ny state parks 100 years logo niagara falls cover

50 New York State Parks Within a Two-Hour Drive of Rochester

New York State Parks and Historic Sites is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024. The system includes 250 properties with over 360,000 acres of beaches, campgrounds, trails, golf courses, and thousands of historic buildings. Additionally, it boasts 2,000 miles of trails for visitors to explore.

New York State Parks 100 years logoThey’ve created a Centennial Challenge and “come up with a list of 100 activities to give you a chance to get outdoors and discover our state parks, to learn more about our New York State history at our historic sites, and to give back to preserve all our properties for the next generation. Are you ready to take on the Challenge? Complete 24 of the 100 listed activities to win a commemorative sticker and be entered into a promotional giveaway for a three-year Empire Pass and Centennial swag.”

You can download the app or print out a checklist from their website, parks.ny.gov/100. Visit New York State Parks and Historic Sites to find challenges and events taking place throughout 2024.

If you plan to visit multiple New York State Parks on a single day, you need only pay admission to the first park. Make sure to keep your receipt and present it at each subsequent park you visit that day to gain free entry. Alternatively, you can stop by a Monroe County Library and borrow an Empire Pass, which grants you free admission at most parks.

Fees for New York State Parks are subject to change. Use the 2021 fees (they don’t change often or drastically) noted below as a guide—check park websites for current information.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Finger Lakes Region

Buttermilk Falls State Park swimming
Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls

$9 vehicle entry fee collected 4/1 – 11/30 from 6 am to 6:30 pm daily

The upper park has a small lake, hiking trails through woodlands and along the gorge and rim, picnic areas, and playing fields.

The lower park has a campground, natural pool, and playing fields, beyond which is Larch Meadows. Larch Meadows is a wetland area through which a nature trail winds.

Swim in the stream-fed pool beneath Buttermilk Creek’s lower falls. To view the waterfall from your car, follow the loop around the park entrance and exit without paying to park. Otherwise, the falls are within walking distance from the parking lot.

Stairs are prevalent along the 0.65-mile Buttermilk Creek Gorge Trail. When you reach the stone bridge, you can continue to the upper park, return through the gorge, or cross the creek and take the Rim Trail back to the parking area, where you can enjoy a swim in the natural stream-fed pool beneath Buttermilk Falls. The gorge trail is closed in winter.

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Buttermilk Falls State Park

In Buttermilk Falls State Park, like most of the Finger Lakes gorge parks, stairs are the primary walkway along Buttermilk Creek; challenging but worth it!

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Cayuga Lake State Park Swing
Cayuga Lake State Park

Cayuga Lake

$7 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/23 – 6/14, 9 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 6/20- 9/7, 10 am – 6 pm weekdays, 9 AM – 6 PM weekends & holidays
  • 9/12 – 10/12, 9 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays

Cayuga Lake State Park boasts a breathtaking view of the lake and offers a variety of aquatic activities, such as swimming and fishing.

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Explore Seneca Falls

Seneca Falls, on historic Route 5 and 20, is the birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement and is the inspiration for It’s a Wonderful Life.

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New York State Parks: Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park

Chimney Bluffs

$5 vehicle entry fee collected 4/1 – 10/31 Daily (All Day)

Rising 175 feet above Lake Ontario, the bluffs are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline. It would be beneficial to bring water shoes for standing in the lake and sneakers for walking along the rocky shoreline.

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Chimney Bluffs State Park

The bluffs in Chimney Bluffs State Park are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline.

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Fair Haven Beach
Fair Haven Beach

Fair Haven Beach

$9 vehicle entry fee collected:

4/1 – 10/31 Daily (All Day)

Fair Haven Beach State Park. At one of the most beautiful locations along Lake Ontario, you can relax on the guarded sandy beach while enjoying the stunning view of the towering shoreline bluffs.

Fillmore Glen bridge over creek bed
Fillmore Glen State Park

Fillmore Glen

$8 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/5 – 6/16: 9 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 6/17 – 9/2: 9 am – 6 pm, daily
  • 9/7 – 10/13: 9 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays

The shaded gorge trail offers a refreshing escape on a hot day, especially when combined with a swim in the stream-fed pool. Just beyond the pool, before heading up to the gorge, take a quick detour to the base of Cow Shed Falls. Stone steps—140 in the beginning and several along the trail—and muddy paths make this a moderately challenging hike. The 1.3-mile gorge trail leads across several footbridges to four waterfalls along Dry Creek. The shale walls have fractures that allow water to trickle in, fostering the growth of lush vegetation like mosses, ferns, and trees.

