Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

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Chimney Bluffs State Park Walking Tour

by Max Lent

Pinnacles at Chimney Bluffs State Park, NY

How to get there

Chimney Bluffs is located about 45 miles east of Rochester along the shore of Lake Ontario.  See maps.  From Rochester, NY, take Interstate 490 east to 590 north to Route 104 east to Lake Bluff Road.  Turn north on Lake Bluff road which turns into Garner Road.  Follow Garner Road north.  When Garner Road reaches the shore of Lake Ontario it will turn east.  On your left you will see an entrance to Chimney Bluffs State Park.  Most people pass this entrance and continue east to East Bay Road, the next intersection, and turn north toward the lake.  The road ends at the shore of Lake Ontario.  Parking is permitted in the two parking lots bordering the road.

 

Preparation

Sturdy walking or hiking shoes are recommended.  The trail is uneven, rough, and tree root strewn.  It also becomes muddy in places.  Along the shore of Lake Ontario loose rocks make ankle support welcome.  During spring and fall, the bluffs can be chilly because of cold off shore winds from Lake Ontario.  During the summer, bring water.  The initial ascent will create thirst on a hot day.  Because the trail is longer and rougher than most people anticipate, bring snacks or a lunch.

If you bring children to the park, instruct them ahead of time about the dangers of standing near the edges of the cliffs.  Small children should always be holding the hand of an adult. 

 

The Walk

The walk starts at behind the lavatories (Clean and well maintained, but no running water.) and climbs a steep hill to the top of the bluffs.  Besides the rock formations the other draw of the park is the flora.  Spring wildflowers are often seen blooming here before almost anywhere else in the region.  If you visit the park in the early spring around Easter look for flowers blossoming along the trail.  You may see:

For more information about the flora and fauna found in the park, visit The Nature of Rochester, Rochester's Online Natural History Guide.

If you are out of shape, take your time and stop a couple of times as you ascend the trail.   While you are taking a breather, look for small wildflowers at your fee.Chimney Bluffs State Park, New York

When you reach the top of the bluffs you will immediately see the geologic formations.  Danger!  Do not walk to the edge of the cliffs.  The cliffs edges are often overhangs with no support.  People have been killed or injured from the ground giving way.  In addition to the perils of falling down the cliff, mud slides can envelope the injured.

If you have come to see the geologic formations continue west on the well traveled trail.  If you have come to see the flowers, you may want to look for the trail that heads away from the cliffs and into the plateau of the bluffs.

If you continue on along the cliff, walk slowly and watch where you are putting your feet.  The trail is crossed by roots that could trip you and send you stumbling off the cliff.  Stop frequently and view the geologic formations fromChimney Bluffs State Park New York several perspectives.  Stopping every few yards yields a new and interesting perspective of the cliffs, the geologic formations and Lake Ontario.  Contemplate that these formations will not look the same if you come back ten years later.  The larger formations will still be there, but they will be modified by the constant erosion cause by water and wind. 

If you visit in the spring and you look carefully, you can see the erosion process in action.  Mud slides are common.  Some are small and barely visible while others can be impressive as they take whole trees and sections of the trail from the top of the cliffs.

Continuing west you will notice that the cliffs taper off to the shore of the lake.  As the trail descends it goes through some muddy places that remain muddy year round.  As the trail reaches the water's edge you willChimney Bluffs Swamp see some trees that have recently fallen off the cliff and others than fell a long time ago.  The older trees often look like bones in the sun, because their bark is gone.

At the water's edge you will see a beach made up of rounded rocks ranging in size from pebbles to boulders.  The wet rocks glistening in the sun often look like jewels or are shot through with beautiful striations of color.  As the rocks dry they will loose their luster, but you can take them home and put them in an aquarium or water filled jar.  You may even want to consider spraying them with a high gloss clear acrylic spray. 

From the beach you can turn inland on a trail that will lead to the formal park visitor center.

 

 

 

Alternate hikeChimney Bluffs State Park New York

If you plan to spend the day at Chimney Bluffs explore the inland trail that starts at the top of the ascent from the parking lot.  This trail heads inland and is parallel to the road.  The trail affords views of the East Bay estuary.  This is the area to search for the several varieties of Trillium that blossom in the park.  On cold windy days a walk into the woods is a welcome relief.  The trees break the wind and reduce wind

Chimney Bluffs State Park New York chill.  On dry warm days it is a pleasant walk.  The main trail gently slopes down to the road.  In the spring, you can see daffodils near the gate.  We contemplated whether the people who lived at this spot could have ever imagined that their daffodils would outlast their home and themselves.  There is only the faintest hint that a house might have ever existed near the gate.

Going back up the hill you can walk through the brush to the west, but not too far.  The eastern slope of the plateau is covered with tiny streams and bog-like areas that make hiking unpleasant. 

We have seen wild turkeys and garter snakes along this trail.  If we were to remain quiet and still we would probably see even more wildlife.

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