Durand Eastman Park boardwalk cover

Our Favorite 5 County Parks to Explore

The Monroe County Parks system includes 23 parks that are all worth visiting, but these are the five you absolutely must explore if you haven’t already.

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Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

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Highland Park November Japanese Maples
Highland Park lilacs
Highland Park Rochester
Highland Park tulips
Highland Park

1. Highland Park

Rochester

There is no doubt in my mind when I say that Highland is my favorite of the county parks, and one of my favorite parks in the world. If that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will!

Walking the paved pathway weaves you up, down, and through a diverse collection of flowers, flowering bushes and trees, taking you from the Pansy Bed to the Poet’s Garden, Tulip Garden, Lamberton Conservatory and the reservoir.

If you can visit only once, go in late-April or early-May when the Magnolias, Azaleas, and Lilacs are in bloom.

Stop back in early-November to enjoy the Japanese Maple collection.

Each month offers its own magnificent experience so I try to go at least once a month!

Rochester's Geographic History: Mendon Ponds Park Devils Bathtub
Mendon Ponds Park Birdsong Fairy Trail red door
Mendon Ponds Park birdsong trail
Mendon
Mendon

2. Mendon Ponds Park

Mendon

Mendon Ponds is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms.

It is a truly beautiful space with large ponds perfect for kayaking, fishing, and watching the season’s reflections and sunsets.

Devil’s Bathtub is a unique meromictic lake.

Feed the sparrows right out of your hand along the Bird Song Trail in winter. You’ll also find the fairy houses here that were moved from Tinker Park in 2019.

Visit Wild Wings to see birds of prey up close.

City of Rochester Parks: Genesee Valley Park
Red Creek through Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park

3. Genesee Valley Park

Rochester

GVP sits at the crossroads of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal with a kayak launch to explore both. Bike, walk or run over several stone bridges, and through the “lightening tree” or “Tree of Life“.

Rochester-area parks: Durand Eastman Park boardwalk
Durand Eastman Park Log Cabin Road November
Durand Eastman Park blossoming trees
Durand Eastman Park Durand Lake east side
Durand Lake

4. Durand Eastman

Irondequoit

Hike the trails around Durand Lake and Eastman Lake. Wander though the arboretum’s diverse tree collection including Pine Valley, Rhododendron Valley, Yew Hill, Oak Grove, and a collection of five dove trees.

This is another exceptional example of a park with seasonally-distinctive personalities.

Water Trails Around Rochester NY Oatka Creek through Oatka Creek Park Scottsville
Oatka Creek Park Scottsville NY
Oatka Creek Park Scottsville NY
Oatka Creek Park goldenrod birch trees
Oatka Creek Park

5. Oatka Creek Park

Scottsville

Oatka Creek Park in Wheatland is one of the more “strollable” in the Monroe County Park system, with little change in elevation along the 3.3 mile loop trail.

If you drive NY-251 west from Victor, through Mendon and Rush, the road will take you directly into the parking lot. From there, the main trail is so easy to locate and enjoy.

The grass-mown meadow trails are perfect for observing wildflowers and the birds & insects that flourish among them.

What I find most unique about Oatka are the meadows; great spaces to observe wildflowers, birds and other wildlife among the birch trees, and to witness seasonal changes. It is one of the least used and least developed parks, making for a quiet retreat into nature.

Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca/Maplewood
Monroe County Ellison Park Rochester NY
Ellison
Powder Mills Park Daffodil Meadow Trail
Powder Mills

Ready for some more Monroe County parks?

22 Monroe County Parks

Monroe County parks are free and offer 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical, and geological experiences.

Read more

Black Creek Park

Black Creek Park features a variety of trails with varying lengths. Enjoy a walk around the pond or launch a kayak onto Black Creek.

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Greece Canal Park

Greece Canal Park encompasses 577 acres, with 4 easy walking trails varying in length under 1.5 miles over level or gently rolling terrain.

Read more

Seneca Park and Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo is only a small part of the 297-acre Seneca Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893.

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Ellison Park

Ellison Park is a popular spot to launch a kayak or canoe and paddle downstream on Irondequoit Creek toward Irondequoit Bay.

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Powder Mills Park

Powder Mills Park favorites include the fish hatchery, Daffodil Meadow Trail in early May, The Mushroom House, and fishing Irondequoit Creek.

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Ontario Beach Park

Besides a sandy Lake Ontario beach with plenty of parking, enjoy the boardwalk, carousel, pier, and an original 1902 Abbott’s Frozen Custard.

Read more

Durand Eastman Park boardwalk cover
Durand Eastman Park boardwalk

Which are your favorite county parks?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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