The Best Trails Of Stony Brook State Park

North Rim Trail
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

Located in Steuben County, New York, Stony Brook State Park is a 577-acre parkland that is full of interesting trails to enjoy. It is named after the stream running through the parkland area. Many features in the park are a result of glaciation and are a big reason for exploring the trails. There’s also a lot more to do here than just hiking but the choice of walks will inspire you to visit. Read on to discover some of the best trails of Stony Brook State Park. 

North Rim Trail
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

The Amazing History Of Stony Brook State Park

Stony Brook State Park got its name from the rocky stream that runs through it. It has three moderate hiking trails stretching over 3 miles in total. Stony Brook has been a state park since 1928. However, it has been a popular summer hotspot since the nineteenth century. But the history here goes way back before the settlers came to the area. This wonderful state park started off as the Seneca Village of Ganosgago. Its history also includes being the site of a huge battle between the Seneca Indians and the Canisteo Indians. Notably, after the settlers came, the nearby village of Dansville was named after an early pioneer: Captain Daniel P. Faulker. 

The area was opened to the public after the American Civil War. Additionally, in 1883, a railroad was built. However, the railroad was demolished, but it is possible to see the old trestle in the creek even today. With the Great Depression, the park fell into decline. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the area was reviewed and expanded from the original 250 acres to almost 600. Best known for its brook that slides through a gorge, the hiking trails parallel to it give hikers one of the best sceneries on Stony Brook State Park.

Stony Brook State Park
Image by Jordan Shisler on Wikimedia Commons

Getting There & Camping

Stony Brook is a short drive from the village of Dansville in Steuben County, New York. The camping sites are best reached from the south drive entrance to the park. Stony Brook has a group campsite. There are 127 camping site locations and 8 rustic cabins. However, in order to stay in these wonderful cabins, hikers and campers will have to pre-book via the state parks’ booking office. These cabins can be accessed above the gorge near the south entrance and are scattered in the woodland area. Also, backpackers and visitors should be aware that facilities are basic. There is no running water to these camping spaces but there are comfort stations at each trail loop that can be used.

If you just plan to hike, most trails are accessed easily from the north entrance where there is parking for day visitors and other facilities. Additionally, you should plan your trip on a weekday if possible; the park fills up on holidays and hot summer weekends. At that time, it is certainly crowded, and it’s hard to get a booking at a campsite and cabin. 

Middle Falls in Stony Brook State Park
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

West Rim Hiking Trail

One of the most popular hiking trails in Stony Brook is the West Rim Trail. This route starts at the northern parking lot and heads upstream for a mile. The total elevation is 400 meters, with the steepest part at the beginning of the trail where hikers have a series of steps to climb. It heads out through woodland above the gorge so there are some great views. On your hike, you can also see a few pillars of the razed railroad bridge that’s not in use anymore. 

This trail meets the Gorge trail but you can also loop back to the parking lot. To continue to the Gorge trail, head down the wooden stairs into the gorge where you can enjoy three beautiful waterfalls. This hike is around 1.8 miles in length. 

The Gorge Trail

Known as the best trail of the three, another beautiful hiking trail in Stony Brook State Park is the Gorge Trail. This hiking trail is popular for following the famous stream of the same name. It is considered the easiest of the hikes in Stony Brook State Park and passes three amazingly beautiful waterfalls. However, hikers ought to be careful as the path is mostly made of rocks. These rocks create steps on the trail, but they also cut into the shale and glowing limestone on the route. The trail links to the West Rim Trail. This means that you have a choice of looping round uphill first or at the end of the walk, depending on the direction you take. Additionally, this trail is around a mile in length, made longer by looping with one of the other routes. 

Image by Jacob Enos on Flickr

The three waterfalls are Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and Upper Falls. You will see the Lower Falls first as it’ll be the first amazing sight you’ll see. Falling 40 feet, the Lower Falls’ cascade is worth a picture or two for great memories and beautiful photos. As you hike the Gorge Trail, you will then come across the Middle Falls with a cascade of 20 feet.  

Finally, near the ending of the trail, you will come across the last waterfall; Upper Falls. Of the three waterfalls, it is the largest cascade at 45 feet. This trail ends near the campsite area. Also, for another adventure, it is possible to walk along the creek to another waterfall further down the trail. 

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail to avoid risking contamination of the water. 

East Rim Trail

The longest of the three trails in Stony Brook State Park is the East Rim Trail. This trail starts from the lower car park and stretches across the brook. It then leads up to the track on the opposite side to the West Rim. This trail is classed as difficult due to the upwards climb. However, it also loops round to the gorge, but you can also finish at the campsite. Alternatively, you can return the same way you hiked to the car parking lot.

Stony Brook State Park
Image by Andy Arthur on Flickr

Swimming Areas

If you are hiking the Gorge Trail in summer, then don’t forget to bring swimming clothes. This is because the park authorities have made a dam off two of the pools at the base of waterfalls which are then used for swimming. These plunge pools are perfect for a cooling swim after a hike and even have narrow channels to slide down in the rock formations (if you fit). 

You can bring your family on a hike and swim in Stony Brook State Park, or just for a swim if the kids aren’t up for the hikes. It is a definite fact that your entire family will have a fun time swimming. However, both pools can get crowded on hot days. Nevertheless, a swim is very refreshing, especially after a walk. The creek bed near the snack bar area is also dammed off in summer and used for swimming. It is close to an old sawmill site.

Falls in Stony Brook State Park
Image by Notjake13 on Wikimedia Commons

Other Points Of Interest In Stony Brook State Park

Visitors to Stony Brook will find several other things to see and do besides hiking and swimming. The area around the north entrance has grills and picnic tables so visitors can make the most of being outdoors. There are also showers and changing rooms and a snack bar with a souvenir shop. Also, for those who like other types of sports besides hiking, there are tennis courts on site.

Nearby Trails

If you are based in the Stony Brook area and are looking to do a lot of walking, the nearby Letchworth State Park has over 50 miles of hiking trails. These trails include the famous Grand Canyon of the East along the Genesee River.

Stony Brook State Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk. However, the three common walking trails on the gorge and rims are closed in winter for safety reasons.


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