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Your Guide to State Parks Within 2(ish) Hours of Buffalo

City Guide, Family Friendly

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Written by Emily Malkowski

Published on April 26, 2022
Niagara Falls State Park
Photo from Niagara Falls State Park Facebook

It’s important to remember that sometimes, retreating into nature is the best way to unwind and escape for a little while. Lucky for your stress levels, Buffalo lends itself to be very accessible to a bunch of beautiful State Parks that can help with just that.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day trip with friends or somewhere to take the whole family camping for the weekend, below are just a few of the many State Parks in the Western New York region that would be perfect for just about any occasion. 

Once you’re ready to get out there, keep in mind if you end up visiting multiple NYS Parks in one day, you only need to pay admission at the first park! Just keep your receipt and show it at the next park for free entry.

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Buffalo-Niagara Area & Local Favorites:


1. Whirlpool State Park

Niagara Falls, NY / More Info

Choose your own adventure on two different levels at Whirlpool State Park! The top/street-level offers beautiful views of the Niagara River, while the lower level boasts a hike that descends into the gorge for up close and personal views of the fast-paced rapids and swirling whirlpool. Take the stairs down, and get ready for a leg workout that will rock your world.

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: Open daily year-round from dawn to dusk
  • Cost: Free!
  • Amenities: Picnic areas, restrooms (available seasonally), public playground, pavilions, and hiking trails

2. Devil’s Hole State Park

Niagara Falls, NY / More Info

Just down the street and easily accessible from Whirlpool is Devil’s Hole State Park. It’s the same situation: There’s an upper and lower level with a hiking trail leading to the lower gorge and rapids area. The stairs on the Devil’s Hole Trail are slightly more difficult than the ones at Whirlpool, just a heads up! 

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: Open daily year-round from dawn to dusk
  • Cost: Free!
  • Amenities: Picnic areas, restrooms (available seasonally), hiking trails, and fishing spots

3. Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls, NY / More Info

Did you know: the oldest State Park in America is right here in Buffalo’s backyard! Situated right on the New York State/Canada border, Niagara Falls is one of New York State’s most famous natural wonders, drawing in tourists from all over the world. 

It’s easy to take this park for granted if you’re local to the area (raise your hand if you also grew up taking family day trips to NF all the time), but there really are countless activities to enjoy. Get excited on the Maid of the Mist or opt for something more relaxed like a serene walk through Three Sisters Island- there’s something for everyone!

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk, however some attractions are only open seasonally.
  • Cost: Entry to the park itself is free. There are optional paid parking lots around the park that allow all-day parking for $10. 
  • Amenities: Picnic areas, restrooms, hiking trails, fishing spots, waterfalls, food, visitor’s center, WiFi, and more.

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4. Letchworth State Park 

Castile, NY / More Info

Located roughly an hour and a half outside of Buffalo, Letchworth is one of the most popular State Parks in the area for all things hiking, camping, swimming, white-water rafting, hot air ballooning (!) and general exploring. It’s lovingly nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the East,” and once you experience the breathtaking scenery the park has to offer for yourself, you’ll see exactly why.

Pro Tip: Letchworth in the Fall is an absolute must. The leaves on the trails are gorgeous while they’re changing colors!

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from 6am-11pm. 
  • Cost: A $10 per vehicle entry fee is collected.
  • Amenities: Camping (cabins & tent/RV campsites), visitor’s center, hiking trails, picnic areas, pavilions, public playgrounds, waterfalls, grills, hiking trails, fishing spots, and more. 

Finger Lakes Region:


 
 
 
 
 
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5. Stony Brook State Park 

Dansville, NY / More Info

Interesting rock formations, a swimming area, and three waterfalls can all be found on the various hiking trails that wind through Stony Brook State Park. The park’s gorge trail is comparable, but slightly less challenging than others in the area, and is typically is less crowded than Letchworth, making it the perfect family-friendly destination for a day trip this Fall. 

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk.
  • Cost: There is typically a $9 per vehicle entry fee, however the times that this is collected vary seasonally. 
  • Amenities: Campsites, grills, picnic areas, pavilions, waterfalls, hiking trails, public playground, swimming pool, and more. 

6. Taughannock Falls State Park 

Trumansburg, NY / More Info

Just about 20 minutes outside of Ithaca, Taughannock Falls State Park sits on the southwest corner of Cayuga Lake. The falls themselves are the main draw to this park, boasting an incredible height of 215 feet- that’s 25 feet taller than Niagara Falls, for reference. 

