This park in Panama, New York, offers a 1-mile walking trail that wraps around a ridge knotted with unique formations. 

Panama Rocks in Panama, New York (photo by Lee Straw)

There is a way the light hits the boulders and breaks through the trees — glowing through cracks in stone, casting beams and dappled shadows on the forest floor — that draws people to Panama Rocks, a 60-acre park in southwestern New York. The destination’s 1-mile walking trail wraps around a ridge knotted with unique formations and through rich forest filled with plants and trees. 

Panama Rocks opened to the public in 1885, the same year the state of New York established Niagara Falls State Park. Today, Panama Rocks is privately owned and operated. It charges a small admission fee and encourages visitors to register online to ensure an entrance time. (Travelers must also sign a waiver of liability.) Once inside the park, visitors are allowed to walk the trail, scramble up the boulders, even linger for a picnic lunch if they like.

Although Panama Rocks is small when compared to other state forests and wildlife management areas found in New York, its uniqueness brings people back year after year. It’s not uncommon for those who came here as children to return with their own kids. The ridge of rock itself is about a half-mile long, but its many crevices, passageways and small caves allow visitors to be adventurous. In addition to hiking, Panama Rocks also has an ax-throwing pavilion open to anyone over the age of 12.

Panama Rocks also has the benefit of being located just over 10 miles south of the famed Chautauqua Institution, which was founded in 1874. Each summer, this community along Chautauqua Lake offers a mix of fine and performing arts, interfaith religious programs, lectures and recreational activities. 

11 Rock Hill Rd., Panama, New York, 716/782-2845,