My go-to city hike that never disappoints is the Tifft Nature Preserve on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. If you’re pressed for time and need a quick get away, this is the place to go. Once the site of a farm worked in Buffalo’s earliest days by George Washington Tifft, this piece of land has served as a railroad yard and for a period of time in the 1950s and 60s as a trash dump. Today, Tifft Farm has been rehabilitated and restored and is a surprisingly serene spot to enjoy the outdoors. On the trails and boardwalks of Tifft you’ll be able to spot white-tail deer, red-tail hawks and industrious beaver leaving their mark on the surrounding trees. Be sure to stroll out onto the boardwalk where you’ll find a view of the Cargill’s grain elevator rising in the distance — a reminder of Buffalo’s storied past as a center of flouring milling.
If you’ve got a little more time to spare, I recommend the short drive up to Devil’s Hole State Park. Located just north of Niagara Falls on the Robert Moses Parkway, Devil’s Hole is the Niagara that tourists typically miss. Take the stone stairway to the bottom of the gorge and make your way alongside the roiling waters of the Niagara River as it makes its way to Lake Ontario. The trail narrows at points and the footing is sometimes slippery, so take care and watch your step. Your caution will be rewarded when you reach the end of the trail and come to the magnificent view overlooking the class 5 rapids of the Niagara. It should come as something of a welcome surprise that a mile or two downstream from the tourist hordes combing the streets of Niagara Falls, you’ll be able to take in this spectacular scene in solitude and serenity. Highly recommended.
Finally, if you’re looking to get further out into Buffalo’s countryside, I recommend a stop at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java. Just 45 minutes from downtown Buffalo, Beaver Meadow is crisscrossed with a series of well-marked trails. Pick up a map at the parking lot and head across the road to the aptly named Rusty Stove Trail. Here you’ll find – wait for it – a rusty stove in pieces on the ground — a remnant, no doubt, of a long ago farm that stood in these woods. Stop by the Interpretive Center on your way out to learn a little about the flora and fauna that inhabit these woods and be sure to take a photo down by the lake. If you’re hungry, take Route 20A west into nearby East Aurora for a delicious lunch at the Elm Street Bakery.
— Ed Healy