State parks to savor this fall

SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 10/15/2020, midnight
Who isn’t craving the outdoors right now? There’s new appreciation for open spaces, fresh air and safely enjoying Mother Nature.
Niagara Falls State Park Photos courtesy of See Sight Tours

Who isn’t craving the outdoors right now? There’s new appreciation for open spaces, fresh air and safely enjoying Mother Nature. This fall and even during the winter, if you like cross country skiing and other snow fun, you need look no further than the many state parks in New York.

Here are some to put on your must-go list.

Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls

When it comes to natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls is worthy. Niagara Falls State Park is among the oldest state parks in the country. There you can feast your eyes on the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls and a portion of the Horseshoe Falls. Another plus about Niagara Falls State Park is Goat Island, as well as access to several attractions including Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds, where you descend 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge and feel the power of the Falls from the Hurricane Deck. You can take guided hikes and talks to learn the history of the Falls or venture about on your own. Top off your experience with a lunch or dinner at the Top of the Falls Restaurant for a memorable view of the Falls.

Whirlpool State Park, Niagara Falls

The Whirlpool State Park features a multi-use trail that is ideal for walks, biking, running and hiking. There are two levels, the street level with its scenic overlooks with spectacular views of the Whirlpool and rapids. There are picnic facilities and a playground, as well as the gorge natural history room at the restroom building; both are open seasonally. The river level offers hiking and fishing by taking the staircase located just downstream from the main park area. At the base of the gorge, you can hike upstream along the Whirlpool Rapids Trail past the Whirlpool to a point along the Whirlpool Rapids. You can return to this staircase to exit the gorge or take the Devil’s Hole Trail downstream to the Devil’s Hole staircase to the top of the gorge at Devil’s Hole State Park. From there, you can take the rim trail back to Whirlpool State Park. You can also experience Niagara with the Discover Niagara Shuttle and enjoy the convenience of a hop-on/hop-off shuttle. Connect to 15 destination sites along the 14-mile route from the Falls to the Fort.

Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen

This is just one of many reasons to visit the Finger Lakes region. Watkins Glen State Park features a stream that goes through 200 feet of cliffs. There are tons of waterfalls on the hike through the gorge. There are also campsites outside of the gorge, nearby fishing, great local restaurants, and if you have time, you’ll want to sneak a peek at nearby Corning’s charming shops and the Corning Museum of Glass. The Finger Lakes is home to vineyards, meaning there’s plenty of wine tasting. Catch music at outdoor concert venues, too.

Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca

The Robert H. Treman State Park in the Finger Lakes has bragging rights with more than 12 waterfalls and a stretch of walls along a beautiful gorge close to Enfield Glen and natural pools for swimming. Possibly the most impressive sight at the river gorge is the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. At the park you can camp, be it in a tent, RV or cabin. There are nine miles of hiking trails. Don’t forget swimwear; you will want to jump in the stream-fed pool beneath the waterfalls. If you’re feeling energetic, go for a twofer. Right near Robert H. Treman Park is Taughannock Falls State Park for more hiking and gorgeous scenery.

Wellesley Island State Park, Fineview

You can’t go wrong at this park on the Saint Lawrence river. Wellesley Island is within the Thousand Islands region, lauded for its waterways and fauna and flora. Much beloved is the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, which contains a museum and miles of hiking trails. After long hikes, cool off at the sandy beach and go for a swim. You can camp if you want more than a day trip. If you like to fish, bring your fishing poles and rent a boat. Try your luck catching muskie, pike or smallmouth bass. Relax further at Thousand Islands winery which is just about two miles from the park. Golfers will be glad to know that the park has a 9-hole course.

West Mountain State Forest, Pawling

This dilly of a state park is in Dutchess County. There are more than 800 acres of forest ideal for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting/target shooting, firewood harvesting—and even maple syrup collecting. Camping is available. You might want to hangout for a weekend. It’s just half an hour from Poughkeepsie, where you’ll want to stroll the Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s largest elevated pedestrian bridge. It is half a mile between Poughkeepsie and Highland over the Hudson River. It was built in 1889 as a railway bridge.