Allegany State Park: Full Guide to Visiting + Tips

beautiful lake with fog in allegheny state park

Allegany State Park is one of New York’s hidden gem parks. It is located along the southern tier of the state, just an hour south of Buffalo. And this comprehensive guide offers everything you need to know for a memorable visit, from its rich history to the recreational opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time visitor, let’s take a trip to Allegany State Park with our essential tips!

I. History and Founding of Allegany State Park

Allegany State Park has a long history dating back to 1798. Until 1797, Western New York was owned by the Seneca Native Americans. In 1798, at the invitation of Seneca Chief Cornplanter, Quaker missionaries moved to the area. The Quakers bought land in 1803 and established a farm that would later be known as Quaker Run. 

Between this time and the 1860s, the Quakers developed the area with schools, sawmills, and basins. This sawmill industry quickly shifted to oil, and the first commercial oil well in New York State was built on these lands by Job Moses. By the 1920s, the beauty of the area became known in far-out places, and with the advent of easier transport by way of rail and then car, people flocked to the area for recreation and rest. 

In 1921 the New York State Legislature established Allegany State Park (and eventually Allegheny National Forest in adjacent Pennsylvania) and acquired 67,000 acres of land to be “forever reserved and maintained for the use of all the people.” 

With lakes, additional lands from Quaker Run, and cabin rentals on 29 cabin trails, Allegany State Park is now a state park iconic to Western New York. (Source)

II. Map of Allegany State Park, New York

Did you know? Allegany State Park is the biggest state park in New York. It’s so massive that it is divided into two administrative sections: Quaker Area and Red House Area (see the Allegany State Park trails map above). Both sections have lakes and a sandy beach for swimming, boating, and fishing. Aside from hiking and biking trails, these also offer opportunities for various sports. Get to know both to decide on which one to visit first!

Allegany State Park Quaker Area

The Quaker Area spans the southwestern section of Allegany State Park. It is home to both the beautiful Quaker Lake and the Science Lake. As you hike, you’ll see diverse wildlife and plants as well as other attractions including the Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower and Bear Caves. The Quaker Area also has access points for canoeing, boating, and kayaking. The restored Quaker store not only offers souvenirs but also serves as a museum with exhibits that show the history and attractions of the park throughout its lifetime.

Allegany State Park Red House

The Red House Area, on the other hand, covers the northeastern half of the park. Here, you can visit the scenic Red House Lake and the octagonal-shaped Stone Tower. This is also where the Summit Fire Tower stands. Hike to see the Bridal Falls and Thunder Rocks. The Red House area also gives access to the park’s administration building, which is home to the regional headquarters, a gift shop, and a natural history museum.

III. Things to Do in Allegany State Park

Besides various sports facilities and playgrounds, Allegany State  Park offers a lot of experiences. Let me walk you through the best things to do here!

1. Explore the Allegany State Park NY Hiking Trails 

Allegany State Park features at least 18 hiking trails. While the average length is between 2 and 5 miles, some are shorter at a half mile while others are 18 miles long all with varying difficulties. With these hikes, you get to witness dense forests, fascinating rock formations like thunder rocks, and beautiful wildlife. Here are some of the good ones!

