I’ve explored many incredible places in New York, but few landscapes have left me as awe-struck as the one at Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park is located in Wayne County along the shores of Lake Ontario. It’s only a short drive from other great locations like Sodus Point, Beechwood State Park, and Wolcott Falls.
What makes this park so unique are the park’s drumlins. These are glacial deposits from the last ice age that have eroded in a way that creates spires along the coastline.
While they can be found all along the Lake Ontario coast from Sodus Bay to Oswego, they are most easily and dramatically seen at Chimney Bluffs State Park.
At this park, the drumlins raise has high as 150 feet above the crashing waves below. They stretch for roughly half a mile along the coastline and have been drawing visitors to this spot for many, many years.
Here’s everything you need to know to visit Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wayne County, NY.
Where to Park at Chimney Bluffs State Park
There are two parking lots for Chimney Bluffs State Park.
The main parking area for Chimney Bluffs State Park is located along Garner Road. This is a fairly large paved lot and offers ample parking. There is a modern bathroom facility here and a paved trail that heads towards the lake. It is the westernmost of the two lots in the park.
This lot can be found at the following coordinates: 43.280890, -76.922367.
The second lot is located at the end of East Bay Road on the eastern edge of the park. While the road is paved, the actual parking area is dirt and gravel. There is room for a good number of cars here, but it is not as large or as nice as the other lot. There is also a small bathroom here, but again, it’s not as large or as nice as the one at the other entrance to the park.
This lot can be found at the following coordinates: 43.290442, -76.906371.
For two major reasons, I recommend parking at the eastern lot at the end of East Bay Road.
The first is that the main lot on Garner Road is a paid parking lot. While there is no entrance fee for the park, you do have to pay $5 to park in this lot from April 1 through October 31.
Conversely, there is no payment required to park in the lot at the end of East Bay Road (as of my visit in August 2020). It’s possible this may change in the future, but for now, you can save a bit of money parking here.
The second reason to park here, even if the park was to start charging in the future, is that this side has much faster access to the Chimney Bluffs themselves.
If you park in the main lot off of Garner Road, you have to walk roughly half a mile to reach this unique geological feature. However, if you park in the lot at the end of East Bay Road, you can be at the bluffs in just a couple of minutes.
The access to seeing the bluffs from the narrow beach is also online possible from the East Bay Road parking area.
All that being said, if you are looking for quick access to picnic tables or a handicapped-accessible trail to the shoreline, you’ll definitely want to park in the lot off of Garner Road. The bluffs can be seen from this area, which is the only handicapped-accessible view of them.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]
The Best Trails to Hike at Chimney Bluffs State Park
There are two great options for exploring the unique geological formations at Chimney Bluffs State Park, and hiking both will allow you to see the bluffs both from above and below.
Of the 4.37 miles of trails that can be found here, the best trail to hike at Chimney Bluffs State Park is the Bluff Trail. This is a one-mile trail that runs from the end of the Meadow Trail, a short paved trail that goes from the Garner Road lot to the edge of the lake, to the East Bay Road parking area.
If you hike the trail from the western end of the park, the first half of the trail will be quite forested as it heads towards the bluffs.
If you start from the east, as I have suggested here, the trail heads steeply uphill, gaining about 150 feet of elevation in a tenth of a mile or so. The trail starts with some nice steps but is mostly a bit of a scramble up the hillside. Make sure you have shoes with some good traction if you are tackling the trail from this end.
Once you reach the ridgeline, however, the trail is quite flat and easy to walk for the next half mile as it passes alongside the Chimney Bluffs.
As tempting as it is, be VERY careful if you want to approach the edge here. There are places where the bluffs have created precarious overhangs or could fall away due to erosion. People have been injured and killed here from the ground giving way under them.
Signs on the trees denote a few precarious spots but use caution everywhere.
It’s also worth noting, for those with small children and pets, that there are places where the trail runs directly alongside the cliff’s edge. Make sure to use care as a fall here wouldn’t be good.
Fortunately, even without leaving the main trail, the views here are spectacular and well worth taking the time to see.
Once you reach the end of the bluffs, you have a few choices for continuing your hike.
You can continue through the woods to the end of the trail and retrace your steps back along the Bluffs Trail for a roughly two-mile hike. You can simply turn around at the end of the bluffs and retrace your steps for a hike of approximately one mile (which is what I recommend). Or, you can use the Meadow Trail, East-West Trail, and the Drumlin Trail to make a loop hike of approximately 3.5-4 miles.
Either way, once you return to your car at the end of East Bay Road, make sure you take a few minutes to check out the bluffs from below.
While there is no official trail here, there are no signs indicating you aren’t allowed to be in this area, and the “Danger: Stay off bluffs” sign seems to indicate that this is a popular and acceptable place to check out, as long as you don’t start climbing the drumlins.
That being said, there are some inherent risks from checking out the bluffs from below.
The beach here is quite narrow, in some cases no more than a few feet wide. A large wave from the lake or a landslide from the bluffs could potentially cause some major issues, so make sure you consider the risks before checking out the cliffs from below.
It also should be noted that swimming is not allowed here, so please stay out of the water.
If you do opt to check out the lower view, head down to the beach area at the very end of East Bay Road and turn left to walk along the water. After about 50 yards of walking, the beach area opens up a bit more and provides some incredible views of the bluffs.
The chance to see the Chimney Bluffs from below it truly incredible and it really gives you an appreciation for their size and uniqueness.
Note that the beach does not extend all the way to the other parking area or connect with any other trails, so you’ll have to turn around and retrace your steps once you are done enjoying this lower viewing area.
You can find out more information about the park and get a trail map on the park’s website.
Where to Stay Near Chimney Bluffs State Park
There is no camping area at Chimney Bluffs State Park, so you’ll have to stay elsewhere when visiting the park.
The closest spot to stay is Lake Bluff Campground, which is only about 5 minutes from the park and features RV sites, tent sites, and four cabins.
Nearby, you can also find some great Airbnbs, a few bed and breakfasts, and a free campground at Beechwood State Park.
The closest chain hotels are about 45 minutes to an hour away in Weedsport, Oswego, and Seneca Falls.
Looking for more places to visit nearby? Check out Fort Ontario, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, and Double Drop Falls.
2 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Exploring Chimney Bluffs State Park in New York”
Isn’t there free parking at Chimney Bluffs State Park if you’re over 65(?) years old using nys driver’s license? I’ve already done this several times this past year.
There is no attendant at the main lot. Just a pay station, so there’s no one to verify any details for free parking. As of last summer, though, there was free parking at the far lot, though, as is stated in the article.