Perched along the southeastern edge of Lake Ontario in New York state is a collection of dramatic rock formations known as drumlins.
These clay structures were formed from glacial sediment during the last ice age. Over thousands of years, erosion has shaped them into unique pinnacles.
The constantly eroding drumlins are now referred to as bluffs, lending their name to the state park they call home. As tall as 150 feet each, it’s estimated that the formations are eroding by one to five feet per year. Were you to visit regularly over the course of several years, you would have a different view every time!
As this post is published, a section of the popular Bluff Trail is closed for reconstruction. That said, you can still access enough of the trail to see the main collection of spires.
There are three parking lots to choose from. We parked on the southwest side of the park off of Garner Road and then accessed the Bluff Trail by way of the East-West Trail. A second parking lot is located nearby next to a wetland viewing area.
The third parking option is on the eastern end of the park on East Bay Road. From this lot you can easily access the beach to view the drumlins from below, then head up a steep path to access the Bluff Trail.
When to Visit
Chimney Bluffs State Park is open year-round. Hiking and picnicking are popular in the summertime, while in the winter visitors come to snowshoe, cross-country ski, and even access snowmobile trails. While it may be tempting to enjoy the water, swimming is not allowed at the park.
Most New York state parks cost between $5 and $10 per vehicle for day use. If you’re planning on visiting parks on a regular basis, you can purchase an Empire Pass for $80. This pass can be shared with other members of your family as it’s not assigned to just one vehicle. Click here for more details.
Alternatively, you can ask your local library if they have an Empire Pass you can borrow for a few days!
After our hike at Chimney Bluffs, we headed to nearby Fair Haven Beach State Park. A 25-minute drive east, this is a great spot for swimming and picnicking. The park also has hiking trails, a boat launch, boat and bike rentals, campgrounds and more.
West of Chimney Bluffs you’ll find Sodus Point Beach Park. This one is free to visit.
There are two lighthouses to see here: the Sodus Bay Lighthouse, home to the Sodus Bay Historical Society, and the Sodus Outer Light, located at the end of the beach pier.
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Due to Covid-19, the beach bathhouse and bathrooms are closed and no lifeguards are on duty right now. The museum at the Sodus Bay Lighthouse is also temporarily closed.
Chimney Bluffs State Park is within driving distance of many of upstate New York’s larger cities. It’s just one hour from Syracuse and Rochester, two hours from Buffalo and Utica, and three hours from Albany.
I’m leaning into local hikes right now as a way to satisfy my wanderlust while staying safe and socially distancing. On that note, I’m adding a new section to this site for New York-specific trips. I’m excited to see more of my home state and to share it all with you as I go!
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Let me know what local spots you’ve discovered lately in the Comments!