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There's no need to follow the beaten path 

Okay, so Western New York may not be Bend or Boulder, or even Lake Placid. But for the precious few months that summer visits these parts, the discerning outdoor enthusiast can find plenty of challenges. If you know where to look, that is. Whether you're new to this area or just tired of hoofing it down the same old trails, here are a few hidden gems that you don't have to drive all day to reach. These destinations have enough variety to test the skills of the experienced adrenaline addict, but also give newbies a fun, easy entrée into climbing, biking, or backpacking.

To climb or not to climb

Real rock in the Niagara River Gorge. Let's face it. This part of the world will never be the climbing mecca that the Adirondacks or Shawangunks in the eastern part of the state are, let alone the more famous crags of Yosemite --- at least not in our geological epoch. But we're not wholly out of luck either. Those wanting to hone their climbing skills have at least one first class option: bouldering in Ontario's Niagara Glen Nature Area.

Bouldering is the hip younger cousin to conventional climbing, only achieving legitimacy as an activity in itself within the past decade or so. Instead of traditional longer-roped routes that take a mix of skills and endurance, boulderers pursue short, über-hard "problems" requiring both superb technical ability and the strength and flexibility of a gymnast, without the protection of a rope. (Since most of problems rarely get more than a few feet off the ground, this isn't as dangerous as it sounds.)

As the name implies, this usually takes places on large boulders, rather than imposing monolithic walls. In the case of the Niagara River Gorge, these 20- to 30-foot (or larger!) giants are mainly limestone, remnants of a bedrock layer that once capped the mighty falls. Now they're strewn haphazardly about on the floor of the gorge besides the turbulent post-falls Niagara River like abandoned toys in a child's room. The result is a fantastic landscape that's a fun short hike for anyone and doubly exciting for rock junkies.

There's a great variety of problems, ranging from unrated scrambles to V6s and V7s (boulders use a "V" system to rate a problem's difficulty). Be sure to bring a crash pad since uneven, rocky landings are par for the course. Leave your rope at home, though. A ban on roped climbs in the park has been in effect for several years.

For more information visit or

Spin city

Mountain bike bliss in Allegany State Park. There are plenty of good places to mountain bike in Western New York (almost none in Monroe County, but that's a subject for another story).

Few of these, though, compare with the variety you'll find at Allegany State Park. Maybe that's why the Western New York Mountain Bike Association holds their top annual race event --- the Raccoon Rally --- there each year. In fact, even non-bikers will be impressed by the terrain, which is among the wildest in the state; glaciers left it alone during the last ice age, so the landscape differs somewhat from the rest of the region.

Trails range from hilly to flat and there are wetlands, forests, and open meadows among the variety of environments. With 65,000 acres there's plenty of wild space for these trails to expand into, which means you won't exhaust the options in just a few rides. Still think you'll get bored? Where the park meets the Pennsylvania state line it becomes the Allegheny National Forest, a far larger wilderness which has plenty more of the same terrain.

The icing on the cake is a spin past the "Thunder Rocks," a clump of weirdly hewn conglomerate boulders so rare and otherworldly-looking that the chance to see them alone makes it worth the trip from Rochester.

For trail conditions and more information check out or

A journey of a thousand miles...

Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail. You probably didn't know that you could walk from the eastern edge of New York to North Dakota on a designated national trail.

Oh sure, everyone's heard of the Appalachian Trail, and maybe even the Pacific Crest and one or two others. But how many Rochesterians know that one of the nation's premier long distance trails runs practically through their backyard? Starting at the banks of Lake Champlain and winding westward to its terminus at Lake Sakakawea State Park in Pick City, North Dakota, the North Country National Scenic Trail is the nation's longest east-to-west trail. Right now, more than half of it runs along roads and other right-of-ways but when the remaining off-road portions are complete, it'll be the longest trail in the nation at over 4,000 miles.

South of Rochester its route follows the Finger Lakes Trail which itself follows a line connecting the southern tips of the Finger Lakes, through some of the best terrain the Southern Tier has to offer. With half a dozen spurs leaving the main trail between Syracuse and Buffalo --- the nearest is a 25-mile path connecting the FLT to Letchworth --- it's easy to plan anything from a day hike to an epic adventure.

To find out more go to or

In This Guide...

  • Summer's the thing

    Looking for a bandwagon? Summer's very hot right now.

  • School's out? Guess again

    Afraid your kid's brain will turn to mush over the summer but don't have the bucks to pay for tutoring? Fear not.

  • California is right around the corner

    It's one case where wine and lawmaking do mix: A recent Supreme Court ruling may change how New York State wine lovers get their wine and how local wineries sell it. In May the Supreme Court decided that in New York and Michigan --- two states being sued for unfair trade practices --- both interstate and instate wine shipping should follow the same rules.

  • Find the nooks and crannies

    In the Jazz Fest afterglow, it might be easy to view the rest of the summer concert season as a letdown. Don't be fooled --- you'll really miss out if you don't dig in the nooks and crannies.

  • You don't have to go inside

    Hardcore fans of live music don't ever let the local inclemency keep them housebound. Slogging through the mush and over mountains of snow is a small price to pay for good live music in clubs throughout Rochester.

  • Everything's going swimmingly

    You don't need to wait for an invitation to dip into your neighbor's pool when there are at least 15 pools around the city that are open to the public. Many community and recreation centers around Rochester use their indoor or outdoor pools to offer free-swim times and lessons to the community.

  • The accidental camper primer

    Camping can happen to anyone. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Learn how to sell it

    There's really only one valid reason to get out of bed early on summer weekends, and that's to hit the garage sale circuit. In the past I've been rather diligent about it (as long as the preceding evening didn't involve too much in the way of booze or boys, or that tricky combination of both), and as Summer 2005 looms I'm slowly getting back in the swing of things.

  • You don't have to be stupid to like summer movies

    Hi, boys and girls! Do you know what time it is? That's right --- it's Summer Movie Preview time!

  • Tourism Toronto

    Sure, it's been a comedy of errors. (Maybe we'll all be laughing about it later.)

  • Your money's no good here

    Like fun? Low on cash, or just hate to part with it?

  • City's Summer choices

    City's choice: Bills Training Camp There are only 32 teams in the National Football League, and every summer Rochester plays host to one of them.

  • What's so amusing?

    Seabreeze Park 4600 Culver Road

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