Chimney Bluffs State Park is a unique and beautiful state park in New York. It sits along Lake Ontario and has been on our list of places to visit in Rochester for a few years now. Recently we spent the morning exploring the trails and taking in the views of Chimney Bluffs State Park.
We first visited Chimney Bluffs in 2014. I had heard great things about the landscape between the water and land, and we wanted to experience it ourselves.
When we arrived we realized there was no way we would be able to hike the trails along the bluff because the kids were too small.
At the time our kids were 2, 4, and 6. The Bluff trails is along the edge of the cliff with no fence and it is not great with small children.
During this visit we were able to view the Bluffs from the ground. It is still a remarkable view and I suggest visiting both areas if you can.
10 Things to Know When Visiting Chimney Bluffs State Park
- The bluffs trail may be closed due to the conditions of the bluffs. At times it is unstable and not safe to hike.
- There is NO fence or guard rail along the bluff cliff and at times you are walking very close to the edge.
- The views are stunning from the top or the bottom. If you have young children park at the beach access area and walk down to view the spires from the bottom.
- If you have older children I recommend hiking the trail but talk with your kids before you start about proper safety precautions to take.
- The trails can get really muddy. We were surprised to find ourselves hiking through a lot of mud.
- The trails are also not perfectly marked. At times we were climbing over fallen trees and figuring out the least muddiest way to get around.
- There is not an easy way to get down to the beach access either. If you have a difficult time walking this might not be a good place to hike.
- Walking back from the beach access to the main parking area is up a very steep climb. Be prepared with good shoes.
- If you are not a hiker but want to see the shore you can park at the main entrance and walk the short distance to the overlook area. There are picnic benches there as well.
- Parking cost $5.00 in the main lot but the fee was waved on our visit.
There are so many things to do in Rochester, NY and visiting Chimney Bluffs State Park should be on your list. The hike is short enough for families with school age kids and under an hour drive from Rochester.
The bluffs are formed from eroded drumlin by glaciers during the ice age. The erosion of wind, rain, waves from Lake Ontario, and snowfall has formed the landscape into sharp spires that rise up along the shore.
Where is Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park is located in Wolcott, NY along the Lake Ontario shore line. There are trails, picnic tables, and breathtaking views of the landscape along the bluffs.
- From Rochester, NY: 53 Minute Drive Time
- From Syracuse, NY: 1 Hour and 2 Minutes
- From Buffalo, NY: 2 Hour and 5 Minutes
Best Time to Visit Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park is best visited during the spring/summer/fall months. The park is open year round but due to the conditions in the winter, it may be difficult to hike. At times the trails will be closed along the bluff. You can check the New York State parks website to check if the park is open.
What to Bring on Your Visit to Chimney Bluffs State Park
The Chimney Bluffs hiking trail is around 2.5 miles from the main park entrance to the beach access and back. You will need to bring good walking shoes, a light jacket, bug spray, and a water bottle.
We brought a backpack with our water bottles and a snack to enjoy once we reached the beach access.
Hiking at Chimney Bluffs
We left our house around 9:00am for the hour long drive to Chimney Bluffs State Park. We wanted to give ourselves time to complete the hike before lunch time and there was rain in the forecast that we wanted to avoid.
It had been years since we visited Chimney Bluffs State Park and I was really excited to see it again. We had tried to go last year but the bluffs trail was closed due to erosion and unsafe conditions. I called ahead this time to make sure it was open.
Once we arrived we stopped at the restrooms and then took a few pictures at the overlook. The main parking area has indoor restrooms and a few picnic tables at the overlook.
At first we weren’t sure what trail to take but we decided to challenge ourselves with the one that followed along the edge of the shore.
We are not a big hiking family but we wanted to do it, and I am so glad we did. The combination of the waves crashing on the lake on one side and the thick green forest on the other was an amazing experience.
It took us about 2 hours to hike the entire trail. It is about 2.5 miles both ways. We stopped along the way to enjoy the views and we also took our time walking the muddy trails, especially along the shore where we were close to the edge.
I was hoping to spend a bit more time at the beach area, but there were a lot of people and there wasn’t much room to sit and relax.
I recommend visiting during a weekday to have less crowds. We also didn’t want to walk too far along the beach because we knew we had to walk the same trail back to our car.
Next time we visit I would hike the bluffs trail and then drive to the beach access to spend a bit more time there without worrying about the long walk back.
We really enjoyed visiting Chimney Bluffs State Park and our so grateful to have this natural wonder close to our home in Rochester. We will definitely be back to visit again!
Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.