Winter, it is a tough time of the year to keep in shape and to enjoy nature for some people. However, winter is really a beautiful season and probably the most beautiful time of the year, especially to participate in activities, including snowshoeing.
In Erie County, New York, there are many great places to snowshoe. Most of these places are in parks where you can do other winter activities like cross-country skiing, sledding and ice skating.
The areas presented in this article are part of the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, which include parks, golf courses, hiking trails, and forests. All of the areas below allow snowshoes, however certain areas such as 18 Mile Creek, Boston Forest, Franklin Gulf, and Hunters Creek just have snowshoeing. As conditions change, Erie County provides an update for winter activities in each park, which are described more below.
Eighteen Mile Creek Park
Eighteen Mile Creek is an undeveloped park of approximately 465 acres near the town of Hamburg. There are many interesting trails over two distinctive areas, the North Branch and the South Branch. Most of the trails are flat and run along Eighteen Mile Creek. The 60 foot deep gorge cut by the creek however, is a view to behold.
There are varying options for trails, a few of which start at the top of the ridge and go around the top, and other trails that go down into the gorge. These trails are easy and traveled moderately by both snowshoers and hikers. There are no buildings in this park, shelters or bathrooms so being prepared for this is essential. The only parking area is on the side of the road near the park. A map of Eighteen Mile Creek is available courtesy of Mike Radomski.
The main trail in Akron Falls County Park is a short, approx 2 km trail that follows right along Murder Creek and is fairly easy hike. As you follow the creek, the trail eventually reaches a waterfall, with many ravines and cliffs to explore along the way. Murder Creek has its own fascinating, but tragic love story. Areas of the hike are on privately owned land and caution should be taken though along the cliffs and waterfalls.
All trails are ungroomed in Akron Falls County Park. There are many shelters, bathrooms, and buildings, such as Cummings Lodge located next to the creek, which you can use to relax and warm up in. Parking is available next to any of the shelters or buildings. A map of Akron Falls Park is available courtesy of Mike Radomski.
If you want to experience other activities, Akron Falls County Park also offers cross-country ski trails, snowboarding, ice skating, and sledding opportunities.
Boston Forest is an undeveloped park near Boston, NY. It consists of nearly 710 acres and has many hiking and snowshoeing trails, which are good for beginners. The main trail starts on flat ground and then heads up a hill, and flattens alongside of Rice Hill Road. Along the trail, you’ll pass over creeks and through thick forests. There are no buildings in this park, shelters or bathrooms. The only parking area is on the side of the road. All trails are ungroomed. A map is available courtesy of Mike Radomski.
Chestnut Ridge is one of the most widely used parks in Erie County in the winter, as many winter activities are available. You can snowshoe, cross-country ski, snowboard, sled, and toboggan. Chestnut Ridge also plays host to snowshoe races throughout the year. The trails in this area range from easy to difficult. Snowshoe through thick forests on backcountry single track trails and dirt roads.
The Eternal Flame is a natural gas flame in Chestnut Ridge the burns all the time, and hardly ever goes out. This fascinating flame is located under a waterfall just outside the main area of the park.
In this park, all trails are ungroomed. There are many shelters, bathrooms, and buildings you can use to relax and warm up in. Specifically in the Casino Building, there is a fireplace, food stand, and coffee shop, which is an optimal place to break from the cold. Parking is available at any of the shelters or buildings. A map of Chestnut Ridge is available courtesy of Mike Radomski.
Como Lake Park
Como Lake Park receives many visitors in the winter, especially ice skaters and people that want to go sledding. However, Como Lake offers areas to snowshoe too. The trails are flat and easy to hike on, and you can hike to the man-made waterfall, lighthouse, and pond. One trail crosses the north and south island by two bridges that span Cayuga Creek, which flows through the park. There is also a Boy Scout nature trail in the park near the Boy Scout Area, that is a connector for other trails. Some additional trail options include a trail in the front of the park near William, and a trail that runs along Lake Ave and Como Park Blvd on the outside of the park. Check out the map of Como Lake Park for more details.
All trails in this park are ungroomed, but there are many shelters, bathrooms, and buildings you can use to relax and warm up in, such as the casino building near the ice skating pond, and Lancaster place. The casino building actually has a fireplace you can sit near too. Parking is available at any of the shelters or buildings.
