Franklin Gulf Park (known as Larkin Woods a long time ago) is an Erie County “conservation park”, meaning it is undeveloped and does not have any formal activities or facilities (other than a snowmobile trail maintained by a private snowmobile club.). It consists of 637 acres purchased by the County from various land owners in the 1960’s. It includes several steep ravines and varied terrain that offer excellent day hiking adventures just 30 miles from Buffalo.
Franklin Gulf Park is on the border between the towns of Eden and North Collins. A parking area is located on Larkin Road, just before the Town of North Collins border sign. It is a well maintained gravel parking area that has been plowed in past winters, making it possible to use Franklin Gulf Park for snowshoeing and x-country skiing.
The snowmobile trail can be reached by following the hiking trails from the parking area on Larkin Road. The snowmobile trail has an entry point on School Street on the southwest border of Franklin Gulf Park but there is no shoulder parking available in that area. The northern end of the snowmobile trail leaves and enters the Park onto private land before it reaches a public road. The private land owner allows snowmobiles to cross the private land, but don’t hike, snowshoe or x-country ski on the portion of the snowmobile trail on private land unless you have obtained specific permission from the land owner.
The trails are marked in most areas but lack adequate markings in other. However, most can be followed by the physical track on the ground. At the end of this article are links to the gps tracks for the trails that can be used with a gps to stay on track. There is also a link to a large map that can be downloaded.
The trails are marked with orange, red, white and green paint blazes, and a portion of the main trail has yellow wooded blocks nailed to trees. The blazes do not follow standard trail blazing rules. Instead of directional blazes you will often find large directional arrows, or no directional indicator whatsoever. Hopefully the trail descriptions in this article will help you stay on track.
A word of caution. Although a 600 acre park seems like a “piece of cake” to extract yourself from if you become lost, there are some very steep drop offs into the ravines. Wandering around Franklin Gulf Park without a map and compass, or a gps, especially in low light, could easily lead to a fatal fall. If you don’t know where you are at all times then you are in fact lost. A map and compass, or a gps, are like seatbelts – you probably won’t need them, but when you do need them you don’t want to be without them.
Another word of caution. Hunting is NOT allowed in any Erie County Park. In the northern section of the Franklin Gulf Park there are more than a dozen hunting tree stands and hunting blinds, suggesting that people are in fact actively hunting in that section of the Park despite the prohibition clearly stated on the posted signs along the border of the Park. Moreover, surrounding land owners can hunt on their own land. The best way to protect yourself is to wear blaze orange – a baseball cap, or vest, or even just a pack cover. Every hunter is absolutely responsible to be certain of his or her target and what is beyond that target, but people who are willing to violated clearly posted no hunting signage probably aren’t the most responsible hunters to begin with. So take the extra precautions during big came season and wear blaze orange.
Although there is always an open season on something in New York State, any gunshots you hear outside of big game gun season are likely to be from skeet, trap, and target shooting at the Eden North Collins Rod & Gun Club that is on Sandrock Road. That gunfire poses no risk to users of Franklin Gulf Park.
The Trail Map:
This link will take you to a G4Map with all the trails depicted.
The trail map depicts three main trails: (1) a red trail; (2) an orange trail; and (3) a green trail. These trails share common sections before splitting and rejoining.
The red trail is 1.25 miles long from the parking lot to the point where it re-joins the orange trail near the snowmobile trail. The orange trail is 1.75 miles from that point back to the parking lot. Thus, hiking one in and the other out will be a total of 3 miles.
The green trail, if done as a loop to the edge of the creek then returning to the parking lot, is 1.5 miles total. The green trail, however, is one of the least used and most poorly marked trails in the Park. It goes through wet areas (except in times of drought like the summer of 2012) with lots of un-cleared down limbs and some undergrowth to be trudged through. The bushwhack tracks along the north and south shores of Franklin Gulf are much easier to navigate than the green trail and offer much more spectacular scenery.
The map shows bushwhack tracks in blue. The bushwhack tracks do not have marked trails. There are portions that look like a trail on the ground because both people and deer tend to navigate through the clearest sections of a forest, leaving what looks like a trail in their wake. The bushwhack tracks should be negotiated with map and compass or a gps.
The bushwhack track in the southeastern corner of the Park is approximately 2 miles long but is one of the more difficult bushwhacks depicted on the map. However, it takes you to some exceptional views of the ravine that you won’t see from the main trails.
The second half of the mile long bushwhack track in the northeastern portion of the Park is partially like the green trail (and in fact uses the green trail for the last 1/3rd of its return to the parking lot.
