Letchworth Humphrey Nature Center

Nature Centers and Preserves Around Rochester

The various nature centers, wildlife preserves, and management areas in New York State all work to protect and maintain natural spaces for the benefit of all. These organizations are committed to preserving the land and its inhabitants.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

While their missions may be similar, the specific names of each area suggest unique characteristics and offerings. By understanding the distinctions between these names, you can better appreciate the environment and the services provided.

At a nature center, visitors can enjoy an interpretive building that is easily accessible and offers interactive educational opportunities about the environment. They can either explore independently or participate in guided walks and other events.

A nature park or natural park is a protected area designed for the public to explore and enjoy. A nature park is carefully planned and maintained to provide an enjoyable experience for visitors.

A nature preserve or reserve aims to protect an area of significance for plants, animals, and other inhabitants. It may contain rare species and evidence of geological history for research.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service manages national wildlife refuges, which are protected areas that provide a safe space for local and migratory birds to rest and nest. These sites are part of a system of public land and water and may include regulated hunting and fishing.

A wildlife sanctuary is like a national wildlife refuge, but the land is typically privately owned. These areas regularly protect species from hunting, predation, or competition.

In an animal sanctuary, animals are rescued from dangerous situations and brought to a safe environment. While the sanctuary may offer tours for educational purposes, it prioritizes the animals’ comfort and avoids any activities that could cause stress.

The New York State Department of Conservation oversees wildlife management areas, which are large, protected state lands that promote wildlife conservation and hunting. The public can explore diverse environments, including forests, meadows, and wetlands, though the trails may be challenging to navigate.

An area that stands out because of its impressive natural beauty, distinct characteristics, or significant geological, ecological, or historical features is considered a unique area.

A bird observatory studies local bird populations and migratory patterns and may conduct banding for long-range research. The observatory also provides interpretive displays and opportunities for the public to participate in birding walks and watches. The Rochester Birding Association sponsors field trips for those interested in birding.

Monroe County

Braddock Bay Marina Trail break wall
Braddock Bay Marina Trail

Braddock Bay

The Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA) includes Braddock Bay Park and many surrounding wetlands and bird migration paths. If you are driving along Edgemere Drive near the ponds or the parkway between Island Cottage and Bennett Road, dining at the Braddock Bay Tavern & Grill, or fishing in Salmon Creek, you are enjoying the beauty of the Braddock Bay WMA. The Town of Greece and the Department of Environmental Conservation partner to maintain the site, recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The DEC’s website describes the WMA as a “shallow water bay-marsh complex existing in five units along the Lake Ontario shoreline, ranging from two to six miles west of Rochester.” Visitors can explore different locations within the WMA, such as Owl Woods/Rose Marsh, Braddock Bay Marina, and Beatty Point. Greece

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Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area

If you’re cruising on Edgemere along the ponds, or on the parkway near Manitou, you’re enjoying the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area.

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Corbetts Glen September waterfall
Corbett’s Glen

Corbett’s Glen Nature Park

To visit Corbett’s Glen North, start from the parking lot on Penfield Road. From there, you can follow stone dust, wood chip, and pine needle trails that lead toward the south end. The pathways are easy to navigate, though some parts of the trail, like the Stone Steps, can be steep. As you continue your journey, you will eventually reach the well-known Tunnel Falls and Postcard Falls along Allen Creek. Please note that wading in the creek is only allowed for trout fishing. If you prefer to start at the park’s south end, you can park along the designated shoulder on Glen Road. The trails here lead through marsh meadow, shrubland, and wetland. Walking through the park, you may notice that the paths pass by people’s backyards, and they do! These homeowners are passionate about protecting the park and want to keep it healthy for everyone’s enjoyment. North entrance: 415 Penfield Road, South entrance: 11 Glen Road, Brighton

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Corbett’s Glen

Corbett’s Glen is a glorious green space in a suburban jungle. As overused as this statement may be, Corbett’s Glen is truly a hidden gem.

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Genesee Country Village Nature Center pond
GCVM Nature Center vernal pond

Genesee Country Village Nature Center

Five miles of family-friendly color-marked trails, including a two-mile perimeter trail, lead through woodlands and wetlands. They offer themed educational activities and guided walks throughout the year. Privately owned, the trail system is open during regular museum hours. Admission fee. 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford

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Genesee Country Village & Museum

The Genesee Country Village is a living history museum with 68 structures on 700 acres, making it the largest museum of its kind in New York.

