By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Exploring New York’s parks and trails need not be a summer-only pastime. Many of the state’s parks are not only accessible during winter but provide stunning vistas while sparkling with fresh snowfall and glittering waterways.
• Taughannock Falls State Park (Trumansburg) offers gorgeous views of the falls from its overlook, as does Chittenango Falls State Park. Cross-country ski, snowshoe or winter hike in the park to enjoy the sights.
• Considered the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park (Castile), offers hiking trails and a 400-foot-deep gorge and three waterfalls up to 600 feet high.
• Hiking the Catskills Scenic Trail (Roxbury to Bloomville) offers 26 miles of moderately easy hiking, with a gentle grade and a broad trail for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The year-round trail was built over an abandoned railway. Enjoy spectacular views of the Catskills enroute.
• Bring along the camera to take snaps at Glimmerglass State Park Covered Bridge Trail (Cooperstown). The picturesque Hyde Hall Covered Bridge is thought to be the oldest covered bridge in the nation. The park overlooks Otsego Lake. Hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski. Bring along your skates to try out Beaver Pond (weather permitting).
• Hike the Genesee Riverway Trail (Rochester) to enjoy views of a gorge and three waterfalls. The 24-mile trail includes portions going through historic landmarks in Downtown Rochester and runs along the Genesee River. As a National Recreation Trail, the Genesee Riverway Trail connects to the statewide Erie Canal Heritage Trail, and the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail (south to Pennsylvania).
• Beaver Lake Nature Center (Baldwinsville) is open for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking on its nine miles of trails. Equipment rentals are available. Observe numerous species of birds and other wildlife in and around the lake. Check the website for children’s programming and other special events. Stop at the Beaver Lodge Gift Shop for unique finds and educational toys.
• Buck Mountain Trail, Lake George Wild Forest (Lake George) is ideal for more experienced winter hikers and snowshoers. The terrain can be rough, and the trail is three miles each way. Reaching the summit rewards hikers with views of Lake George, Bolton Landing and the Adirondacks.
Before heading out to the parks, check the websites for trail closures, as maintenance and weather issues can affect what is open. Most parks require a modest per-vehicle parking fee. Check the park’s policies before making plans. Always stay on the trails and take back with you everything you bring.