Get out into nature and enjoy our list of outdoor winter activities in Buffalo Niagara. Snowshoeing, cross country skiing and ice fishing are naturally socially distanced (pandemic or not).

by Katie Johnson

The wonders of the natural world are readily available throughout Western New York

Backcountry Recreation Highs

With many not ready to embrace their usual crowded ski-lifts this winter, across Buffalo Niagara (and the world) the pandemic has been a cause for many to diversify their traditional ways of staying active outside—socially distanced by nature, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and ice fishing are seeing a historic spike. 

Following a similar trend line to the bike purchase surge the U.S. saw in the springtime, snowshoes are predicted to be the top seller for American’s first full pandemic winter—outpacing sales of all backcountry equipment, which are up in general as a category across the board according to NPD Group. 

But lucky for Western New Yorkers, “backcountry” can be found closer than we may even think. 

“We have a lot of people who visit the woods and they say they can’t believe this is tucked away in the suburb and that they didn’t know about it already,” shared Meaghan Boice-Green, Center Director of Reinstein Woods, a 244 acre nature preserve located in the suburb of Lancaster. 

“Certainly being surrounded by the suburb, it is sort of a hidden gem,” Meaghan says.

Besides great trails, parks like Reinstein Nature Preserve often have off-the-beaten-trail wildlife on display, like this pair of woodpeckers with little party hats on

Originally owned by Dr. Victor Reinstein, a local doctor and engineer, this man made park was built for his personal use with a series of ponds, wetlands and planted trees. All of which his family donated to New york state after his death in the 1980’s. 

Although they won’t be renting out any snowshoe or cross country ski gear this year due to Covid19, their bathrooms and trails are still open to the general public for use. 

“Our trails are still open sunrise to sunset every day, regardless of snow conditions,”  explained Meaghan.

Noting the ease of their trails for first timers, “Our trail system is really a great place to learn how to cross country ski or snowshoe if you haven’t tried it before because the trails are mostly gravel roads that Dr. Reinstein built. They’re pretty flat and they’re pretty wide so it makes it an easy place, if you fall down, you can get back up a lot easier than if you were in real hilly terrain around right arrow trails.”

A Cold Winter Catch

Less activity, more outdoors, ice fishing offers a luring COVID-safe outdoor escape for Western New Yorkers as well. In the state’s region nine territory (Allegheny, Erie, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Niagara) some of the popular winter fish catches are yellow perch, northern pike, walleye, lake trout, brown trout, atlantic salmon and black crappie. 

“I just started ice fishing four years ago and my two boys absolutely love it,” shared Jeff Vetter, a Williamsville resident who recommends Chautauqua Lake for first timers—along with doing some research prior to heading out on the ice.

“I always watch a video every year at the beginning of a season to refresh my memory in case I fall in. When I take my two boys out with me they have life jackets over the winter coats so I don’t have to worry about their safety.”

With four inches of ice a go ahead to ice fishing on foot, the simplest and cheapest way to cut a hole into the ice is said to be an old-fashioned “spud” bar in up to about a foot thick of ice—a good tool for testing the thickness and safety of the ice as well.

“If you’re new into ice fishing I would highly recommend getting a spud bar. What I have learned is one good power hit and you don’t go through the ice that generally means there’s more than 2 to 3 inches there.”

WNY Winter Trails & Ice Fishing Lakes – Our Outdoor Winter Activities List

Lucky for Western New Yorkers, “backcountry” can be found closer than we may even think

Snowshoeing & Cross Country Skiing Trails in WNY

Choose any park to view details, get directions and more.


Akron Falls Park

Akron, NY 

Artpark State Park

Lewiston, NY

Beaver Island State Park

Grand Island, NY 

Beaver Meadow Audubon Center

North Java, NY 

Bond Lake Park

Ransomville, NY 

Boston Forest Country Park Trailhead

Boston, NY 

Erie County Bureau of Forestry

East Concord, NY 

Byrncliff Golf Course

Varysburg, NY 

Chestnut Ridge Park

Orchard Park, NY 

Como Lake Park

Lancaster, NY 

Eighteen Mile Creek Park

Hamburg, NY 

Ellicott Creek Park

Tonawanda, NY 

Elma Meadows Golf Course and Park

Elma, NY 

Emery Park

South Wales, NY 

Fort Niagara State Park

Youngstown, NY 

Franklin Golf Park

North Collins, NY

Grover Cleveland Golf Course

Amherst, NY 

Knox Farm State Park

East Aurora, NY 

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

Depew, NY 

Reservoir State Park

Niagara Falls, NY 

Hunter’s Creek Park

East Aurora, NY 

Sprague Brook

Glenwood, NY 

Tifft Nature Preserve

Buffalo, NY 

Delaware Park

Buffalo, NY

Ice fishing offers a luring COVID-safe outdoor escape for Western New Yorkers

Ice Fishing Lakes in WNY

Choose any park to view details, get directions and more.

Beaver Island State Park Marina

Grand Island, NY

Big Six Mile Creek State Marina

Grand Island, NY

Allen Lake

Belfast, NY

Alma Pond

Wellsville, NY

Cuba Lake

Cuba, NY

Case Lake

Franklinville, NY

Hardwood Lake

Franklinville, NY

Lime Lake

Machias, NY

New Albion Lake

Cattaraugus, NY

Quaker Lake

Coldspring, NY

Red House Lake

Red House, NY

Bear Lake

Kelly Corners, NY

Cassadaga Lake

Cassadaga, NY

Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua, NY

Findley Lake

Mina, NY

Wilson-Tuscarora State Park

Wilson, NY

Silver Lake

Castile, NY