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Helmer Nature Center pathway
Helmer Nature Center

Helmer Nature Center

Explore 45 acres owned and operated by the West Irondequoit Central School District as an outdoor classroom. Find one-and-a-half miles of combined dirt, wood chip, boardwalk, and gravel trails, with many spots covered in tree roots through the valley floor. The terrain is hilly and tree-covered, making Helmer an excellent place for peaceful woodland exploration. 154 Pinegrove Avenue, Irondequoit

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Helmer Nature Center

The terrain at Helmer Nature Center is hilly and tree-covered, making is an excellent place for peaceful woodland exploration.

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Brickyard Trail october sign
Brickyard Trail

Sandra L. Frankel Nature Park

The 0.8-mile Brickyard Trail spans the park, connecting Brighton Town Hall and Library on Elmwood Avenue with Buckland Park on Westfall Road. About halfway along the hard-packed gravel trail, you’ll find a quiet sitting area with educational signage that shares the area’s unique and significant history as a brickyard. It’s an ideal location for birding. Near 2199 Elmwood Road, Brighton

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Brickyard Trail at Frankel Nature Park

The 0.8-mile Brickyard Trail spans the park, connecting Brighton Town Hall and Library on Elmwood Avenue with Buckland Park on Westfall Road.

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Sibleyville Nature Preserve
Sibleyville Nature Reserve

Sibleyville Nature Reserve

On a drumlin overlooking Honeoye Creek, a grassy path leads to a grove of trees and a magnificent view. This area is historically significant for the Seneca Nation, known as the ancient town of Totiakton. The French destroyed the town during the Denonville Expedition in 1687, along with Gannagaro, now known as Ganondagan. 1 Gravel Hill Lane, Honeoye Falls

Tinker Nature Park
Tinker Nature Park

Tinker Nature Park

The park comprises 68 acres along the Pittsford-Henrietta town border, with trails and boardwalks for all abilities. The one-mile perimeter trail is flat and ideal for jogging, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and walking. Shorter trails branch off the perimeter path and take visitors through unique ecosystems such as woodland, wetland, and meadow. Be sure to visit the Hansen Nature Center and check out the Tinker Homestead and Farm Museum during an open house or by appointment. 1525 Calkins Road, Henrietta

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Tinker Nature Park

Tinker Nature Park spans 68 acres along the Pittsford-Henrietta town border, offering trails and boardwalks suitable for all abilities.

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Thomas Creek
Thomas Creek boardwalk

Thomas Creek Wetland Walk

This nature trail is perfect for observing Thomas Creek’s flow toward Irondequoit Creek. The wetland offers two separate paths—one is gravel, and the other is a boardwalk—that lead to a seasonal viewing platform and connect with the Erie Canalway Trail. At the beginning of the path, interact with an analemmatic sundial, constructed with stones from Newark’s 1849 Enlarged Erie Canal Lock 58, by observing your shadow’s position. The plaque reads, “Stand on the current month, press your palms together and raise them high in the air. Note where your shadow crosses the hour markers: standard time above, daylight saving below.” 43 Liftbridge Lane E, Fairport

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Thomas Creek Wetland Walk

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

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Wild Wings Peregrine Falcon
Wild Wings

Wild Wings Inc.

Wild Wings Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that manages the Mendon Ponds Park Nature Center and Bird of Prey Facility. They provide short-term and lifelong sanctuary for animals that rely on human care for their survival. Visitors can see small mammals, amphibians, insects, and reptiles in the nature center building. The Bird of Prey Facility next door houses permanently injured raptor and owl species as well as a raven, bobcat, and two red foxes. Both facilities are free to explore, and donations and profits from the gift shop go directly toward the care of the animals. This county park’s most popular walk among bird lovers and families is the Birdsong Fairy Trail, near the nature center. With a broad dirt pathway and slight elevation change, this trail provides an easy way to explore a forest full of woodland creatures and is ideal for a multigenerational nature walk. Wandering counterclockwise along the path, search for over 40 colorful fairy homes and play spaces. When food is scarce in winter and early spring, head clockwise on the trail with a handful of black oil sunflower seeds so chickadees, nuthatches, and tufted titmice can eat them directly from your hand. Make time to explore the other trails in the park, including those around the ponds. 27 Pond Road, Honeoye Falls

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Mendon Ponds Park

Mendon Ponds is Monroe County’s most expansive park, with woodlands, ponds, wetlands, and 21 miles of color-coded trails across 2,500 acres.

