Summer in Syracuse? There's no excuse not to be outside

If you have to spend the summer in Syracuse, you may as well enjoy it. We suggest several great local parks for when the weather heats up.

It seems hard to believe sometimes, but Syracuse is hot during the summer months! When the snow finally melts for good and the temperature rises, Central New York becomes a lovely place to be.

Most undergraduates never have the opportunity to see The Salt City between mid-May and late August. But for the graduate students and everybody else in Syracuse for the summer semester, take comfort in knowing there is plenty to do within easy driving distance of campus. The city and Onondaga County are home to plenty of local and state parks well worth exploring. They offer enough outdoor activities to please just about every interest. You just have to know where to look.

The NewsHouse explored a chunk of the area parks. Here is what we found:

Prettiest Lakes: Green Lakes State Park

Green Lakes State ParkIt's an oldie but goodie. Green Lakes is probably the most known and recognizable park in the area, known most for its, well, green lakes. There is beachfront and an opportunity for boating and fishing, along with numerous trails of varying length providing breathtaking views of the striking greenish-blue water. For non-swimmers, there are plenty of nature trails in the forests surrounding the lakes. They are relatively flat and easy to traverse for novice hikers and bikers.

"I like Green Lakes especially because it is very community friendly," said Kyle Leach, a graduate student at Syracuse University.

Green Lakes gets crowded during the summer. It is the quintessential destination for families throughout the Central New York region on warm days. But there is a reason for that. Measuring at approximately 2,100 acres, Green Lakes is large enough to require at least a day to fully explore and offers enough activities that everybody will find something they enjoy.

"It's nice to be out in nature and get away from the city," Leach said.

Best Place to Hike: Clark Reservation State Park

Clarks Reservation State ParkClark Reservation may not have the size of Green Lakes, nor does it have the popularity, but it is one of the nicest parks in the area. The highlight here is the hiking. It's simple enough for the average person to enjoy, and the vistas are generally outstanding. There are five hiking trails along a row of stunning limestone cliffs. In the middle is a large glacial plunge-basin lake, visible from the trails along the cliffs' edge.

"It's essentially a big hole the glaciers left," said Justin Towers, a student at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "It goes straight down."

Towers recognizes that Green Lakes receives all the hype. As far as he's concerned, that may be for the better. One of the best parts about Clark Reservation is that it's quiet and relatively unknown. It doesn't hurt that the hiking trails are among the region's best, especially for people who may not be ready to handle the rocky and treacherous terrain of the Adirondacks.

"It's the best bang for your buck in and around Syracuse," Towers said.

Best Variety: Onondaga Lake Park

Onondaga Lake ParkYou may not want to swim in Onondaga Lake. It ranks among the most polluted lakes in the entire country. But for boating and other water activities, Onondaga Lake Park is a worthwhile destination. The park offers a full marina and boat launch, along with kayak rentals for a nominal fee. Onondaga Lake Park has also become a haven for fishing in recent years.

But this park offers so much more than just a lake. There is a paved pathway that winds along the water for joggers, skaters and bikers. The lakefront setting provides peaceful views, and the path is flat and pleasant. Adjacent to the park is a row of baseball fields and a large grassy area designed for Frisbee and other athletic activities.

Onondaga Lake Park also offers a 16,900-square foot skate park for inline skates, skateboards and BMX bicycles. Season passes cost $99.

"It's basically just a good place close to campus where you can see one of the lakes that's close to Syracuse," said Rob Griffiths, a member of the Syracuse University Outing Club.

Best Hidden Treasure: Meadowbrook Creek

Meadowbrook CreekMeadowbrook Creek isn't really a park. It's a recharge basin, where storm water fills into a nearby pond. Located directly across from Barry Park, Meadowbrook Creek is in easy walking distance of most South Campus apartments. It features a small dirt path running along the basin, making it a perfect place for walking, jogging and biking. Flowers line the side of the pathway.

Meadowbrook Creek is small and unassuming, but its proximity to campus gives it value.

"It's a great place to go right next to campus," Griffiths said. "A lot of people don't even know where it is."

More options for your consideration:

Best Affordable Golf: Burnet Park

Best Swimming: Jamesville Beach Park

Quietest Park: Elmwood Park

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