Weekend Backpacker: Buffalo
Proud land of NFL football and NHL hockey, infamous land of lake-effect snowstorms: Is western New York hiker-friendly? Yes, indeed, especially if you head south and east of the city where the hills rise and the forest deepens, or hop across the border into charming Ontario or rugged Pennsylvania.
Allegheny State Park offers the Finger Lakes Trail, including sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Letchworth State Park has a grand canyon all its own. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, in the flatland marshes north of I-90, pleases birders and wildflower-admiring walkers. To the southeast, the Allegheny National Forest (Pennsylvania) is within easy reach. The Bruce Trail (Canada) meanders atop an escarpment shadowing wineries in the valley below.
Buffalo, long hailed as Queen City of the Great Lakes, looks out on Lake Erie at the head of the Niagara River, smack on the Canadian border. The lake is, of course, oceanic, a delight for sailors, a challenge to sea kayakers. Alas, its shoreline is mostly in private hands, and we can't recommend a long walk on the beach.
But once the weather lets you head outside, Buffalo's nearby forested areas have plenty to offer both the ambitious and the easygoing hiker.
A note about trip planning: The Adirondack Mountain Club (Niagara Frontier Chapter) is the club of choice for hikers here, with more than 1,000 members. You can try two hikes with the group before joining. You can also obtain useful info about outdoor opportunities in the area from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference of Rochester, New York, and the Niagra Group of the Sierra Club.
For 7.5' topo maps, try EMS or the Hevenor Map Co., 2632 Seneca St., West Seneca, NY 14224. The Western New York Mountain Bike Association offers good maps. An Erie County Highway Map is free from the Erie County Department of Public Works, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY 14202. The Western Region of New York State Road and Street Map is good for general getting around in the area and is available in stores.
Fifty Hikes in Western New York by William Ehling, Backcountry Pubs., $14.95. Mostly walks and day hikes, though some are long enough for overnight camping trips. One-color topos, but bulky to carry.
Wilderness Weekends in Western New York, Niagara Frontier Chapter, Adirondack Mountain Club, $8.50. About 105 trailsÂ—some for biking, skiing, or canoeing onlyÂ—of all lengths and types, including nearby Ontario and Pennsylvania trails. Portable, but no maps.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication