Olcott Lakeview Village Shoppes cover

21 Hidden Places Around Rochester

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

We drive right past some of Rochester’s most unique spots every day, completely unaware of their existence.

A few of these hidden places are seasonal or a little off the beaten path but worth going out of your way to experience.

Hidden Gems

  1. Channing H Philbrick
  2. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
  3. Olcott Beach
  4. Sunken Garden
  5. Corbett’s Glen
  6. Holley Canal Falls
  7. Akron Falls
  8. Turning Point
  9. Washington Grove
  10. The Jump Off
  11. Havana Glen
  12. Grimes Glen
  13. Stony Brook
  14. Eternal Flame Trail
  15. Sara’s Garden Center
  16. Helmer Nature Center
  17. Webster Arboretum
  18. Genesee Pedestrian Bridge
  19. Thomas Creek Wetland Walk
  20. Griffis Sculpture Park
  21. Green Lakes
  22. TBD! in 2022
  23. TBD! in 2023
  24. TBD! in 2024

My 2022 Challenge

Map of Hidden Places

I’ve created a Google map with our 21 favorite hidden places plus 72+ of your suggestions from the comments on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve also listed them at the end of this article. Keep those suggestions coming!

I’m challenging myself to visit 22 fresh places in 2022 from your suggestions, and at the end of the year, I’ll add a 22nd place to my favorite list. Do you want to play along by visiting 22 new-to-you destinations this year? I’ll use #22daytrips on Instagram if you’re curious to see where I’ve been.

In the meantime, enjoy my current favorites!

Channing H Philbrick July
Channing Philbrick Linear Park bridge
Channing H Philbrick Honey Creek fall
30 Day Trips within 30 Minutes of Rochester: Channing H Philbrick Park Trail
Channing H. Philbrick (Linear) Park

1. Channing H. Philbrick (Linear) Park

Penfield
No Fee to Access

Irondequoit Creek passes through three Monroe County Parks, from its origin just outside Powder Mills Park, then through Ellison Park and Lucien Morin Park as it flows north 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 unique.

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

2. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk

City of Rochester
No Fee to Access

To find the hidden sidewalk, start at Ontario Beach Park and head west on Beach Ave. Across from Clematis St. and Cloverdale St. are the two main entrances at either end, with several smaller 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 winter
Waner Castle summer solstice
Sunken Garden at Warner Castle Rochester NY
Sunken Garden
Sunken Garden

3. Warner Castle Sunken Garden

City of Rochester 
No Fee to Access

To find the Sunken Garden, take a stroll behind Warner Castle and down the grassy lawn. Added to the property in 1930 by Alling S. DeForest—landscape architect of the Eastman estate—it is a peaceful retreat.

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.

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

4. Olcott Beach

Olcott Beach
No Fee to Access, only for purchases and rides

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.

Olcott Beach Carousel Park is generally open on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s the tiniest amusement park you’ll ever see, reminiscent of the 1940s and operated 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!

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

5. Corbett’s Glen

Brighton/Penfield
No Fee to Access

Corbett’s Glen Nature Park is a hidden green space in a suburban jungle, nestled between an expressway and two highly trafficked roads near the Penfield/Brighton Town border.

When you visit, you feel you are walking through people’s backyards. You are.

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.

It’s one of the most popular hidden spaces around Rochester.

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

6. Holley Canal Falls

Holley
No Fee to Access

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.

Akron Falls Park
Akron Falls Park
Akron Falls Murder Creek October
Akron Falls
Akron Falls
Akron Falls

7. Akron Falls

Akron
No Fee to Access

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 perfect!

Find the falls using these coordinates: N 43.01445 W 78.48273

There’s a parking lot above them at the top of the gorge: 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 trail is a relatively flat walk through a lush, dense forest. Perfectly peaceful.

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

8. Turning Point Boardwalk

City of Rochester 
No Fee to Access

Turning Point Park’s most striking feature is a 3,572 ft-long bridge over the Genesee River Turning Basin, part of the Genesee Riverway Trail. Most folks drive down Lake Ave., never realizing they’re running parallel with this incredible boardwalk.

Consider starting your walk toward the boardwalk from the north end at Petten Street by the marina near O’Rorke Bridge.

To start at the south end, park at the Boxart Street lot. From here, most folks walk north and down the steep, paved road descending to the river’s edge.

But you can also take the train-grade path (much less steep) to the river’s edge by heading south from the parking lot about 0.5 miles and taking the north trail at the fork near Brewster Harding Park. Going this way will take you along a seasonal creek through Bullock’s Woods. If you’re adventurous, you’ll find the waterfall—just listen.

