Highland Park June pathway cover

Our Favorite 5 County Parks to Explore

The Monroe County Parks system includes 20 parks that are all worth visiting, but these are the five you absolutely must explore if you haven’t already.

Table of Contents:

  1. Highland Park
  2. Mendon Ponds Park
  3. Genesee Valley Park
  4. Durand-Eastman Park
  5. Oatka Creek Park
Highland Park November Japanese Maples
Highland Park lilacs
Highland Park Rochester

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 Ponds Park

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

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

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

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 Genesee River view
Pedestrian bridge connecting Seneca and Maplewood
Monroe County Ellison Park Rochester NY
Ellison
Powder Mills Park Daffodil Meadow Trail
Powder Mills

Ready for some more Monroe County parks?

Black Creek Park

At 1,505-acres, Black Creek Park is one of the largest of Monroe County’s 20 parks, second only to Mendon.

Read more

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 a but a small part of the greater 297-acre Seneca Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893.

Read more

Ellison Park

Irondequoit Creek meanders through Ellison Park on its way to Irondequoit Bay and Lake Ontario, with a dog park, sledding, ice skating, & disc golf course.

Read more

Powder Mills Park

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

Read more

Ontario Beach Park

Lake Ontario Beach Park is located at the northernmost tip of the city of Rochester, and is bordered on the East by the mouth of the Genesee River.

Read more

20 Monroe County Parks

Monroe County parks are free, so take advantage of 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical and geological experiences!

Read more

Which are your favorite county parks?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!

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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.