To return to the parking area, you can retrace your steps through the gorge or take the North Rim Trail. Next to the parking lot, close to the tree line, is a log cabin replica of the birthplace of President Millard Fillmore. The gorge trail is closed in winter.

Friends of Fillmore Glen State Park

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Explore Skaneateles

The Village of Skaneateles is the perfect place to get away and enjoy the pace of lake life, surrounded by unique boutiques and restaurants.

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Honeoye Lake from Harriet Hollister
Honeoye Lake from Harriet Hollister

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

No entry or parking fees.

Enjoy a stunning view of Honeoye Lake from Canadice Hill, which offers extensive cycling and snowshoe trails.

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Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area is a New York State Park located in the hills six miles south of Honeoye Lake.

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New York State Parks: Keuka Lake
Keuka Lake State Park

Keuka Lake

$7 vehicle entry fee collected 5/1 – 10/31: 9am – 5pm daily

The park offers a large sandy beach and bathhouse at the north end of Keuka Lake.

Long Point

$7 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/5 – 6/23: 8 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 6/24- 9/2: 8 am – 6 pm, daily
  • 9/3 – 10/14: 8 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays

Swim in Cayuga Lake from a small grass and stone beachfront. There is a bathhouse available.

Newtown Battlefield

No entrance fees are charged.

A pristine granite monument marks the site of the 1779 hillside battle between The Continental Army and British regulars, Loyalist rangers, and 1000 Hodinöhsö:ni warriors.


No entrance fees are charged.

Pinnacle State Park has breathtaking views and tremendous vistas, including the Canisteo River Valley, Harris Hill, and the village of Addison.

New York State Parks: Robert H Treman State Park
Robert H Treman State Park

Robert H. Treman

$9 vehicle entry fee collected 4/1 – 11/30 from 6 am to 6:30 pm daily

Explore the 2.5-mile gorge trail to discover 12 waterfalls, including 70-foot Enfield Falls and the stream-fed swimming pool near the lower parking lot. Visit the historic Enfield Falls Mill from the upper parking area before taking the moderately challenging gorge trail to find 115-foot Lucifer Falls. The gorge trail is closed in winter.

Access the Lower Enfield Falls swimming area and diving board easily from the parking lot.

Friends of Robert H. Treman State Park

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Explore Ithaca

Spend a day in the City of Ithaca, exploring the waterfalls, restaurants, shops, and festivals that make this Ivy League college town unique.

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New York State Parks: Sampson State Park
Sampson State Park


The entry fee is not listed on the website, only overnights and walk-in fees. In 2018, a $7 vehicle entry fee was collected:

  • 5/20 – 6/16: weekends and holidays only: 6 AM – 4 AM
  • 6/17 – 9/4: 8 AM – 4 PM Monday – Thursday, 7 AM – 4 PM Friday-Sunday

Located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, Sampson was once a military training base before becoming an area of grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees on flat, rolling woodlands surrounding ravines.

Friends of Sampson State Park

Seneca Lake State Park
Seneca Lake State Park

Seneca Lake

$8 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/12 – 6/10: 10 AM – 6 PM, weekends & holidays
  • 6/16 – 9/3: 8 AM – 6 PM, daily
  • 9/8 – 10/8: 10 AM – 6 PM, weekends & holidays

Besides a sandy, shallow beach, there is a fantastic water sprayground with 100 jets to enjoy. Visitors can also spend the day exploring the lake’s north end in Geneva. The Finger Lakes Welcome Center and various restaurants and wineries offer stunning lake views.

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Explore Geneva

Situated midway between Rochester and Syracuse on Route 5 and 20, Geneva feels like the center of the Finger Lakes region.

