Sarahs Garden Center

21 Hidden Places Around Rochester

Explore some of our hidden gems this week! There’s no time like the present to start checking some off these extraordinary places your list.

We drive right past some of Rochester’s most unique spots 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!

Hidden Gems

  1. Channing H Philbrick
  2. Holley Canal Falls
  3. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
  4. Sunken Garden
  5. Corbett’s Glen
  6. Turning Point
  7. Washington Grove
  8. The Jump Off
  9. Akron Falls
  10. Havana Glen
  11. Grimes Glen
  12. Helmer Nature Center
  13. Stony Brook
  14. Eternal Flame Trail
  15. Sara’s Garden Center
  16. Bergen Swamp
  17. Genesee Pedestrian Bridge
  18. Thomas Creek Wetland Walk
  19. Griffis Sculpture Park
  20. Olcott Beach
  21. Fall Brook Gorge
Channing Philbrick Linear Park boardwalk low
Channing Philbrick Linear Park fishing
Channing Philbrick creek
30 Day Trips within 30 Minutes of Rochester: Channing H Philbrick Park Trail
Channing H. Philbrick – Linear Park

1. Channing H. Philbrick Park

Penfield

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.

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.

The Best Day Trips Around Rochester survey

The results are in!

We’re so excited to reveal the 2021 Best Day Trips Around Rochester survey results.

Holley Falls lamp
Holley Falls close up
Holley Falls canal origin
Holley Falls trail
Holley Falls bench
Holley Falls
Trail Above Holley Canal Falls

2. Holley Canal Falls

Holley

Approaching the Village of Holley on the canal or along NY-31, you would have no idea this beautiful waterfall exists!

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.

Rochesters secret hidden sidewalk
Rochesters secret hidden sidewalk
Rochesters secret hidden sidewalk
Rochesters secret hidden sidewalk
Westernmost entrance

3. 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.

Sunken Garden
Waner Castle summer solstice
Sunken Garden at Warner Castle Rochester NY
Sunken Garden winter
Sunken Garden

4. Warner Castle Sunken Garden

City of Rochester 

Take a stroll behind Warner Castle and there 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.

Corbetts Glen tunnel entrance
Corbetts Glen walking trail
Corbetts Glen
Corbetts Glen
Corbett’s Glen

5. Corbett’s Glen

Brighton/Penfield

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!

Turning Point Park walking winter
Turning Point Park
Turning Point Park boardwalk snow
Turning Point Park
Turning Point

6. 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.

Begin your exploration of Turning Point Park from the south at Boxart St., where there is a pretty steep hill to reach the riverside, or from the north at Petten St., which is level but a further distance from the boardwalk.

Cobbs Hill Water Tower
Cobbs Hill Water Tower
Cobbs Hill water tower photo
Cobbs Hill Water Tower Justin Suarez
Justin Suarez (pka MR. PVRT, aka AEROSOL KINGDOM) at Cobb’s Hill Water Towers

7. 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.

Ontario County Park Gannett Hill Jump Off Trail viewing platform
Ontario County Park Gannett Hill Jump Off Trail
Ontario County Park Gannett Hill Jump Off Trail ramp to platform
Jump Off Trail Jeffrey Packard
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Packard

8. The Jump Off

Naples

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 along the Finger Lakes Trail.

This portion is part of the Western Finger Lakes Region Bristol Hills Branch Trail.

Akron Falls Park
Akron Falls Park
Akron Falls Park
Akron Falls Park autumn steps
Akron Falls

9. Akron Falls

Akron

Akron Falls Park is a linear park stretching along Murder Creek, with several places to park and walk down to access the gorge trail below.

I researched where to park by reading falzguy.com and nysfalls.com and where I ended up was the perfect!

The main falls are located at N 43.01445 W 78.48273 and there’s a parking lot above them at N 43.01531 W 78.48482.

Walk a zig-zagging, paved trail down toward the creek. From there you can head right to the overlook or left and down a little more to the forest floor. Head to the right and follow the trail to the end.

Even though the fall is the main attraction, the trial is a relatively flat walk through a lush, dense forest. Perfectly peaceful.

