Breathtaking Overlooks, a Fairy Trail, Wooded Forests and Wildlife – A Guide to Chautauqua County Hiking

Chautauqua County is home to an expansive and diverse network of multi-use trails and scenic parks. Perfect for hiking, geocaching and mountain biking during the warmer months and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter, these trails pass through wooded forests, wetlands, wildflower fields and creek beds. Many areas provide prime locations to view wildlife and migratory birds in their natural habitat. Before you hit the trail, be sure to check out our interactive hiking map. Share photos of your Chautauqua County hiking experience on social media and you just may see them on our map!

Educational events and tours are held year-round at several trails and parks. For more information, visit the TourChautauqua.com Events Calendar. Upcoming events for 2017 include:

*Please be advised that hunting may occur near or on some trails during designated seasons. Please visit the DEC’s website for more information. Also, remember to use bug repellent and wear clothing that will cover extremities, especially while in the woods as the tick population is having a “banner year.” Ticks and other insects can carry disease. 

Alison Wells Ney Trail – This five mile segment of the greater Rails to Trails System beings at Bliss Road in Mayville then gently descends the Lake Erie Escarpment as it runs north to Prospect Road and then to Thayer Road. Users of this mixed-use trail will enjoy the scenic vistas of Lake Erie. Hiking, biking, bird-watching and horseback riding are encouraged. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are popular winter activities. Parking is available at Prospect Station and Thayer Road.

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Audubon Community Nature Center

Audubon Community Nature Center – The Audubon Community Nature Center has more than five miles of beautifully maintained trails with observation towers and a handicap accessible overlook. The trails are open free of charge year-round from dawn to dusk for easy hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. The 600-acre wetland preserve includes a native tree arboretum and several gardens. The three-story nature building houses a collection of live animals plus interactive displays and a gift shop. One of the most visited exhibits is Liberty, a non-releasable Bald Eagle housed in her outdoor habitat. Trails: Free access daily. Nature Center: $6 adults, free for children 15 and under, free for all on Sunday.

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Boutwell Hill State Forest

Boutwell Hill State Forest – Totaling 2,944 acres, Boutwell Hill State Forest is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrian riders and hunters during designated seasons. The Eastside Overland Trail traverses 8.5 miles of Boutwell Hill State Forest. There are 6.2 miles of dedicated equestrian trails (Chautauqua County Equestrian Trail System) snowmobile trails in the forest as well as groomed cross-country skiing trails maintained by the Boutwell Hill Ski Club.

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Chautauqua Rails to Trails – Beautiful abandoned rail corridors have been converted into safe off-road trails for recreational use such as walking, running, hiking, biking, bird watching (over 170 species identified), horseback riding and cross-country skiing. These trails provide access through scenic woodlands, wetlands and flowering meadows.

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Dobbins Woods Preserve

Dobbins Woods Preserve – A winding pathway surrounded by 100 acres of trees and wetland, Dobbins Wood Preserve (maintained by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy) is a tiny but mystical spot that’s largely camouflaged from outside life, offering runners, hikers, and cross-country skiers a short burst of seclusion among the most native of habitats. While driving up Bly Hill Road, keep an eye out for the subtle entrance to this wooded preserve, which sits gracefully on a Chautauqua Lake ridgetop. The site itself, by way of a fifteen-minute jog or a slow-paced, 45-minute walk, weaves visitors around two distinct forest habitats and through an abundance of wildflowers.

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Eastside Overland Trail

Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail – The eastern section of the county trail systems covers 19 miles from Gerry, north to the Town of Arkwright. Hiking, mountain biking, cross-county skiing and camping at the lean-tos are popular uses. This trail passes over NYS Reforestation areas, the Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management Area, Chautauqua County lands and private property. Without the cooperation of private landowners, this trail would not be possible. Use the trail with respect and be particularly careful while on private lands. Please note that hunting occurs during designated seasons near this trail.

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Erlandson Overview Park

Erlandson Overview Park – Sitting at an elevation of approximately 2,040 feet (second highest in the county), this 76-acre site offers a spectacular view of the surrounding hillsides and of Chautauqua Lake if you happen to visit on a clear day. The park offers a 1.5 mile loop trail as well as two viewing platforms, a covered picnic pavilion and toilet facility.

