Climbing Panama Rocks

Panama Rocks Scenic Park

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.

office porch
enter at your own risk

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.

trail roots

The trail

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.

entering the rock city
alley way

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.

tunnels below
Panama Rocks scenic

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 Pets are not allowed. You are responsible for your own safety. Wear suitable footwear for hiking.

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Museum of the Earth

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Have you been to Panama Rocks?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.