The two bushwhack tracks along the northern and southern banks of the Franklin Gulf Ravine in the western central part of the park are easy to navigate and the scenery is well worth the additional mileage. The bushwhack on the south side of the ravine is 1.25 miles long, but could easily be shorten by taking a more direct route back to the snowmobile trail.
The bushwhack track along the north side of the ravine is a mile long. Add to that .75 miles along the snowmobile trail from the point where the red and orange trails meet near the snowmobile trail to the point in the western section of the Park where the snowmobile trail leaves the park and the bushwhack begins. Also add .25 for the return on the snowmobile trail from the point where the bushwhack ends back to the point where the red and orange trails meet the snowmobile trail.
Thus the bushwhack on the northern side of Franklin Gulf is approximately a 2 mile round trip hike from the point where the red and orange trails meet the snowmobile trail. Add that to the 3 mile round trip for the red and orange trails to make a 5-mile total hike. Or add in the 1.25 mile bushwhack loop on the southern side of Franklin Gulf for a total hike of 6.25 miles.
But you can do even more. Branching off from the snowmobile trail (in the western central portion of the Park) is an old logging road now used (illegally) as a horse trail. It is shown in purple on the map. It has a few but not many orange blazes in its beginning portion but is relatively easy to follow because it looks like a very wide path or narrow road.
That horse trail is 1.75 miles long from the snowmobile trail to the creek crossing in the northeastern section of the park. From there you can either return on that trail, or hike back on the creek bed (at dry times, of course, depicted in aqua on the map) or bushwhack back along the western side of Franklin Gulf (relatively easy) or bushwhack back along the eastern side of the Gulf (a more difficult bushwhack as noted above.) Either way you’ll add about a mile the trip, resulting in an additional 3 miles or so total.
Thus, it is easy to get in a 9 mile hike in the Park in just one day by combining the marked trails, the snowmobile trails, and the easy bushwhacks.
Despite the existence of hunting tree stands and hunting blinds that you’ll see along the way, the horse trail is entirely within the boundaries of the Park. There is also a picnic table, fire pit, and stacked cord of wood in a clearing that looks as if it belongs to an adjoining landowner but those items are also entirely within the boundaries of the Park. If you should stop there for lunch or dinner, be respectful of the fact that you are within earshot and sight of the adjoining landowner who probably cuts the lawn in that clearing. Thank him for the effort and try not to be disruptive of his peace and quiet.
[When time permits, this article will be updated with more detailed descriptions of each trail.]
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE RED TRAIL
After the narrative detailed description of the trail there is a summary list that can be printed for taking on the trail.
Detailed Description of Red Trail:
The red, orange, and green trails, start at the parking lot on Larkin Road. To the left is a picture of the view of the start of the trail looking toward the back of the parking lot from the road (click on the picture to open a larger version.)
Shortly after starting on the trail (about 100 yards in) you’ll see a red blaze on a tree. Just ahead on another tree is a red directional arrow pointing to the left (as shown in the photo to the left.) To your left is a slightly overgrown forest road which is the end of the green trail if you follow it clockwise, or the beginning of the green trail if you follow it counterclockwise.
The main red trail goes straight ahead – DO NOT follow the red directional arrow pointing to your left (south). If you follow that arrow it will take you to the edge of a stream (just 120 yards.). That red spur trail does not appear to continue beyond the stream.
Perhaps the person who marked that trail merely wanted to direct people to the stream, which can then be followed (when not flowing with water) to its junction with Franklin Gulf (at the point where the red and orange trails cross Franklin Gulf.).
You can also use that short red spur trail to cross the stream and follow the bushwhack track in the southeastern corner of the Park. Just remember that bushwhack tracks are not marked by blazes or a trail on the ground, so you will need a map and compass or a gps to follow the bushwhack track or to create your own bushwhack track.
Proceed straight ahead past the red directional arrow.
At 300 yards the red trail splits from the orange and green trail. The orange and green trails go to your right, as depicted in the pictures below. The red and orange trails will rejoin each other at the .55 mile mark on the red trail.
The green trail breaks off from the orange trail shortly before the red and orange trails re-join each other.) The orange trail proceeds up and over a small hill. The red trail winds along the edge of a ravine.
The red trail continues to your left.
It is marked with a few red blazes and also with yellow blocks nailed to trees as depicted in the picture to the left.
At .3 miles on the red trail you will pass one of the many geocaches in the Park. This is an above ground geocache that looks like a birdhouse, shown in this picture just to the left of the base of the tree.
