Walk this way: Hiking in Buffalo

A guide for enjoying Buffalo's great outdoors


The scent of fir is beginning to perfume the air and nature’s primary colors are starting to show on trees across campus.

Despite a stretch of abnormally warm weather, fall has officially started and is underway in Buffalo. As we prepare to welcome fall festivities, there’s no better way to enjoy Buffalo’s cooler weather than being outdoors.

Fall is arguably one of the best times of year to enjoy Mother Nature and familiarize yourself with local state parks and hiking trails.

Buffalo has an array of free hiking trails, parks and nature preserves close to campus that offer beautiful scenery and miles of hiking for beginners and experienced ramblers.

Chestnut Ridge Park

25 minutes from North Campus by car

Offering shorter hikes with views of small gorges and beautiful lakes, Chestnut Ridge is easy to get to and close to campus. There are numerous options for hiking and most trails are easy enough for anyone to traverse.

The park’s most popular trail leads to the eternal flame: a natural gas flame behind a waterfall that stays lit year-round. The trail to the flame is a little over a mile each way and requires waterproof shoes or old ones you don’t mind getting wet.

Apart from great hiking, the park offers a beautiful view of the Buffalo skyline from atop its famous toboggan hill.

Tifft Nature Preserve

25 minutes from North Campus by car

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor hides an educational hotspot for conservation and ecology: Tifft Nature Preserve.

The preserve offers five miles of trails with educational signs throughout, telling visitors about the different plants and wildlife within. There are also three boardwalks with viewing blinds in and adjacent to cattail marshes.

Lake Kirsty is a popular fishing spot to take a break from hiking and enjoy the peace and quiet, concealed from the hustle and bustle of the Queen City. Trails are open year-round and can be accessed by snowshoe during the winter.

Devil’s Hole State Park at Niagara Gorge

30 minutes from North Campus by car

The Niagara Gorge is a beautiful hiking trail offering breathtaking views of the rapids within the mighty Niagara River.

The entrance to the trail is a steep set of stairs that are easy to walk down, but can be tiring on the way back up. The trail is one and a half miles long each way and on the left side of the gorge is Devil’s Hole rock cave, which can be entered and explored.

Rocks along the riverbank act as a great spot for a lunch break. Waves splash up onto the rocks as Niagara Whirlpool Jet Boats zoom up and down the river’s rapids.

Zoar Valley

One hour and 10 minutes from North Campus by car

Zoar Valley consists of 3,014 acres of canyon rivers and woods that makes a beautiful space for hiking, fishing and kayaking. This may not be an option for students without cars, but for serious hikers, it’s worth the drive.

There are trails offering a bird’s eye view of the 400 feet gorge as well as trails in and along the bank of the Cattaraugus Creek. Trails showcase waterfalls on both sides of the gorge as well as rocky overhangs. Zoar Valley is also one of the best places in WNY to try and spot bald eagles.

Letchworth State Park

One hour and 30 minutes from North Campus by car

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is one of the most magnificent hiking destinations in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River flows through the park’s main attractions: three waterfalls that could rival Niagara Falls.

The biggest waterfall is 600 feet tall, misting viewers as they snap pictures of the famous Portage Viaduct bridge, picturesquely placed in the distance.

With 66 miles of hiking trails, visitors can escape for a day trip or set up camp in one of the park’s campgrounds and make it a “staycation.”

The historic Glen Iris Inn is a must-see for people new to the park. It’s a little pricey, but lunch inside the inn is well worth it.

Max Kalnitz is the senior features editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com