  • Thunder Rocks Trail: This easy 8-minute trail features Thunder Rocks, which were naturally sculptured into amazing shapes. This short hike, coupled with this geological wonder, makes it kid- and senior-friendly. [Easy, Red House Area]
  • Red House Lake Loop: Walk, run, or bike around the lake through this easy, 2.7-mile loop. It’s a great one for the family to enjoy for less than an hour! [Easy, Read House Area]
  • Osgood Trail: If you want a short yet moderate hike, choose this 2.7-mile trail that takes 1.5 hours to complete. Aside from being a nice area for birding and snowshoeing, this one’s dog-friendly, too, but make sure they’re on leash! [Moderate, Red House Area]
  • Beehunter Trail: This 5.8-mile loop is of moderate difficulty but takes almost 3 hours to complete. It’s also good for birding and is dog-friendly! [Moderate, Red House Area]
  • Christian Hollow Loop: This 3.1-mile, moderately challenging loop features a nice vista. The average hiker takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete this. If you don’t wish to go on foot, you can mountain bike here! [Moderate, Red House Area]
  • Blacksnake Mountain Trail: This easy, 1-hour loop is a bit of a climb at the beginning but a breeze afterward. Aside from being manageable for kids, this one’s also dog-friendly. Don’t forget to go counterclockwise! [Easy, Quaker Area]
  • Bear Caves and Mount Seneca Trail: If you want something a little more private, you’ll most likely have this moderately challenging trail to yourself. It’s popular for hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing. It also features the Bear Caves, a cluster of rocks that form what seem to be cave-like openings. [Moderate, Quaker Area]
  • Mount Tuscarora: For avid, experienced hikers, this challenging trail will take up almost 5 hours. Due to the difficulty, it tends to be very private and quiet. [Hard, Quaker Area]

2. See the Stone Tower

Built in 1934, the Stone Tower (in the Red House Area) serves as an observation platform at one of the tallest peaks of Allegany State Park. It sits on a horseshoe-shaped road, making it one of the best locations for stargazing! If you visit outside tour hours, don’t worry! There’s an information kiosk available.

Bonus: You can also visit the Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower (Quaker Area) and Summit Fire Tower (Red House Area).

3. Visit Bridal Falls 

Allegany State Park may not be home to the largest waterfall—that honor falls to the nearby Letchworth State Park. Albeit not that grand, the Bridal Falls (in the Red House area) is still a lovely wonder to be seen. The 40-foot-high, narrow yet graceful falls are best after heavy rainfall. You can visit it through this 6-minute (out-and-back) trail. Yes, it’s just a short walk from the road! Just be careful as the trail can be slippery in some places.

4. Cycling 

Another Red House Area feature is the paved bicycle paths around it for some families cycling in the nicer weather. Plus, they have bike rentals. If you prefer the more intense thrill of mountain biking, there are several trails in the Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area to enjoy. Christian Hollow Loop is a great one!

5. Lake Beaches & Swimming

Allegany State Park has two swimmable lakes: Red House Lake (110-acre) and Quaker Lake (268-acre). There is also Science Lake, but it is technically a pond. All three are man-made. The first two have small sandy beaches with swimming areas patrolled by lifeguards to keep you safe. If you’re visiting between June and September, don’t miss the opportunity to cool off here after your hikes!

6. Kayaking, Canoeing, and Boating on the Lakes of Allegany State Park

You can kayak, canoe, and rowboat on Red House Lake. Bring your own or rent from Red House Lake Boat House! The said lake is large enough for two hours of paddling, which is best to do during the warmer months! At the Quaker Area, you can launch small boats, kayaks, and canoes at the north end of the Quaker Lake near the dam. Friend’s Boat Launch gives boating enthusiasts access to the Allegany Reservoir.

7. Fishing & Ice Fishing

Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy the activity at both Red House Lake and Quaker Lakes. In the winter, ice fishing is permitted as well! From both lakes, you may catch brown trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, brown bullhead, and rock bass. Red House Lake is also home to black crappie while Quaker Lake also offers smallmouth bass and northern pike. 

8. Horseback Riding 

While not widely advertised, there are 55 miles of horse trails in Allegany State Park, mostly in the southern part (see this equestrian map). This activity is available in the summer. You can park near the Quaker area and do some horseback riding through woodland settings via gravel park roads, abandoned town roads, and abandoned railroad rights-of-way. With some small hills and rolling and level trails, they are relatively easy for most equestrians. You can find more details here.

9. Skiing and Cross-Country Skiing 

Outdoor enthusiasts who love winter sports can enjoy Allegany State Park’s skiing opportunities. Many of the hiking trails at the Red House Area were designed to become cross-country trails after the first snowfall. The Art Roscoe Ski Area, located in the northern section of the park, has a serious claim to the best cross-country ski trails in Western New York. 

