Chimney Bluffs State Park: The Complete Guide

Chimney Bluffs State Park on Lake Ontario in Western New York
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Chimney Bluffs State Park

Address
7700 Garner Rd, Wolcott, NY 14590, USA
Phone +1 315-947-5205

Western New York is a geologic wonderland, home to many unique features, including one of the largest clusters of drumlins you'll find anywhere on the planet. While the term makes them sound like creatures from a sci-fi movie, drumlins are actually chimney-like, elliptical hills, made either of solid rock or of glacial till—piled-up debris left behind by receding Ice Age glaciers. Over time, wind and water erosion have shaped them into pointed spires.

To see some of the finest, most photogenic examples of drumlins, head to the 597-acre Chimney Bluffs State Park in the town of Wolcott. Towering as high as 150 feet, these peaked, pinkish bluffs along the shore of Lake Ontario look otherworldly, like sandcastles built by giant children from another galaxy.

When you visit Chimney Bluffs State Park, you'll have an opportunity to appreciate this Star Wars-like landscape from a variety of angles. In this guide, you'll find insights and advice to help you plan and make the most of your visit for outdoor recreation in a remarkable setting.

Things to Do

Venturing out on a hike to gawk at drumlins is, to be honest, the primary thing to do at Chimney Bluffs State Park. You can view these massive, pointy cliffs from either above or below, depending on which route you take.

While swimming is prohibited, fishing is allowed with the proper license. You can also go kayaking or paddleboarding and view the wind-and-water-sculpted drumlins from out on Lake Ontario. Look for a dirt path near the parking area on East Bay Road that leads down to the water. Don't have your own paddling gear? Kayak Time Guided Tours offers five- to six-hour excursions from Chimney Bluffs State Park. These trips include rental gear and are for intermediate-level kayakers.

Even if you're not up for much physical activity, Chimney Bluffs State Park is a lovely place to picnic: Grills are available at the picnic area at the end of the short Meadow Trail. While you're in Wolcott, you may also want to swing by Wolcott Falls Park, located 8.4 miles away from the state park. Here, the upper viewing area for a 50-foot waterfall is steps from the parking area.

Chimney Bluffs State Park
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Best Hikes & Trails

There are five primary trails in the park, all of them manageable distances. As you will see when you view the trail map, it is easy to design your own hiking loop utilizing several of these trails.

  • Bluff Trail: This 1.29-mile, red-blazed trail is rated as moderate and travels along the bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. Heed signs and stay away from the edge of the cliff (remember that statistic: selfies kill more people than sharks). At the far eastern end, you can descend 200-plus steps to the rocky lakeshore. You can also park here and start your hike with a climb.
  • Drumlin Trail: The blue-blazed, 0.73-mile Drumlin Trail begins at Garner Road and is a fairly easy walk on top of the bluff. It ends at the Bluff Trail and intersects the yellow-blazed, 1.03-mile East-West Trail.
  • Garner Point Trail: Orange blazes mark the 0.75-mile Garner Point Trail, which takes you to a scenic lake view.
  • Meadow Trail: At just 0.21 miles, the brown-blazed Meadow Trail leads from the park's main parking area to connect with the western ends of the East-West Trail and the Bluff Trail.

Winter Activities

Chimney Bluffs State Park is open year-round, and it can look even more dramatic when the drumlins are sprinkled with powdered-sugar snow and the lake below is ringed with ice formations. In the wintertime, the park's trails become the domain of cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. 

Where to Camp

There is no campground at Chimney Bluffs State Park, but there are several camping options nearby, including:

  • Lake Bluff Campground: A family-friendly campground on the shores of Lake Ontario, located just a five-minute drive from Chimney Bluffs. Here, you'll find both full-service campsites and rental cabins, plus amenities like a convenience store, roadside farm stand, heated swimming pool, miniature golf course, stocked fishing pond, and outdoor games for all ages.
  • Cherry Grove Campground: An RV destination with full hook-ups that can even accommodate big rigs. You'll also find camping cabins for rent if you're rig-less and tent sites if you're more the "roughing it" sort. Kids love the swimming pool, playground, jump pillow, miniature golf course, and recreation room, and there are fields and courts for teens and adults to play on, too.
  • Port Bay RV Park and Campground: A destination for RVers, tent campers, and even non-campers who want to rent woodsy log cabins. Located a 21-minute drive east of Chimney Bluffs State Park, its amenities include a library and exercise room, and there are frequent themed social events.
  • Camp Beachwood: Located in an abandoned former Girl Scout camp, 20 minutes away in the town of Sodus, this 288-acre property at Beachwood State Park is open to campers without charge: Just be sure to follow rules including calling the groundskeeper ahead of your stay. You can utilize existing structures within the park, such as tent shelters and fire pits, but you'll mostly need to carry in your own gear.

Where to Stay Nearby

This region of New York State is an outdoor lover's paradise, but that doesn't mean you won't find hotels and inns with plenty of creature comforts. Consider booking a stay at any of these places:

  • Carriage House Inn Bed & Breakfast: A homey, historic inn just steps from Lake Ontario in Sodus Point, NY. This 1870 Victorian inn welcomes guests year-round; a full breakfast is included. Chimney Bluffs is a picturesque, 20-minute drive away.
  • Pleasant Beach Hotel: A multifaceted property with its own marina and restaurant, located a 24-minute trip east of the state park. Established in 1910, this waterside retreat has nine uniquely decorated rooms and a comfortable, casual vibe that allows the view to steal the show.
  • Black Creek Farm Bed & Breakfast: A rustic-chic farmhouse inn located about 21 minutes east of Chimney Bluffs State Park in the town of Red Creek. Choose from four guest rooms, and enjoy the front porch and common areas within this 1888 home-turned-lodging property. 

How to Get There

Chimney Bluffs State Park is not in an area that is served by public transportation. You'll want a car, and rentals are easily available at the two closest upstate New York airports: Greater Rochester International Airport and Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Most visitors arrive via their own vehicles. The primary entrance to the park is at 7700 Garner Road in Wolcott, New York. You can find parking and restroom facilities at the end of East Bay Road on the eastern side of the park.

Accessibility

Because of its fragile natural landscape features, Chimney Bluffs State Park does not rate highly when it comes to accessibility. However, there is a bit of a view of the drumlins from the paved parking lot, accessed via the main Garner Road entrance. From there, you can take the paved, wheelchair-accessible Meadow Trail to a lakeside picnic area. Restrooms at the park are ADA compliant.

Chimney Bluffs State Park at Sunset
Stu Gallagher / Getty Images

Tips for Your Visit

  • There is a $5 per vehicle entrance fee collected from April through October.
  • The park is open daily year-round, from dawn until dusk.
  • Up to two dogs may join you on your adventure, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length, and you must be prepared to show proof of current rabies vaccination.
  • Some deer and small game hunting is permitted in the park. While safety zones and restricted areas are posted in the park to protect visitors, hikers (dogs, too!) should wear blaze orange during hunting season, particularly if they are planning to venture off marked trails.
  • Chimney Bluffs is a popular spot for photography, including portraits. Morning light tends to be best for taking pictures of people and pets, and in the fall, pops of autumn color enhance the images you can capture here. Much of this lakeside park is angled west, so you can also shoot nice sunsets here. Even if you're not taking pictures, try to be at Chimney Bluffs to witness the sun splashing colors across the water as it appears to sink into Lake Ontario.
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Chimney Bluffs State Park: The Complete Guide