Add in the fact that the trail leading to the falls is open year-round (winter hike, anyone?!), and it’s safe to say that this State Park just jumped to the top of your WNY bucket list. 

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk
  • Cost: There is typically an $9 per vehicle entry fee, however the times that this is collected vary seasonally. 
  • Amenities: Boat rentals, hiking trails, waterfalls, camping options (cabins & tent/RV campsites), picnic areas, pavilions, swimming beach, public playground, fishing spots, and more. 

7. Buttermilk Falls State Park 

Ithaca, NY / More Info

Originally named after the “frothy appearance” of its waters, Buttermilk Falls State Park features a total of 10 different waterfalls on its two main hiking trails: the Rim Trail and the Gorge Trail. For an up close and personal experience, be sure to check out the natural swimming area located at the south end of the park. You’ll be able to swim right next to one of the waterfalls!

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk
  • Cost: There is an $9 per vehicle entry fee that is collected from April to November.
  • Amenities: Camping options (cabins & tens/RV campsites), hiking trails, waterfalls, picnic areas, public playground, pavilions, swimming beach, fishing spots, grills, and more. 

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8. Cayuga Lake State Park 

Seneca Falls, NY / More Info

Travel less than an hour north of Ithaca and you’ll run into Cayuga Lake State Park, right at the opposite end of Cayuga Lake. With hilltop campsites, prime fishing waters, and spacious grounds to spread out and live your best hashtag lake life, chances are you’ll be so relaxed here, you’ll never want to leave. 

It’s also very accessible to the Cayuga Wine Trail along with other wineries and breweries around the Finger Lakes region. You know, for adults-only Sunday funday purposes. 

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk
  • Cost: There is typically a $7 per vehicle entry fee, however the times that this is collected vary seasonally. 
  • Amenities: Camping options (cabins & tent/RV campsites), boat launches, picnic areas, pavilions, public playground, swimming beach, fishing spots, hiking trails, and more. 

Southtowns & Southern Tier Region:


9. Woodlawn Beach State Park

Blasdell, NY / More Info

If your idea of fun is day drinking on a beach, this is the State Park for you. Woodlawn sports a one-mile long beach with panoramic views of Lake Erie- perfect for laying out or starting up a game of beach volleyball. You can also take full advantage of the park’s Tiki Bar, which offers cocktails, wine, and beer selections you’re sure to enjoy. 

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: Memorial Day Weekend – June 26, weekends only, 11am – 7pm, June 27 – Labor Day, daily, 11am – 7pm
  • Cost: $7 per vehicle entry fee
  • Amenities: Public playground, swimming beach, tiki bar, and hiking 

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10. Allegany State Park

Cattaraugus County / More Info

Welcome to “The Wilderness Playground of Western New York,” otherwise known as Allegany State Park. As one of the largest parks in New York state, it’s split into two sections, the Red House Area and the Quaker Run Area, with activities like camping, hiking, and kayaking available at both. Climb up the famous Thunder Rocks for a completely unique experience!

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: Open daily 11:00 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Cost: There is typically a $7 per vehicle entry fee, however the times that this is collected vary seasonally.
  • Amenities: Camping (cabins & tent/RV campsites), grills, hiking trails, pavilions, picnic areas, swimming beach, fishing spots, and more. 

11. Evangola State Park

Erie County / More Info

Evangola State Park’s major attraction is the beautiful natural sand beach located on the shore of Lake Erie. Scenic cliffs of Angola shale line the remainder of the park shore near the three campground loops. The park features swimming, several picnic shelters, a banquet room, grassy picnic areas, baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, 80 campsites, 6 yurts, a cabin and a nature center.

If You Go:

  • Hours of Operation: Open daily 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Amenities: Camping, Banquet Room, Eatery, grills, hiking trails, pavilions, picnic areas, swimming beach, and more. 

Did we miss one? Did one of these places close? Send us a note!

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This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated.

Written by <a href="https://stepoutbuffalo.com/author/emilymalowski/" target="_self">Emily Malkowski</a>

Written by Emily Malkowski

Based in Buffalo, Emily is a marketing professional by day, and a freelance writer by night. She is passionate about uncovering unique stories, and dreams of cross-country road trips, endless sunshine, and adopting multiple dogs.

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