There’s nothing like hiking in the fall in Western New York.
“The best part of fall hiking is seeing the change in the trees and the crisper air,” says Christopher Schaeffer, who hikes on a regular basis.
Adam M. Bartoszek, who is an avid backpacker, agrees, “Hiking in the fall is enjoyable simply because many of the conditions are changing. The beauty of the fall foliage is on display throughout New York State, and it’s something to experience.”
There are so many options for where to hike in Western New York, and if you ask a group of outdoors enthusiasts their favorite hiking spot, everyone will give you a different answer. I posed the question to the Hike WNY Facebook Group, which has more than 31,000 members. They range from people who hike 20 miles or more in a day to those, like me, who prefer a much more casual pace and grade, hitting 2-3 miles. These are their best suggestions for the Top 5 Fall Hikes in Western New York.
Top 5 Fall Hikes in WNY
If you’re looking for great views and fantastic foliage close to home, look no further than the Niagara Gorge trails. One person in the Hike WNY Facebook group says, “Devil’s Hole is like medicine for your soul.” Another adds, “Niagara Gorge Devil’s Hole is still the gold standard.”
The great part about the gorge trails is that they cater to a range of abilities. If you’re looking for an easier section, you can do the Robert Moses Recreation Trail, Niagara Gorge Rim Trail, Great Gorge Railway Trail, or the Artpark Gorge trail. If you’re looking for more difficult terrain, you’ll want to head to the Whirlpool Rapids Trail.
How can you compete with the “Grand Canyon of the East?” In fact, in 2015, Letchworth won the USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States. With the three waterfalls, train bridges, and incredible foliage on the surrounding hills, Letchworth should be on your fall to-do list. It has 66 miles of hiking trails, in addition to horseback riding and biking trails.
3. Akron Falls
Whether it’s the lake and stream in the summer or the frozen falls in the winter, Akron Falls is a must-see destination year-round. Of course, fall is no different. The beautiful foliage surrounding a gentle hike to the waterfalls is breathtaking. It’s a 0.8-mile hike to the falls and good for a range of abilities.
Nestled in the Enchanted Mountains in Cattaraugus County, Little Rock City lives up to that moniker with its giant rock formations. It’s part of Rock City and McCarthy State Forests and is on the Cattaraugus County Geology Trail. Bruce Kershner even named one of Western New York’s Secret Places in his book. This Western New York gem is a must-stop on any fall hike list.
At 65,000 acres, Allegany State Park boasts as “Western New York’s Natural Playground.” It’s divided into two sections, the Quaker Area, which features two lakes, and the Red House Area. There’s something for everyone at Allegany State Park. There are 18 hiking trails, as well as trails for biking and horseback riding. With everything to do, you are definitely going to want to give yourself more than a day to explore. This incredible area crosses the border into Pennsylvania, where it stretches into the majestic Allegheny National Forest, which has more than 100 miles of hiking trails and plenty of ways to explore.
If you want to test your skills on easier terrain, below are some of the best “hyper-local” and beginner trails.
• Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve
• Red Jacket Riverfront Natural Habitat Park