Stony Brook State Park
As with most Rustic & Wild experiences, Stony Brook State Park often catches people by surprise. It’s one of those special secrets we like sharing. The kind that leaves folks wondering how they hadn’t heard about it before.
“Stony Brook State Park is located off of NY 36 . . . and is a nice stop between Letchworth and Watkins Glen. The creek carries more water than most of the others in the area, and the park is one of the better waterfall destinations in western New York.” - GoWaterfalling.com
Waterfalls, breathtaking views, an immersion in nature, and a great spot for a picnic in the woods. Just a few reasons Stony Brook State Park has been a popular outdoor destination since the 1880s.
Tucked idyllically among the forested hills on the western edge of Steuben County, Stony Brook’s three large waterfalls and multiple smaller falls cascade through a deep gorge offering a sense of calm and rejuvenation that you have to experience to truly understand.
And don’t forget the stream-fed pool (with lifeguards on duty in season) for an old fashioned swimming hole experience.
Stony Brook is also one of several dog-friendly hikes in Steuben.
In 1928, then Governor Smith purchased the original 250-acre plot of land near Stony Brook Creek for one dollar. Today the park has close to 600 acres and is a popular spot for folks looking to camp, hike, swim, picnic, hunt, bow hunt, and cross-country ski, as well as those simply seeking nature for enjoyment or study.
“Stony Brook is a gem of a park . . . its current incarnation is an adventurous creek walk with towering waterfalls, refreshingly cool water and remnants of its historic past.” - Matt Conheady of NYFalls.com
A Creek Walk Adventure
With East and West Rim Trails and a scenic Gorge Trail, the park is popular for hikers as well as nature enthusiasts.
The park's beautiful gorge trail passes three major waterfalls. Each of the three trails is about one mile long, though there are quite a bit of stairs making the hikes moderately difficult and not wheelchair accessible.
Swimming and Water Access
First opened in 1936, “the pool was created by workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps, who built walls with thick and thin layers of stone to mimic the natural gorge and dammed the stream.”
While swimming is available at the northern entrance of the park from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (dependent on weather) water access from the trails “is dangerous, illegal, and prohibited.” The swimming hole is maintained and supervised by lifeguards for your swimming enjoyment, but visitors to the park are not allowed in the stream.
Occasional limits to lifeguard staffing or weather conditions might prevent swimming, so please check with the park prior to your arrival to make sure the pool is available.
There are 88 campsites and 8 cabins available for rent seasonally. The estimated 2021 camping season dates are April 30 - October 10.
According to New York State Parks website, “campsites with restrooms and showers, group camping areas, food concessions, a nature trail, picnic tables and pavilions, a playground, playing fields, and tennis courts make this a park full of appealing amenities. Firewood is sold by a nearby private vendor. The park has one dumping station.”
Currently, campers must make advance reservations as no same-day walk-ins are available. Visit www.reserveamerica.com for reservations.
"New York State Park Campgrounds: Same-day reservations will be allowed until 3pm on day of arrival; this applies to campsites only. Reservations can be made online or through the call center. Walk-ins will not be permitted. This policy excludes DEC facilities."
Located on Route 36 approximately halfway between Watkins Glen State Park and Letchworth State Park, and just a short drive from Rochester, Stony Brook has been a “significant picnic and party destination at least as far back as the 1880s.”
This lesser-known park offers stunning views and, typically, smaller crowds suitable for more relaxed exploration.
Backstory or Did You Know
A popular summer destination in the late 19th Century, the park eventually became neglected until the state stepped in and revived it. You can even see remnants from the railroad that once passed through the park.
In the 1930s, the park was revived thanks to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
According to historian, Kirk House, “in the 1920s many people still thought of cities as an aberration, and worried about the people who were forced to live there. Surely they needed life-giving infusions of countryside . . . Such thinking in the 1920s helped drive creation of our modern state park system.”
State Parks like Stony Brook were intended in part for the preservation of these wonderful natural habitats, but also to provide recreational opportunities such as “hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, swimming, picnicking, just plain getting outdoors.”
“Located near the site of a former Native American settlement, Stony Brook State Park in Steuben County offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. The arrival of the railroad in the 1880s turned the surrounding community into a popular summer destination and the remnants of former train trestles as still visible in the park. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on the park allowing today’s visitors to enjoy the park’s beauty by utilizing its many trails, bridges, and recreational facilities.” (WSKG's New York's Path Through History)
More to the Story
For more information about Stony Brook State Park, click here.
Looking to compliment your time in nature with some delicious craft beverages, learn about nearby craft beverage producers and other fun adventure pairings.
In an effort to support sustainability and to be good stewards of the majestic landscape we enjoy, we ask that you follow the simple and responsible conservation practice of taking with you when you return home anything you bring with you to the park.
Stony Brook and Letchworth are both Take-In Take-Out Parks. You will not see trash cans throughout the parks as everyone who visits is asked to remove their own waste. So bring some trash bags and remember to be respectful of the place itself. You can make a difference.