Lily Dale Assembly cultivates a connection to the spirit world within a beautiful natural setting. Leolyn Woods is an old-growth forest located on the grounds of Lily Dale Assembly in Western New York. Leolyn Woods includes nature trails, a meeting area for spiritual retreat, and a pet cemetery. The grounds are on the shores of Cassadaga Lake, providing a scenic backdrop for the Lily Dale community.
Lily Dale Assembly is a community focused on understanding the science, philosophy, and religion of Spiritualism. Spiritualists believe that trained mediums can communicate with those who have passed on, whose spirits can evolve in the afterlife. As well as enjoying the natural surroundings of Lily Dale Assembly, the visitor can have a reading by a medium, attend a lecture, or receive spiritual healing. During the summer season, Lily Dale Assembly charges admission, but access to the woods and community is free and open to the public during other months. The quiet of the fall is a particularly beautiful time to enjoy the woods of Lily Dale.
Leolyn Woods is a ten-acre tract of old-growth forest that provides the visitor with access to some very large and long-standing trees. Some of the trees in this forest are estimated to be between 200 and 400 years old. Leolyn Woods has one of the greatest varieties of tree species in New York State, with fourteen different kinds of old-growth trees. Tree species in Leolyn Woods include Eastern White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Northern Red Oak, Basswood, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Cucumber Magnolia, and Black Cherry. Signposts throughout the woods provide a self-guided tour of this age-old forest. Fallen trees and broken branches litter the forest floor of Leolyn Woods, providing a glimpse into the past.
Inside Leolyn Woods, the meeting area known as Inspiration Stump is enclosed within a grove of trees. Benches have been built in the clearing for the crowds that come in hope of receiving a message from the spirit world during the medium demonstrations that take place daily during the summer season. The site was named after a sacred pine that once grew in the woods, where mediums have held services since the end of the 19th century.
Leolyn Woods is also known for its Pet Cemetery. It’s the oldest known graveyard dedicated to companion animals in the United States. The Pet Cemetery was originally created in 1900 when the Lily Dale horse Topsy was buried after falling through while hauling ice out of Cassadaga Lake. Today the Lily Dale Pet Cemetery memorializes beloved pets of many species.
On the eastern edge of Lily Dale, beyond the fire hall, you can find a woodland path known the Fairy Trail. As you walk along the winding route, you’ll see the fairy figures, tiny houses, and spiritual ornaments that decorate the wooded footpath. The Fairy Trail winds through the forests along the top slope of Lily Dale, providing the trekker with unexpected visions of tiny landscapes.
Lily Dale Assembly sits on Cassadaga Lake, home to pike and muskellunge as well as bass and other panfish. The area wildlife includes beavers, owls, muskrats, mute swans, painted turtles, and blue herons. The keen observer might spot an eagle, osprey, or occasional loon. If you’re hoping for a view of Lily Dale Assembly from the water, there’s a public access boat launch right outside the gates, just over the bridge. In the summer season, Lily Dale boasts a beach with a lifeguard and a dock. In the heat of the summer, the small beach is a big attraction for families and bored adolescents.
Whether you’re an international visitor seeking spiritual healing or a local looking for an interesting trail, Lily Dale Assembly offers the opportunity for self-reflection. It’s a beautiful setting that any naturalist can appreciate. The forest trails and cool waters of Lily Dale Assembly provide a serenity that is aligned with the community’s desire to bring peace, hope, and knowledge to all those who enter its gates.
In this series, we explore different facets of Lily Dale Assembly and Spiritualism:
- How the World’s Largest Spiritualist Center Came to Be
- Home of America’s Oldest Pet Cemetery
- Spiritualist Practices in the 19th and 20th Centuries
- Walking the Fairy Trail
- 19th Century Reform and Revival in Western New York
- Architecture and Community-building
- Leolyn Woods and Being One with Nature