Weekend getaways to “big” nature

I’ve been living out of state for quite a while and just moved back to the area. I lived in the Rockies and Cascades, where the most beautiful and secluded wilderness was always just a stone’s throw away. Now that I’m back in the 585, I’m looking for good weekend trips into some proper nature - I’m talking peace, quiet, and big views. Dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, caves, coastline, whatever. Preferably not as far away as the ADK, but I’m willing to drive if that’s what it takes.

I’m pretty familiar with Letchworth, Stony Brook, etc and am trying to cultivate a list of lesser known and less developed areas. I’m not super familiar with Ithaca but I’ve heard it’s pretty tight. Also not super familiar with the shoreline of Lake Ontario (if there’s any wild areas left up there).

So what are everyone’s favorite outdoor areas in upstate/western New York that feel far removed from the urban/suburban sprawl and farmland that’s so common up here?


Check out NYS DEC lands. They are separate from the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. They tend to be a lot less managed and "manicured" like parks are so they don't have facilities and are usually just plots of uninhabited land. Also they are much less known than parks, so you will encounter way fewer people. https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/82098.html


This is an awesome tip, exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Thank you!


There's a pretty dense patchwork of state lands in Allegany County, and several closer to home. Some of my favorites include Hemlock-Canadice State Forest, Rattlesnake Hill, and Hi Tor. Also, check out Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area.


Also be careful because some of them have limited activity usage depending on the time of year. Some of the DEC lands might be actually closed during hunting unless you are hunting.


Good suggestions! I actually just went mountain biking at Harriet last weekend and it was beautiful. Can’t wait for the leaves to change.


Just be careful with that this time of year. DEC lands are open to hunting and people will be out on them this time of year.


Also makes sure to wear some fluorescent orange or florescent green during hunting season.


I'm sorry but the Adirondacks and Catskills are the only option for spectacular solitude and mountain views... I tried making it work in Colorado, but kinda flailed as I moved there for seasonal work, so believe me I feel your pain haha! If you get into fishing, paddling and boating, you can find solitude and beauty on the lakes... The Finger Lakes are beautiful with some great hiking. There is also the Alleghany Plateau, and myriads of well-kept state parks if you don't mind hills, wetlands, streams, lakes, forests, etc. I have never spotted another camper in the Finger Lakes National Forest. There are times cross-country skiing in Mendon Ponds or even Black Creek where I don't see anyone on trail the entire time. I would recommend checking out guidebooks to the state; the REI on the suburb/city border has a good reading section. I've been out of state for a year and a half, trying to make it work in Colorado, but when I was last here, Barnes and Nobles also had a similar selection. I don't think they WANT you to stay and read through all the books, but I don't think anyone's gonna get upset at you.


I was shockingly pleased with how well outfitted the REI is here.


They definitely spent a lot of time researching Upstate NY, and Rochester was the best choice for good reasons. Sounds corny but I've been to a lot of gear stores and REI in Rochester is pretty well kitted. I mean if you've driven I70 in the last few years, the drive to Old Forge is a cakewalk. I got caught in traffic for two hours just trying to get to the Summit County REI. When I was complaining about paperwork in moving, and employee housing n yada yada, my brother sent me REI's press release. REI made Rochester sound like a completely different place




[https://www.rei.com/newsroom/article/rei-to-deepen-its-roots-in-new-york-and-florida-with-new-stores-over-next-two-years](https://www.rei.com/newsroom/article/rei-to-deepen-its-roots-in-new-york-and-florida-with-new-stores-over-next-two-years) Not sure if that's it but that's what comes up for google.


Yep, I believe that's it


High Tor, east side of Letchworth, Finger Lakes National Forest, Hemlock/Candice Lakes are probably your best best nearby. Aside from the Adirondacks & Catskills, people from here seem to forget Allegany. On the NY side it's a state park, on the PA side it's national forest complete with campsites you have to boat/backpack into.


Kinzua Bridge in PA is a site to behold for sure. Then hit up Cherry Springs state park for the darkest spot on the east coast for star gazing. Fillmore Glen is fairly secluded most of the year. And all the amazing little places you can explore around Ithaca - Robert Treman as a starting point!


Not OP but looked up Kinuza and woaaah. Making note of all these amazing recommendations! The only one I did from this list is Fillmore Glen and can attest to the fact that it was an amazing spot and fairly challenging hike (so many steps!) but in the Summer there is a natural swimming pool that is sectioned off. Water was flowing from the stream was ICE cold but amazing after a hike on a hot day.


