If you never heard of Robert G. Wehle State Park in New York State, you are not alone. The park definitely falls into the category of New York’s best-kept secret. Created in 2004, it is practically known only to locals who frequent the park to walk their dogs and have a relaxing picnic. But the beauty of the park, its sheer limestone cliffs on the shore of Lake Ontario, seems to be untouched even by the nearby residents who tend to congregate around the picnic area. That leaves the most beautiful section of the park for you to discover. If you enjoy uncrowded hiking trails with spectacular vistas, this park is calling your name! Here it is what you need to know before you arrive.
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ROBERT G. WEHLE STATE PARK, NY – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
As a frequent visitor to upper New York state parks, I felt that I knew them all or the least knew about them. Then one day, I decided to make sure that I was not missing anything. Using Google maps, I stumbled upon Rebert G. Wehle State Park, which did not ring the bell at all. I found only a few pictures on the internet, but what I saw caught my eye – cliffs dropping sharply into the water! I adore this kind of scenery, so a week later I took a trip there and was absolutely taken aback by the beauty of the park.
Robert G. Wehle State Park is for day use only!
Before you make a decision to visit the park, you need to know that it serves mostly day visitors. Even though a lodging compound is available, the chances of scoring it for your stay are very low. Better to assume that no accommodation is available, and that includes camping.
Location of Robert G. Wehle State Park
Robert G. Wehle State Park is a 1,067- acre protected area on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in the town of Henderson in Jefferson County, NY, near Watertown, NY. It belongs to the amazing region of the 1000 Islands, an outdoors paradise.
The park is free for day use.
History of the park
Wehle’s family formerly owned and operated the Genesee Brewing Co. in upstate New York. Robert was the second of three generations of his family to lead the company, which was sold in 2000. Wehle was the owner of Elhew Kennels, the most prestigious English pointer kennels in the country, located at Stony Point, Henderson, NY. His homebred dogs won numerous national championships, including two National Quail Shooting Dog Championships. Wehle was also an avid conservationist and sculptor. He sold a 1,066-acre parcel of land at Stony Point to the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 1990. Several of Wehle’s pointer sculptures can be found in the park, as well as dog kennels and a dog cemetery. The park was opened to the public in 2004.
When you arrive at the park, you will be facing the picnic area. From there, take a path slightly to the right and watch for an information board on your right, which shows the map of the area. You can also grab a paper map there to carry with you.
The park has a large area for picnicking near the parking lot and the visitor’s center. Kids can enjoy a large brand new playground located in that area. To reach the visitor’s center and the restrooms keep going slightly to your right. Facilities for tennis and volleyball are located close to the visitor’s center. Wehle’s former summer home and studio are available for short-term rentals.
Activities at Robert G. Wehle State Park
The park features multiple-use trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Fishing is allowed in the park. Hunting is permitted in limited areas of the park.
Picnicking seems to be the main activity in the park. Since most of the picnic tables are located near the parking lot, most of the visitors stay in that area, leaving the shore of Lake Ontario free of crowds.
Playground for children
It looks like many locals bring their children to the park to let them use a brand new playground.
The park is very dog friendly, keeping its history alive. Dogs that are allowed on-leash throughout the park and on the trails. It seems that many locals visit the park for short visits to walk their dogs in the main public areas.
Hiking at Robert G. Wehle State Park
For me, the main reason to visit the park was hiking along the cliffs, and I loved it! Approximately 17,000 feet of Lake Ontario shoreline, some of which is fronted by limestone cliffs up to 80 feet high, is accessible within the park. There are a total of thirteen trails in the park, most of them easy with little to no elevation gain. Trail markers are color-coded, illustrated with a pointer, and the name of the trail. The trails are named after the former owner’s dogs.
The longest and the most dramatic is Snakefoot Trail, 4.9 miles long and marked yellow. To access it, when coming from the parking lot, turn right by visitor’s center. The path will take you to the shores of Lake Ontario. When the trail comes to the T, take a left turn, and follow the yellow blaze. You will be greeted with beautiful vistas of the lake. The three miles of the waterfront is mostly 30′ sheer cliffs and limestone shelves with limited access. Precisely what I was hoping for!
After a while, the trail gets away from the lake and leads through open fields with no shade. Make sure to bring a hat and water! When the path turns back to the lake, continue going left. There are cliffs along the trail that eventually descend low enough that you can go out on rocks and get close to the water. Keep in mind that swimming is not allowed due to strong current and slippery rocks. To hike the whole loop, you will have to leave the shore once again and walk back in the fields. Alternatively, you can do what I did, take the same lakefront trail back. I decided it was a better choice for the cool breeze and fantastic views.
Dancing Gypsy Trail
This is another trail that follows the shore of Lake Ontario. The 2.25-mile path starts off the Snakefoot Trail near the tennis court and travels along the cliffs on Lake Ontario before turning near the eastern boundary of the park. It passes near an old artillery wall and pillbox at a spectacular cliff overlook and then ends near the Knickerbocker Trail at the open field near the main parking area.
Find more about hiking in the park check here.
The park is a photographer’s paradise. Interesting rock formations, blue sky, and clear blue water create many photo opportunities. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunset is in the park. For that, I will have to go back!
Lodging at Robert G. Wehle State Park
The park offers lodging for up to 8 people. The main cottage features a sun porch, two spacious bedrooms with private baths, a living room with a fireplace, and a fully applianced kitchen and laundry room. The guest cottage has two spacious bedrooms with private bathrooms, bay windows, and a kitchenette with sink, microwave, and small refrigerator. The third building is a former artist’s studio and serves as a recreation room with a foosball table. Price Rate in season: $357.14 per night, $2,500.00 per week. Usually, this accommodation is tough to get, but you can try to make your reservation here.
Camping in New York state parks nearby
If camping is your thing, many state park offers tent and RV camping on Lake Ontario. Here are two closest:
For lodging other than camping, check hotels in Watertown, NY.
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