Golden Hill State Park & Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse
Location: Town of Somerset; Niagara County; New York
- Boat Launch entrance N 43.366 / W 78.473
- Camping entrance N 43.365 / W 78.488
- Lighthouse N 43.374 / W 78.485
Directions: Located on Lake Ontario between Olcott and Point Breeze. From the east: take Rt. 81 east and turn left on Carmen Rd and then right on Lower Lake Rd. The park will be on your left. From the west: take Rt. 81 west and turn right on Country Line Rd and then left on Lower Lake Rd. The park will be on your right. Boaters should use the east entrance. Or use Google Maps.
Parking: Parking is available near the lighthouse, or just past the park office to the right. The east entrance has a large lot off of Marina Rd. It’s a distance from the lighthouse, but near the boat launch and one of the larger trails. There’s also a small lot on the east end of the park off of County Line Rd. No admission is charged entering on this side.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Seasons/Hours: The park is open year-round. Camping season is from mid-April to mid-October. The lighthouse is open daily starting July 4th through Labor Day from 10am to 6pm. Lighthouse tours run hourly.
Best time to visit: Spring through fall.
Parking: Park in the lot near the boat launch or near the lighthouse.
Admission: Park admission is $7 (April through October). Lighthouse tours are $1/adult, $0.50/child
Handicap accessibility: Yes.
Pets: Yes, on leash, with proof of inoculation. Not allowed in lighthouse or near shower facilities.
Swimming: No swimming allowed.
Boat Launch: The boat ramp is located in a cove on the east side of the park. There is a separate entrance off of Lower Lake Road that leads to the launch and the parking area. Launching costs $7.
Accommodations: Restrooms; picnic areas; fishing; beach access; no swimming; grills; nature trails; playground; pavilions; camping; showers; dumping station; education center; playing fields (basketball, baseball, volleyball, disc golf).
Camping: 55 campsites and one cottage (in the lighthouse). Book a campsite at this park.
Golden Hill State Park is easily one of the best maintained of NY’s state parks. The grounds are meticulously kept, with friendly and knowledgeable staff always willing to assist. The park’s centerpiece, the historic Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, has been restored and converted into a museum open to the public. It’s the main attraction here, with lighthouse enthusiasts from all over the country coming for tours. The adjacent buildings, each played an important role in the lighthouse’s history, and have been preserved and documented to help visitors learn more about the historic role of the lighthouse and its keepers.
While there’s not much in the way of beach activity (with little beach property and certainly no swimming), there are 50 campsites with excellent views of Lake Ontario and the lighthouse. The atmosphere here is relaxing, as if campers are hypnotized by the beautiful sounds and sights of the Lake Ontario shore. It’s no wonder that there are so many “regulars” who return year after year.
On the eastern end of the park is a concrete boat launch with ample trailer parking and picnic facilities. One of the best ways to see the lighthouse is from a boat on the water.
There’s plenty to do here; the park has several playing fields (including disc golf), an archery field, a playground, and a network of trails that crisscross the grounds. Fishing can be done from the jetty below the lighthouse, along Golden Hill Creek, or from the shore near the boat launch.
The park encompasses 511 acres, 133 of which are underwater. Erosion of the beach is fast here, and multiple measures (such as lining the beach with boulders and constructing a jetty) have been taken to slow it down before more land is lost.
The beach is made of Queenston shale, an iron rich stone made from the eroded rock of the Taconic mountain range. One of the oldest sedimentary rocks in NY state, it contains no fossils, because when it was formed, life did not yet exist here. Golden Hill supposedly got its name from a small, and evidently temporary, island at the mouth of the creek. This small island was covered in various species of goldenrod and was said to shimmer in the setting sun. Today all traces of this “Golden Hill” have eroded away, but one can now find eight types of goldenrod in fields throughout the grounds.
This property was farmland up until 1873 when 2 acres of it were sold to the US government to construct the lighthouse. This spot was ideal for a lighthouse. At the time, a massive, rocky shoal and sandbar stretched out from Thirty Mile Point (named for its distance from the mouth of the Niagara). Since as early as 1678, with the sinking of the French LaSalle, at least 5 ships wrecked because of this obstacle.
The lighthouse was built in 1875 at a cost of $90,000. The 75 – foot tower and adjacent keeper’s quarters were built from limestone shipped in from a quarry near Watertown, NY. The beacon was a Third Order Fresnel Lens (cost $3,300) that magnified a kerosene flame to become visible at up to 18 miles. The lens gave the projected light a distinct fingerprint, which allowed navigators to identify the lighthouse and navigate the shoal properly. The rotation of the lens was powered by clockwork gears and counterweights in the tower. The keeper’s family would inhabit the house while the keeper would maintain the light and facilities as an employee of the US Lighthouse Service.
In 1885, the lighthouse was electrified; the clockwork was replaced with electric motors, and the kerosene lamp was swapped out with a 500-watt bulb. 50 years later the US Coast Guard took over operations, expanded the keeper’s quarters to house an additional family, and constructed a foghorn building to the west.
In the early 1950’s rising lake levels increased erosion at Thirty Mile Point. Not only were the shoals and sandbar disappearing, but also the land around the lighthouse was being claimed by the lake at an alarming rate. The Coast Guard countered the loss of land by constructing a concrete jetty and lining the beach with large boulders.
By 1958 the hazards that created the need for the lighthouse were swept away by erosion. The Coast Guard decommissioned Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, dismantling the lighting and motors. A simple steel tower with an automatic beacon was erected just to the west of the lighthouse to help aid with lake navigation.
The property surrounding the lighthouse was acquired by New York State in 1962 to be developed into Golden Hill State Park. It wasn’t until 1984 that the lighthouse was then handed over from the Coast Guard to the state. Through the stewardship of the park staff, as well as the non-profit organization: Friends of Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, many aspects of the historic lighthouse have been restored, while others have been improved upon. In 1997, the Coast Guard’s beacon light was moved to the lighthouse tower in a monumental step toward restoration of this NY maritime treasure.
Today, the lighthouse is run both as a museum (with guided tours) as well as a vacation cottage for those who would like to stay in the park without camping. The fully furnished cottage encompasses the entire second floor of the keeper’s quarters and features a private entrance, fully equipped kitchen, old-fashioned bathtub, and superb views of the lake.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Markings: Mowed trails.
Distance: Several miles worth.
Description: Golden Hill State Park features 5.5 miles of mowed trails across the park. The park office can provide you with a trail guide that will point out natural features and characteristics of the park. Trails can lead you in loops or from the Camping sections to the boat launch area.
There are 3 primary trails in the park: Blue, Green, and Red. The blue trail loops around the east end of the park, while the red trail loops around the middle, passing by the lighthouse. the Green trail network links the two and ends on the western side of the park.
Map: Trail Map
Golden Hill State Park Interactive Map
Fishing is allowed at the park. The best and arguably the only spot is from the concrete pier near the lighthouse.
- The lighthouse tour will allow you to see and photograph the inside of the house, with its operational-era decor, and from the top of the light. It’s well worth the small fee.
- To get a shot of the lighthouse from the lake, carefully walk out on the jetty below.
- The vast, unobstructed view of the lake from the small bluff just west of the lighthouse is perfect for catching storms passing over Lake Ontario.
Who to Contact
Golden Hill State Park
9691 Lower Lake Road
Barker, NY 14102
Camping reservations: 800-456-2267