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Fairy Trail at Lily Dale Assembly – Along the Fairy Trail, which is marked by pink fairies on the trees, visitors can keep their eyes open for fairy houses, gnome houses and small villages located along the trail. The Fairy Trail shares part of the hiking trail for the Woodland Heritage, winding through the woods and offering a year ’round way to enjoy our community’s natural beauty. This trail is a loving work in progress. Visitors and residents alike build and contribute their fanciful creations for Lily Dale’s tiniest residents. Normal admission fees apply.

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Westside Overland Trail

Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail – The western section of the county trail system covers 24 miles from Mayville to Sherman. Great for hiking, mountain biking or cross-country skiing. There are camping lean-tos available. The trail passes over NYS Reforestation areas, Chautauqua County land, private land, dedicated equestrian and snowmobile trails. Without the cooperation of private landowners, this trail would not be possible. Use the trail with respect and be particularly careful while on private lands. Please note that hunting occurs during designated seasons near this trail.

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French Creek Preserve

French Creek Preserve – The French Creek Preserve can be visited year round and includes more than three-questers of a mile of frontage on both sides of the creek, as well as a portion of a significant tributary system. A loop trail follows the variety of habitats at the French Creek Preserve and can be hiked in its entirety in about one hour. Over 90 acres of wildlife preserve teeming with migratory birds make this destination ideal for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts! Also great for cross-country skiing when the weather permits.

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Lake Erie State Park

Lake Erie State Park – High bluffs overlooking Lake Erie provide breathtaking views for the visitor to Lake Erie State Park. Walk along three-quarters of a mile of shoreline or explore the nearby hiking trails, which are accessible year-round. When visiting between 9am-5pm 5/20-9/5, a $6 per vehicle fee may be collected, $7 on days when swimming is available. Fees may be collected on weekends and holidays through 10/9.

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Long Point State Park on Lake Chautauqua

Long Point State Park on Lake Chautauqua – Located on Chautauqua Lake, this 320 acre day-use park offers hiking, biking during the warm months and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when the snow flies. In addition, there is a swimming beach and bathhouse, picnic-pavilions, a public boat launch and a marina with a restaurant and marine shop. Long Point, which juts peninsula-like into Chautauqua Lake, is one of the moraines left long ago by a retreating glacier. Kid-friendly hikes and nature programs take place at the park throughout the warmer months.

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Luensman Overlook Park

Luensman Overview Park – A 70-acre overlook located at the top of the Lake Erie escarpment. Enjoy breathtaking sunsets, an incredible view of Lake Erie, villages along the north shore, and on clear days the Canadian south shore and downtown Buffalo are visible. A one mile, easy grade trail through the woods is perfect for a family outing. Open mid-May through November 1st from 8:30am to dusk.

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Panama Rocks Scenic Park

Panama Rocks Scenic Park – Explore a half-mile long ridge of rocks reaching up to 60 feet in height! Go off the mile-long, easy grade trail and explore the countless passageways, caves and crevices. Learn about geology, the environment and local history with their informational signs and educational treasure hunt – fun for kids of all age. Picnic tables are available. Guests under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Sorry, no pets. Open 10am-5pm from early May through October. General Admission: $7.50. Children 6-12: $5. Children 5 & Under: Free.

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Portage Trail-Trolley Line Nature Trail – Part of Rails to Trails, this recently opened trail is 3 miles in length. Beginning on Rte. 430 in Mayville, it travels north to Quilliam Road past a beaver pond and features elevated wooded views, a serene quite majesty and four benches for a quite rest. Open to the public Monday-Friday only.

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Ralph C. Sheldon Trail – Also part of the greater Chautauqua Rails to Trails system, the Ralph C. Sheldon Trail begins at Titus Road, outside Sherman, and continues 5.5 miles running north to Summerdale Rd. The Titus Road section features wetlands and is perfect for birding with over 175 species having been identified.

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Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History

Roger Tory Peterson Institute – Marvel at the unforgettable building dedicated to the lifework of world-famous naturalist, and Jamestown, NY native, Roger Tory Peterson. Nature trails cross 27 acres of native forest habitat. We recommend stepping inside RTPI to browse the collection of Roger’s awe-inspiring creations as well as the visiting artist exhibit. Nature classes, lectures and special events are held throughout the year.

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Stockton State Forest

Stockton State Forest – Stockton State Forest totals 977 acres. There are no designated hiking trails but hiking is allowed throughout the property, except for areas with active logging operations. There is a snowmobile trail (maintained by the Ellery Sno-Cruisers) and gas well access roads that run through the property that can be used. One of the access roads, called Blackman Forest Road, is popular for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horseback riding.

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To help you further navigate Chautauqua County’s trails and road, please visit our maps page.

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