Bare Hill—Finding the Big Answer
One of the many places of Prayer in Upstate NY.
The Seneca nation of the Haudenosaunee would hold their council meetings and offer prayers to Great Spirit on Bare Hill about 10 miles south of Canandaigua NY on the eastern shore of Canandaigua lake in Middlesex, NY. That spirit of peace and reconciliation involved with those prayers and council fires still lingers there today. The pilgrim looking to resolve an issue, needing a Big Answer to a question, or just looking to communicate with creator should spend some contemplative time on top of Bare Hill—not only taking in spirit and wisdom but a great view as well.
A Bare Hill
According to Seneca legend, Bare Hill, is barren (treeless) because of the damage done by a giant snake. The story goes that while canoeing one day a young boy found a colored snake in the water. He took it home and began to take care of it by feeding insects and small reptiles. The snake turned out to have a ravenous appetite that made him grow and grow and grow. The snake grew so large that it had to fed deer and other mammals.
Eventually he grew so enormous that the villagers feared for their lives. Before they could escape the snake entwined itself around the village and killed everyone except a brother and sister. In a dream the boy was told where to aim his arrow to kill the serpent. He was successful and the snake twisted and turned destroying the trees at the top of Bare Hill before he fell into the lake.
There are many variants of the story that have been catalogued in York Staters blog and can be accessed by clicking on Bare Hill legends. Scroll half way down the page.
Experiencing Bare Hill
Bare hill is 865 feet high and consists of 298 acres of trails and woods. The NY DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) mows Bare Hill thereby limiting tree growth. This creates a wide swath of trails that afford easy walking, albeit the grass can be high. The top of the hill is mostly flat so there is not a lot incline.
The top of the hill provides some majestic views of Canandaigua Lake and the surrounding area. The hill has a generally good feel to it and the area is covered with mostly positive geographic samskaras. There are several fields of consciousness located on top of the hill. As to be expected there are numerous ceremonial sites there as well. So a contemplative walk is well worth it.
Where Eagles Fly
The council area can be found by walking to the right when you enter the site. The area will look almost like a giant field but a careful examination of the DEC mowing will show two distinct trails, one going right the other going left. When you go right, stay on the trail it is almost flat. You will have an option to descend right, but do not take it. The trail will end in a little over a quarter of a mile. Take a left uphill and walk through the woods for 100 feet you will come upon a pond with a berm around it.
The council area contains the north side (lake side where you entered) of the berm and half of the pond. It has an elliptical shape to it. Think of a football shape oblong that extends to the middle of the pond on the south side and 30 feet below the top of the berm on the north. It extends beyond the reeds on the east and the west. In the picture above I am kneeling on the berm in the middle of sacred council circle. Notice the bare spot next to the reeds in front of where I am facing--that is a sacred spot I will detail below. The council area sits on a stacked field of consciousness. It has a great feeling about it.
There are numerous sacred places/circles within the greater council circle. One place in particular towards the center is particularly interesting. Look for an indentation on the north side of the pond where it meets the berm (see picture on the left). The area contains the spiritual footprints (energy lines-prayer can leave dowse able energy lines) of 5 ceremonial/scared spots, one for each of the Haudenosaunee member nations going the four directions—north, south, east, west, so there are a total of 20 circles (4 X 5). When I was there on Labor Day weekend in 2007 there was one stone there that marked the first of five circles going south. Just on the other side of the stone going north were five circles going—north, south, east and west. I have circled the stone in red in the picture on the left.
The council circle is a great place to go contemplate and ask for “council,” or directions with life’s problems or issues you are facing. It would be a good place to go and reflect if you needed an answer to a question. It is also a place that one should go to if you are looking to communicate with creator. When I was there an eagle, a symbol of communication with creator, flew overhead.
Just to the east of the pond and council circle you will find a stand of pine trees. Within that area you will find some special and sacred spots. If you have time go meditate there. Just east of an old campfire within the stand you will find a sacred spot. Do not stray too far from that area as the samskaras (vibe) diminishes.
When you leave walk the pond area walk to the south as if you were continuing in the direction you entered. Take a left when you come to an intersection where the trail ends. This is the left hand trail that you saw when you entered. Within a couple of 100 yards you will be back at the beginning.
If you take a right at the intersection, or follow the left hand trail you will eventually come to another pond. If you continue you will eventually start declining and find a large stone that marks where the celebration of lights is celebrated the first Saturday of September. In honor of the traditional lighting of the lights by the Senecas the residents of Canandaigua Lake light fires once they see first fire light by this stone.
If You Go
Please consider bringing some tobacco, incense of some other offering when you go to Bare Hill. Just spread some tobacco when you enter and at the council circle. Say a prayer and give thanks.
Bring water and a cushion to sit on. There are no facilitates at Bare Hill.
To see the trails go to To get to Bare Hill head south on route 364 out of Canandaigua NY. Take a right(west) onto Town Line road. Take your next left (south) onto Bare Hill Road. Take your next right (west) onto Van Epps road that will turn into a fairly well maintained dirt road. The road will come to an end at Bare Hill Unique Area. Look for brown a yellow sign.
You may wish to read an article on the New York Times did on Bare Hill and nearby Clark’s Gully Canandaigua Lake, N.Y.: Of Indian Legends and Sylvan Trails.
I would suggest a visit to Clark’s Gully just down the road.
For more information call the NY DEC at 607-776-2165 or NY ranger Dormer at 585-374-9730 if you have more questions.
Thanks to Lorraine Mavins for her photography.