Rochester is a wonderful place for the waterfall enthusiast. Many can be seen from the roadside while others require a hike. These waterfall trails have all been tested with kids in tow! (That is not to say there aren't safety precautions to take.) Be sure to check news reports before heading out to ensure the park is open and to learn of any possible hazards. Falling rock can be a concern at some of these locations are well as steep cliffs and of course moving water. Some of these parks are right within city limits while others are an hour drive, and these aren't even all of them! Share with us your favorites to have them featured in part II!
Zoo Falls and Cascade at Seneca Park
This is a great walk for a toddler! There was no “carry me” on this hike. There are cool bridges, waterfalls, streams, and the Genesee River. We parked at Wegmans Lodge at Seneca Park and followed the Red Trail. You take the stairs down to the base of the falls and the river. There is a littler dock too. You can climb a bit in the falls for a bit of a stream walk or you can play in the stream above. Caution! There was some iron rebar sticking up around the stairs and some steel sign posts sticking up. Just be aware of your footing. Some parts are a little more challenging but our almost 3 year old completed all of the hike.
Letchworth State Park
There is so much to see and do at Letchworth State Park. If coming from Rochester, you can choose to enter at the Mount Morris entrance and drive the length of Letchworth as it is one long strip. However, we decided to cut to the chase and drive to the Castile Entrance to visit the playgrounds and hike the lower falls area (which is a little over an hour from Rochester). After entering, turn right and drive until you see a sign for Lower Falls Rd. Take this down the hill and you will see the new playground behind the rec center! This playground is unique but my kids had more interest in the traditional playgrounds, one of which is right nearby! After playing on both playgrounds we hiked the beautiful path to the lower falls. If you head toward the river and the bathroom shelter at the corner of the parking lot, you will find the trail that takes you to the scenic views. There are lots of stairs but overall it's a quick and simple hike. Along the way you will find the octagon playground which is shaded and great for climbers! Continue on the hike and eventually you will get to a set of descending stairs and soon a sharp left turn. Take that for the wide open views, bridges and lower falls view. You can continue on from there but we choose to turn around to make this a quick 1 mile hike.
Holley Falls Canal Park
Just outside of Brockport is the quaint town of Holley and within this town is the beautiful Holley Canal Falls. We had a lovely time exploring the park. The wide gravel trail is wheel friendly and does a one mile loop to the top of the falls, follows along the canal and passes by a playground. There are shortcuts throughout that are not wheel friendly but get you closer to the falls and a more direct route back. You can stand at the top of the falls without a barricade between so tread cautiously. The gravel path starts near the pavilion and goes up a fairly steep hill at the start. The falls however can be seen from the parking lot so a hike isn't necessary if you rather stay put to enjoy the view. It is free to enter Holley Falls Park but there is a sign stating they are closed for the season and to enter at your own risk. There is poison ivy in the woods so stay on the trails!
Wolcott Falls Park
Known for its easily accessible 50ft waterfall, this park is a little gem located in the heart of Wolcott. The trail is roughly 0.1 mile long and has low traffic. Along with a short trail, there is also playground equipment (some in need of repair). Located back in the eastern corner of the park, you will find an older metal and wooden slide and hanging bars. There is also a large Little Tykes playground and sandbox/water table in this section. The Little Tykes playground is best suited for kids under 5. The park also offers a pavilion with multiple picnic tables. This park is completely shaded and tucked away from the road. Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed.
Hiking from old Penfield road you follow the trail it’s about 3/4 of a mile, some hills but a good kid hike! You will end at the falls and the bridge tunnel. You can also park off of 441 and that is less of a hike to the falls. Also you can walk past the falls along the trail to extend your hike but entering the water at any point is not permitted.
This hidden waterfall is not far from the road in Geneseo. Though the hike is short it is fairly tedious and requires the use of a rope to scale down to the falls. Being the hidden gem that it is, there is very little roadside parking along route 63. Entering "Fall Brook Falls, Geneseo, NY 14510" into your GPS should take you to where you need to go. Just a couple steps into the woods you will find the rope to descend down to the bottom of the falls. Proper footwear is a must! Explore at your own risk!
Pal Mac Aqueduct Park
The Pal-Mac Park is a lovely place to take a stroll. The area is approximately three acres to explore with kids and family. There are paths to follow around the aqueduct itself as well as down the sides of the canal. If you are taking the trail down the canal it's stroller friendly and flat to enjoy the water. There is also fitness equipment along your walk as you enjoy the scenery. If you are an avid fisherman or looking to try your hand at it, there is plenty of shaded area along the water to relax and catch some fish.
Channing Philbrick Park
This park features an open air pavilion, grills, seasonal public restrooms, green space, handicapped fishing access, a map kiosk and hiking trails along Irondequoit Creek. Picnic tables overlook the creek where kids can play (This is the Red Fishing Trail). The first trail on the left as you pull into the parking lot is stroller friendly; Others within the park are not. The best place to check out for creek exploration is off to the right behind the pavilion. To find the hidden gem of the waterfall follow the Philbrick Park Trail (white) and it will be set back on the trail on the left side. If you hit the wooden bridge you have gone too far!
Ontario Pathways is a 23 mile long trail for walking, hiking, and biking with so much to explore. These pictures below are of the access point in Phelps, NY (1990 NY-96). Make sure to bring bug spray! While the trails are well maintained if you travel off the main trail it becomes buggy quickly. The best way to find the waterfalls is walk into the trail and continue for about 10 minutes. You will see some large boulders on the right side of the trail and a worn path- it will lead you right to them!
Ganondagan State Historic Site
This is a great trail tucked away from the main road. We parked in the Cultural Center Parking lot and followed the blue trail (The Earth is our Mother Trail) which brought us to a fantastic little set of waterfalls with creek access. There are also benches along the trails to admire foliage and animals. I was pleasantly surprised how they have really added lots of information to read on the trail! The trail takes about 40 minutes to get to the area and the terrain may be a bit challenging for younger children. While you are there you can also check out the Seneca Arts and Cultural Center. Their website has some good information to see the map for hiking options and visit the center while you are there.
Historic High Falls Walk
Everyone knows of the iconic High Falls! We like to park at the WXXI parking garage when we go, it’s usually free on weekends and we drive all the way to the top for the view! You can see the falls closer if you walk towards the right first, you will see the stairs and ramp to see the falls and usually there is a rainbow. After that we walk over to the bridge to cross towards the Genesee Brewery. When waking over there is a canal stream by La Luna and the Center at High Falls. The High Falls Visitor Center is open M-F 9-5, admission is $2 for adult and $1 per child. It's definitely worth a visit as there are some fun interactive exhibits! The Historical Tour of the falls can be found HERE. This would be a great field trip for all ages!