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Hiking trails to check out

Parks of all shapes and sizes to get you outside

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You don’t have to love nature to go to a park. Maybe you need a cheap date idea – as all of these are free to enter – want to exercise or just plain need space from your roommate stealing all the Wi-Fi. Here’s a list of some places worth your time in fresh air, near and far, big and small.

Trails and woods:

Hunter’s Creek Park

This park located in Wales – about a 40 minute drive from North Campus, is a simple, gorgeous and endlessly fun location that resides along a creek bed and cuts a way through steep ravines. Hunter’s Creek is a popular choice for runners and mountain bikers alike due to the extensive, twisty single track.

Zigzagging around never gets old, with the terrain constantly changing. Be prepared for some steep hillsides, views and tranquil forest.

Newcomers in particular should check out the Orange trail, which starts across the bridge on Centerline Road and gives a solid sampling of the place.

Chestnut Ridge Park

Chestnut Ridge Park is the biggest park in Erie County, located in the suburb of Orchard Park. It’s full of massive old black cherry and hemlock trees, shade and steep cliff sides and holds more single-track trails than you can finish in a full day.

Make sure you don’t miss the main attraction – a natural, ever burning flame under a huge waterfall, dubbed the Eternal Flame. It’s well worth the long hike up a creek bed.

Akron Falls Park

Akron Falls is a can’t miss waterfall accompanied by an observation point, plenty of playgrounds and mostly paved trails make a good half-day hike.

It’s a great place to explore with a group of friends on a nice day as you work your way through the trees, around the waterfall and atop the hills.

There are fences barring visitors from the nearby private property, so though it might not be the place to get a feeling of being isolated or getting lost, you can still comfortably roam and enjoy a pretty majestic waterfall.

Quick stops:

Glen Falls Park

This serene, clean park features an impressive waterfall, an overtly friendly population of indigenous ducks and a peaceful slice of Williamsville just a short walk from the entrance.

This park is a more public arena, as it also has a playground and will host events such as the Music in the Park Series or the Taste of Williamsville Food Festival. Think of it as a large community space.

There are plenty of benches and rocks to chill and relax, but count on seeing some other people around.

Amherst State Park

Amherst State Park is known as being a swamp surrounding a grassy field and dense brush with a short, paved loop.

A stop here wouldn’t take too much time out of a busy schedule because it’s only about 20-minute walk around the space and it isn’t much for scenery. It has some neighborhood charm to it so if you’re looking for a short break away from school and some outdoor freshness, this park is your answer.

Waterfront:

Buckhorn Island Park

Out of all the places to explore, this may be the most exciting. This is essentially Beaver Island State Park, which is on the opposite end of Grand Island, about 25 minutes from North Campus. Buckhorn features all kinds of nooks and crannies to keep you busy for a full day.

A main, semi-paved trail becomes more of a washout on rainy days so it is perfect if you find yourself in the puddle jumping business. The park connects several parking lots, a boardwalk swamp overlook, a kayak launch, Woods Creek and overgrown single track to wide panoramas of the Niagara River.

Highlights include walking under the Grand Island Bridge to a secret peninsula getaway with a campfire ring and little chair gazing over a fantastic view of Niagara Falls.

Ellicott Creek Park

Most of the scenery at Ellicott Creek is open spaces, playgrounds and a section of the Northtowns’ bike path system.

Pavilions, benches and some ruins make this worth a trip, especially with its proximity to North Campus. A neat surprise is crossing the bridge to the “Bark Park,” a gated island in the middle of Ellicott Creek where dogs can roam free. Don’t miss the skeleton of an old stone building on the shoreline.

Aubrey McLaughlin is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com


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