Author dancing on the shores of Palmer’s Pond on a sunny autumn day
In the Northeast quadrant of Allegany County lies a patchwork quilt of tens of thousands of acres of state forest land waiting to be explored. This area is one of the wildest and most undiscovered areas of Western New York and a haven of microadventure opportunities. Smack dab in the middle of this quilt are the conjoined patches of Phillips Creek and Palmer’s Pond State Forests. Totaling 2,700 and 3,600 respectively, Phillips Creek and Palmer’s Pond are home to miles and miles of well marked trails through hemlock, old growth, and hard and softwood forests. Though these trails are well known to horseback riders and extremely popular with cross country skiers in wintertime, the rest of the year you will have an easy time finding calming solitude in these woods. Most of these trails were designed for trailriders and skiers, but the blue trail to Palmer’s Pond provides the ideal daytrip or overnight microadventure for hikers. From the main parking area off of route 244, it is a 4.6 mile one way hike to reach Palmer’s Pond, trekking through rolling hills, ravines, over creeks, and intersecting forest roads. From the parking area you will walk about 200 yards to where the trailhead is. The trail is marked by small blue circular tags nailed into trees along the hike. A small box with a notebook inside allows you to let the park rangers know you are in the wild and how many are in your party. (Don’t forget to sign in and sign out later, this simple act can make all the difference in an emergency situation.)
Once you start along the trail observe how the forest changes in different areas,from the size of the trees to the different species. In the late 19th and early 20th century, most of Western New York was completely deforested from logging, agriculture, and the explosive growth of Buffalo and other Upstate New York cities. The hundreds of thousands of acres of state forest land are the legacy of the effort to reverse the environmental destruction being wrought on the area. In the 1930’s President Roosevelt started the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which offered jobless young men employment planting trees, harvesting mature timber, and building the state park infrastructure we continue to enjoy today. Most of the hundreds of thousands of acres of state forest land in Western New York was replanted by the CCC. As with all NYS forest lands, they are open year round for the enjoyment of the public. Camping and fires are allowed anywhere at least 150 feet from any road, trail, or body of water. Groups of ten or more or camping in the same site more than three nights requires a permit from the forest ranger. From younger cottonwoods and maples to sections with much older coniferous trees like eastern hemlock and scotch pine, each attracting a wider variety of wildlife. Deer, fox, coyotes, turkey, and grouse can all be found here. Allegany County is also black bear country, take precautions if camping overnight as they are a nocturnal animal. I spotted a multitude of blue jays, cardinals, and pileated woodpeckers on a late fall hike here. The variety of tree species here also provide for a spectacular fall foliage display every autumn. If you are visiting in autumn be sure to wear bright colored clothing and keep your dog on a leash, this area is a very popular place for deer hunting. After passing through a marshy area surrounded by birches and white pines I felt truly present in a wild area, much more wild than most places this far west of the Adirondacks. After crossing and following a few forest roads, you will find yourself at your destination, Palmer’s Pond.
Map of the trail system at the parking area on Rte. 244. Follow the blue trail to Palmer’s Pond
Palmer’s Pond is beautiful. The kind of place you want to take your boots off and have a picnic by. Surrounded by well used primitive campsites as well as picnic areas, this is a very realistic expectation. One could lose hours of an afternoon in good company or enjoying the wilderness in solitude. Abundant waterfowl call this pond home, as well as several beaver dams. The tall white pines that surround the pond definitely give this place an Adirondack vibe. As I visited this place in November I cannot verify what the swimming experience is like in this body of water, but I intend to return on a fine July day for there is no better reward for a long hike than a refreshing swim. After you’ve taken your leisure at the pond, simply turn around and follow the same trail back to your car. After a solid nine mile hike, surely you will have built up an appetite. Head into one of the charming nearby towns of Alfred, Belmont, or Angelica for a down home country diner feast.
To reach Phillips Creek and Palmer’s Pond state forests, from Buffalo take Route 400 until it turns into Route 16. Turn left on Route 39 into Arcade (There is a Tops here, good spot for gas and supplies) and then turn right onto Route 98. After about nine miles, merge left onto Route 243 until it ends at Caneadea. Turn right onto Route 19 and follow until you reach the town of Belmont. There, turn left onto Route 244 for about 10 miles. The Phillips Creek State Forest parking area will be on your left.
Thanks for taking the time to read about WNY Microadventures! If you make it down there, let me know what you think. And as always, Explore the Wilderness Within.