by Sue Freeman
Where is the highest natural point in Monroe County? Ask around and you’re likely to hear answers ranging from Pinnacle Hill in downtown, to the hill in Perinton where Woodcliff Lodge steals a commanding view. Neither is correct. The highest natural point in Monroe County is little known Hopper Hills in the very southeast corner of the county. In fact, most of Hopper Hills spills over into Ontario County – just not the highest spot at a jaunty 1,026 feet. Historian Preston Pierce suggested that Hopper Hills may have gotten its name because it looks “like an old coal scuttle/hopper turned upside down.”
Hopper Hills is not a place you’re welcome to visit. It’s private property, owned by Joe Spezio who operates Elam Sand and Gravel on New York Route 64. Mr. Spezio often buys property around his gravel pits so he can keep people away from the mining operations. It simplifies his life a bit. His house sits on Hopper Hills, overlooking his gravel pit. According to Spezio, “my living room is at 1,020 feet. I can see the city from my kitchen window. It’s a pretty good panoramic view.”
It’s private property, so please, do not trespass. Not only would it be illegal, it’s also unsafe. The 200-acre mining operation around the residence is a dangerous place to play.
There are several counties in the state where the highest point rests in a backyard, and not everyone wants guests. In Monroe County, the most elevated public property (at 820 feet) is 13 miles northwest of Hopper Hills in Mendon Ponds Park. It is on the Devil’s Bathtub Trail. There are approximately 25 miles of hiking trails in Mendon Ponds Park, winding through a unique collection of glacial features that earned the Natural Landmark designation.
Another option would be to climb from Garnsey Road in Perinton to the Lodge at Woodcliff, following the Horizon Hill Section of Crescent Trail. You’ll be treated to some spectacular views for your efforts on this strenuous 2.8-mile loop trail. Maps and directions for the Mendon Ponds trails and sections of the Crescent Trail can be found in the guidebook “Take A Hike – Family Walks in the Rochester Area.” (now available in a revised 3rd edition)
Monroe County’s high point ranks 51st among the 62 county high points in New York State. So, in terms of height, it’s toward the bottom. You can hike (or walk) to most of the high points, including the lowest (220 feet high) at Green-Wood Cemetery in Kings County in New York City and the highest (5,344 feet high) at Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks. The guidebook “Peak Experiences – Hiking the Highest Summits in New York, County by County” gives all the maps and details you need to explore high places in all 62 counties.