Plus, 70+ rustic hiking trails away from the crowds!
If you’ve already explored every inch of your backyard and are looking for more variety, here are a few spots I can recommend where there’s ample space for finding solitude and solace in nature.
On the best of days, we all know the importance of staying active, seeking out fresh air and sunshine (with sunscreen), and connecting with nature. In a social post from Monroe County Parks, they’ve reinforced that idea, stating:
“The CDC has flagged mental health as a top concern during this time of high-stress & anxiety. Our parks can provide a well needed respite & escape for our residents, with trails, open spaces & unique characteristics to enjoy.“
It’s critical to spend time outside. The challenge we’ll start to face will be overcrowding in our popular parks in this time of social distancing.
And as the DEC recommends, we should strive to “move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit.“
So here are our favorite places to seek solitude!
1. Al Lorenz Park
Located just across the Genesee River from the Mount Morris entrance to Letchworth park, Al Lorenz is a hidden gem!
Tucked down into the river valley, it has a variety of walking paths, water elements, and diversity of trees, including an extraordinary pine grove.
2. Oatka Creek Park
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.
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.
3. MacKay Wildlife Preserve
There are interesting man-made and geologic wonders to discover at MacKay Wildlife Preserve in Caledonia.
You’ll find a sea of round, moss-covered boulders, a diverse collection of hardwoods, and unusual land formations, yet very few people!
4. Ganondagan State Historic Site
The Seneca Art & Culture Center and long house may be closed, but the trails are open!
Ganondagan State Historic Site sits atop Boughton Hill in Victor. It is the original site of the largest 17th century Seneca town, which at its peak had 150 longhouses where only one replica stands today.
The grounds surrounding the cultural center include two interpretive trails that emphasis the significance of plant life, Haudenosaunee culture and history.
A third trail, one mile west on Boughton Hill Road, interprets the history and the importance of Fort Hill, a large fortified storehouse for grain. It connects with Dryer Road Park. From the website, “The location of Gah:ha-da-yan-duk is significant to the Seneca. From this hill, looking south on a clear day, the observer can see Bare Hill, the legendary birthplace of the Seneca nation.”
5. Webster Arboretum
This 32.5-acre arboretum in Webster features a pond, meandering trails, rose gardens, and perennial theme gardens, with more than 50 varieties of trees and shrubs.
They also have an impressive evergreen hedge maze!
6. Hamlin Beach
Hamlin Beach State Park in Hamlin has seven miles of beautiful biking and walking trails, including a mile-long self-guided tour of a WWII-era CCC/POW camp.
There are plenty of shaded picnic areas perfect for reading a book with your toes in the sand.
The park has been recognized as a premier spot for observing migrating waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds and was named an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
7. Hemlock Lake
As sources of drinking water for the City, there are no buildings along the shoreline of both Hemlock and Canadice lakes, making this the perfect region for peace and quiet.
Enjoy Hemlock Park, located at the north end, as well as several trails and car-top boat launches.
Both lakes are part of the greater Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. The property includes two large undeveloped parcels surrounding both lakes, totaling 6,684 acres.
8. Stone-Tolan House Historic Site
Built in 1792, the Stone-Tolan House is the oldest building in the county. Though the home itself is closed for the time being, you are welcome to explore the property. And although there is traffic noise from the express way in the backyard and East Ave in the front, it’s peaceful walking through the apple tree grove and around the garden and historic outbuildings.
9. Mount Hope Cemetery
It may seem odd to think of a cemetery as a family-friendly destination, but Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery is as much park-like as it nearby neighbor Highland Park, yet much less visited.
In 2009, more than 20% of the trees in Mount Hope were characterized as historic, with 250-year-old oak trees, and rare specimen trees gifted to the Cemetery in 1848 by famed 19th-century horticulturists George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry.
Mount Hope is a rare example of rural Victorian cemetery design, a uniquely preserved urban park, a year round recreational resource and arboretum, a historic outdoor museum.
10. Meridian Centre
The trails are primarily flat through Meridian Centre Park in Brighton. Some are gravel, others wood chip, with a section of beautiful boardwalk.
There are nature paths & an arboretum in the western part of the park with plantings and wooden arches making this a popular destination for bird watchers.
Finding Solitude on Hiking Trails & Preserves
These trails are much less traveled than those in our park systems. They are more secluded, rustic, and even in the best of times are excellent places to immerse yourself in nature.
- Braddock Bay Marina
- Genesee Riverway Trail
- Butterfly Nature Trail
- Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
- Beatty Point
- Manchester Gateway
- Seneca Meadows
- Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk
- Tifft Nature Preserve
- Outer Harbor and Greenway
- Sterling Nature Center
- Bergen Swamp
- Huckleberry Swamp
- Wolcott Falls Hiking Trail
- Palmyra Wetland Nature Trail
- Pittsford Rail Trail Loop
- Lehigh Valley Rail Trail
- Keuka Outlet Trail and Preservation Area
- Ontario Pathways Rail Trail
- Erie-Attica Rail Trail
- Genesee Valley Greenway Rail Trail
- Auburn Rail Trail
- Auburn-Fleming Rail Trail
- Perinton Trolley
- Cato-Fair Haven Rail Trail
- Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Rail Trail
- Great Gorge Rail Trail
- Hojack Trail
Genesee Land Trust
- Christine Sevilla Wetlands Preserve
- Ganargua Creek Meadow Preserve
- Gosnell Big Woods Preserve
- Manitou Beach Preserve
- Hipp Brook Preserve
- Eva and Harlan Braman Preserve
- Brookdale Preserve
- Island Cottage Woods Preserve
- Kraai Preserve
- Corwall Preserve
- Salmon Creek Preserve
DEC State Land
- Rush Oak Openings Unique Area
- Hemlock-Canadice State Forest
- Rock City and McCarty Hill State Forest
- Sugar Hill State Forest
- Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area
- Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve
- Bare Hill Unique Area
- Sonyea State Forest
- Ossian State Forest
- Rattlesnake Hill State Wildlife Management Area
- High Tor Wildlife Management Area
- Catharine Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area
More Inland Trails
- Trail of Hope
- Brickyard Trail
- Sandy Bottom Park & Nature Trails
- Finger Lakes Trail
- Historic Erie Canal Trails
- Indian Hill
- Indian Fort Nature Preserve
- Great Bear Recreation Area
- Monkey Run
- Domine Trail
- Turtle Pond
- Royal Coach Trails
- Groveland Secondary
- Baltimore Woods
- Town of Lockport Nature Trails
- Alasa Farms
- Sanctuary at Crowfield Farm
There are so many interesting roadside attractions near Rochester. As you’re driving around the area, you should at least see these five!
Where do you go to find solitude in nature?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!