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Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook

Stony Brook

$9 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/1 – 6/20 from 9 am – 5 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 6/26 – 9/6 from 10 am – 6 pm, Monday-Friday, 8 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 9/11 – 10/11 from 9 am – 5 pm, weekends & holidays

The main trail for most visitors is the 0.75-mile gorge trail, which offers stunning views of waterfalls, stone bridges, and a stream-fed pool. The trail is made up of shale and gravel and has some moderately challenging areas to navigate, including dozens of steps to climb alongside each waterfall. Note that the gorge trail is closed during winter.

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Stony Brook State Park

The walkway through Stony Brook State Park is a combo of shale, gravel, and stairs alongside waterfalls, similar to the other gorge parks.

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Taughannock Falls State Park bridge
Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls

$9 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 4/27 – 5/26: 6 AM – 6 PM, weekends & holidays
  • 5/27 – 9/2: 6 AM – 6 PM, daily
  • 9/3 – 10/20: 6 AM – 6, weekends & holidays

At 215 feet tall, Taughannock Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. The 0.75-mile hard-packed gravel gorge trail leads to the base of the falls and is open year-round.

Visitors can easily enjoy a stunning view of Taughannock Falls from the short walk to the overlook viewpoint featuring a scenic stone balcony, which can be accessed for free.

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Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls’s 0.75-mile hard-packed gravel gorge trail leads to the base of the falls and is open year-round.

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Watkins Glen
Rainbow Falls

Watkins Glen

$10 vehicle entry fee collected mid-May to mid-October, sunrise to sunset

The village of Watkins Glen, about one and a half hours southeast of Rochester at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, is an ideal day-trip destination. Watkins Glen State Park’s 1.5-mile-long gorge is at the heart of the village, a truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring showcase of nature’s beauty.

While the park features a well-maintained walking path through the gorge, it is neither a leisurely stroll nor ADA-accessible. The journey through the glen encompasses a 520-foot elevation change navigable by 800 stone steps, bridges, tunnels, and straightaways, often wet with spray from 19 waterfalls.

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Explore Watkins Glen

The heart of the village of Watkins Glen is the 1.5-mile-long gorge, a truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring showcase of nature’s beauty.

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Genesee Region

Darien Lakes State Park kayak fishing
Darien Lakes State Park

Darien Lakes

$7 vehicle entry fee, collection date range not specified on the website.

Darien Lake’s terrain boasts hills, woodlands, ravines, streams, and Harlow Lake. Enjoy a picnic on Picnic Island and swim from the lake’s sandy beach.

Hamlin Beach State Park
Hamlin Beach

Hamlin Beach

$9 vehicle entry fee collected 9 am-5 pm:

  • Weekends until June 23
  • Daily from June 24 through Labor Day
  • Weekends After Labor Day till the 3rd weekend in October

Hamlin Beach offers seven miles of paved and dirt hiking trails and a self-guided tour of a historic CCC/POW camp. The lake shore is perfect for reading a book in the shade with your toes in the sand. In Area One, you can find green space, an unguarded beach, a kayak launch, and the Yanty Creek Environmental Nature Trail. Areas Three and Four have guarded swimming beaches, picnic tables, pavilions, playgrounds, bathhouses, and concession stands. Area Five has green space, an unguarded beach, and the Devil’s Nose hiking trail along the West Bluff.

Friends of Hamlin Beach State Park

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Hamlin Beach State Park

Hamlin Beach State Park has 7 miles of beautiful biking and walking trails, including a mile-long self-guided tour of a CCC/POW camp.

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Genesee Valley Greenway State Park
Genesee Valley Greenway crossing Black Creek

Genesee Valley Greenway

No fees are charged.

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park is a 90-mile open space corridor that follows the route of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and the Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch (1882-1963) from the Erie Canalway Trail in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to the Village of Cuba in Allegany County. The Greenway will eventually extend to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.

Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway

New York State Parks: Irondequoit Bay Park beach path
Irondequoit Bay Park

Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park

Fees collected for boat launch only.

Irondequoit Bay Marine Park, located at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay, is a launch site for small and power boats providing fishing access to Lake Ontario. Previously a Monroe County Park that has transitioned to the state, the Town of Irondequoit operated the park through a cooperative agreement. On the lake shore, there is an unguarded beach.

