ASP_Hiking2By Alicia Dziak

Allegany State Park (ASP) is the largest New York State park, with 65,000 acres to explore. For visitors who come to hike, 18 trails offer a variety of terrain that covers over 80 miles of hiking.

So many people, including my family, consider ASP a favorite summer hangout. My husband and I have been taking our girls camping there since they could crawl, and since he and I both love hiking, we’ve made it our mission to seek out the trails that are easy enough for our daughters to handle so that we can all enjoy it together.

There are several easier trails in the park that are good for children, many on the Quaker side of the park.

Black Snake Mountain, located near Science Lake, is a three-mile loop, starting and ending in the same spot. This trail is generally easy to navigate, even while carrying a child on your back. The most unique feature about Black Snake Mountain is that it briefly meanders into Pennsylvania. At its southern point, you can stand with one foot each in two different states. This has made for many photo ops over the years.

“Black Snake is my favorite trail because I like looking for that border between the two states,” said my husband. “It’s not marked very well, so it’s something fun to look for as we walk along.”

Eastwood Meadow, located off ASP 1, is a relatively flat loop that leads through the woods and off the beaten path. We just discovered this trail last summer and love how secluded it is.

Another fun loop trail we discovered last year is the Three Sisters Trail that begins and ends behind the Quaker rental office. This trail was easy enough for my 4-year-old nephew to complete, and the kids were intrigued by the abandoned cabins at the end.

The Bear Springs Trail is an easy walk and leads to old stone structures in the middle of the woods. This is my 10-year-old daughter’s favorite trail.

“I like all the stone buildings on this trail and picturing what they were used for,” she told me.

The Bear Caves, also on Quaker, is a family favorite. If you enter at the trailhead by the Deihl trail, you have a long uphill trek before you get to the caves. But if you’re up to it, approaching the caves from this side is amazing, as the forest suddenly opens up, revealing giant rock formations. If you start at the other end of the trail, the caves are much closer, although it still requires a climb. Be sure to bring a flashlight so that you can see inside the caves that are tucked into various rocks.

This trail does not start and end in the same spot, so you might want to leave a vehicle at one end if you’re planning on hiking the entire trail. Otherwise, plan on another half-hour walk back to the starting point.

The only downside to this trail is that it gets extremely busy in the summer months, especially on weekends.

“The Bear Caves Trail is my favorite trail at Allegany,” said my friend Dave Brown, who frequents ASP. “I like the ‘hunting’ aspect of it, and trying to find the caves each time we go.”

The Red House side of the park also offers a variety of hiking trails.

A Red House favorite is the Beehunter hiking trail, running between the Beehunter cabin trail and right across from Red House Lake. The steep, hilly trail boasts a beautiful creek around the midway point.  At over miles 6 miles long, Beehunter is considered one of the “most difficult” ASP trails and should probably be reserved for older kids that will hang in there for the long haul.

“I love the Beehunter Trail because it’s dense enough to ‘get lost’ in there for a few hours, full of uneven terrain, and has loads of really cool tree roots,” said my friend Holly Standish, who has spent many weekends with us camping at ASP.

Our other favorite hike on Red House is the paved bike bath that leads around Red House Lake. It’s the most easy to navigate path, especially if you’re pushing a stroller.

However you decide to hike at ASP, you’re sure to see nature at its best. Hiking with your kids is a great way to explore the park, get some exercise, take in the fresh air and spend quality time together.

Trail maps are available at the park rental offices.