Griffis Sculpture Park is one of the oldest and largest sculpture parks in the USA. The 425-acre outdoor art museum features over 250 sculptures by Larry Griffis Jr. and over 100 international artists. The sculptures are carefully placed along miles of hiking trails, thoughtfully connecting art with the natural surroundings.
It’s easy to plan a trip to visit this renowned art park in Western New York. Located in East Otto, New York in Cattaraugus County (also known as the Enchanted Mountains of Western New York State), I suggest spending a couple of hours at Griffis Sculpture Park as a day trip from Buffalo.
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It’s also possible to combine your trip to the Griffis Sculpture Park with a short hike at Eternal Flame Falls in nearby Orchard Park. Pop by this art park after visiting Buffalo or a trip to other western New York destinations like East Aurora, Williamsville or Ellicottville.
About the Griffis Sculpture Park
Griffis Sculpture Park is an outdoor art collection and nature preserve with 10 miles of trails to explore. Larry Griffis, Jr. created the sculpture park and the Essex Art Center. He was always an artist, but didn’t fully devote himself to art until later in his career.
While studying bronze casting in Rome, he took the opportunity to tour around Italy with his family. During their visit to the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, Griffis realized the importance of interactive art. Upon watching his children run and play around the sculptural ruins surrounded by a stunning landscape, he had the idea to create the first outdoor sculpture park in the USA.
Once he returned from Rome, Griffis was intent on finding the perfect plot of land for his outdoor art park. In 1966, he settled on Ashford Hollow between Springville and Ellicottville, beginning with a gift from his mother for 125 acres of farmland.
Nowadays, the Griffis Sculpture Park at Ashford Hollow Park has expanded to 425 acres of woodlands and grasslands. Larry Griffis Jr. also purchased a century-old ice factory building in Buffalo and transformed it into the Essex Art Center, a place to feature the works of emerging artists and local arts organizations.
Larry Griffis, Jr. left behind his legacy to youngest son, Simon, who led the organization for 10 years after his father’s passing. Both Larry and Simon leave behind an amazing legacy through their devotion to the arts community. Today, the foundation is under the leadership of Nila Griffis Lampman, granddaughter and niece to Larry and Simon.
Griffis Sculpture Park: Nature Trails and Sculptures
From the parking lot, you’ll come across a trail map of Griffis Sculpture Park. It isn’t really detailed, so I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. There are quite a few signs as you walk marking the red, blue and green trails, so you won’t get lost.
However, if you’re looking for a bit of assistance, I recommend following the Griffis Sculpture Trail Loop map on AllTrails. And speaking of AllTrails, you can become an AllTrails+ member with 45% off the annual rate. Get your discount here!
The total loop is about 2.4 miles or 3.9km in length. There is only one portion that has a slight incline, and the rest is a relatively flat path. As you walk around, you can admire sculptures by the Griffis family, as well as over 100 local, national and international artists.
Some of the other artists who have works at the art park include Bolinski, Bellavia, Dwain, Gerst, Hatchett, Patterson, Mehrdad Hadighi, and Lauren Scime. The sculptures are cast in bronze, welded steel, wood and aluminum.
There are 12 different groups of sculptures based on theme. There are animals and insects, a series of sculptures known as The Bathers, sculptures of men and women, plants and vegetables (I loved the mushroom sculptures), and even castles.
Some of these outdoor art pieces are interactive in nature. One of my favorites is Castle Tower. You can climb to the top and admire the scenery from an elevated point of view. Pose for a photo as King or Queen of the castle!
Griffis Sculpture Park: Rohr Hill
While the Mill Valley Road Site is the main attraction with its expansive walking trails, don’t miss the Rohr Hill Road Site when you visit. The Rohr Hill Road Site is primarily viewable from the car as you drive down the country road.
You’ll be able to witness towering sculptures scattered throughout the fields and peeking out from the surrounding woods. There aren’t any trails here and the country road doesn’t have a sidewalk and isn’t really suitable for walking. For this reason, I suggest that you take a drive down Rohr Hill Road to admire the sculptures.
We almost missed the Rohr Hill Road Site on our visit. It was only by chance that we happened to drive down Rohr Hill Road. From there, we saw so many tall sculptures across the fields and realized that the Griffis Sculpture Park continued far beyond what we originally thought! For this reason, we don’t have any photos of the works of art, so you’ll just have to see them for yourself in person.
Plan Your Visit
The Griffis Sculpture Park (6902 Mill Valley Rd, East Otto, NY 14729) is open from May 1st to October 31st from sunrise to sunset. However, it may be open earlier and later than those dates, depending on the weather. We visited in early November and the park was open. If the park is closed, there will be a barricade blocking the entrance on Mill Valley Road.
As described above, the park is divided into two sections: the nature trails from Mill Valley Road and the Rohr Hill Road section. As the section on Rohr Hill Road is only viewable from the street itself (by car), you can see the sculptures here all year long.
The nature trails at Griffis Sculpture Park are dog-friendly, but you must keep your dog on a leash. This is a pack-in pack-out park without any garbage cans. Bring your trash home with you, including any dog waste.
Griffis Sculpture Park requests a small donation as admission for entry, $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. You can pay through their website using Venmo or pay in person on weekends at the gift shop. They mostly work on the honor system, and your donation helps keep this non-profit organization open to all.
On occasion, there may be a special event or festival happening at the park. Visit one of their drum circles, the annual Summer Festival (one day in August) or Night Lights (September to mid-October), an evening event where the park becomes illuminated. Learn more on their Facebook page.
More Things to Do in Western New York
There are so many fun things to do in Western New York. We visit all the time as we live only a short distance away in the Toronto area. These spots make a really excellent day trip from Toronto, day trip from Buffalo or road trip from elsewhere in the USA and Canada.
Lauren is the full-time travel blogger and content creator behind Justin Plus Lauren. She started Justin Plus Lauren in 2013 and has travelled to 50+ countries around the world. Lauren is an expert on vegan travel as one of the very first vegan travel bloggers. She also focuses on outdoor adventure travel, eco and sustainable travel, and creating amazing travel itineraries for cities and small towns.