Lakeside Beach New York State Parks
Lakeside Beach State Park

Lakeside Beach

$6 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/25 – 6/9: 10 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays
  • 6/15 – 9/2: 10 am – 6 pm, daily
  • 9/7 – 10/13: 10 am – 6 pm, weekends & holidays

Lakeside Beach is a popular spot for camping, hiking, disc golf, fishing, and picnicking, but despite its name, it does not have a swimming beach.

Letchworth’s Upper Falls


$10 vehicle entry fee collected 5/7 – 10/24: 9 am – 5 pm, daily

Award-winning Letchworth State Park, a little over one hour south of Rochester, covers more than 14,000 acres along the Genesee River in Livingston and Wyoming Counties.

Whether you want to picnic beside a waterfall, hike one of the park’s 29 trails, take a hot-air balloon ride, whitewater raft on the Genesee River, dine at the historic Glen Iris Inn, or enjoy a scenic drive through the park, Letchworth has something for you.

There are several entrances to the park from the north, south, and west, and it takes about 30 minutes to drive the length of Park Road, which stretches for 18 miles between Mount Morris and Portageville.

Friends of Letchworth State Park

Fun fact: At 14,427 acres, Letchworth State Park is about the same size and shape as the island of Manhattan, but while 1.63 million people live in the city, only 870,000 people visited the park throughout 2021. The Genesee River is our Broadway, but there are no neon lights or celebrities here! Only the Milky Way with one hundred thousand million stars.

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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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Silver Lake
Silver Lake

Silver Lake

$6 parking fee, payable at kiosk

The park provides a boat launch facility for boating and fishing on the lake. The area also has picnic facilities and a comfort station, which is open year-round.

Niagara Region


$10 vehicle entry fee collected 04/30 – 09/30, performance fees are separate. Please note that the Empire Pass and Golden Park Pass are not accepted at this location. 

Enjoy a walk through the only state park focused on visual and performing arts. Plan your day trip to coincide with one of Artpark’s live performances in the outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Niagara River Gorge. Throughout the summer, the park hosts a variety of music, theater, and dance performances. There are also scenic hiking trails and various art installations to explore.

Beaver Island

$7 vehicle entry fee collected when the beach is open:

  • 5/26-6/24: 8 am-6 pm, weekends only
  • 6/28-9/2: 9 am-6 pm, weekdays; 8 am-6 pm, weekends & holidays

Located at the south end of Grand Island, the park boasts a wide range of outdoor activities. Enjoy the park’s 18-hole golf course, swimming and boating facilities, or trail systems.

Buckhorn Island

No fees are charged.

Buckhorn Island’s vast marshlands and meadows border the Niagara River. Depending on the season, you can explore the nature trails or spend the day fishing or cross-country skiing.

Buffalo Harbor

Fees are only for the use of the boat launch.

Buffalo Harbor State Park offers beautiful views of Lake Erie. The park has a 1,000-slip marina, a restaurant, boat launches, personal watercraft launches, a fish cleaning station, restrooms, and a beach for strolling and sunbathing.

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Explore Buffalo’s Waterfront

From Canalside to Outer Harbor and RiverWorks to Silo City, there are a dozen excellent day trips from Rochester along Buffalo’s waterfront.

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De Veaux Woods

No fees are charged.

De Veaux Woods State Park has two ball diamonds, a playground, nature trails through a meadow and Old Growth Woods, and a path that leads across the Robert Moses Parkway to Whirlpool State Park, which has access to the Niagara Gorge trail system.

Devil’s Hole

No fees are charged.

Devil’s Hole State Park overlooks the Devil’s Hole Rapids. It has picnic areas, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and is one of the more popular spots for fishing.


$7 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 5/25-6/16: 9 am-5 pm, weekends & holidays only
  • 6/22-9/2: 9 am-5 pm, daily

Evangola State Park boasts a stunning arc-shaped shoreline and a natural sandy beach on Lake Erie. In addition to its picturesque views, the park offers picnic facilities, 80 campsites, and playing fields. campsites, and playing fields.

Old Fort Niagara tunnel castle view
Old Fort Niagara

Fort Niagara

$8 vehicle entry fee collected at toll booths 6/20 & 6/21, 6/27 – 9/7 10 am – 6 pm

At Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario, visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming in the pool, exploring the nature center, and, on a clear day, taking in the spectacular view of Toronto’s skyline.

