FALL-HIKE-COVER-2013By Alicia Dziak

Late summer and early fall are great times to enjoy all the hiking the Enchanted Mountains region has to offer. Your next memorable trek is practically in your own backyard, so take advantage of hundreds of miles of trails beckoning hikers of all abilities.

Allegany State Park

Allegany State Park (ASP), New York’s largest state park, offers 18 hiking trails, ranging from the relatively flat and easy half-mile Bear Springs trail, to the moderate three-mile Black Snake Mountain, to the difficult Beehunter Trail on the Red House side, which encompasses 6.5 miles of hilly terrain. Trail maps, found at both the Red House and Quaker rental offices, mark trail distances and level of difficulty so you can select the one that’s perfect for your ability.

The ASP trail system links the park with various other trail systems in the state and region, including the Finger Lakes Trail System (www.fltconference.org/trail.) The park’s Conservation Trail, beginning at ASP’s New York/Pennsylvania border, tackles four miles of difficult terrain within the park, and then continues 177 miles through various area county and state parks to meet the Bruce Trail in Canada.

North Country Trail

The longest trail that runs through ASP is the North Country Trail, a trail that begins in Crown Point, N.Y., near the Vermont border, and stretches 4,600 miles, spans seven states and links 10 national forests (www.northcountrytrail.org). ASP’s stretch of the trail encompasses 18 miles inside the park, and leads to McCarty Hill State Forest, which covers over 6,000 acres in the towns of Mansfield, Little Valley, Great Valley and Ellicottville. Part of the state forest borders both HoliMont and Holiday Valley, and trails connect with miles of hiking trails within both ski resorts.

Rock Cities

Joining up with McCarty State Forest is Little Rock City, one of three “rock cities” in the area, the other two being Rock City Park in Olean and Thunder Rocks in ASP. In this rock city, giant rock formations form street-like walkways below. The awe-inspiring nature trail also intersects the North Country Trail, which connects Little Rock City with the Camp Seneca Trail Loop, also referred to as the Billygoat Trail. For directions, visit www.dec.ny.gov/lands/77184.html.

Pat McGee Trail

Also intersecting the North Country Trail is the Pat McGee Trail, spanning about 12 miles from the village of Cattaraugus to Salamanca, and winding through nine ecosystems including woodlands and wetlands. The major trailhead can be found in a small community park with a picnic shelter and two gazebos in the Village of Little Valley, although there are a total of five trailheads.

Golden Hill State Forest

Another state forest, Golden Hill, covers over 2,000 acres in the towns of Humphrey and Franklinville and offers a series of multiple-use trails. For more information, visit www.dec.ny.gov/lands/79295.html.

Artistic Hikes

Griffis Sculpture Park, located in Ashford, between Ellicottville and Springville, features a variety of hiking trails on the park’s two sides — Rohr Hill and Mill Road. The unique trails here are dotted with numerous sculptures, most of them climbable and all of them photographable. For more information, visit www.griffispark.org.

Scoby Dam

Those looking for a less strenuous hike will enjoy Scoby Dam Park, sitting on the border of Cattaraugus and Erie counties, along the Cattaraugus Creek. At the park, you will find a hiking trail that takes you along the bank of the creek and overlooks the Scoby Dam. From Ellicottville, take Route 219 North to Scoby Hill Road. The road ends at the parking lot for the park.

Zoar Valley

A must-see for more adventurous hikers wishing to experience the Cattaraugus Creek is Zoar Valley, encompassing almost 3,000 acres in Gowanda, and offering cliffs overlooking a gorge and waterfalls flowing into rushing whitewater. Directions to the various parking areas and trails can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36931.html.

With so many trails to explore, hiking is the perfect way to get some exercise while taking in the beautiful Western New York scenery. Your next hiking adventures await — pack up a water bottle and some granola bars and get out there before the snow falls!