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Take a hike: 7 great hikes in the Buffalo area

One of my favorite ways to enjoy summertime in Buffalo is lacing up my hiking boots and hitting the trail.

Within 90 minutes of downtown Buffalo, there are numerous hiking destinations fit for hikers of all levels of experience. From craggy ridges to swampy marshes and cascading waterfalls, Buffalo's diverse geology offers outdoor enthusiasts with a myriad of options for enjoying a nice day hike.

If you're looking to explore Buffalo's local trails, here are my picks, in ascending order of travel time, for seven great hikes near Buffalo.

Tifft Nature Preserve

1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.

With five miles of trails and boardwalks, Tifft offers something for hikers of all levels of experience to enjoy. While hiking, make sure to enjoy the overlooks throughout the preserve, which offer a great view of the animals, amphibians, reptiles and birds living in the cattail marshes adjacent to the trails.

Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

93 Honorine Drive, Depew

Reinstein is a great choice for families looking to hike with young children, as the park's 3.5 miles of interpretive trails are broken up into loops between 0.1 and 0.8 miles. While in the preserve, be on the lookout for reptiles, animals and birds including deer, turtles, great blue heron and great-horned owls.

Hikers walk the trails near the Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park. (Mark Mulville/News file photo)

Chestnut Ridge Park

6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park

Chestnut Ridge's popular Eternal Flame Trail is only .7 miles each way and rewards hikers with a glimpse at the always-lit flame, which is hidden in a grotto behind the waterfalls that flow into Shale Creek. There are a number of other great trails in the park including the Reservoir Trail (.65 miles) and the Orienteering Trail (2.6 miles).

Eighteen Mile Creek

2600-2772 S. Creek Road, Hamburg

Eighteen Mile Creek's Southcreek trail (4.2 miles) is a great choice for a day hike and offers hikers views of a beautiful waterfall at the terminus of the trail. The terrain of the park changes drastically from mainly flat along the creek bed to a sharp 60-degree drop at its gorge, so be prepared for some mildly steep hiking. It's also a great access point for fisherman looking to hook trout, bass and salmon out of the creek.

Devil's Hole State Park

Niagara Scenic Parkway, Niagara Falls

The Devil's Hole Trail (2.7 miles) places you on the rocks along the bank of the Niagara River and offers the perfect view of its powerfully mesmerizing rapids. For seasoned hikers, the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail (7.62 miles) is one of the better long-distance trails in the immediate area.

Zoar Valley is known for its spectacular scenery. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Zoar Valley

Cattaraugus (about a 50-minute drive from downtown Buffalo)

Zoar Valley is a popular spot for swimming and rafting, but also offers quick hikes with rewarding views. The Overlook Trail, a .75-mile loop, offers a one-of-a-kind view of the valleys, creeks and cliffs below – it's arguably the best view of Cattaraugus sunsets. The Holcomb Pond Trail (2-mile loop) directs hikers through a beautiful hemlock grove, to the rim of the gorge and back to the parking lot. The Valentine Flats Trail (.8 miles one-way) is a steep descending trail that runs directly through the gorge onto the Cattaraugus flood plain.

Letchworth State Park

1 Letchworth State Park, Castile (about a 71-minute drive from downtown Buffalo)

Hiking Letchworth's most popular trail, the Gorge Trail (7 miles), offers stunning views of the park's three cascading waterfalls, which plunge 550 feet into the Genesee River Gorge. The Hemlock Trail (2.5 miles), which travels off the Mary Jemison Trail (also 2.5 miles), passes by the popular Trout Pond and Trailside Lodge as hemlock trees tower overhead.

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