The Western New York area has many State Parks, trails, parks, and campgrounds to choose from for outdoor lovers. You could even say that Western New York is home to one of the best state parks in New York, Allegany State Park. With beautiful scenery, plenty of activities, hiking trails, and camping opportunities, Allegany State Park is full of fun and surprises for everyone.
History of Allegany State Park
The land involved in Allegany State Park has a long history dating back to 1798. Owned by the Senecas until 1797, Western New York became home to Quaker missionaries in 1798 at the invitation of Seneca Chief Cornplanter. As such, the Quakers bought land in 1803 and established a farm that would later be known as Quaker Run.
By 1848, the Quakers established two schools in this area, one formal school for Quaker children and one ‘Friends Boarding School for Indian Children’, three sawmills at Tunungwant Creek, Quaker Run, and Wild Run. Shortly after, sawmills were located on every stream in what now constitutes Allegany State Park.
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.
Founding of Allegany State Park
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 became the wilderness playground of Western New York.
Beginner Tips for Visiting Allegany State Park
- 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 causes lyme disease has been found in Allegany State Park.
- Infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer: as the Ash Borer has been found in Allegany State Park, you are advised not to bring any firewood with you. Kiln-dried firewood will be provided in the park to help slow their spread and save our trees.
- Fall is especially beautiful and an excellent time to plan a trip to Allegany State Park
- 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.
- 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.
- Pack for different weather conditions. This is Western New York; if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes!
Things to Do in Allegany State Park
1. Explore Hiking Trails
This park has 18 hiking trails, all of which were developed for year-round use. 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. Witness nature, dense forests, fascinating rock formations like thunder rocks, and bear caves. You could even call them the best hiking trails in Upstate New York.
Read below for the full details on our favorite hiking trails in Allegany State Park.
2. Enjoy Nature Trails
The shorter trails have been turned into Nature Trails where you can learn about the park’s biodiversity through educational pamphlets and placards. Allegany State Park is home to about 55,000 species of plants thanks to being the largest forest area in Western New York. Even better and more unique is that 5,000 acres of this forest is old-growth forest, something you can’t see much of anymore. It’s not only the plant life either. On your adventures, you could run into bald eagles, black bears, deer, beavers, porcupines, bobcats, osprey, and great blue herons.
Outdoor winter enthusiasts enjoy cross-country skiing. Many of the hiking trails were designed to become cross-country trails after the first snowfall. The Art Roscoe Ski Touring area, which is located in the northern section of the park, has a serious claim to the best cross-country ski trails in the Northeastern US.
4. Go Snowmobiling
If you’re looking for trails for snowmobiling in Upstate New York, plan a stay in Allegany State Park and race along 90 miles of snowmobile trails. There are even winter-access cabins, so you can make a weekend of it.
Red House Lake has a paved bicycle path around it for some family cycling in the nicer weather. If you prefer the more intense thrill of mountain biking, there are several trails in the Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area to enjoy.
6. Visit Bridal Falls
Allegany State Park may not be home to the largest waterfall, that honor falls to nearby Letchworth State Park, but the Bridal Falls at the Red House area is still a wonder to be seen. The 40-foot-high falls are best after heavy rainfall and are a short, but slippery walk from the parking area.
7. Lake Beaches & Swimming
The man-made lakes at Red House Lake and Quaker Lake both have small sand beaches for sunning and swimming all summer long. The designated swimming areas are patrolled by lifeguards to keep you and your family safe.
8. Kayaking & Canoeing
Red House Lake and Quaker Lake both have boating areas outside the designated swimming zone. Bring your kayak or canoe or rent one through the park and tour the lake by water during the warmer months.
You can even boat on the Allegheny River to the west of the park and take a long trip down into Pennsylvania.
Paddle boats are a fun way to enjoy one of the two lakes in the park and can be rented at either. In the Quaker Area of the park, you can use the Friend’s Boat launch on the Allegheny Reservoir. The Allegheny River on the western edge of the park also has many boat launches to suit your needs.
10. Horseback Riding
While not widely advertised, there are 55 miles of horse trails in Allegany State Park. For a $5 fee, 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.
