Trading Treadmills for Trails

A trail at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, N.Y., March 19, 2018. Photo by Bridget Fetsko

RIT is blessed with a phenomenal athletics facility in the Wiedman Fitness Center, but with all the options for indoor weight training, cardio and recreational sports, it's easy to get sucked into a fitness routine that keeps you from seeing the light of day. But that doesn't have to be the case. The next time you feel like your exercise routine needs a breath of fresh air, consider giving it just that.

Trade the treadmill for trail running at Corbett's Glenn or replace back-and-bicep day with an afternoon paddling a kayak or canoe at Mendon Ponds. You can make your rest day an emotional recovery day too with a simple walk through a peaceful wetland grove at Tinker Nature Center. Contrary to popular opinion, RIT is not actually in the middle of nowhere; at least, not if you're interested in outdoor recreation.

"I just love getting people outside so I'd say there are lots of great parks in the area," said Matthew Bartlow, a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering major and vice president of events for the RIT Outing Club. Along with a number of other tiger adventurers, Bartlow contributed to a shortlist of five parks within a 20 minute drive of RIT. Reporter visited them all to bring you back the highlights.

Mount Hope Cemetery

When you think of relaxing outdoor activities, cemeteries are probably not the first things that come to mind. However, a trip to the surprisingly serene grounds of Mt. Hope may cause you to reconsider.

Located just off of Mt. Hope Avenue on the southern edge of Rochester, the cemetery is directly accessible from RIT via the city's Regional Transit System (RTS). This makes it an ideal choice for those who find themselves stranded in Brick City without a car. A sprawling arboretum shades neatly manicured paved paths that wind their way through 180 years of local history. You may find an afternoon spent ambling between the towering marble obelisks or weathered slabs peopling Mt. Hope's rolling hills as peaceful as a trip through an old growth forest. Visitors can find names like Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass inscribed on the tombstones, but Rochester's most famous city of the dead is as frequently visited by joggers as history buffs.

Mendon Ponds

Located about 20 minutes southeast of RIT in Pittsford, Mendon Ponds is the largest park in Monroe County boasting 2,500 acres of woodlands, wetlands and of course, ponds. Visitors can take on the park's system of trails meandering through ridgetop tree-tunnels in the spring and summer, or enjoy stunning elevated views of 100 Acre Pond in the Winter when the leaves are down. The park maintains a few manicured cross-country skiing trails, and some visitors even tackle the winter wonderland in snowshoes. A combination of steep ridges and flat trails offer a variety of challenges for bikers as well. Below the ridgetops, several ponds offer opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The wetland environment is home to many native and migratory birds, and the park even houses Wild Wings, Inc, a refuge for permanently injured birds of prey. If you're looking for a more relaxed day out in nature, the park features public picnic tables beside secluded ponds like the Devil's Bathtub.

Corbett's Glen

This 52 acre parcel in Brighton is just over 15 minutes northeast of RIT. Corbett's Glen features about two miles of quiet trails cutting through the heavily forested park en route to what is perhaps its best known feature — the picturesque flatstone waterfall on Allen Creek at the park's southeast boundary. The shallow rocky creek flows through a stunning stone tunnel complete with a boardwalk for foot traffic. The tunnel is directly accessible from Glen Road, so trail runners can enjoy the park's loop containing several ridges, a number of flat, heavily wooded sections and a wide open meadow before cooling off on the rocky banks of Allen Creek to the soothing tune of the waterfall.

Tinker Nature Park

Only about 7 miles east of RIT's campus, Tinker Nature Park is a surprisingly fun reserve in Henrietta situated on 68 acres of land that was once a part of the Tinker family farm. Today the town nature park houses a homesteading museum, beekeeping exhibits and a nature walk which takes visitors along the edge of several meadows and through a young wetland forest populated with silver maples, white pines and willows.The forest grows thick enough that even when the leaves are down, the visitor still feels enveloped by the trees. After a fresh snowfall, you can follow snowshoe tracks through the woods and track deer prints along the flat path to a bridge straddling a perennial marshland. If you're lucky, you may spy Canada geese and ducks rooting for food among the tiny islands and fallen trees dotting the marsh. All in all, this charming little park is a perfect choice for a relaxing recovery day.

Oatka Creek Park

Drive about 15 minutes southwest down Scottsville road and you will find Oatka Creek Park on the outskirts of Wheatland township. The 461-acre reserve is bisected along its northern boundary by the titular Oatka Creek, a shallow but wide waterway accessible via a network of trails traversing nearly six miles throughout the park. The trails twist and turn atop steep ridges beside the creek, plunge through thick underbrush or travel easily beneath high, arching tree tunnels. The varied terrain and numerous trail crossings make this park a popular cross country skiing destination, and it should take all but the most prolific runners several trips to exhaust all the park's possible routes.

More Adventures

These are just some of the outdoor activities locally available. If you would prefer to explore in good company, consider joining Outing Club on one of their next excursions. The club holds meetings on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. in Gosnell 1250.

"Anyone who shows up can come ... We get all kinds of different people: people who've never been hiking before, people who have hiked the entire Appalachian trail — a huge mix," Bartlow commented.

New York is one of the largest states on the eastern seaboard, and those with the inclination for adventure can find larger parks with stunning views with just a little more effort. Consider a day trip an hour south to Letchworth State Park, an afternoon excursion to Chimney Bluffs on the shores of Lake Ontario, or tackle a weekend backpacking trip to the Adirondacks' High Peak Wilderness near the Vermont border. Wherever you go, you're sure to be rewarded for trading the convenience of the gym for the beauty and rugged challenge of the great outdoors.