Sprague Brook Park is an Erie County Park with trails for hiking, biking, x-county skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. When there is snow the x-country ski trails are restricted to cross x-country skiing only, and no dogs are allowed on the x-country ski trails. When there is no snow, all trails are available to hikers and bikers. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails while hiking and biking. Bothe improved and unimproved camping sites are available.
Directions to Sprague Brook Park:
The park entrance is on Footes Road (County highway 53) in the town of Colden. Footes Road begins at Route 240, just south of the Kissing Bridge ski resort. The quickest route to the park from Buffalo is to take Route 219 south, get off at Genesee Road, head east on Genesee Road (a left hand turn onto Genesee Road from Route 219), then head north on Route 240 (a left hand turn onto Route 240 from Genesee Road.) Footes Road is just over 2 miles north on Route 240 on your right. There is a large sign for the park at the corner of Footes Road and Route 240. (If you reach the Erie County Forest on Genesee Road then you’ve passed the turn off onto Route 240.)
Camping at Sprague Brook Park:
Campsites should be reserved through the Erie County Parks Department in Buffalo. The existing reservation system is a bit antiquated. You can submit an application and pay online, but then you have to wait for your camping permit to be sent to you, which takes about a week. You will get an email confirmation of your reservation which possibly could be used as your permit if you don’t get your actual permit in the mail on time. You can attempt to get a campsite by visiting the park office on the day you want to camp, but you can’t make reservations for future dates at the park office. There is a 2-day minimum for all campsites.
Campsite 123 is one of the largest and best campsites in the park, particularly for hammock campers. It will also accommodate a tent or trailer, but the rear portion of the open area of the campsite is a bit muddy, requiring a tent or trailer to be located closer to the front of the campsite than would otherwise be possible without the mud. Larger trailers may find it unusable because of the muddy area. It is adjacent to an extension trail to the major trail. Campsite 123 is also close to the upper pond, separated from it by a wooded area. Campsite 120 is a smaller campsite adjacent to campsite 123. Renting both gives you a nice buffer and a place to park 4 vehicles (two on each site) for a larger group.
Hiking Trails – General Description:
All trails are open to hiking or snowshoeing, with the exception of the x-country ski trails which are limited to x-country skiing in winter. Many of the hiking trails are the product of the efforts of the Western New York Mountain Biking Association. You are likely to encounter bikers on the hiking trails. Although hikers have the right-of-way over bikers on the trail, giving the right-of-way to bikers is a gesture of appreciation of the work done by the WNYMBA to create and maintain the trails. However, some bikers prefer to yield the right of way to hikers, so offer to yield but continue on if the biker declines your offer. My understanding is that you don’t have to be a member of the WNYBA or even a biker to participate in their trail maintenance days, which is a more direct way of contributing to the trails.
The hiking trails include 3 shorter loops (between 2 and 2.5 miles) and one longer loop of approximately 8 miles (including a 1 mile road walk from where the trail leaves the woods back to the trail head parking area.) Several of the trails intersect so there are several combinations that can be made. There are two convenient trailhead parking areas, thus a group can shuttle itself by leaving a car at the smaller trail head and thereby avoid the 1 mile road walk, shortening the longer loop to a 5.5 mile hike. There are also several unmarked extension trails and snowmobile routes that can be explored off the main trails for the adventurous. More detailed information about the hiking trails is presented after the trail head information.
The major trailhead parking is located at the x-country warming hut in the lower portion of the park (near the improved campsite location.). After entering the park, take your first right turn and then follow the signs to the improved camping area. Just before entering the actual improved camping area take the dirt road on your right to the warming hut.
Parking is also available in the upper portion of the park near the unimproved campsites and the major pond. You will, however, have to walk two-tenths of a mile to the trailhead because it is located inside of the camping area, alongside campsite 123 (see the camping section above for information on campsite 123.). there appears to be some public parking available across the road where the snowmobile trail enters the woods in the middle of the park, but the park map does not designate that area as an official. However, I’ve seen people parking there to access Sprague Brook where it runs under the culvert.
The Hiking Trails – Detailed Information.
These maps (aerial photo and topographical map) show the tails broken into segments to allow you to plan a hike of various lengths and segments.
The Main Trail
This trail is accessed from the x-country warming hut. It follows the ridges of Sprague Brook and its feeder creeks along the eastern side of Sprague Brook, crossing several of the feeder creeks on its way to a crossing of Sprague Brook in the north east portion of the park, then heads south along the ridges of the feeder creeks and Sprague Brook until it intersects with a snowmobile trail in the center of the park. Special note should be taken of the following:
- Trail A on the map is the main bike trail.
- Although the trail starts at the warming hut, the first trail kiosk encountered will be at about six-tenths of a mile, where the bike trail “0 mile” is located.
- The trail starts on the x-country ski trail but just 10 yards down that trail it turns left onto the bike trail into the woods (proceeding straight ahead on the x-country trail through the field will eventually take you into the woods and will eventually meet up with the bike trail.) For the next half mile the two trails run parallel to each other and at times very close to each other.
- After a half mile the bike trail meets the x-country ski trail again. You have to turn left at this point. Going straight ahead will take you on the x-country ski trail loop. For the next tenth of a mile the two trails are combined.
- At the “0 mile” kiosk follow the trail to the left. Proceeding straight ahead instead will keep you on the x-country ski trail loop.
- The bike trail is marked with green trail markers on the trees.
- After the trail crosses Sprague Brook (about 2.8 miles from the start) it begins a short climb up what appears to be an ATV access road. About one-third the way up the rise the bike trail re-enters the woods to the left. Look for the trail marker on a tree to the left.
- At about 5 miles from the start there is a trail coming in from the right (from the west because you are headed south) that leads to the access trail (Trail E1 on the map) from the upper camping area trailhead. From there is about a two-tenths road walk to the upper area parking lot (Trail E2 on the map.)
- Shortly after passing that trail, at about 5.3 miles, there is another kiosk on the main bike trail. This is the start of a loop which on the map is broken into two segments: Trail B1 and Trail B2. Either of those trails will take you to Trail C, which is the snowmobile trail that leads to the road (the road walk back to the warming hut is depicted as trail D.)
- Trail B follows along the steep banks of a ravine formed by Sprague Brook.
- Trail C travels through a rolling pine forest.
- The intersection with the snowmobile trail (Trail C) is obvious because the trail slightly descends to a wide snowmobile bridge over a feeder creek (it will be off to your left if you took the loop section that follows the ridge (Trail B1), or off to your right if you took the loop section that runs through the woods (Trail B2).)
- When you emerge from the woods turn left on the road and follow it back to the warming hut (about 1 mile.) Or turn around and hike the 7 miles back over the trail you just completed for a total round trip of 14 miles.