14 Breathtaking Hikes Near Buffalo, NY for All Experience Levels
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated June 24, 2021
While Buffalo, NY is most famous for its wing sauce, its sports teams, and its proximity to Niagara Falls, it’s a perfect city for outdoorsy people, too! In the vast nearby parks, you’ll find mountains, rocky gorges, sparkling lakes, and quiet forests to explore and admire. Hiking near Buffalo is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in these incredible and surreal landscapes, and there are tons of trails in the area that are perfect for beginners to advanced hikers. We created this list of the best hikes near Buffalo, NY so you can plan your next outdoor adventure!
Easy Hiking Near Buffalo, NY
Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve
Distance from Buffalo: 0 miles
Trail Length: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
One of the most lovely local hikes in Buffalo, NY is the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, and its nearly 3 miles of trails provide fantastic access to the park’s many lakes and waterways. Wooden boardwalks, bridges, and dirt paths take you on a network of flat pathways through the shaded forest trails to stunning lake views. Plus, there are several local animal species that call this area home. In addition to the network of trails around the preserve, there’s also a nature center with tons of information about the park’s ecosystems and several picnic areas that are great for a post-hike snack.
Tifft Nature Preserve
Distance from Buffalo: 0 miles
Trail Length: 1.9 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
The Tifft Nature Preserve exists at the crossroads between human development and nature, and its trails are a wonderful place to explore and admire this connection. Full of wooden boardwalks, varied landscapes, and local wildlife aplenty, this park has some of the best easy trails for hiking in Buffalo, NY. Here, golden grasses spring up through lake waters with concrete industrial silos looming in the background (pictured above). For those wanting to escape the city without actually leaving the city, the Tifft Nature Preserve’s grounds provide a haven for reflection and outdoor education that keeps locals coming back again and again.
Distance from Buffalo: 16 miles/30 minutes
Trail Length: 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 561 feet
Just half an hour outside of the city lies 18-Mile Creek, one of the most beloved easy hikes near Buffalo for beginners and families. Situated on its namesake creek, the trail is full of beautiful landscape, including rocky cliffs and formations, waterfalls, and bird’s eye views of the creek. While the trail does boast decent elevation gain, it’s fairly gradual and the trails are accessible to most hikers willing to take on a bit of extra challenge. Plus, the views from the highest point of the trail of 18-Mile Creek winding through the forest are well worth the uphill slog.
Knox Farm State Park Trail
Distance from Buffalo: 18 miles/30 minutes
Trail Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
There are few things more peaceful than wandering through idyllic meadows, still lakes, and quiet forests, and Knox Farm State Park provides access to all. This state park boasts over 600 acres of public lands, most of which are wide open grasslands. On the park’s namesake loop trail, you’ll get to enjoy the best parts of the park – scenic, sunny farmlands, tranquil forests, and serene ponds to explore and admire. For those wanting to learn a bit more about the ecosystems in the area, there’s a visitor center that has tons of exhibits and information about the species you can see in the park.
Akron Falls State Park
Distance from Buffalo: 25 miles/40 minutes
Trail Length: 0.8 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
If you’ve got a hankering for some waterfalls, Akron Falls State Park is one of the closest waterfall hikes near Buffalo. A 40 minute drive from downtown, you can explore Akron Falls’ 44-foot cascade on a 0.8 mile trail that gives hikers access to the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls. While the trail is short, you’ll get stunning views of the falls for most of the way.
Note that swimming and wading isn’t permitted here, and hikers have reported that a local park ranger often enforces this rule with citations during peak season. Go very early on weekends or in the summer to avoid the large crowds that come to visit the area.
Deer Lick Conservation Area
Distance from Buffalo: 37 miles/1 hour
Trail Length: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 452 feet
There are several hikes through the many gorges of Western New York, but one of the easiest and most accessible to beginners is the Deer Lick Conservation Area. This easy to moderate trail does have significant elevation gain, but it is gradual and non-technical, making it accessible to all levels of hikers who are up for a bit of a challenge! From the higher elevations, you can see some seriously beautiful views of the Cattaraugus Creek cutting through the rocky walls of the gorge – a breathtaking sight no matter the season.
Moderate & Difficult Hikes Near Buffalo, NY
Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge
Distance from Buffalo: 20 miles/25 minutes
Trail Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 137 feet
One of the most unique natural phenomena in New York state is a waterfall that runs over a small cave where there’s a constant natural gas fire shining through the water. Yes, this is the aptly-named “Eternal Flame” at Chestnut Ridge, and while it’s often small, you can typically see this strange fire glowing orange amidst the cool colors of the water and the forest. The natural gas deposit in the rock is abundant, and it’s what keeps the fire going day after day.