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More in Monroe County

Brookdale Preserve
66 Brook Road, Chili, geneseelandtrust.org

Eva and Harlan Braman Preserve
1775 Ridge Road, Webster, geneseelandtrust.org

Gosnell Big Woods Nature Preserve
674 Vosburg Road, Webster, geneseelandtrust.org

Hipp Brook Preserve
110 Coachman Drive, Penfield, geneseelandtrust.org

Irene Gossin Nature Preserve
1651 Five Mile Line Road, Penfield, geneseelandtrust.org

Isaac Gordon Nature Park
3450 Clover St., Pittsford, townofpittsford.org

Manitou Beach Preserve
64 Manitou Beach Road, Greece, geneseelandtrust.org

Rush Oak Openings Unique Area
249 Honeoye Falls Five Points Road, Rush, dec.ny.gov

Salmon Creek Nature Preserve
492 County Route 220, Greece, geneseelandtrust.org

Thousand Acre Swamp
1587 Jackson Road, Penfield, nature.org

Whiting Road Nature Preserve
403 Whiting Road, Webster, webstertrails.org

Greater Rochester

Beaver Meadow Audubon Center

Beaver Meadow is a 324-acre nature preserve with eight miles of trails and boardwalks that lead through diverse ecosystems, including ponds, wetlands, and meadows. Buffalo Audubon also manages nearby preserves at Ghost Pond and Rose Acres. 1610 Welch Road, North Java, Genesee County

Cumming Nature Center Red Pine Stand
Cumming Nature Center red pine cathedral

Cumming Nature Center

Discover a world of natural beauty at CNC, where you can explore 15 miles of marked trails through wetlands, woodlands, and a stunning stand of 90-year-old red pines. Enjoy a panoramic view of the 900-acre preserve from the visitor center and learn about the area through interactive exhibits and a theater. The center offers a regular schedule of naturalist-led walks throughout the year, focused on forest ecology and botany, including topics such as trees, mushrooms, and insects. In addition, they offer unique experiences like Yoga in the Pines. Admission fee, though Rochester Museum & Science Center members enjoy free admission. 6472 Gulick Road, Naples, Ontario County

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Rochester Museum & Science Center

Between the star shows, laser shows, interactive exhibits, and Singing Tesla Coils, the Rochester Museum and Science Center will entertain you for hours!

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Ganargua Creak Meadow Preserve

Find several one-mile loop trails that follow the creek through woodlands, wetlands, and meadows, home to an abundance of birds and butterflies. The switchback trail from Bunker Hill Drive is steep, and the trails by the creek can be muddy, but the solitude and abundance of wildlife make it worth the effort. For the best experience, plan your hike for the fall when it’s less wet and buggy. But if you don’t mind a little buzzing around your ears, summer is lovely. 195 N. Hook Road, Macedon, Wayne County

Letchworth State Park Humphrey Nature Center
Humphrey Nature Center

Humphrey Nature Center

Letchworth State Park’s nature center offers a variety of year-round activities, including guided hikes, maple sugaring, monarch butterfly releases, and stargazing. The center also provides exhibits and lectures, and several trails begin here, including the Autism Nature Trail (ANT). It is a flat, one-mile stone dust path with carefully designed activity stations and alone zones, perfect for experiencing the calming effects of nature. The path was designed specifically for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but all visitors are welcome to enjoy a peaceful walk along the ANT. Cofounder Loren Penman has stated that the trail’s purpose is to provide opportunities for those with ASD. Ultimately, “when we begin with the end in mind in providing opportunities for a group of underserved individuals, everybody wins.” Admission fee. 6773 Trailside Road, Castile, Wyoming County

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Explore Letchworth State Park

Letchworth has something for everyone, from hiking one of the park’s 29 trails and picnicking beside a waterfall to taking a scenic drive.

