We drive right past some of Rochester’s most unique hidden gems every day, completely unaware of their existence. I continue to meet life-long residents of Rochester who have no idea these hidden places are just minutes away from where they work & live.
A few of these are a little off the beaten path and worth going out of your way for to experience!
1. Corbett’s Glen
Corbett’s Glen Nature Park is a hidden green space in a suburban jungle, nestled in between an express way and two highly trafficked roads near the Penfield/Brighton Town border. When you visit, you will notice you seem to be walking through people’s back yards. You are, in a sense.
The homeowners are passionate about keeping the glen beautiful and open for everyone’s enjoyment. It may have been a story of the past had it not been for this nature-loving community. Even still, it’s one of the most popular hidden spaces!
2. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
City of Rochester
To find it, start at Ontario Beach Park & head west on Beach Ave. Across from Clematis St. & Cloverdale St. are the two main entrances at either end, with several small sidewalks in between.
The beautiful lawns and gardens along the sidewalk are privately owned; only the path is public and maintained by the City.
3. Turning Point
City of Rochester
Turning Point Park’s most striking feature is a 3,572 ft-long bridge over the Genesee River Turning Basin, part of the greater Genesee Riverway Trail. Most folks drive down Lake Ave. never realizing they’re running parallel with this incredible boardwalk.
4. Channing H. Philbrick Park
Irondequoit Creek passes through three Monroe County Parks, from its origin just outside Powder Mills Park, then through Ellison Park and Lucien Morin Park on its way to Irondequoit Bay. Along the way it picks up more water from tributaries like Thomas Creek, Mill Creek, and Allen’s Creek.
As Irondequoit Creek passes through Channing H Philbrick Park, it drops 90 feet over one mile giving us the cascades that make this park so special.
5. Warner Castle Sunken Garden
City of Rochester
When you stroll behind Warner Castle and down the grassy lawn, you’ll discover the Sunken Garden. The garden is a small part of Highland Park, yet folks don’t realize it’s here because it’s located on Reservoir Ave across South Ave toward Mount Hope Cemetery.
Take a walk behind the garden and you’ll find yourself at Highland Bowl.
6. Washington Grove
City of Rochester
The trail next to Cobb’s Hill takes you by the graffiti-tagged water towers and winds through a quiet grove of ancient oaks. The art is always evolving so every time you go you see something new.
7. Holley Canal Falls
Approaching the Village of Holley on the canal or along NY-31, you would have no idea this beautiful waterfall exists! I actually lived in Holley for several years and had no idea this was here.
The waterfall is fed by runoff from the canal, so it is dry once the canal is drained for the winter.
From the village square, drive past the Murray-Holley Depot and down Holley Falls Park Road where you’ll be able to see the waterfall from the parking loop at the end.
Enjoy a picnic in the park, or walk the various trails around and up to the canal, where there is a beautiful canal-side park and one of the canal’s 20 lift bridges.
8. The Jump Off
The Jump Off Trail in Ontario County Park is ADA-accessible and affords one of the most beautiful scenic views in the Finger Lakes Region. Spectacular any time of year, my favorite time to visit is in the Autumn during peak leaf changing season.
The trail itself is but a sliver of an extensive system of foot paths called The Finger Lakes Trail. This portion is part of the Western Finger Lakes Region Bristol Hills Branch Trail.
9. Old Canal Lock 62
Old Erie Canal Lock 62 is tucked just far enough off the beaten path that many do not realize it’s there.
Next time you are in Pittsford Plaza, take a look for it right behind Applebees. It is one of the best preserved antiquated locks along the canal system.
10. Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen is about an hour south of Rochester, but I find it worth mentioning because so many people have no idea it’s there! It’s off N. Main St./County Route 21, up a seemingly normal side street (Vine St.) You’ve probably been to the Naples Fest and have driven right past it.
I have even heard from people who have lived in Naples that had no idea a glen of this incredible beauty was right there.
The great thing about Grimes Glen is that the walk in and the trail along the glen is flat, though a bit muddy after a lot of rain. There comes a point (about 1/2 mile in) at which you have to decide whether you want to walk in the water to check out the two 60-foot waterfalls just around the bend.
Go for it! It’s worth it. It’s one of our favorite hidden places!
11. Helmer Nature Center
It’s hard to believe a nature center in the middle of a suburb could be considered hidden, but I’ve met residents of Irondequoit who don’t realize how extraordinary it is. They may know it’s there because they pass a sign for it along their commute, but have not visited and that gives it hidden potential.
When you walk down the trails into the ravine, you are sheltered from the noise of St. Paul Blvd. It is a peaceful, enclosed environment full of nature, similar to Corbett’s Glen and Channing H. Philbrick in that respect.
12. Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp is the first private environmental land trust in the United States chartered as a New York State living museum, and a National Natural Landmark with rich graminoid fens, cedar swamps, and riparian flood plains. It is a wetland sanctuary to 36 native Orchids.
There used to be several trailheads but visitors are now encouraged to use the main trail. Get directions
The Bergen Swamp Preservation Society is an educational institution whose purpose is to conserve the flora and fauna of its Upstate New York properties. It is viewed as a living museum and an outdoor classroom.
13. Pedestrian Bridge over the Genesee River
City of Rochester
Seneca Park’s Olmsted South trail ends at the pedestrian bridge over the Genesee River and connects Seneca to Maplewood, its sister Olmsted-designed park. The bridge is part of the Genesee Riverway Trail system. You can access the bridge using stairs or ramps on both sides of the Genesee.
It’s a beautiful place to observe the seasons from high above the Genesee, and north of the last cataract before the river reaches Lake Ontario. On the west bank is the location of Rochester’s earliest settlement—King’s Landing, followed by Hartford’s Landing—and Rochester’s first cemetery.
14. Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk
Most folks when visiting Fairport walk along the canal path not knowing that the Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk is running parallel to them.
The Wetland Walk is actually two separate paths. One is paved yet rustic. The other is a boardwalk with a seasonal viewing platform. They both connect to each other and with the Erie Canal Trail.
15. Griffis Sculpture Park
The park features over 250 large scale sculptures dispersed through miles of hiking trails. Each sculpture was placed with the natural setting in mind, creating a truly unique experience between art and nature.
The park is actually split into two sections: Rohr Hill Road Site and Mill Valley Road Site. The Rohr Hill area is characterized by towering sculptures set in fields and woods just off the road. The Mill Valley Road Site features both a smooth walk area, as well miles of trails through a variety of terrain. Whether you have five minutes or five hours, one can always get a flavor of the park.
Sculptures like these on both sides of Rohr Hill Road are accessible by car whenever the roads are safe for driving. Get directions to Rohr Hill Rd.
The other part of the park (it’s a large property!) is open May 1-Oct 31, mainly because the trails in spring can be very muddy. Even during the open season the trails deeper into the park may close after heavy rains. Get directions to Griffis Sculpture Park, Mill Valley Rd.
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a 2-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
The term street art means different things to different people. Here, we interpret street art to mean any outdoor, free, public wall art.
Where are your favorite hidden places around Rochester?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!