The Castle at Old Fort Niagara, which the French built in 1726, is the oldest building on the Great Lakes. The 1872 lighthouse at the mouth of the Niagara River is the fourth of its kind, but it is not open for tours. Admission fees are separate for the park and the fort.

Old Fort Niagara

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Old Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara served as a strategic stronghold for 300 years during the French & Indian Wars, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and Civil War.

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Explore Lewiston

Ranked as one of the “Top Ten Small Towns,” spend a day in Lewiston, with its excellent shops, restaurants, and Niagara River views.

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Four Mile Creek

No fees are charged.

Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, only 15 minutes from the mighty Niagara Falls, the park offers a variety of camping options as well as trails exploring shores and marshlands.

Golden Hill New York State Parks
Golden Hill State Park

Golden Hill

$6 vehicle entry fee collected 5/14-10/10 between 8 am – 9 pm

Golden Hill, situated 30 miles east of the Niagara River at the northernmost point of Lake Ontario’s southern shore, offers some of the region’s darkest skies, making it an optimal location for stargazing or viewing the northern lights. The 1875 Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse provides stunning views and is a must-see for visitors.

Friends of Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse

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9 Lake Ontario Lighthouses in New York

These lighthouses along Lake Ontario in New York are within a two-hour drive of Rochester. And where there’s a light there’s a sweeping view!

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Joseph Davis

No fees are charged.

Fields, woodlands, and ponds offer opportunities for recreation such as fishing, hiking, and disc golf.

New York State Parks - Knox Farm State Park fence
Knox Farm State Park

Knox Farm

No fees are charged.

Situated on a former country estate, the park is adjacent to the historic village of East Aurora. The park features a variety of habitats and is home to several species of farm animals.

Friends of Knox Farm State Park

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Explore East Aurora

From Vidler’s to the Aurora Theatre to the Roycroft Arts & Crafts movement, the early 1900s are alive and well on Main Street in East Aurora.

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Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Vehicle entry fee collected. Please visit niagarafallsstatepark.com for the most current fees. As of April 2021, their general statement reads, “Our automated lots are in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is a fee of $10 to park all day, even throughout the peak season.”

Niagara Falls State Park, America’s first state park, was established in 1886 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted two years before creating Rochester’s Highland Park. Visitors travel far and wide to see Niagara Falls, and we are fortunate to drive there in 90 minutes. The falls are majestic year-round, and I highly recommend going at different times throughout the year to witness the uniqueness of each season.

While Niagara Falls, Ontario, has a falls-facing view, it can become overwhelming with many tourism-oriented distractions that cost time and money. On the New York side of Niagara Falls, activities focus on the natural world, with accessible pathways leading along the Niagara River. Make the most of your day trip by exploring Goat Island, Three Sisters Island, and Prospect Point, where you can enjoy the view of Canada across the river.

Niagara Falls State Park

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Explore Niagara Falls, USA

Niagara Falls is majestic year-round, and I recommend going at different times throughout the year to witness the uniqueness of each season.

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No fees are charged.

Reservoir State Park is a favorite of local residents in Niagara County. The park offers a variety of sports facilities, including tennis, baseball, roller hockey, soccer, and softball. They also offer a driving range and R/C Airplane field.

Whirlpool State Park
Whirlpool State Park


No fees are charged.

Spectacular views of swirling rapids, the whirlpool, and the Niagara River Escarpment, as well as a network of nature trails that descend into the gorge.

Niagara River Gorge. The Rim Trail is an easy six-mile walking path that connects four state parks along the river: Niagara Falls, Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, and Artpark. Observation areas along the trail offer breathtaking views of the turquoise-colored rapids below. The pathways to the river’s edge at Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Parks are challenging because their stone steps are in various states of repair. At the Niagara Falls State Park, visitors can take a free elevator ride down to the river’s edge to explore the ruins of the Schoellkopf Power Station. The gorge trail is closed in winter. Niagara Falls, Niagara County, (716) 278-1794, parks.ny.gov

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21 Discover Niagara Shuttle Stops

The Discover Niagara Shuttle is a two-hour round-trip from any starting point if you’d like to simply enjoy the ride. Or, hop on and off.