10. Go Snowmobiling 

If you’re looking for trails for snowmobiling in Upstate New York, plan a stay in Allegany State Park and race along miles of snowmobile trails. There are even winter-access cabins, so you can make a weekend of it. Both Red House and Quaker areas have snowmobiling trails. Check the map here

11. Snowshoeing

The Red House Area of the park also offers opportunities for snowshoeing. Bearpaw Trail, in particular, is a 1.9-mile loop and is an easy one for its well-marked snowshoe trails. Halfway through the hike, you get to encounter the Stone Tower, which will give nice views of the park. Just beware of the mosquitoes!

12. Visit the Allegany State Park Museums and Gift Shops

Knowing the history of the park and what makes it special will expand your understanding and appreciation of the place. You can visit the Red House Administration Building, which houses a natural history museum that features displays of the wildlife in the park. It also has a gift shop and restaurant. If you plan to focus on the south part of the park, you can also see the Old Quaker Store Museum, which features a gift shop and an exhibit of the park’s development. 

13. Bonus: Kinzua Bridge State Park

If you’re up for a 35-minute drive, stop by Kinzua Bridge State Park in Pennsylvania for a hike and a scenic walk on a 300-feet high historic walkway. After being partially destroyed by a fateful tornado in 2003, the Kinzua Viaduct, what was once the longest and tallest railroad structure, was reinvented into a walkway. There’s also a visitor center that features historic exhibits and interactive displays that kids and adults will enjoy!

IV. Allegany State Park Weather + Best Time to Visit

Allegany State Park in New York is open and offers accommodation year-round. You can swim at the beaches in the summer, which is the peak season, or enjoy outdoor winter activities when it snows. But honestly, the best time to visit is in the fall for its foliage, which is stunning! As for the weather, you can check it on this page before your visit.

V. Allegany State Park NY Camping: Where to Stay in the Park

Camping at Allegany State Park offers various kinds of accommodation across its two sections. Here are some of your options:

  • Quaker Area: This section has 2 campgrounds that accommodate 189 campsites, 20 cabin trails with 206 cabins, and 7 rental (Fancher) cottages. The cottages have bathrooms with showers and kitchen essentials such as cooking ranges, microwave ovens, and refrigerators.
  • Red House Area: The Red House Area, on the other hand, offers 125 campsites and 144 cabins. It also has hunting-lodge style (Pitt) cottages, with similar amenities to the ones at Quaker Area. The Red House Area also has a Bova cottage that’s available year-round.

For Allegany State Park cabins, I recommend staying at the ones in the Red House Area as these lean more towards the newer side. While a few of these don’t have electrical power, all cabins are available year-round and have centrally located flush toilets.

VI. Fees & Allegany State Park Reservations

New Yorkers with an Empire Pass Card ($80) can enjoy unlimited day-use entry to the park. However, vehicles are charged at $7 and buses at $35 (non-profit) or $75 (commercial). Picnic shelters are available at both parts of the park at $82.25. Reservations for cabins, campsites, and cottages are strictly non-transferable. You can make reservations here up to 9 months in advance.

Nightly rates for the campsites at the Red House Area range between $19 and $31. Cabin rentals, on the other hand, are priced between $294 and $484, weekly. Cottages are also available for weekly stays at $575 for Pitt Cottage and $915.00 for Bova Cottages. Red House Area also accommodates group camping of up to 12 persons per group with nightly and weekly rates of $375 and $1500, respectively.

At the Quaker Area, camping rates are between $18 and 30 per night. Weekly cabin stays are priced between $154 and $568, while prices for cottages range from $700 to $915. The Quaker Area also welcomes nightly and weekly group camps at $500 and $3000, respectively.

It is important to note that:

  • Cabins, campsite, and cottage reservations are strictly non-transferable. You can make reservations here.
  • The daily rates for cabins and cottages are 1/4 of the weekly prices.
  • Non-New York residents are charged an extra $5 nightly fee for campsites and group camps and a $7 nightly fee for cabins ($28 if weekly). 
  • The cabin rental office opens at 9:00 AM. It closes at 8:00 PM (Mon-Thurs) or 10:00 PM (Fri-Sun) during peak season (summer) and 6:00 PM (Sun-Thurs), 10:00 PM (Fri), or 8:00 PM (Sat) during the rest of the year.