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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
Iroquois NWR Visitor Center

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Stop by the visitor center, open weekdays only, and follow the accessible one-mile gravel Headquarters Nature Trail for a leisurely walk through the meadow, offering a colorful late-summer wildflower display. You’ll find several overlooks and trails throughout the refuge, some with boardwalks to navigate the wetlands, like the Swallow Hollow Trail. Iroquois is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and, along with the adjoining Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas, makes up the 20,000-acre Alabama Swamps Complex. 1149 Casey Road, Basom, Genesee County

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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

At 10,828 acres, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is the state’s largest refuge. Alabama Swaps amasses 19,000-acres designated for wildlife.

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MacKay Wildlife Preserve
MacKay Wildlife Preserve

MacKay Wildlife Preserve

Visitors can explore a sea of round moss-covered boulders, a diverse collection of hardwoods, and unusual land formations. The preserve is bordered by Spring Street to the east, with a fieldstone wall marking the western border. The southern boundary is an active train track, while the northern border is the inactive Lehigh Valley line. 234 Spring Street, Caledonia, Livingston County

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MacKay Wildlife Preserve

Visitors to MacKay Wildlife Preserve will find a sea of round moss-covered boulders, a collection of hardwoods, and unusual land formations.

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Montezuma Audubon Center
Montezuma Audubon Center

Montezuma Audubon Center

The nature center is run through a partnership between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Audubon Society. Besides lectures, they offer outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, kayaking, birding excursions, and private birding tours for families and small groups. 2295 New York State Route 89, Savannah, Wayne County

Greater Rochester Region - Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge observation

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

The US Fish & Wildlife Service manages the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge at the north end of Cayuga Lake. The refuge is along one of the busiest flight paths in the Atlantic Flyway. Upon entering the refuge from US Route 20, visitors can find a seasonal visitor center, observation tower, viewing platform, and the Seneca Trail. Black Lake is the main attraction and focal point of the refuge. Visitors can take a slow 3.5-mile drive around the lake on Wildlife Drive, listening to a guided tour via cell phone. Traffic flows in one direction, allowing visitors to pull to either side of the road and set their own pace or exit their vehicles at designated stopping points. Wildlife Drive only covers half of the wetland complex; the other half can be found north of the thruway, along the Erie Canal, and up to Savannah. Heading north on New York State Route 89, visitors can spot smaller, less popular pools to observe migrating and nesting birds. 3395 US Route 20, Seneca Falls, Seneca County

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Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,000-acre preserve located on the north end of Cayuga Lake, under one of the most active flight lanes in the Atlantic Flyway.

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More in Greater Rochester

Bare Hill Unique Area
5950 Van Epps Road, Middlesex, Ontario County, dec.ny.gov

Blue Cut Nature Center
7210 New York State Route 31, Lyons, Wayne County

Chip Holt Nature Center
5828 Big Tree Road, Lakeville, Livingston County, livoniany.org

Christine Sevilla Wetlands Preserve
3728 Iroquois Road, Caledonia, Livingston County, geneseelandtrust.org

Cornwall Preserve
3975 Lake Road, Williamson, Wayne County, geneseelandtrust.org

Cracker Jack Palace, Alasa Farms
6420 Shaker Road, Sodus, Wayne County, crackerboxpalace.org

High Tor WMA
4212 Parish Hill Road, Naples, Ontario County, dec.ny.gov

Honeoye Inlet WMA
7176 W. Lake Road, Honeoye, Ontario County, dec.ny.gov

Kraai Preserve
2461 Norsen Road, Arcadia, Wayne County, geneseelandtrust.org

Macyville Woods Nature Preserve
7474 Seaman St., Sodus Point, Wayne County, geneseelandtrust.org

Sandy Bottom Park and Nature Trails
8800 Sandy Bottom Road, Honeoye, Ontario County, townofrichmond.org

Stid Hill WMA
5221 New York State Route 64, Bristol, Ontario County, dec.ny.gov

Sweet Farm
211 Hall Road, Himrod, Yates County, sweetfarm.org

Surrounding Counties

Beaver Lake Nature Center

Enjoy a quiet walk along nine trails that weave through the 600-acre property. Trails range from the accessible 0.3-mile Lakeview Trail to the three-mile Lake Loop. Take an elevated boardwalk through the bog or wander deep woods to experience diverse ecosystems. The visitor center offers educational opportunities, events, and kayak rentals. Admission fee. 8477 E. Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville, Onondaga County