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$6 vehicle entry fee collected, $7 when swimming is available:

  • 5/25 – 6/21, weekends 9 am – 6 pm
  • 6/22 – 9/2, daily 9 am – 6 pm

Nestled on Tuscarora Bay, this 395-acre natural area boasts a variety of mature woods, open meadows, and marshland that provide a well-preserved habitat for numerous plant and wildlife species. You can also enjoy a serene pebble beach and a fully equipped bathhouse along the narrow strip of the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Woodlawn Beach

$7 vehicle entry fee collected.

Located on Lake Erie, within the Buffalo metropolitan area, the park offers a beautiful, long, natural sand beach with lovely panoramic views and spectacular sunsets on the lake.

Central Region

Chittenango Falls

A $5 vehicle entry fee is collected daily via an automated pay station.

Although the trail and steps to the base of the falls may be challenging, it is possible to view these stunning falls from the parking area above.

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Easy Waterfalls

Not all waterfalls are hidden in dark ravines. Many of the region’s most stunning waterfalls can be viewed from the road or a short walk.

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New York State Parks - Green Lakes State Park Green Lake bench
Green Lakes State Park

Green Lakes

A $10 vehicle entry fee is collected, though the website does not define the date range.

In Fayetteville, 15 minutes east of Syracuse, Green Lakes is known for its turquoise-colored glacial lakes and old-growth forest. At nearly 200 feet deep, the meromictic lakes feature water that remains crystal clear because of the lack of mixing between its top and bottom layers.

Privately owned boats are not allowed on the lakes because of their sensitive nature, but rentals are available, including clear-bottom tandem kayaks. The park offers walking trails around Green and Round Lakes, a swimming beach on Green Lake, and an all-terrain wheelchair to assist with beach and trail access.

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Explore Syracuse

A day trip to Syracuse should include a walk through its squares, exploring renowned museums, and indulging in delicious local food.

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Sandy Island Beach

$7 vehicle entry fee collected, date range not defined on the website.

As one of the few west-facing beaches along Lake Ontario, Sandy Island Beach is as lovely as the name implies. It is known for being the only significant freshwater dune site in the northeast United States, according to the New York State Parks website. Visitors can enjoy amenities such as a bathhouse and concessions near the parking area and reach the guarded swimming beach using a boardwalk system that protects the dunes and beach grass.

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Swimming Holes

On a hot day, you can sit under a waterfall, swim in a lake, or jump in a creek at one of these refreshing natural swimming areas.

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Selkirk Shores

$7 vehicle entry fee collected 6/26 – 9/6/ (Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon & holidays)

Overlooking Lake Ontario, the park offers swimming, fishing, camping, and boat launch sites, as well as beautiful sunset views.

Verona Beach State Park Oneida Lake
Verona Beach State Park

Verona Beach

$7 vehicle entry fee collected:

  • 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Friday (6/14/20 – Labor Day)
  • 8 am to 6 pm Saturday/Sunday/Holidays (Memorial Day-Labor Day)

Experience a sandy, shallow beach and a splash pad on Oneida Lake, where the Erie Canal meets the lake and separates Verona Beach from the historic amusement park at Sylvan Beach.

Allegany Region

New York State Parks - Allegany State Park Red House Administration Building
Red House Administration Building

Allegany State Park

$7 vehicle entry fee collected 9 AM – 4:30 PM:

  • 5/29 – 6/20: Weekends & holidays only
  • 6/26 – 9/6: Daily
  • 9/11 – 10/11: Weekends & holidays only

In the Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border, New York’s largest state park* offers mountainous terrain reminiscent of the Adirondacks and Catskills. It’s easy to get around using the park’s three main roads—ASP Routes 1, 2, and 3.

Hike one of 18 marked trails across 65,000 acres to nine named peaks, the highest of which is 2,146-foot Mount Tuscarora. Compared with the Adirondack’s 46 named peaks, with 3,820-foot Couchsachraga Peak as its lowest, ASP is a great place to be in the mountains without being overwhelmed by them.

Divided into two distinct areas—Red House and Quaker—plan several day trips to explore their unique attractions. Known for the historic Tudor-style administration building with its natural history museum, restaurant, and gift shop, you’ll also find Red House Lake, Thunder Rocks, and the Stone Tower in the Red House Area.

The Quaker Area features Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower, Quaker Lake, Science Lake, Bear Caves, an amphitheater, and a museum.