VII. How to Get to Allegany State Park 

Use Google Maps. As there are different entrances, some closer to you than others depending on where you’re coming from. 

The northern region of the park can be entered at the village of Limestone, 10 miles from Salamanca. The southern Quaker area’s entrance is in Cold Spring, 18 miles from Salamanca. From Rt. 219, take I-86/Rt.17 west (Southern Tier Expressway). Use exits 19 and 21 to get to the Red House Area and exit 18 for the Quaker Area. If coming from Bradford, Pennsylvania, you can take the Interstate Parkway to the Quaker Area entrance.

Within the park, there are three main roads to take you to the different park features, with some minor access roads with signage to specific sites and trails.

VIII. Beginner Tips for Visiting Allegany State Park

Navigate your Allegany State Park adventure with ease using these essential beginner tips. These will ensure you a great experience and a memorable stay!

  • Bears: Never cook or store your food near your tent. It’s not just your food either; food items and others with strong odors, like toothpaste, soap, and bug repellent, should be stored a minimum of 10 feet above the ground or in bear-proof containers. Find other bear tips here.
  • Ticks: Any outdoor, wooded adventure carries the possibility of encountering ticks. Pack a simple tick remover and/or spray your clothes down with repellent. Lyme Disease is no joke, and ticks carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease have been found in Allegany State Park. 
  • Emerald Ash Borer Infestation: The Ash Borer has been found in Allegany State Park, so you are advised not to bring any firewood with you. Kiln-dried firewood will be provided in the park to help slow its spread and save our trees. 
  • Cabin Rental: In peak summer, which is from the end of June until the end of August, cabins must be rented for a minimum of 7 days. 
  • Hiking: Never hike in new boots! This is the first rule of hiking. Always break your boots in with short intervals of daily wear before taking on any trails. This will save your feet from injury and nasty blisters.
  • Packing: Pack for different weather conditions. This is Western New York; if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes!

IX. Accommodations + Hotels Near Allegany State Park

Discover convenient accommodation options outside of the natural splendor of Allegany State Park. From cozy chalets to modern hotels, explore nearby stays that complement your outdoor adventures with comfort and convenience.

  • Seneca Allegheny Resort: This 4-star resort/casino is located in Salamanca, one of the best small towns in Upstate New York. With a breakfast buffet, free parking, and an indoor swimming pool, you can relax after a day hiking or kayaking in the most amazing State Park.
  • Stunning Chalet in Ellicottville: This 7-bedroom chalet is the perfect stay for large groups. It has a hot tub, bonfire pit, BBQ area, and barrel sauna. These amenities and the beautiful views make the 30-minute drive worth it!
  • Peace Inn Kinzua: If you’d like your accommodations to bring the forest inside, then this luxury cabin rental will amaze you with its wood cabin interior, cozy furnishings, and relaxing atmosphere. It’s technically located in Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania, not Allegany State Park, New York.

X. Frequently Asked Questions: Allegany State Park

How much does it cost to go to Allegany State Park?

Parking starts at $7 (vehicle) and can cost as much as $75 for commercial buses. Nightly accommodations prices start at $18 (campsites), $38.5 (cabin), and $143.75 (cottage) depending on the type. You can also do group campings of 12 people starting at $375. Shelters at picnic areas are available at $82.25.

Does Allegany State Park have showers?

Yes, Allegany State Park has showers in both the Quaker and Red House areas. These showers are accessible.

What is the biggest state park in NY?

Spanning nearly 65,000 acres, Allegany State Park is the largest state park in New York State. This is true since we’re not counting the Adirondacks and Catskills, which are technically considered forest preserves.

How many cabins are in Allegany State Park?

Allegany State Park has at least 300 cabins across the Quaker and Red House Areas. The ones in the latter are open year-round. 

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