Havana Glen
Havana Glen
Havana Glen
Havana Glen
Havana Glen

10. Havana Glen

Montour Falls

This is one of the few places on our list that charges a fee, but it will be the best $2 you’ve ever spent!

The 40-foot Eagle Cliff waterfall is a very short distance from the parking lot, but not at all accessible with a tight cliff-edge trail and a few sets of stairs.

Wade right in and stand under the fall.

It’s so refreshing on a hot day, but it does get pretty crowded in there! Try visiting early in the day or during the week to fully appreciate the glen and take photos of the fall and dripping, moss-covered walls.

Like most gorge trails, this town park closes for the winter, opening roughly mid-May through mid-October.

Grimes Glen second fall
Grimes Glen Waterfall Acrobat
Walking Stick Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen

11. Grimes Glen

Naples

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!

Helmer Nature Center sunlight
Helmer Nature Center October
Helmer Nature Center
Helmer Nature Center fall
Helmer Nature Center

12. Helmer Nature Center

Irondequoit

It’s hard to believe a forest in the middle of a suburb could be considered hidden, but I’ve met residents of Irondequoit who don’t realize how extraordinary Helmer Nature Center is.

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.

Stony Brook
Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook State Park

13. Stony Brook

Dansville

It does seem strange to consider a New York State Park a hidden gem, but when your closest neighbor, Letchworth, gets so much national attention, many folks don’t take the time to stop.

But stop you must! Stony Brook is glorious in its own right.

The 3/4 mile long walkway through Stony Brook State Park is a combination of shale, gravel, and stairs with several beautiful waterfalls and cascades along the way. Stony Brook has a similar feeling to the other Finger Lakes gorge parks while being a bit more manageable.

Eternal Flame Trail Chestnut Ridge Park Buffalo
Eternal Flame Trail
Eternal Flame Trail
Eternal Flame
Eternal Flame

14. Eternal Flame Trail

Orchard Park

Once you’ve made it into the creek bed, you just keep following the water upstream until you hit the falls at the gorge’s dead-end.

Fun fact: The Eternal Flame isn’t eternal at all. It does go out sometimes, so bring along a lighter if you’d like to see it in all it’s glory.

There’s a lot of teetering across stones and fallen logs to cross back and forth along the way to find the most optimal walking path. There are fallen trees blocking the way that must be navigated over or under to proceed. The walkway is slippery shale and sometimes muddy.

But it’s worth it.

Saras Garden Center
Saras Garden Center
Saras Garden Center
Saras Garden Center
Sara’s Garden Center

15. Sara’s Garden Center

Brockport

Every time someone posts a photo from Sara’s Garden Center on Instagram, the comments light up: “Where is this?!?”

Sara’s seems like your typical, lovely landscaping shop. Wandering among the interesting plants, everything seems fairly normal.

Then BAM! You round the bend and a highly manicured, inspiring, inviting landscape is before you. Between the meandering pathways, stone structures, and diverse landscaping, it’s a great place to wander or just sit for a while.

Hardly a secret to the Brockport community, the rest of us are starting to catch on to this hidden gem.

Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp fungi
Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp

16. Bergen Swamp

Byron-Bergen

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.

Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park

17. 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.

Thomas Creek wetlands
Thomas Creek
Thomas Creek Wetland Walk Erie Canalway Trail sign
Thomas Creek Wetlands boardwalk
Thomas Creek boardwalk

18. Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk

Fairport

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.

Griffis Sculpture Park
Griffis Sculpture Park
Griffis Sculpture Park
Griffis Sculpture Park bathers
The Bathers at Griffis Sculpture Park

19. Griffis Sculpture Park

East Otto

Griffis Sculpture Park is a whimsical, fantastical, delightful art park in bucolic Cattaraugus County, roughly nine miles north of Ellicottville.

There are over 250 large-scale sculptures integrated into the natural landscape. Some are out in the open meadows, while others are tucked into the woodlands.