While there isn’t much elevation gain, the 1.4-mile trail to see this flame is tricky for one reason: rocks. The rocky terrain here is especially difficult to navigate when it’s wet outside, which makes the rocks slippery and hazardous. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots with thick, grippy soles for safety on this trail!
Niagara Gorge Trail
Distance from Buffalo: 26 miles/30 minutes (Whirlpool State Park)
Trail Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 626 feet
Feeding into the spectacular Niagara Falls, Niagara Gorge is one of the most spectacular places for hiking near Buffalo, NY. Featuring rocky cliffs surrounding the Niagara River’s teal waters and spectacular rapids, a hike through Whirlpool State Park’s Niagara Gorge Trail is one of the best ways to explore the area and hit up some of the best views of the gorge. Some of the areas of the trail provide opportunities for scrambling and decent elevation gain, providing a fun and absolutely spellbinding hiking challenge near one of the most incredible natural landmarks in the world.
Distance from Buffalo: 33 miles/45 minutes
Trail Length: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 193 feet
There’s no lack of gorges in the Buffalo area, and Zoar Valley is yet another area where you can experience the vertical cliffs and swirling waters of the area’s gorges. Featuring the Cattaraugus Creek and the rocks that surround it, the Zoar Valley Valentine Flats trail has no shortage of amazing, incredible views. Along the way, you’ll find bird’s eye gorge views, spectacular waterside trails, and quiet forest pathways. Take your time on this trail and enjoy a snack on the rocks by the creek’s shore for some of the most stellar views in the area.
Griffis Sculpture Park Loop
Distance from Buffalo: 44 miles/50 minutes
Trail Length: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 364 feet
One of the most unique moderate hikes near Buffalo is a trek through Griffis Sculpture Park, a 425-acre expanse that’s full of outdoor sculptures and artwork that you can explore. Experiencing the juxtaposition of art and nature is something that can only be done in a place like Griffis Sculpture Park. Hiking is a really fantastic way to enjoy these world-class works, and the 2.4 mile loop trail through the park is one of the most all-encompassing routes to seeing the sculptures “out in the wild.”
Letchworth State Park
Distance from Buffalo: 59 miles/1 hour, 10 minutes
Trail Length: 14 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,106 feet
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park boasts an incredibly magical landscape – rocky cliffs and gorges with the Genesee River running through. The park’s Gorge Trail runs for 14 miles out-and-back along the west rim of the gorge, giving hikers a fun, exciting challenge and access to some of the best views in the entire region.
There are a few steep areas of the trails that are especially strenuous, but for the most part, the trail offers a gradual ascent to the top of the rim. The views from up there of the gorge are absolutely worth the trek, especially in the fall when shades of yellow, red, orange, and green blossom over the gorge’s rocky landscape.
Stony Brook State Park
Distance from Buffalo: 77 miles/1.5 hours
Trail Length: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 475 feet
Where there are gorges, there are often waterfalls, and the Stony Brook State Park Gorge & Rim Trails are some of the best hikes near Buffalo, NY to see these stunning cascades. Full of scenic waterfalls and stone bridges, there’s no shortage of incredible views along the 2.2-mile trail through the forest. Don’t be fooled – although short, this trail does have a few challenging uphills to tackle on the way to see the falls. But if you’re willing to take on the challenge, the views throughout the trail are absolutely surreal.
Distance from Buffalo: 113 miles/2 hours
Trail Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 659 feet
Cited by locals as a favorite trail for hiking near Buffalo, NY, Conklin’s Gully’s 3.4-mile trail boasts a dozen waterfalls! Located about 2 hours from Buffalo, this challenging, rocky trail offers hikers access to some absolutely spectacular landscapes, including strange rock formations, waterfalls, and gorge views. Not for the faint of heart, this moderate to hard trail has a few very steep sections with ropes to help you climb up rocky areas and steep ascents. Scrambling is a must on this trail, but for experienced hikers who enjoy getting their hands dirty, this trail is a must-do for experiencing some of the best hidden gems in the area.
Watkins Glen State Park Gorge & Indian Trail
Distance from Buffalo: 132 miles/2.5 hours
Trail Length: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 574 feet
With landscapes that look like something out of a fairytale, Watkins Glen State Park’s Gorge & Indian Trails are a must-do hike for anyone living in the western part of New York. Slim, rocky gorges surround magical waterfalls that cascade down into emerald pools. Photos don’t nearly do this place justice! The trails here are mostly rock paths cut into the sides of the gorges, giving hikers direct access to waterfall views over the course of 2.4 miles. Note that this area does get quite crowded, and the trails are narrow, so be sure to plan accordingly and get there early to avoid crowds and enjoy the peaceful, magical environment around you.
Additional Resources for Hiking Near Buffalo, NY
What to Pack
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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