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!
- Channing H Philbrick
- Holley Canal Falls
- Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
- Sunken Garden
- Corbett’s Glen
- Turning Point
- Washington Grove
- The Jump Off
- Akron Falls
- Havana Glen
- Grimes Glen
- Helmer Nature Center
- Stony Brook
- Eternal Flame Trail
- Sara’s Garden Center
- Bergen Swamp
- Genesee Pedestrian Bridge
- Thomas Creek Wetland Walk
- Griffis Sculpture Park
- Olcott Beach
- Fall Brook Gorge
1. 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.
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 results are in!
We’re so excited to reveal the 2021 Best Day Trips Around Rochester survey results.
2. Holley Canal Falls
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.
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.
4. Warner Castle Sunken Garden
City of Rochester
Take a stroll behind Warner Castle and there you’ll discover the Sunken Garden.
Take a walk behind the garden and you’ll find yourself at Highland Bowl.
5. 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!
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.
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.
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 along the Finger Lakes Trail.
This portion is part of the Western Finger Lakes Region Bristol Hills Branch Trail.
9. Akron Falls
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.
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.
10. Havana Glen
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.
11. 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!
12. Helmer Nature Center
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.
13. Stony Brook
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.
14. Eternal Flame Trail
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.
15. Sara’s Garden Center
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.
16. 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.
17. Pedestrian Bridge over the Genesee River
City of Rochester
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.
18. 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.
19. Griffis Sculpture Park
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.
20. 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!
21. Fall Brook Gorge
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.”
Where are your favorite hidden places around Rochester?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!