Get Directions to these parking lots:

Boxart Street – It is 0.9 miles to walk from this lot to the end of the boardwalk, 1.4 if you take the Bullock’s Woods route, and 3.7 miles to walk to the end of Charlotte Pier.

Petten Street – It is 1.3 miles to walk from this lot to the end of the boardwalk and 4.0 miles to walk to the Pedestrian Bridge over the river between Maplewood and Seneca parks. Petten Street is also a great spot to put in a kayak.

River Street – It is 1.8 miles to walk from this lot to the end of 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

9. Washington Grove

City of Rochester
No Fee to Access

Next to Cobb’s Hill Reservoir, the trail takes you by the graffiti-tagged water towers and winds through a quiet grove of ancient oaks.

With artists creating fresh art weekly, you see something new every time you go.

To find the trailhead from Reservoir Road, park along the roadside before rounding the bend toward the Rochester skyline overlook, and look for the kiosk sign where the forested area begins. And if you get lost, that’s OK! It’s a small forest, and you can find your way eventually or ask a fellow explorer. People are happy to point you in the right direction.

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

10. The Jump Off

Naples
No Fee to Access

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 season to visit is during peak leaf changing in autumn.

The trail itself is but a sliver of an extensive system of footpaths along the Finger Lakes Trail.

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

Havana Glen
Havana Glen
Havana Glen cliff wall
Havana Glen
Havana Glen

11. Havana Glen

Montour Falls
Small Fee to Access, ~$2 per car

Havana Glen 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.

Their rules and regulations specify “no swimming.”

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

Like most gorge trails, this town park is open mid-May through mid-October.

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

12. Grimes Glen

Naples
No Fee to Access

Grimes Glen is about an hour south of Rochester in Naples. Located off N. Main St./County Route 21 on Vine Street, you’ve probably been to the Naples Festival and have driven right past.

A 0.5-mile walk through Grimes Creek leads to the first 48-foot cascade. Enjoy a short section of creek-side trail before it becomes necessary to walk in the water. After another 0.5-mile walk, find the second fall, a 60-foot cascade. Once reached, retrace your steps to return to the lot.

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

13. Stony Brook

Dansville
State Park Entrance Fee, ~$9 per car, but borrow an Empire Pass from a Monroe County Library, and it’s free! You can borrow one for a week.

It seems 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 combines 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 slightly 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
No Fee to Access

Fun fact, the natural gas flame, sheltered in a tiny cave under a lovely waterfall, isn’t eternal. Bring a lighter if you want to see it in all its glory.

This unique geologic feature is a dazzling reward for your hard work.

Take the moderately difficult 0.56-mile trail to the creek bed and follow the water upstream. To find an optimal walking path, cross back and forth along the creek using stones and fallen logs—most people end up walking in the water.

Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

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

15. Sara’s Garden Center

Brockport
No Fee to Access, only for purchases

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, the shop appears reasonably 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 sit for a while.

Hardly a secret to the Brockport community, the rest of us are just discovering this hidden gem.

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

16. Helmer Nature Center

Irondequoit
No Fee to Access

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.

The ravine shelters you 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.

Webster Arboretum
Webster Arboretum
Webster Arboretum garden
Webster Arboretum gazebo autumn
Webster Arboretum

17. Webster Arboretum

Webster
No Fee to Access

Beautiful all year long, Webster Arboretum is the perfect place to stroll, quietly observe nature, explore safely, and easily navigate.

You immediately observe that the caretakers care deeply about this space.

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

18. Pedestrian Bridge Over the Genesee River

City of Rochester
No Fee to Access

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 above the Genesee and north of the last cataract before the river reaches Lake Ontario.

On the west bank is Rochester’s earliest settlement location—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

19. Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk

Fairport
No Fee to Access

Most folks, when visiting Fairport, walk along the canal path, not knowing that the Thomas Creek Wetlands Walk is running parallel to them. 

Thomas Creek Wetland Walk is two separate paths—one is gravel, the other boardwalk with a seasonal viewing platform. They both connect with the Erie Canal Trail.

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

20. Griffis Sculpture Park

East Otto
Donation Request, ~$5 adult, $3 child

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

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

Green Lakes State Park Green Lake bench
Green Lakes State Park Round Lake Trail east side
Green Lakes State Park beach house
Green Lakes State Park Green Lake cover
Green Lakes State Park

21. Green Lakes

Fayetteville
State Park Entrance Fee, ~$10, but borrow an Empire Pass from a Monroe County Library, and it’s free! You can borrow one for a week.

