Panama Rocks was established as a privately operated park in 1885, the same year as Niagara Falls State Park. The rock formations themselves date back about 400 to 350 million years ago (Ma), during the Devonian period.
The Devonian period was a time when the entire area was at the bottom of an ancient tropical sea, and we were much closer to the Equator. You can also explore evidence of this period at Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve just south of Buffalo, and at the Museum of the Earth near Ithaca.
Check in at the main office
The staff will give you a brief overview of the park, safety information, and a map. Sign a waiver and enter at your own risk.
That sounds worse than it is!
Watch your footing, know your limits, and use common sense when it comes to climbing on the boulders.
The main trail at Panama Rocks is a one-mile loop around a half-mile ridge of rock formations.
Because of time limitations, we only walked around the first three formations and had no issues other than keeping an eye on the tree roots and boulders on the trail. I would qualify this as easy if you have full mobility.
Climbing the rock city
You can choose to leave the trail and climb over, under, and through the rocks. Rappelling is allowed; just be mindful to not damage native flora – no rappelling down the moss covered cliffs.
How the area was created
According to the website, “The caves, crevices, and passageways that run through the rocks are likely the result of freezing and thawing: rocks cracking under pressure from the elements and their own weight; slowly and steadily pulled downhill by gravity in a process known as “creep.”
“After the end of Champlain period a dense pine forest grew up in the area, which eventually gave way to the maple, beech, black ash and hemlock we see today.”
More information about Panama Rocks Scenic Park
Cost: There is an entrance fee
Located in Panama near Jamestown in Chautauqua County, roughly 2.5 hours / 165 miles from Rochester (get directions)
More information can be found at panamarocks.com. Pets are not allowed. You are responsible for your own safety. Wear suitable footwear for hiking.
Have you been to Panama Rocks?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!