How to Get to Allegany State Park
Allegany State Park is snuggled in just to the southwest of the interchange between the 219 and I-86, near Salamanca, and the Pennsylvania border. The Red House Area is the northern region, and the Quaker Area takes up the south.
The northern region of the park can be entered from Salamanca or through a small village called Limestone near the 219. The southern Quaker area’s entrance is near Quaker Lake in the southwest of the park, around 18 miles from Salamanca.
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.
Fees for Visiting Allegany State Park
If you have an Empire Pass card ($80), you have an unlimited day-use entry at any of the park entrances. Single vehicles can enter the park for $7, non-profit buses for $35, and commercial buses for $75.
Best Hikes & Trails in Allegany State Park
1. Christian Hollow Loop
This 3.1-mile loop near Salamanca is considered moderately challenging. The average hiker takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the hike. Even as a moderate hike, you only gain about 311 feet in elevation, making it popular with hikers, bikers, and walkers.
2. Bee Hunter: Red House Lake Area Trail
Also, in the northern region of the park, this moderately challenging trail runs for 5.8 miles as a loop. The average hiker takes about 2 hours and 44 minutes to complete it, maybe longer, however, as this is a popular trail for birding, as well as, hiking and snowshoeing. Hikers will gain 1,033ft of elevation so take that into consideration before you start trekking.
3. Bear Cave and Mount Seneca
If you want something a little more private, you’re unlikely to run into many people on this moderately challenging trail with a 1,246-foot gain in elevation. With a total of 4.4 miles, this out-and-back trail is popular for camping, hiking, and mountain biking. It is also open year-round.
4. Mount Tuscarora
For avid, experienced hikers, this moderately challenging to hard trail will take up almost 5 hours of your day. This out-and-back trail amounts to 9.4 miles, and 2,116 ft gain in elevation. It’s great for hiking and, due to the difficulty, tends to be very private and not busy.
5. Red House Lake Loop
This easy loop is a great one for the family to enjoy. Located in the Red House region near Salamanca, you can enjoy 2.7 miles, with little elevation gain, around the Red House Lake, whether you’re walking, running, or biking.
6. Conservation Trail
Another moderately challenging route, the Conservation Trail explores 5.3 miles of the northern region near Salamanca. The loop takes about 2 ½ hours on average to complete and is great for hikers, runners, and walkers, gaining about 843 feet in elevation. It’s a popular trail so expect to see fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
Where to Stay Nearby Allegany State Park
- 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.
- Luxury Cabin Rental – if you’d like your accommodations to bring the forest inside, then Peace Inn Kinzua will amaze you with its wood cabin interior, cozy furnishings, and relaxing atmosphere. Worth the stay even if you just want to go and relax.
- Cottage Rental – Why not stay in a cottage that’s nestled deep in the forest you already intend to explore? Twin Gable is the perfect place to stay for any outdoor enthusiast, and for a small extra fee, you can also enjoy the amenities at the nearby Red Oak campground, like a swimming pool and park.
- Townhouse Rental – Located a little further out in Ellicottville, this townhouse is highly desirable for winter sports enthusiasts. Nestled between two state parks that both sport skiing and other winter sports, you can walk to the chair lift for the Holiday Valley resort or head to Allegany State Park for some snowmobiling.
Where to Stay in the Park
- Camping Sites – The Quaker Area Campground offers cabin, tent, or Rv sites with a total of 190 sites near the Bear Caves grotto and other lovely trails. The Red House Area Campground has 122 camping sites for tents or RVs.
- Cabins – With 20 cabin trails, there are over 300 potential cabins rentals in Allegany State Park for your vacation. Some of them are even designed for winter stays. This is the place to go for cabin rentals in Upstate New York.
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Author: Heather Menz
Heather Menz has called the Buffalo area home for over 35 years. With a degree in archaeology and a keen interest in history, she has explored sites that are both easy to find and those hidden deep in Buffalo and Rochester’s history. As part of an active and outdoors-oriented family, she has traveled and hiked much and learned more about all that the Western New York area has to offer.