By Alicia Dziak
Summer’s almost officially here, which for many means time for camping, hiking and spending quality time with the family, and Allegany State Park’s 65,000 sprawling acres await the thousands of visitors that will flock there this summer.
A great way to enjoy the great outdoors 24/7 this time of year is by camping and Allegany State Park (ASP) offers camping options for all. Ranging from basic camp sites and non-electric one-room cabins or three-room cabins with stoves and fridges to deluxe full-service cottages with bathrooms, there’s something for beginner campers to serious campers to “glampers.” If you head there before the end of the month, you can reserve a cabin for two nights, but once summer vacation hits, the minimum stay in a cabin is a week. (Campsites can still be reserved for two nights throughout the summer.) Reservations can be made at www.reserveamerica.com.
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a carefree day at the beach. Allegany State Park (ASP) offers two spacious public beaches just a short drive from Ellicottville.
Quaker Lake offers a beautiful beach, complete with a large bathhouse, a playground and a large grassy area and sand to spread out with your picnic blanket and beach umbrella. There’s plenty of parking and a concession stand for hungry guests. The beach area is roped off and supervised, and there is a jumping platform for advanced swimmers. Canoes, kayaks and non-motorized boats are welcome in Quaker Lake, but you must bring your own.
You can also head to Red House Lake, where visitors can relax in the sand or navigate the lake via paddleboats and canoes that are available for rent at the nearby boathouse.
Bring your bikes and take the paved bike path that leads around Red House Lake, or head to Quaker Lake and take the shorter, but still scenic, bike path along the road and through the woods. You’ll get a great workout while seeing many natural sights along the way.
If it’s exercise you’re after, check out one of the many hiking trails within the park. Trail distances and terrain vary, but regardless of which one you take, you’re bound to see some wildlife and beauty along the way. Trail maps can be found at the administration buildings on both sides of the park.
Know a girl in grade 6-12 who loves nature? It’s not too late to sign her up for Outdoor Girls’ Day, happening this weekend, June 6. The day, runing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include banding songbirds, learning how to draw them, and looking for creek creatures and things that can be eaten in the woods. These nature programs will be presented by women in the natural science fields. For more information, call (716) 354-9101 ext. 232
Snuggle up under the stars for the Star Party on Saturday, June 13. The fun begins, weather permitting, at 9:15 p.m. at park site #52 by Quaker Lake, and will be led by long- time amateur astronomer Bert Probst. Guests will learn about the splendors of the summer sky. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on and binoculars if you have them.
Come summer, visitors can also enjoy an array of free nature programming. Several workshops and guided hikes are offered daily in various locations throughout the park.
Want to learn about the Bear Caves or check out Thunder Rocks? Meet up with a knowledgeable guide at the scheduled time and check it off your list. Other programs tackle topics such as edible plants and animals, or you can channel your creative side in workshops such as sun painting on t-shirts. Pick up a schedule at the administration buildings on both sides of the park. You don’t have to be staying at the park to take advantage of the programs.
June 27-28 is the annual Raccoon Rally featuring all things cycling. Check out road races, trials competition and cross-country and kids races. For more information, visit www.heartrateup.com.
ASP will celebrate Independence Day on Thursday, July 3 with an evening of food, fireworks and fun. Activities take place at the beach at Quaker Lake.
Head to Red House Lake on Friday, July 10 for Rock the Park and enjoy live music and lots of dancing. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/alleganystatepark.
Whether it’s spending quality time with family and friends around a campfire, making memories while learning about nature or just being at one with the great outdoors, ASP is the place to be this summer. Make it a point to get there at least once!