It’s hard to beat fall in Western New York. Cool, sunny days and colorful foliage provide a stunning backdrop for exploring the region. Here are 7 unique hikes to take within an hour’s drive of downtown Buffalo to help make the most of this beautiful time of year:
Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge – Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park
Chestnut Ridge County Park not only retains charming hiking trails, but also a hidden gem – the Eternal Flame. The natural gas leak, nestled within a trickling creek waterfall earned it a spot on the “15 Jaw-Dropping Places Worth Visiting” list on Mentalfloss.com. The flame is reachable via a trek up a ravine.
Akron Falls County Park – 44 Parkview Dr., Akron
The moderate trek directs hikers along rushing Murder Creek to the lower falls viewing area – a breathtaking scene of gentle cascades tumbling over natural limestone formations. Picnic and play areas are available for families looking to relax in the sun as well.
Knox Farm State Park – 437 Buffalo Rd., East Aurora
Over 600 acres of rolling meadows and forested trails await visitors just outside the village of East Aurora. The former estate of the Knox family offers a bucolic landscape and myriad of hiking opportunities.
Tifft Nature Preserve – 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo
Families, birdwatchers, and hikers alike would enjoy a quick getaway to the 264-acre Tifft Nature Preserve. Formerly a landfill, the now-rehabilitated land invites visitors to observe native wildlife just minutes from downtown. The preserve – composed of wetlands and expansive forests – features hiking trails, boardwalks, and even a glimpse of Buffalo’s industrial heritage.
Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve – 93 Honorine Dr., Cheektowaga
The family-friendly Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve offers well-kempt trails, allowing visitors to explore the diverse flora and native wildlife. Guests can loop around a peaceful pond speckled with magenta lilies or follow the Beech Tree Trail to view the biggest American beech tree in the state. The park even offers entertainment for children in the form of both an environmental education center and a nature play area.
Niagara Gorge – 3180 DeVeaux Woods Drive, Niagara Falls
The Niagara Gorge at Whirlpool State Park trails will suit both scenic strollers and challenge-driven climbers. The Rim Trail, at the top of the gorge, provides a picturesque overlook of the river. Those pursuing a more adventurous hike may wish to descend the steps to the gorge to view the rapids via the moderate Devil’s Hole or the difficult Whirlpool Rapids Trail. As repairs were conducted this summer, check with the NYS Parks department for staircase accessibility here.
Zoar Valley – Forty Road entrance
“Zoar is a breathtaking spectacle of the kind you would expect to find in the wilds of the West,” according to blogger Ed Healy. “It’s one of the natural wonders of New York State, with old growth forests, dramatic vistas and heart-pounding recreation opportunities.” The cliffs and gorges of Zoar can be found outside the village of Gowanda.
For more autumnal ideas, check out our Fall Guide here.