Cayuga Nature Center

To experience the beauty of the forest canopy, climb up to the top of a six-story tree house. Afterward, follow the walking trail to 20-foot Dennison Falls. The center is affiliated with the Paleontological Research Institution, which also manages the Museum of the Earth, an eight-minute drive away. Admission fee. 1420 Taughannock Boulevard, Ithaca, Tompkins County

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Sapsucker Woods Visitor Center is a unique destination for bird lovers, offering information on bird science and research. Near a pond surrounded by bird-friendly food options, the center provides an ideal spot for observing birds in their natural habitat. Visitors can independently explore four miles of forest and wetland trails or join a group tour. The center also provides a live FeederWatch stream, allowing birders to observe the birds from anywhere in the world. 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, Tompkins County

Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Farm Sanctuary

Farm Sanctuary

The sanctuary encompasses 175 acres in Watkins Glen, with sweeping views of Sugar Hill State Forest, and is home to over 500 rescued farm animals. Take an hour-long guided walk around this exceptional shelter to learn about the sanctuary’s mission and hear each animal’s story. If you enjoy being around cows, pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, and other farm animals, I highly recommend the tour, which encourages guests to interact with the animals and be part of their healing journey. Tour fee. 3150 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen, Schuyler County

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Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen

Farm Sanctuary sits on 175 acres in Watkins Glen, just west of Sugar Hill State Forest, and is home to more than 500 rescued farm animals.

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Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve

Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve

Find and collect 380-million-year-old animal and plant fossils that once flourished in an ancient tropical sea that covered Western New York. Managed by the Hamburg Natural History Society, take a guided tour to learn about the 54-acre quarry before searching for fossils to take home. Admission fee. 4050 North Street, Blasdell, Erie County

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Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve

At Penn Dixie, you keep every fossil you find, though it takes a keen eye and persistence to find the fossils, many of which are smaller than pebbles.

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Reinstein Woods autumn nature center
Reinstein Woods

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

The education center offers eight blazed nature trails, each less than a mile, that lead through wetlands and woodlands and around several ponds. Lily Pond is a must-see, covered in bright pink lily pad flowers from June through September. Mobility scooters are available at the visitor center. 93 Honorine Drive, Depew, Erie County

Sterling Nature Center
Sterling Nature Center

Sterling Nature Center

Spanning two miles of cobblestone shoreline atop glacially formed bluffs, the center offers unique areas to observe wildlife. Eleven marked trails lead away from the visitor center to cross wetlands, woodlands, and fields. Along the way, you’ll find a dragonfly pond, a unique great blue heron rookery, and Lake Ontario overlooks. 15730 Jensvold Road, Sterling, Cayuga County

Tifft Nature Preserve

Managed by the Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft is an urban oasis bordering Lake Erie. Visitors can enjoy boardwalks and trails to cattail marshes, grasslands, and ponds. Find the environmental education center on the shore of Lake Kirsty. Tifft is a designated National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. 1200 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo, Erie County

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

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11 National Natural Landmarks Near Rochester

These National Natural Landmarks, recognized for their outstanding biological and geological resources, are all within a two-hour drive of Rochester, NY.

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22 Fabulous Fall Hikes in Monroe County

Our favorite fall hikes offer a variety of elements and views. The presence of water, trees, and solitude helps rank these high on our list.

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80+ Hiking Trails Around Rochester

Less traveled than in our parks, these hiking trails around Rochester offer a secluded and rustic area to immerse yourself in nature.

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36 Places to Immerse Yourself in Green

I find green to be a soothing color, especially when surrounded by it. Here are some of my favorite places to go green!

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26 Easy Winter Walks Around Rochester

Each destination offers a unique perspective of the Rochester area’s natural beauty, from snow-covered parks to picturesque waterfronts.

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10 Spots to Seek Solitude Around Rochester

It’s critical to spend time outside. Here are a few spots where I find ample space for solitude and solace in nature.

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Which are your favorite nature centers?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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