Olcott Lakeview Village Shoppes
Lakeville Village Shoppes door tall
Olcott Beach picnic tall
Olcott Light tall
Olcott Beach Carousel Park chair tall
Olcott Beach Krull Park
Krull Park
Olcott Beach Carousel Park
Olcott Beach Carousel Park

20. Olcott Beach

Olcott Beach

The adorable seaside Hamlet of Olcott Beach makes for an excellent summertime day trip along the Lake Ontario Seaway Trail. It shares a similar trolley-park history with Rochester’s Charlotte and Seabreeze communities as short getaway destinations from nearby cities.

Open May through October (7 days a week Memorial Day – Labor Day, otherwise weekends only), Lakeview Village Shoppes is a quaint, pastel-colored collection of tiny stores overlooking Lake Ontario. Many have been part of the boardwalk village for years, with newer shops sprinkled in.

Olcott Beach Carousel Park is generally open weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s the tiniest amusement park you’ll ever see, reminiscent of the 1940’s, and run entirely by passionate volunteers. Enjoy a ride on the 1928 Hershell-Spillman carousel and five other vintage kiddie rides. There is no admission fee to enter the park and rides are just $0.25 each.

Round out your day with a relaxing stroll down to Krull Park. Swim in the lake, picnic in the park, or visit the historic log cabin.

Plus lots of great dining and ice cream options!

Fall Brook Fossil
Fall Brook Hike
Fall Brook Gorge

21. Fall Brook Gorge

Geneseo

Fall Brook Gorge in Geneseo represents one of the nation’s finest exposures of Upper and Middle Devonian Age strata with significant fossil remains and a cap-rock waterfall. It’s also a National Natural Landmark.

Though private property, Trail Otter offers exclusive two-hour, one-mile guided hikes in the gorge. From their website, “Hike to a beautiful sixty foot waterfall via its stream, walking through a steep gorge.

“This is rated moderately difficult – requiring balance and appropriate footwear to traverse. There may be water in the gorge, so waterproof footwear is highly recommended. Ankle-twisting rocks, slippery creek banks and large rocks to navigate.”

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Where are your favorite hidden places around Rochester?

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

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24 thoughts on “21 Hidden Places Around Rochester”

  1. We visited Holley Canal Falls yesterday. It’s a nice quiet place to have a picnic or to just enjoy the short trail to the top of the waterfall. Further up you can view the Eerie Canal as well. Just be careful we found a snake by the trail. We found a few people fishing in the area.

  2. Pingback: Water Tower Village South Glens Falls - Rochester Magazine

  3. Not a well known fact but the classic film actress, Louise Brooks, is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue in Rochester NY

    Also, Swallow Hollow Nature Trail in Alabama, NY (near Medina) is a very nice place.

  4. There is a nice trail between Boxart St and the Maplewood rose Garden. A neat sculpture and a few waterfalls. Seth Green Island too.

  5. I see my favorite hidden spot is still hidden! It isn’t really, but I’m surprised how many times I am one of only two or three walking the beautiful nature trails through woods and wetlands at Tinker Nature Center and Park. The trails are short, the longest just over one mile, mostly flat, and easy to enjoy. Located in Henrietta, many longtime residents have never been there! In front of the trails is Tinker Homestead and the Nature Center. All worth a visit!

  6. I would suggest adding the Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk in Fairport. They recently added a butterfly garden and an analemmatic sundial near the Erie Canal Path. The sundial is the interactive kind where your body makes the shadow. Kids and adults love it, the scenery is beautiful, and the atmosphere is peaceful. The sundial was designed and built by local artist, Vanessa Sheldon, and she used stones from nearby lock 58. It’s definitely a hidden gem.

    1. I agree! So many people don’t realize Thomas Creek Wetlands Trail is right there next to the canal. I didn’t know about the new installations…I’ll have to check that out. Thank you, Stacy, for the recommendation!

    1. Thank you, Sharon! I’m of the thought that Mt. Hope Cemetery itself is not a hidden place, BUT within Mt. Hope Cemetery are many hidden places. Would you agree? That would make a good article…hidden places within Mt. Hope Cemetery. I think one of my favorite spots is where Nathaniel Rochester is buried.

    1. How funny that you and JM both suggested Holley Falls. And you are both so right! I lived in Holley for 2 years when my daughter was first born and had no idea it was even there, although we were outside the village. It’s perfectly hidden!

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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.