Bare Hill Unique Area
Location: East side of Canandaigua Lake, Yates County
Directions: From Canandaigua, head south on Route 364. Turn right (W) on Town Line Road, left (S) on Bare Hill Road, and right (W) on Van Epps Road. Pass a brown and yellow DEC sign, “Bare Hill Unique Area.” Park along the side of Van Epps Road where it dead-ends. N42o 44.802 - W77o 18.163
Hiking Time: 1.75 hour loop
Length: 3.1-mile loop (darkened trail)
2.3 miles total trails
Difficulty: 3 boots
Surface: Mowed field and gravel trail
Trail Markings: None
Uses: Hike, bike, ski
Dogs: OK on leash
Contact: N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation
, 7291 Coon Road, Bath, NY 14810
(607) 776-2165 ext. 29 www.dec.state.ny.us
Bare Hill rises 865 feet above Canandaigua Lake and provides awe-inspiring views of the lake and valley. It also lives up to its name. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) mows around the trees on the summit, keeping this hilltop bare.
You will walk land where the Genundowa Festival of Lights originated. Genundowa was the name of a Seneca village near Bare Hill. Each year in early September, the Seneca Elders and the tribes Keepers would light a large fire on top of Bare Hill as part of the Seneca Autumn Ceremony of Thanksgiving for a successful harvest. This fire was followed by smaller fires along the lake, resulting in a ring of light as a gesture of Indian unity.
Seneca history is hidden in legend. One legend says that the first Seneca settlement occurred in Naples Valley around 1400. Other legends assert that they came from the Adirondack area or from Montreal, either following game or to escape warring tribes. In either case, by the 1600s the Seneca Nation numbered over 10,000.
Seneca folklore has an explanation for the tree-less nature of Bare Hill. Legend says that while out canoeing one day, a Seneca youth found a brightly colored snake which he adopted as his pet. The boy fed the serpent insects, frogs and small mammals. As the serpent grew, bigger animals were supplied. Over time, it became so large that the boy, now a warrior and skilled hunter, had to request the assistance of the village in obtaining sufficient food. The small, beautiful snake had become a ravenous monster.
The villagers began to fear the serpent when food supplies dwindled, and they planned to escape to a new fortified village on a hill to the north. The monster serpent appeared, coiled its great body around the village and swallowed all but two children, a brother and sister who did not follow the villagers in their attempt to escape.
In a dream, a spirit instructed the boy to kill the snake by shooting an arrow in a scale behind its eye. The boy’s shot was successful, but death did not come immediately. The serpent’s mammoth body writhed and twisted, its long tail viciously lashed the hillside, smashing trees and bushes until the hillside was swept clean. As the serpent plunged down the hill, the heads of its human victims were disgorged. Finally the great serpent fell into the lake. Today, round stones found in the area are known to geologists as septaria and to local residents as Indian heads.
Around 1570, five Seneca tribes united into the League of Five Nations, later called the Iroquois Confederacy. Historians call this early government the “greatest achievement of Stone Age man” because of its extensive code of laws. Council Rock at the summit of Bare Hill was the traditional site of the Seneca Indian council fires.
•From Van Epps Road, pass the yellow metal gate.
•Soon the trail branches at a “Y.” A kiosk describes the history of the area. Bear right at the “Y.”
•Bear or turn right at each trail junction.
•At 0.7 mile, the trail dead-ends. Turn around and retrace your path.
•Continue straight through the first junction, then turn right at the second.
•The trail bends left as you continue steeply uphill.
•At 1.8 miles reach a “T.” Turn right.
•The trail dead-ends at Council Rock with a commanding view of Canandaigua Lake.
•Turn around and head down the hill, bearing right at each junction along the way.
Date Hiked: ___________