From the beautiful Seneca and Highland Parks, both designed by 19th-century landscape genius Frederick Law Olmsted, to Durand-Eastman Park, where you can feel the immensity of that Great Lake, here is just a partial list of some of our favorite parks in the Monroe County (256-4950, www.monroecounty.gov) and City of Rochester (428-6767 or 428-6755, www.cityofrochester.gov) systems.
Cobbs Hill Park Culver Road and Norris Drive
As the highest publicly accessible point in Rochester, this park offers one of the best views of the downtown skyline. Its circular access road also makes it a popular destination for runners and walkers.
Durand-Eastman Park Lakeshore Boulevard
There's an abundance of forest and wetlands to explore, and there's no better way to experience Rochester's LakeOntario coastline.
EllisonPark and Wetlands Blossom and Landing Roads, Brighton and Penfield
You'll hear people call this "the dog park." A pathed loop along the creek makes a nice stroll, but the park has a lot more depth than that.
GeneseeValleyPark (East) 200 Elmwood Avenue
Here, the GeneseeRiver intersects with the state BargeCanal (this is where they moved the Erie Canal after taking it out of downtown) and Red Creek. Meanwhile, the Genesee Valley Greenway meets a plethora of local trails, making this an ideal spot to start or end a journey by foot or paddle.
Highland Park450 Highland Avenue
Famous for its signature local lilacs and their eponymous festival each spring, there's something to offer year-round at this hilly Rochester arboretum. For an extra treat, track down the SunkenGarden.
Lehigh Valley Linear Trail Park East River, Quaker Meeting House, West Bloomfield, and Mile Square Roads, Rush and Mendon
This 15-mile long park is really a trail that wends its way through the towns of Rush and Mendon in the southern end of the county, perfect for walking, biking, or skiing.
Mendon Ponds Park Clover Street and Pittsford-Mendon Center Road, Pittsford and Mendon
It's been a National Natural Historic landmark for three and a half decades while boasting 30 acres of trails and half a dozen ponds, all set in a unique glacier-carved landscape.
OntarioBeachPark 4800 Lake and Beach Avenues
The crown of Charlotte, this park blends the energy of the city with the expansive presence of LakeOntario.
SenecaPark and Zoo St. Paul Street
Originally meant to bookend the city as the northern counterpart to GeneseeValleyPark, this gem perched on the edge of the GeneseeRiver gorge is now home to the county zoo and a few miles of wooded trails.
WebsterParkLake and Holt Roads, Webster
A popular destination for sledding and cross-country skiing, there's plenty to do year-round in this quintessential park.
Mt. Hope Cemetery Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues
OK, it's not a park, per se, but it's still definitely worth visiting. In addition to the final resting places of some of our greatest local luminaries, the cemetery contains steep hillsides, glacial eskers, and enough trees to be a forest.
Further afield, here are a couple of regional parks that are worth the drive. Find out more at www.nysparks.com.
HamlinBeachState ParkOne Camp Road, Hamlin
HamlinBeach makes for the perfect LakeOntario daytrip. There are 10 miles of trails for hiking, biking, skiing, or snowmobiling, plus launches for car-top boats and an environmental interpretative center in the Yanty Creek marsh.
Chimney Bluffs Garner and EastBay Roads, Sodus
When glaciers retreated from this part of the globe they left deposits of earth and rock. When these meet the shore of LakeOntario and begin to erode, the result is a cluster of unique and fanciful shapes in the cliff-like bluffs.
Letchworth State Park One Letchworth State Park, Castile
Billed as the "Grand Canyon of the East," this destination lives up to the name. At just over 50 miles from Rochester (about an hour's drive) there's no excuse not to visit.
Allegany State Park Allegany State Park Route 1, Salamanca
At 65,000 acres Allegany clocks in as the largest park in the state system (the Adirondacks and Catskills are preserves). It's hard to imagine a better playground for all your outdoor pursuits.