Great Outdoors: 22 places to enjoy mother nature in Onondaga County

A man and a woman are silhouetted against the waters of Onondaga Lake as they stand at the shore. A small outline of a dog can just be seen past their feet in the tall grass.
A file photo of two people and a dog on the shores of Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool.

Well, readers, it looks like the good weather is finally rolling in. What better way to soak up those sun rays while they last than heading outdoors! The whole of Central New York is blessed with rolling hills and scenic locales perfect for getting lost in nature, but Onondaga County, in particular, has some hidden (or not-so-hidden) gems from Mother Nature.

Get ready to paddle, bike and picnic your heart out this season as we break down 22 local venues and parks for the upcoming season. The list was curated in honor of our special Summer Times edition, but many of these places can be enjoyed year-round!

Baltimore Woods Nature Center. 4007 Bishop Hill Road, Marcellus. (315) 673- 1350; Enjoy year-round educational programming, hiking and walking, and reservations for private parties. Dawn to dusk. Free admission, memberships available. 

Beaver Lake Nature Center. 8477 E. Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville. (315) 638-2519; A swell spot for birthday parties, canoeing, kayaking, walking or hiking, picnicking, nature and wellness programs such as T’ai Chi Chih and yoga. Summer hours begin at 7:30 a.m. $5/car, $20/bus, free/active military and veterans. 

Camillus Erie Canal Park and Nine Mile Aqueduct. 5750 Devoe Road, Camillus. (315) 488-3409; Part of a 13-mile trail to walk, run, bike and walk your dog. Dawn to dusk. Free. Sims Store boat tours: Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. $10.50/family, $3/adult, $1.50/ages 5 to 12, free/ages under 5. 

Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery. 1672 Route 321, Elbridge. (315) 689- 9367; A place for fishing events, and an opportunity to learn with available group tours. There are picnic areas, playgrounds and athletic fields in this dog-friendly park. Open year-round, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Clark Reservation State Park. 6105 E. Seneca Turnpike, Jamesville. (315) 492- 1590; Visitors have access to walking and hiking trails, fi shing spots, picnic and playground areas and shelters. Dogs allowed. Year-round hours begin at 7 a.m., closes at dusk. $5/passenger vehicle, $35/non-commercial bus, $75/ commercial bus or seasonal bus permit, $80/year Empire Passport for most state parks. 

Cicero Swamp Wildlife Management Area. Entrances off Island Road, Taft Road, Route 31 and Route 298. (607) 753-3095; The state park is very friendly to those looking to hunt, fish or sightsee. Dawn to dusk. Free. 

Green Lakes State Park. 7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville. (315) 637-6111; Many opportunities to go hiking, camping, swimming, golfi ng and more. The park also offers an all-terrain wheelchair on a fi rst-come, fi rst-served basis for beach and trail use at no additional charge. Dogs allowed. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. $8/car, $35/ non-commercial bus, $75/commercial bus or seasonal bus permit, $80/year Empire Passport for most state parks. Amenities for rental: shelters, buildings, camp sites or cabins, rowboats and more. 

Hamlin Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Entrances off Bear Road, Henry Clay Boulevard and Wetzel Road. (607) 753-3095; Another place to hunt, fi sh or sightsee. Dawn to dusk. Free. 

Highland Forest. 1254 Highland Park Road, Fabius. (315) 683-5550; From picnicking to hiking and mountain biking to horseback riding, there is much to do in this dog-friendly park. Summer hours, dawn to dusk. $3/admission, $25/seasonal pass. 

James Pass Arboretum. Entrances on Salisbury Road, South Avery Avenue and Tompkins Street. The 12-acre park is not only an opportunity to learn about various plants and trees, it’s a recreational spot to walk four-legged friends. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. Free. 

Jamesville Beach Park. 3992 Apulia Road, Jamesville. (315) 435-5252, Perfect spot to go for a swim, kayaking or row/paddle boating, and to picnic with friends and family. Plenty of space for recreational activities, including volleyball, disc golf, hiking and more. Dogs allowed. Summer hours begin at 9 a.m., closes at 8:30 p.m. $7/car, $35/bus, $2/seniors on Mondays through Thursdays; $50/county resident season pass, $100/non-resident pass, $21/ senior pass. 

Long Branch Park. 371 Long Branch Road. (315) 453-6712; Adjacent to Onondaga Lake Park, the small section is primarily used for reserved picnic areas and certain summer festivals. Summer hours begin at 6 a.m., closes 30 minutes after dusk. 

Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Entrances off Butternut Creek Drive, Lyndon Road and by Limestone Plaza in Fayetteville. (315) 510-3421; A 36-mile scenic path that stretches to Rome. A great spot to bike, ride horses, hike or walk and picnic. Dogs welcome. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. Free. 

Oneida Shores Park. 9400 Bartell Road, Brewerton. (315) 676-7366; The beach and campsite offer fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking, camping, athletic fields and fun for families and four-legged friends. Summer hours are 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. $7/vehicle, $2/senior (vehicle), Free/veteran, active military; $35/bus, $50/county resident season pass, $100/ non-resident pass, $21/senior pass. 

Onondaga Lake Park. 106 Lake Drive, Liverpool. (315) 453-6712; Boating, biking, bocce and more activities for the family, with plenty of space to run, bike, launch your boat, canoe or kayak and fields for organized sports. Wegmans Playground is part of the facility. Dogs are welcome. Summer hours begin at 6 a.m., closes 30 minutes after dusk. Free. 

Onondaga Park. Entrances on Crossett Street and Summit Avenue. The historic park with picturesque Hiawatha Lake at its center. Walking trails, playgrounds and a swimming pool available. Dogs allowed. Open yearround, dawn to dusk. Free. 

Otisco Lake Park. 2525 Otisco Valley Road, Marietta. (315) 689-9367; A quaint carry-in, carry-out spot for a picnic and to fi sh. Dogs allowed. Dawn to dusk. Free. 

Pratt’s Falls. 7671 Pratt’s Falls Road, Manlius. (315) 683-5550; Enjoy scenic waterfalls, walking and hiking trails, and picnicking. Dogs allowed. Dawn to dusk. $2/vehicle, Free/active duty and military veterans, plus up to three family members.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo. 1 Conservation Place. (315) 435-8511; Lions, tigers, bears and more! New this summer is the Dinosaur Invasion event, where a dozen lifelike, animatronic dinos have been set up throughout the park. Open year-round, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5/adult, $2/ages 3 to 17, $2.50/seniors; Free/children under 2 and active duty or military veterans. 

Thornden Park. Entrances off Beech Street, Bristol Place, Clarendon Street, Greenwood Place, Madison Street, Ostrom Avenue. The 76-acre park is home to a variety of activities not limited to swimming and athletics, gardens, playgrounds, outdoor theater and more. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. Free. 

Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. Access off Phillips Street, Sixty Road. (607) 753-3095; Aside from hunting, fishing or sightseeing, visitors may also bike, hike, paddle and boat. Dawn to dusk. Free. 

Wegmans Good Dog Park. 49 Cold Springs Road, Liverpool. (315) 453-6712; Animals can come hang out and play in this special section of Onondaga Lake Park full of tunnels, bridges and jumps. Children are forbidden to play with equipment and those under 10 are asked not to enter the park for safety reasons. Dawn to dusk. Free.

Think we missed a place? Email the information to the Syracuse New Times.

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