Called the Flower City, Rochester, New York is not to be overlooked as a prime snowshoeing destination. The city is located on the south side of Lake Ontario and over the last 10 years, has received an average snowfall of 95 inches (241 cm) per year! The terrain varies greatly in Rochester and the Finger Lakes Region, and the Genesee River runs through the city, offering a unique experience for each outing. Here, we focus on six different snowshoeing day trip possibilities to explore near Rochester, NY.
1. Genesee County Park and Forest
Located southeast of Batavia, Genesee has 450 acres of managed forest in the park. It was designated as a county forest in 1915, becoming the first in New York. The county forest was created by home superintendent George Fleming. Fleming initiated the planting of 3,100 trees in the forest, which grew to 169,000 trees by 1935.
In fact, community groups and organizations like 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Boces, Jaycees, Lions Club, Sertoma, and Vietnam Veterans developed the park. These groups planted trees, cleared hiking trails, constructed pavilions, playgrounds, and memorials.
Trails In Genesee
See the beauty of this park in action, as you snowshoe the 10 miles (16km) of marked trails across the many ponds, hills, creeks, and forests.
The longest trail in the park, the Boundary Trail is 2.14 miles (3.44 km) and is the easiest trail to follow with a wide path. Make sure to step aside for snowmobile traffic. The rest of the trails in the park wind around the 5 ponds and throughout the varied forest. Despite numerous named signs, it is best to navigate the area with a map in hand on your first few trips.
Genessee is perfect for snowshoe beginners because all the trails are mild with a few moderate hills interspersed. Overall park traffic is low and you may need to break trail. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
Other Park Amenities & Parking
After your adventure, warm-up in the heated Interpretive Nature Center, open year-round. The Nature Center opened in 1998 and was built by volunteers over the course of 2 years. The center hosts educational, interpretive, and environmental events. It also offers snowshoe rentals during its limited winter hours (Thurs and Fri 10a-3p; Sat and Sun 12-3p). The park also includes numerous picnic pavilions and a tobogganing hill.
There are 3 parking areas available outside the park gates: 2 along Raymond Rd. and one on
the west side off Bethany Center Rd. When the park gates are open (9a-5p), numerous parking
areas are present at the pavilions and interpretive center along the park road “Memory Lane”.
2. Carlton Hill Multiple Use Area
If you are looking for a bit more adventure than the marked trails of the Genesee County Park and Forest, travel just a 1⁄4 mile (0.4 km) southeast and explore the Carlton Hill Multiple Use Area. Carlton Hill is an undeveloped 2,500-acre tract of varied use land situated on the northern border of Wyoming County. The New York Dept of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acquired these abandoned farms in the 1960s and has been managing them to promote conservation (specifically bird diversity) and wildlife-associated recreation since.
Trails In Carlton Hill
There are a few designated and numerous undesignated horse and hiking trails winding up and down hills and ravines, through grassland, fields, shrubland, and forest. Thus, this area provides ample opportunity for a varied winter escape.
None of the trails are groomed and there are no structures or trail maps. However, trails are marked with tree paint and numbers corresponding to the Rochester Trail Riders Map.
Beginner terrain with little grade featuring ponds, forest and wetland are accessible from the south on the 4 to 4B loop and 2 east to 2A loop. You can also snowshoe along the closed Bank Rd. to Casselberry Rd. and off parts of the 7B, 7, 7F, 3 and 3F trails. On these 5 trails, you can have a beautiful moderate cruise along the frozen Middlebury Brook. Advanced excursions fit to test your vertical stamina and provide ravine views include 6, 5G, 2 west to 2R to 3R/G/E and 7G/H.
Parking & Apres Nearby
Bank Road, the north-south road that bisects the area, is not maintained from Moose Rd all the way up to W. Middlebury Rd. Parking areas are located off W. Middlebury Rd., Fox Rd. and Dale Rd. Park traffic is extremely minimal, and in most cases, you will not encounter anyone else or their tracks.
To warm up after your excursion in the spring, many of the local maple woods offer samples over the weekends during the sugar run. To the south, the quaint Village of Warsaw is home to numerous restaurants and bars downtown and the commercial area. Batavia is approximately 15min. north with ready access to the throughway and small city vibe.
3. Cummings Nature Center
Less than an hour south from Rochester in Ontario county, the Cummings Nature Center is another snowshoeing option to add to your list this winter. The Nature Center holds many educational events and seminars based on environmental science. Over 900 acres of extensive wetlands and forest roads are in the preserve, with the trails patrolled by the Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol.
There are 15 miles (24 km) of groomed trails available, spanning from a 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to a 2.5-mile (4 km) trek. If you need snowshoes, the equipment can be rented from the Nature Center. Five loops separate the trails and feature beaver ponds and lodges, scrubland, meandering wooded streams, open marshes, and deep forests.
For a panoramic view, climb the two towers in the park. One tower, part of the Beaver Trail overlooks the 35-acre Beaver Pond. As you meander the trail, stop in along the numerous lodges and shelters.
The second tower reaches into the canopy of the 1-mile (1.6 km) Conservation Trail. On this trail, you’ll cross numerous board walking and bridges as you learn information on conservation and forest management practices and see a working sawmill. There are also demonstrations at the sawmill throughout the year, as well as maple sugar demonstrations.
4. Letchworth State Park
To snowshoe the Grand Canyon of the East, snowshoe in Letchworth State Park, located an hour southwest of Rochester, NY. There are over 30 waterfalls and a water geyser throughout the park, many of which meander streams and woodland brooks and reach over 600 feet (182 m)! Over time, the Genesee River and glaciers helped to form the canyon and gorges in the park.
