Some people know Buffalo as the home of spicy chicken wings, glass-fronted skyscrapers, and Art Deco buildings. Others know it as the gateway to Niagara Falls and a ton of other outdoor attractions. If your idea of fun involves a pair of hiking boots, a backpack, and a liter bottle of water, Buffalo has a lot in store for you. From the gentle beauty of Letchworth State Park to the drama of Niagara Gorge, the hiking opportunities are endless. Whether you’re a long-term resident or a first-time visitor, don’t even think of hitting the trails until you’ve checked out our traveler’s guide to hiking in Buffalo, NY.
When to Go
There’s no bad time to visit Buffalo, but just how much enjoyment you’ll get from hiking during your visit will depend on whether you’re braced for the weather or not. As travellerspoint.com notes, Buffalo is known for its distinct seasons, enjoying hot, sunny summers with temperatures ranging from 20 °C to 35 °C and cold, snowy winters. The peak season is from June through August. If you want to skip the crowds but still have the weather on your side, spring and fall both make great options, with average temperatures ranging between 5 and 15 °C.
Where to Go
The area surrounding Buffalo is ripe with opportunities for hiking. Depending on just how long you’ll be staying in the area, try to pack in as many of the following awesome opportunities as possible.
Knox Farm State Park
If a hike through 600 acres of rolling, wildflower-dotted meadows and shaded forests floats your boat, don’t miss a visit to Knox Farm State Park. It may not have the most dramatic hiking trails in Buffalo, but it definitely has some of the most bucolic.
Letchworth State Park
Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park is a destination no hiker worth their boots should miss. It may be an hour’s drive from the city, but its dramatic scenery and camera-worthy landmarks make it worth the trip. Although it’s studded with more trails than you can count, the one you really won’t want to miss is the 7 mile Gorge Trail, a stunning hike that takes you through meadows, falls, the park’s famous railroad bridge, and Inspiration Point, an incredible vantage point that offers breathtaking panoramas over the surrounding landscape. If history’s your thing, be sure to add the short but rewarding Mary Jemison Trail to your itinerary.
Chestnut Ridge County Park
Chestnut Ridge County Park has some great trails but the real reason to visit is the Eternal Flame, a natural gas leak nestled in a trickling waterfall that needs to be seen to be believed. The trek up the gorge may be challenging, but you won’t regret the effort.
Amherst State Park
Covering over 77 acres of land, Amherst State Park is a vast area of meadows, forests, creaks, ancient orchards, and gorgeously landscaped grounds. No matter your age, your fitness level, or your time allowance, there’s a trail to suit. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for bird watching, fishing, and picking. Dogs are permitted and there are even a few large fields for them to romp around in unleashed.
Akron Falls County Park
Described by visitbuffaloniagara.com as one of the best hikes around Buffalo, Akron Falls County Park offers a moderately challenging hike that takes you from the drama of Murder Creek to the gentle cascades of the lower falls viewing area. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of great picking spots to stop and enjoy some al fresco dining in the sunshine.
Named by Only in Your State as one of the best hiking spots in Buffalo, Zoar Valley is an unmissable destination for anyone who likes getting down and dirty in nature. The valley offers three equally worthwhile trails to explore year-round, along with one that’s open from June to August only. If you want an easy hike with gorgeous woodland views, Holcomb Pond Trail comes highly recommended. If your legs are up for a workout, Valentine Flats and Point Peter Trail both offer plenty of challenge and an equal amount of reward. if you’re after some great shots to post on Instagram, the stunning half-mile Forty Road with its dramatic vistas and old-growth forests shouldn’t be missed.
Tifft Nature Preserve
If you like to combine a little birdwatching with your hikes, be sure to include Tifft Nature Preserve in your itinerary. Comprised of 264 acres of wetlands and forest, the preserve offers numerous opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife spotting. In even better news, it’s located just a few minutes from downtown Buffalo, meaning you won’t have far to travel to get your nature fix.
If there’s one place no nature lover can miss during their time in Buffalo, it’s Niagara Gorge. Regardless of your skill and fitness level, you’ll have no trouble finding a trail that suits. If you’re looking for a short but fun trail, the 2.5 round trip Devil’s Hole Trail is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser – just be sure to wear good hiking boots as the stairs can get slippery at times. If you’re up for a bigger challenge, the Whirlpool Rapids Trail is ideal. No matter which trail you choose, you’ll be blessed with endless opportunities to enjoy the many species of plants and wildlife that inhabit the area.
Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve
Located just 12 miles from downtown Buffalo, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve is a conservationist’s dream. In addition to providing various opportunities for families and individuals to enjoy the preserve’s natural surroundings, it also funds initiatives for both underprivileged kids and the wider community. Even leaving aside its worthy credentials, it’s a great place to visit, with well-maintained, accessible trails that are as equally suited to kids as to adults. Dotted along the way, you’d find peaceful ponds scattered with magenta lilies, a nature play area, an environmental education center, and the biggest American beech tree in the state. If you’re looking for a place that all the family can enjoy, this is it.
It may be a slight trek from downtown Buffalo, but Moss Lake is worth the effort. Serene, blessed with gorgeous panoramas, and home to a giant lake with ducks, herons, turtles, and catfish, it’s a great place to enjoy a peaceful stroll in nature.