Climb Nature’s Sand Castles at Chimney Bluffs State Park

Do you like going to the ocean but you live in Upstate New York, more than 4 hours away from what is frankly not an appealing coastline when you compare it to Florida anyway? Now that you’ve spend months dreaming about white sands, crashing waves, and the sounds of shore birds are you about ready to quit your job in snow country and move to Miami to make mai tais in a tiki hut? Then there’s one last thing to try before you join the rest of the snow birds down south.

Turns out that while its not exactly the same, there’s a cool park centered entirely around that sand you’ve been craving on the much closer Great Lakes! Get out with a goat and enjoy some serious elevation and scenery at Chimney Bluffs State Park.

Location: Chimney Bluffs State Park in Upstate New York, right on the edge of Lake Ontario.

Is it goat approved? If the goat’s on leash it seems to be tolerated. When it’s not too crowded goats work fine, but when there are lots of people you won’t be able to go out right to the edge of the bluffs or you’ll end up trapped there by gawking visitors who won’t give you enough space to escape! However, walking on the shore works fine.

How you get there: Google it. Frankly, this is an easy park to get to, so I leave it up to Google or your GPS to do the heavy lifting here.

Time for hike: Honestly, don’t plan to spend the whole day on this one. Its only 1.25 miles one way on the bluff trail, and then the same distance coming back on the beach. This is a loop hike. To extend the day out if you are into lighthouses, go visit Sodus Point Lighthouse on the other side of Sodus Bay from Chimney Bluffs before heading back home.

Sodus Point Lighthouse

Best season to do this hike: Winter and spring. Fall and summer there seems to be more visitors, though since swimming is not allowed at the park the number of visitors does not get too insane during most of the year. Supposedly during the summer they charge a modest parking fee per car, but since I don’t go in the summer I’ve never confirmed this.

Trails to Take

Start out at the main parking lot and walk down the paved sidewalk to the picnic area. The bluffs trail should lead off to the right somewhere into the woods. The trail walks through the woods, but most of the hike is right at the top of the bluffs. The trail ends by a steep descent to another parking area, and you can slide down the bank to the lake shore and walk the lake shore back.

Dogo climbing the bluffs
The “no swimming” may be due to invasive zebra mussels in the vicinity that have sharp shells, but I do not know for sure
The bluffs can be unstable
One of the many ridges on the bluffs
The water here, like in much of the great lakes, is unexpectedly clear and much shallower than you would expect. This view is from the top of the bluffs.


Be Warned!

  1. Avoid walking out onto the very edge of the Bluffs when other people are around. I have actually be trapped out on the very tip of a bluff for 10 minutes by people who wanted to ask about the goat and would not let me by!
  2. If there are a lot of people, try just sticking to the rock beach instead of the top of the bluffs. The view of the bluffs from the bottom is a pretty close second to the view from the top.
  3. You may have to pay for parking depending on the season you visit.

In sum: Mother Nature’s sand castle makes those perfect towers and turrets of sand you spent hours constructing at the ocean look like child’s play (which, frankly, they were!).

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