Newhouse Insider: Take a Hike! My Favorite Outdoor Spots in the Syracuse Area

Breaking news: grad school is hard. The workload is demanding, and taking breaks is important, for both mental and physical health. When I’m ready to put down the books for a few hours, my favorite form of escape is a hike or a walk in Syracuse or the surrounding areas.

This fall has been a particularly gorgeous one, and as it is my first fall in upstate New York, I have been spending a lot of time exploring the local parks and trails. If you’ve been wanting to get out and see the beautiful nature of the area, here is a list of my favorite outdoor spots in the Syracuse Area.

Green Lakes State Park

The reflection of the fall trees off the blue water at Green Lakes State Park.

This park is one of the most famous in the area, because of the stunning views provided by the two glacial lakes that the trails surround. Although the park is called “Green Lakes” the water is more of a clear blue, like what you would see on a tropical island beach than here in New York. There are miles of mostly flat hiking surrounding the lakes, as well as many alcoves to stop off and take in the scenery. This park is only about a half an hour’s drive from the university, but if you want to spend a weekend outdoors, there is also a campground. Bonus (for dog lovers): this park is pet friendly, and there are plenty of pups on the trail!

Labrador Hollow and Tinker Falls

The view from underneath the waterfall at Tinker Falls.

Located about a half an hour from the university, the beauty of this area starts during the drive. My advice: turn off the highway function on your GPS –it only adds about 5 minutes to your route, but the views of the rolling hills and forests at this time of year makes it more than worth it. Labrador Hollow is a beautiful area, but my favorite part of it is Tinker Falls. This huge waterfall is the perfect place to take a deep breath and forget about the pressures of school for awhile. You can also climb underneath and above the waterfall to see it from all different angles. There are multiple trails of varying difficulty that lead to the falls, making them accessible for people of all skill levels.

Onondaga Lake Park

Sunset at Onondaga Lake Park

If you want to take in some nature, but would rather do so on a paved path, I recommend Onondaga Lake Park. About 15 minutes from the university, this trail surrounds Onondaga Lake and provides a nice, simple flat walk that will help you get your steps in while taking in the fresh air. This park is also very popular for runners, bicyclists, and roller-skaters. There are also plenty of benches and green space, if you’re looking for a place to sit outside with yourself or a few friends. Go in the evening if you want to see an awesome sunset over Onondaga Lake.

Clark Reservation State Park

The view from the beginning of the trail at Clark Reservation State Park.

Although this park is only about 10 minutes from campus, it feels as though you’ve stepped onto another planet. The trails in this park are carved into a cliff that overlooks a glacial basin lake. Just like with Green Lakes, the water at Clark Reservation is a very unique color. This is because the surface waters and the bottom waters do not mix. Not only is this park yet another beautiful view, it is also a relatively short hike that is close to campus, which is great if you want to get out but don’t have a lot of time on your hands. Note: the trails in this park require some minor rock climbing, so they may not be the best fit for everyone.

Thornden Park

Thonrden Park, photo courtesy of The Daily Orange.

If you don’t have a car, never fear. There are great parks in the city of Syracuse, within walking distance of campus. One of the biggest, and my favorite, is Thornden Park. There is plenty of places to walk and run, as well as exercise equipment, basketball courts, and tennis courts. This is the perfect place to walk without having to stray too far from home. It is also full of green space to hang with friends or unwind with a good book. As with all of these locations, it is much better to go here in the daytime than at night.

As we get deeper into fall, we also get deeper into the semester and the workload increases. Hiking is my favorite way to manage my stress, and I recommend it to anyone who would like to give it a try. There’s no better place to get outside and enjoy nature than in the Syracuse area. I’ll leave you with a few hiking tips:

Happy trails!