Panama Rocks - Rock Cities

4 Rock Cities Near Rochester

Rock cities are natural groupings of large boulders. When you walk among them you feel as though you are on a city street among sky scrapers.

Enjoy exploring these cool, quiet, mossy rock cities near Rochester, with some boulders the size of houses!

Little Rock City in Rock City New York State Forest
Little Rock City in Rock City State Forest

What I found most striking is how serene it can be exploring the alleyways. The moss helps to absorb sound, the shadows keep the trails cool even in August.

Visiting these rock cities is an experience like no other. Ask anyone who has camped in Allegany State Park what their favorite memories are and I’ll bet Thunder Rocks ranks in the top 3!

A cluster of rock cities

This map highlights how close these massive rock parks are to each other, nestled in the southwestern corner of New York State.

These rock cities each have a unique creation story going back to when the area was covered by a vast, shallow inland sea, impacted over time by continental drift, glacial activity and mountain-building.

I would encourage you to see all 4 as they each offer unique experiences! Here are a few highlights, but do check their websites for seasonal information, and the most current admission fees and policies. Fees listed below are based on 2018 and are meant to provide a planning estimate only.

Little Rock City in Rock City New York State Forest
Little Rock City in Rock City New York State Forest
Little Rock City in Rock City New York State Forest

1. Little Rock City in Rock City State Forest

Located in Little Valley, between Ellicottville & Salamanca

Free and open to the public, and pets on a leash

Access to the trail is from the end of Little Rock City Forest Road at the turn-around loop, which may be inaccessible in snow.

overhanging rock

2. Panama Rocks

Located in Panama, near Jamestown

Admission fee ~$8, Seasonal (May-October)

Disposables are not allowed in the scenic area (water bottles, plastic bags, etc.)

Pets are not allowed

Guests under 18 must be accompanied by an adult

Repelling is allowed, except down moss-covered cliffs

3. Rock City Park

Located in Olean

Admission fee ~$5 adult, ~$12 season pass (as of 2017)

Seasonal (May-October)

Leashed pets are allowed on the trails

Allegany State Park Thunder Rocks autumn
Allegany State Park Thunder Rocks face
Allegany State Park Thunder Rocks climbing

4. Thunder Rocks

Located in Allegany State Park

Access include with park admission, free for Empire State Pass holders (borrow one from a Monroe County library!)

Climbing on rocks permitted, as are leashed pets


This is probably bigger than a day trip

You can’t see all of these in one day trip from Rochester, so spread them out over a few months, or spend a night in the area. You’ll want to plan at least an hour for each park.

When we visited Little Rock City in November we spent an hour in Allegany State Park first. We spent a few hours in Little Rock City, and were going to have dinner in Ellicottville but time just slipped away from us so we ate the remains of our picnic food on the drive home.

Panama Rocks scenic

Here are a few resources to learn more about these geo-interesting places!

Learn about New York State geology watching the videos in this excellent YouTube playlist

This article on Western New York Explorer’s Guide goes into more detail on a few of the rock parks

An excellent write up on Panama Rocks geological history

Little Rock City is on state land, and the DEC has a great article to familiarize you with the area

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Have you been to one of our rock cities?

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


2 thoughts on “4 Rock Cities Near Rochester”

  1. I just learned about rock cities and thanks to your awesome site discovered there are 4 clustered together right here close-ish to Rochester! While I would love to hit all four, my family would object. Could you recommend the one (or 2) that would top your list? Thank you!

    1. What’s great, too, Andrea, is that they are all different experiences and were created using different processes. Not all are glacier made! You must visit them all.

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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.