Ellicott Creek Park
Ellicott Creek Park is a mostly flat, wide open park that is great for beginner snowshoers. The park has three sections total, one main section and two smaller sections in the north part of the park. In the main section, there is a trail that runs along the outside of the park in a small wooded area. If your dog wants some time to explore too, there is a dog park on the island. As an alternative to snowshoeing, the park has a paved biking trail that has many shelters and buildings along it.
All trails in Ellicott Creek park are ungroomed. There are many shelters, bathrooms, and buildings you can use to relax and warm up in. The casino building offers a fireplace, or you can rest in the Friendship building. Parking is available at any of the shelters or buildings in the park.
Elma Meadows Golf Course and Park consists of an 18 hole golf course and a small 6 shelter park loop. On the golf course, there are 2 groomed cross-country ski trail loops that total 8k/4.9 miles. These trails connect with the other trails and access roads in the park and on the golf course. The park is very hilly and wide open so make sure you dress warmly because the wind whips across the golf course. There is some relief on the access roads where the wind is blocked by trees and in the park. You can warm up near the fireplace in the clubhouse and there is also a food stand where you can purchase a snack. Parking is available at the clubhouse.
Emery Park is a pretty hilly park and is used mostly in the winter time for downhill skiing and snowboarding. However, Emery Park offers opportunities to hike, cross-country ski and snowshoe as well.
The cross-country ski trail, which can also be used for snowshoeing, is a two-mile trail that starts at the top of the downhill ski slope to the left of the tow rope building. The trail continues down across a bridge over a waterfall and the stream, along to the baseball field. As you continue along, the trail goes into the woods and follows the tree line to the edge of the west end of the park. You will eventually go downhill to the edge of the park on the north end, and then will travel back up the hill over towards the downhill ski slope. The entire trail is a loop so you will finish where you started.
You can travel on this trail any way you would like and you can connect with the other trails in the park. A more detailed map of Emery Park is available courtesy of Adam Niziol. There are many shelters, bathrooms, and buildings you can use to relax and warm up in, including the ski lodge, field house, and the Stohrer’s building. You can park at any of the shelters or buildings.
Bureau of Foresty
The Bureau of Forestry in Erie County is a beautiful forest where you can explore many trails. The trails here are ungroomed, both marked and unmarked, and are used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and snowmobiling. These trails include Scarbuck Trail, Silent Woods Trail Loop, and portions of the Conservation Trail, which is part of the Finger Lakes Trail System. A series of trails are specially designed for equestrian hiking and snowmobiling. The terrain throughout the Bureau of Forestry varies from gentle to steep.
There are 2 warming huts with wood stoves, 2 picnic shelters, public bathrooms and a visitor center with a wood burning stove. There is also a working sugar shack and sawmill, and you can reserve tours of both facilities. Parking is available at any of the shelters or buildings.
Franklin Gulf is a forest area formally know as “Larkin Woods”. The trails of the Franklin Gulf park traverse over creeks, waterfalls, ravines and ledge outcroppings, and are mostly used for snowshoeing and hiking. A more detailed map of the area is available courtesy of Mike Radomski. There are no buildings, shelters or bathrooms in this area. You can park in a parking lot off of Larkin Road, just before North Collins Town Line.
Grover Cleveland Golf Course
Located in Buffalo, Grover Cleveland Golf Course is a flat wide open area that has a groomed cross-country ski trail along the outside of the park. This area can be used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. You warm up in the clubhouse, and there are also bathrooms on the property. Parking is available at the clubhouse.
Rademacher Memorial Park
Sgt. Mark A. Rademacher Memorial Park, commonly referred to as Hunters Creek consists of farmland and wooded areas. This area is used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, and hiking. The trails are ungroomed, and there are no buildings, shelters or bathrooms. You can park on Hunters Creek Road on the east, or Centerline Road at Vermont Hill Road to the south. A more detailed map of Hunters Creek is available courtesy of Mike Radomski.
Sprague Brook Park
Finally, Sprague Brook Park is very popular with people who like to cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike, fat bike, sled, and snowmobile. There is a beautiful 2.5 mile loop groomed cross-country ski trail that is available for snowshoers, when there is enough snow. Along the trail, there are lean-tos that you can stop at and relax, including a warming hut at the start of the trail.
There are also a few ungroomed and unmarked single track trails throughout the park. More details can be found in the park map by Mike Radomski. Sprague Brook Park also includes a fireplace, picnic tables and benches. Parking is available next to any of the shelters or buildings, however most people park at the cross-country ski trail next to the warming hut.
For more information, visit Erie County Parks, Recreation and Forestry on their website.