This is also a cross over between the red and orange trails. If you walk up hill to the right of the tree, in about 10 yards you’ll find the orange trail.
Continue on the red trail.
Just past the .5 mile mark the orange trail will re-join the red trail from your right.
At this point there are red, orange, and white blazes on a tree as shown in the picture to the left.
The white blazes will be found interspersed with the red and orange trails.
When following either the red or orange trail, use the white blazes to stay on the trail if you don’t see red or orange trail blazes.
Follow the combined trail. In about 100 yards you’ll come upon an old stone chimney.
This is the approximate location of a “cabin” shown on the 1961 survey map of the Park.
You can still see what looks to be a stone foundation of the cabin.
At the .65 mile mark the orange trail goes to left on a short loop. The red trail continues straight ahead along the side of the steep ravine. The orange trail will re-join from the left in less than 100 yards, then split off again to the left just after the .7 mile mark. This second split of the orange trail is marked with orange blazes and yellow wood blocks. It is a switchback that avoids the rather steep (but short) decent of the red trail at this point. In 200 feet down the red trail, at the bottom of the hill, the orange trail (and yellow wood block markers) will again re-join the red trail.
In 200 yards, at the .85 mile mark on the red trail, you’ll reach the confluence of the stream that has been on your right and Franklin Gulf.
You need to cross the stream which is very easy to do except in times of extreme high water.
In the middle of the steam is a pile of rocks, known as a cairn, to mark the trail across the stream.
Looking across the stream, you will see red, orange, and white blazes marking the continuation of the trail:
After crossing the stream, the red and orange (and sometimes white) trails take a sharp left turn then begin a steady climb.
At the .9 mile mark you will see an old stone water vault in the ground to your left.
There are a couple of logs sticking up from it.
Although the vault would be aesthetically better looking without the logs in it, they serve to alert people to the hole that might otherwise not be seen.
At the .95 mile mark the trail levels off a bit. This is where the orange and red trail split for the last time before meeting each other on the other side of the power line easement. The orange trail heads off to the left up a hill. The red trail heads straight ahead, and is marked with alternating red and white blazes.
The red trail reaches the edge of the power line easement at 1 mile from the parking lot.
The path across the easement is generally easy to spot.
There is a dark red blaze on a small tree immediately adjacent to it as shown in the picture to the left.
At about the 1.1 mile mark the trail comes to the edge of a small ravine (about 4 feet) that could be crossed, but it is unnecessary to do so because the trail turns left (south) along the ravine to a point (200 yards away) where there is an easy crossing of the ravine, marked by the white blaze on the tree shown in the picture to the left.
The orange trail joins from the left (south) immediately after crossing the ravine.
At 1.25 miles the red and orange trails reach the snowmobile trail:
Summary Red Trail Description
|0.00||Start of trail at parking lot off Larkin Road.|
|0.06||Ignore red arrow pointing left (south). Continue straight on red trail.|
|0.10||Orange and green trails split to the right. Bear left to stay on red trail, which winds along bank of ravine and is also marked with yellow wood blocks nailed to trees.|
|0.30||Geocache near base of tree on your right.|
|0.55||Orange trail re-joins the red trail from the right. White blazes start to appear with the orange and red blazes.|
|0.60||Stone chimney, site of old Larkin cabin.|
|0.65||Orange trail heads off to right on a short loop. Bear left to stay on red trail.|
|0.68||Orange trail re-joins from the right.|
|0.71||Orange trail (and yellow wood blocks) leave to the right on a switchback. Red trail bears left down short hill.|
|0.75||Orange trail rejoins red trail from the right. Combined trail turns left.|
|0.86||Combined trail crosses the confluence of the unnamed stream (on your left) and Franklin Gulf on your right. Be sure to follow the trail over the last little hump before descending to the stream. There is a cairn (pile of rocks) in the middle of the stream bed making the trail. Look for the red blaze on a tree on the opposite bank to continue on the trail. Upon reaching that red blaze the trail makes a left turn then starts a steady climb.|
|0.90||Pass an old “well” on left. Could be a well, or maybe a privy vault.|
|0.95||Red and orange trails split. Orange trail goes to left up hill. Stay on red trail to right (first visible blaze is white, then a red blaze at edge of power line easement.)|
|1.02||Arrive at edge of power line easement. Cross by following narrow path through brush and weeds.|
|1.08||Arrive at edge of ravine. Trail takes left turn going up the side of bank top a crossing point.|
|1.12||Trail turns right to cross ravine. White blaze on tree at ravine crossing.|
|1.13||Orange trail joins from the left.|
|1.20||Arrive at snowmobile trail.|