Friends of Allegany State Park

*Fun fact: Many believe that Adirondack Park is the largest New York State Park. However, Adirondack Park is not a state park or a national park. Rather, it is a National Historic Landmark covering six million acres of state-owned and privately held land. It is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States and a permanent wild forest preserve. While it may be a bit of a drive for a day trip, some Rochester residents still make the journey to the mountains. It takes about three hours to reach Old Forge and five hours to reach Lake Placid.

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Explore Ellicottville

Ellicottville offers the perfect combination of outdoor adventures, boutique shopping, craft beverages, and delicious dining.

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Historic Sites

The Historic Parks do not accept the Empire Pass, and regular admission fees are required.

Ganondagan autumn longhouse

Ganondagan State Historic Site

Adults $8, $6 between November 1 and Apr 30 when the Longhouse is closed. Find pricing variations, including special events, on the website.

Atop Boughton Hill sits the original site of a significant 17th-century Seneca town, which at its peak had 150 longhouses where a replica stands today. Visitors can appreciate the Seneca Art & Culture Center’s museum and enjoy miles of woodland and meadow trails throughout the year. The longhouse is open for tours from May to October.

Ganondagan State Historic Site holds an exceptional place in New York State, as it is the only State Historic Site dedicated to Native American history and culture. It is also the only Seneca town that has been developed and interpreted in the United States. The Seneca people’s rich heritage, including their culture, art, agriculture, and government, has significantly influenced our modern understanding of equality, democratic governance, women’s rights, ecology, and natural foods.

Friends of Ganondagan

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Ganondagan State Historic Site

Ganondagan is the original site of a 17th-century Seneca town, which at its peak had 150 longhouses where one replica stands today.

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New York State Parks - Fort Ontario
Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Adults $4, with pricing variations on the website.

Independently explore five historic buildings within the star-shaped earthworks overlooking Lake Ontario and the Oswego Lighthouse. These buildings were part of an active fort during the French and Indian War and the War of 1812, and in 1944, it became the only refugee camp in the United States for predominantly Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

A picnic area overlooking Lake Ontario, just beyond the fort, is free to access.

Friends of Fort Ontario

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Explore The Lake Ontario Seaway Trail

The Lake Ontario Seaway Trail runs along the southern Lake Ontario shoreline, from Fort Niagara in Youngstown to Fort Ontario in Oswego.

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Sonnenberg Gardens
Sonnenberg Gardens

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park

Adults $15, with pricing variations listed on the website.

Explore a magnificent late 19th-century Victorian estate, complete with a Queen Anne–style mansion and nine formal gardens in this 50-acre New York State Historic Park. Marvel at the Lord and Burnham–designed glasshouse conservatory. The estate is open seven days a week, May 1 through October 31.

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park

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Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Located in the City of Canandaigua, Sonnenberg Gardens is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.

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Explore Canandaigua

Of the five Finger Lakes closest to Rochester, Canandaigua Lake and the city’s historic downtown have the most to offer visitors.

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New York State Parks - Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House Buffalo
Martin House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House

Tours vary in price and duration. See the website for tour details.

The Martin House Tour, led by experienced docents, takes guests on a 75-minute journey through the main house, pergola, conservatory, and carriage house of this historic 1905 landmark. For those looking for a more in-depth experience, the two-hour Martin House Plus Tour includes stops at the Barton House and Gardener’s Cottage.

Darwin Martin House Restoration Corporation

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Explore Buffalo’s Delaware Park

Delaware Park combines Buffalo’s cultural and recreational offerings along a two-mile path that winds around lakes, gardens, and meadows.

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Which are your favorite New York State Parks?

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.

3 thoughts on “50 New York State Parks Within a Two-Hour Drive of Rochester”

    1. Martin Kolz. Text only.

      When we were kids(50 years ago) we could swim anywhere in canadaigua lake. You could walk out from Kershaw park for a half mile on sandy beaches. The water is shallow for a long distance. Before they built the city pier in canandaigua, there was just a border of lg stones. You could enter the lake from the pier and there is a sand bar that you can walk on all the way out to squaw island.. stories say that when the Indians were in battle then all the women and children would walk the sandbar to the island for safety. So many wonderful memories growing up on canandaigua lake.

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