The park has over 14,350 acres of land with more than 66 miles (106 km) of easy and moderate trails. A majority of the 27 named trails remain open in winter for plenty of snowshoeing opportunities. Choose from a variety of trail distances, including a light 0.25-mile (0.4 km) trek to over 25 miles (40 km) on part of the Finger Lakes Trail (see #5). You can rent snowshoes at the Humphrey Nature Center for $5 as well. On your adventures, visit the many historical monuments and scenic overlooks in the park including the Iroquois Longhouse, Mary Jemison’s Cabin, the Glen Iris Estate, and Inspiration Point Overlook. For those interested in an overnight adventure, you can rent a cabin or campsites in the park.
The Humphery Nature Center in Letchworth State Park opened in 2016 and offers environmental science seminars and events focused on the park, botany, geology, and wildlife. It is open from 10 am-5 pm daily year around. The Humphrey Nature Center has interactive exhibits inside as well as an outdoor classroom, trout pond, butterfly garden, and bird observation station. There are also sustainable features such as solar panels and the collection of rainwater.
5. Finger Lakes Trail
Started in 1961, the Finger Lakes Trail offers almost 1,000 miles (1609 km) of hiking (and snowshoeing) over several branch trails, and loop and spur trails. The main trail end-to-end covers 580 miles (933 km), while the 6 branch trails cover 380 miles (611 km). The Finger Lakes main trail begins in Allegany State Park along the New York/Pennsylvania border and is separated into four sections across New York: Alleghany Region, Western Finger Lakes Region, Eastern Finger Lakes Region, and Catskill Region. In all, the Finger Lakes Trail runs from west to east. However, there are braches of the trail that go north and south as well.
The Fingers Lakes Trail Conference started in 1962 continues to maintain, improve, and expand the trail. After proposed expansions, the North Country National Scenic Trail of the FLT will stretch from Eastern New York to Central North Dakota. Likewise, the Crystal Hills Trail, part of the Great Eastern Trail will stretch from New York to Alabama.
Fingers Lakes Trail Access in Letchworth State Park
As mentioned above, over 25 miles (40 km) of the Finger Lakes Trail can be accessed in Letchworth State Park, an hour from Rochester, NY. The Letchworth Branch Trail of the FLT has yellow markers on the trees for designation and intersects with the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail in Genesee Valley Greenway State Park. You can marvel at the many spectacular views along the trail, and take a break at two shelters and lean-to on the trail. If you plan on camping along this section of the Finger Lakes Trail, please contact Letchworth State Park.
Fingers Lakes Trail Access In Naples, NY
You can also access the Bristol Hills Branch Trail of the FLT from Naples, NY, located about an hour south of Rochester. The Bristol Hills Trail covers 59 miles (95 km) and is marked with orange markers. Be prepared that some parts of the trail do not allow pets.
As you plan for your hike or snowshoe along the Finger Lakes Trail, consult fingerlakestrail.org for trail conditions, detailed maps, and resources.
6. Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area
Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area consists of 1,550 acres and is a paradise of winter sports and other winter activities. It’s located an hour south of Rochester in the hills south of Honeoye Lake, which is one of the Finger Lakes. You can actually see the city of Rochester from the park. Since the park is located 2,200 feet (670.5 km) above sea level, Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreational Area receives more snow than Rochester and tends to hold the snow longer than most other places in Western New York.
Snowshoe or cross-country ski on the 16 miles (25.7 km) of trails in Harriet Hollister. For the cross country trails specifically, many are groomed by Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation. Many of the trails offer challenging terrain and are not easy by any means. Catch panoramic views of Canadice Lake as you go up and down and wrap around the hills. The primary access road (turned cross-country trail in the winter called Overlook Road) begins with a long cruising downhill. If cross-country skiing, you can get some speed, which is always fun.
Trails In Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area
From Overlook Road, there are a couple of trails to your right early on that you can take, which lead to the core network of trails in the park. However, if you choose to take these early trails, you’ll miss the view. Instead, for an enjoyable, 4-mile (6.4 km) loop, continue to follow the Overlook Road.
After the lake view on Overlook Road, look for Whiteface Trail on your right. You may not see the sign, just turn right on the first trail after passing the lake panorama. Veer to your left when you get to the top of Whiteface Trail. The trail wraps around a dense stand of eastern pines.
Continue to follow Whiteface until you get to Blue Spruce Run. This is a large-ish blue loop with forgiving paths, but it is still interesting and fun. A little down, a little up, a little curvy, but nothing overly difficult. You can veer off and take Racoon Run, which will put you down near the main facilities with lean-tos and a pavilion.
If you’re up for an extra challenge, follow the Sidewinder Loop. It has tight turns and is an up-down, lengthy affair. Or, for a black that’s a little tamer but still challenging, stay on Racoon Run until you see the signs for Fox Run. Fox Run will take you downhill, across a short traverse, and then uphill, where it joins back up with Racoon Run. Take a right, and you’ll soon be back on the Overlook Road.
On your way out, take a right on Bear Cub Run. Stay on this mild green trail, and it will put you within 100 feet of the parking lot and restrooms. Or, if you’re looking for some more mileage, veer right off Bear Cub Run onto Big Oak. This trail is shared with snowmobilers but is pleasant and will loop you back to the parking lot.
See the map of trails for Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park for more info.
Go Snowshoeing Near Rochester, NY!
There are some excellent snowshoeing day trips near Rochester, New York across varying terrain and landscapes. Try one or all of the areas mentioned this winter!
What’s your favorite snowshoeing day trip near Rochester, NY?
Thank you to Emily Sabo for her expertise regarding Genesee County Park and Carlton Hill and T. John.McCune for his expertise regarding The Cummings Nature Center.