that includes an outlaw’s lair, the state’s early iron industry, and a traitor’s secret meeting place. Located on the west side of the Hudson River, this … Continue reading Get Out and Explore … The Palisades Region

Get Out And Explore … The Central Region of New York State Parks

With summer now in full swing, hiking trails are calling from the Central Region of State Parks, which stretches from Lake Ontario to the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania border. The region includes glacial lakes, sandy beaches, segments of the historic Erie Canal, and dramatic waterfalls. Covering Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego … Continue reading Get Out And Explore … The Central Region of New York State Parks

Get out And Explore … The Saratoga/Capital Region of New York State Parks

Centered on the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, between the Adirondacks and the Catskills, the Saratoga/Capital Region of New York State Parks offers opportunities for both hikers and paddlers. Covering Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga Washington, Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties, the region includes a dozen state parks, as well as eight historic sites … Continue reading Get out And Explore … The Saratoga/Capital Region of New York State Parks

Get out and explore … the Taconic Region of State parks

With more than 2,000 miles of marked trails across New York, the State Parks have something for hikers of every ability. That includes the beautiful Taconic Region, located on the east side of the Hudson River and stretching through Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties. Palatial estates, highland trails, Hudson River vistas and woodland campgrounds … Continue reading Get out and explore … the Taconic Region of State parks