Adirondacks are the best option Letchworth and Stony Brook both get swamped with people on weekends


I think you’re going to have to hoof it to the ADK to get the seclusion you seek.


Adirondacks for sure. High Peaks region, especially. Poconos in Pennsylvania are also nice.


The Poconos, while nice, have been incredibly overdeveloped and are busier than ever. I grew up there and it used to be a very secluded and gorgeous in some parts. That isn't necessarily the case anymore.


there are a ton of nice little trails sort of scattered around, but none will be particularly dramatic or secluded. Oatka creek is a nice one, every town probably has its own favorite, lesser-known trail in their area. Corbett's Glen is pretty cool, it has that tunnel under the bridge along the creek. Everyone else is correct that to really get what you are asking for you will need to travel to the ADKs, Catskills or even Vermont (which is a reasonable drive for a weekend and has TONS of beautiful hikes)


Green Lakes is a gem and not too far away.


Lots of good suggestions in here. Also you should prob check out the Chimney Bluffs out of Sodus, right on Lake Ontario.


Good suggestion! I’ve never been to chimney bluffs, it looks cool!


We like to park on the east side (at the dead end road) rather than in the state park. There is a bathroom there, and ample free parking. It’s a short steep hike up, but you’ll be to the bluffs a lot faster. Depending on the weather and time of day, they can be pretty incredible to see.


Grimes Glen down near Naples is a great day trip. Go on a nice warm day and bring shoes you don't mind getting drenched, because part of it is walking through the creek. Some great waterfalls and just a really neat trail to hike.


To go along with Naples and grimes glen is High Tor and Conklins Gully


For a long weekend, check out Algonquin in Canada….not sure what all the fire danger from earlier this year covers, but there’s great hiking, camping and canoeing there.


I've done some dispersed camping in the Finger Lakes National Forest. You're rarely all that far from a road or a home/farm but there are definitely long stretches where it feels like you are. There are some stunning views you can catch of the lake, some significant elevation changes, and some pretty little creeks. Nothing as dramatic as you'll find out west but a slightly more convenient getaway than a trek all the way to the Daks.


Allegheny national forest. (Pa). Not to be confused with Allegheny st park (ny) Super empty, dark sky, limited tourism compared to adks. 2.5 hours from Rochester.


Never been! Any recommendations of trails/features/cool spots down there? TIA!


For some reason we spell it "Allegany" in New York.


Rock city in Olean


Dispersed camping in the larger state forests. You can dispersed camp in almost any state forest in New York for three days at a time without needing a permit. Literally just walk in camp. Do your thing walk back out.


North-central PA is where I go. Loyalsock State Forest, Susquehannock, Tiadaghton, all are amazing and can get very remote. Not open like Colorado, but densely wooded. If you like backpacking check out the Old Loggers Path, West Rim Trail, Loyalsock Trail, and the Mid-State Trail. Lots of good hiking only 2.5-3 hours away from Rochester.


Zoar valley? I’ve never been but it’s on my list


My partner and I took a trip a little while back to a Getaway (secluded tiny cabin rentals) up near Roscoe in the West Catskills. While that might not be your cup of tea from a living arrangement perspective there's lots of trails and camping around that place it was remote and beautiful including a noticeable lack of cell service which I liked. It's a bit of a trip but sounds like what you might be looking for. Trails: https://www.traillink.com/city/roscoe-ny-trails/ Where we stayed: https://getaway.house/western-catskills/


Adirondack Mountains.


Hemlock-Canadice state forest


Watkins Glen has some nice camping spots in the park. Alleghany national forest is another fave of mine. Oh and Sonyea - another good one.


Look into the Finger Lakes or WNY Hiking Challenges. You also have the North Country and Finger Lakes Trails. Allegheny State Park and National Forest are amazing if you want isolation.


It'll be tough to find Colorado in New York, but we have the Finger Lakes region, which is spectacular. If you explore deeply, you'll find places that are secluded enough. Gorge Trails: https://daytrippingroc.com/gorge-trails/ Places with interesting geologic features: https://daytrippingroc.com/rochester-geologic-history/ Allegany State Park is gorgeous and easier to get to than the ADKs and Catskills, with plenty of places to get lost in big nature! A few trails off the beaten path... not mountainous, but interesting nonetheless: https://daytrippingroc.com/trails-around-rochester/ Here are a few of my favorite places to take a walk: https://daytrippingroc.com/our-favorite-places-to-take-a-walk/ I'll stop! Best wishes for enjoyable adventures!