Another New York State Park makes our list! Green Lakes, while well-known in Central New York, flies under the radar of unforgettable day trips for those of us who live in Rochester, NY. It’s roughly 90 minutes and 100 miles from downtown.

Green Lakes’s gem-worthy features are its two turquoise-colored glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest, including the Tuliptree Cathedral and 10 miles of hiking trails to explore it all.

Both Round and Green Lakes are meromictic lakes, meaning there is no fall and spring mixing of surface and bottom waters. Round Lake is also on the list of National Natural Landmarks.

Because of the sensitive nature of Green Lake and Round Lake, no outside/private boats, kayaks, or canoes are allowed. But they permit swimming at the designated beach, making it one of our favorite swimming holes.

More Challenging Hidden Gems

These two locations—Fall Brook Gorge and Bergen Swamp—are both on the list of National Natural Landmarks. I separate them from the hidden places above because you’ll need to connect with a guided tour to help preserve the fragile ecosystems.

Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp
Bergen Swamp fungi
Bergen Swamp trail
Bergen Swamp

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 for 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 flora and fauna in its Upstate New York properties. It serves as a living museum and an outdoor classroom.

Check their website to find out about upcoming tours.

Fall Brook Fossil
Fall Brook Hike
Fall Brook Gorge

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.

Trail Otter offers exclusive two-hour, one-mile guided hikes in the gorge through the private property.

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.”

More Hidden Gems to Explore

This is a list of the places you have suggested as candidates for the 22nd hidden gem. You’ll find them all on our Google map under the blue-colored location pin. I’ve also linked the ones we have guides for on our website.

Thousand Acre Swamp Preserve

Onanda Park

Tannery Creek

Shadow Pines

Black Creek Park Fairy Trail

Ontario Pathways Trail, Double Drop Falls

Linwood Gardens

Northampton Park

The Gully Preserve

Abandoned Girl Scout Camp Beechwood

Keshequa Creek Falls

Sterling Nature Center

Ontario Pathways Trail, “Winnie the Pooh” Walk

Kinzua Bridge State Park, PA

Sugar Creek Glen

Hinchcliff Family Preserve

Ludovico Sculpture Trail

Willard Memorial Chapel

Lollypop Farm Trails

Warsaw Falls

Finger Lakes National Forest

Agers Falls

Garrett Memorial Chapel

Indian Fort Nature Preserve

Rush Oak Openings Unique Area

Tifft Nature Preserve

Hidden Valley Animal Adventure

Conklin’s Gully

Huckleberry Swamp

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

Lockport Caves

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

Sherwood Fields Park

Crescent Trail

Cumming Nature Center

Beaver Lake Nature Center

Daffodil Meadow, Powder Mills Park

Tinker Nature Park

Royalton Ravine Park

Keuka Lake Outlet Trail

Genesee Valley Park

Ontario Pathways Trail, Bridge over US-20

Seth Green Fishing Access Trail + Norton’s Falls

Wiscoy Falls

The Autism Nature Trail (ANT) behind Humphrey Nature Center in Letchworth

Chimney Bluffs

Swallow Hollow Trail, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Mount Hope Cemetery

Taughannock Falls State Park

Highland Park + Lamberton Conservatory

Braddock Bay Hawkwatch

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park

Papermill Park

Five Arch Bridge

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Nations Road, Geneseo

Town of Chili Nature Trail

Oatka Creek Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Abraham Lincoln Park

Wild Wings Nature Center

Rock City Park, Olean

Little Rock City, near Salamanca

Thunder Rocks, Allegany State Park

Panama Rocks Scenic Park

Ithaca Falls Natural Area

Ganondagan State Historic Site

Maplewood Rose Garden

Tryon Park

Lily Dale Assembly

Abbey of the Genesee

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

Wilkeson Pointe

Golden Hill State Park

Canadice North East Boat Launch

Farm Sanctuary

Andrew R. Fuller Park

Otisco Causeway

Cayuga-Seneca Canal Lock Number 1

Oak Island

Rushford Lake

Moss Lake

MacKay Wildlife Preserve

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Where are your favorite hidden places around Rochester?

Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Author Debi Bower is the Founder and Chief Day Tripper for Day Trips Around Rochester, NY. Happy trails!

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26 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. Maybe it is too far from Rochester, but Little Rock City is amazing. It is south of Ellicottville.

    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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