Need a break from the hassles of everyday life? A walk through the fern-carpeted forests of the Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve could be just the thing. Or in winter, take your cross-country skis to enjoy one of the peaceful, snow-covered loop trails.
The parking area and initial stretch of trail on the north side of Ellis Hollow Creek Road gives no hint of what’s to come. The beginning of the trail goes through a power line right-of-way choked with non-native honeysuckle, with a natural gas pipeline station close by on your right, and overhead power lines on your left. But after about 500 feet you will enter a forest of tall, straight oaks, maples, hickories, basswood, black cherry, white ash, and black birch.
The preserve is on the northern hillside of the Ellis Hollow valley, east of Ithaca. The streams running through the preserve drain into Cascadilla Creek, and are important for maintaining the water quality in the creek and nearby wetlands.
You will find an informational kiosk at a junction where the trail splits into a series of nested loops (see trail map). Starting to the left will take you along the stream and through a forest where dark green, shady eastern hemlock often dominates. Choose the path on the right, and you will find yourself walking up and around the somewhat terraced hillside through a mixed hardwood forest.
In the spring and summer, the preserve’s quiet, steepsided glens ring with the songs of Winter Wren, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hermit Thrush, Veery, Black-throated Green Warbler, and numerous other denizens of hemlock-lined ravines. The preserve’s streams drain into Cascadilla Creek, and are important for maintaining its water quality.
Visit in the spring, and you will delight in the many ferns and wildflowers that carpet the forest floor. Mid-May is a good time to spot one of the magnificent cucumber trees, the only native magnolia in our region: look for the waxy, finger-like, yellow-green flower petals that will have fallen to the ground in a ring around the tree.
Note: There is a six-acre in-holding within the preserve that is privately owned and NOT open to the public.
The red hiking trail crosses the driveway leading to the house on this private tract. We ask that visitors please respect the privacy of the residents by staying on the preserve and not trespassing into the private parcel (except to cross the driveway on the marked trail).
The Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve was created in September 2000 when Barbara Keeton and her family, long-time residents of the Ellis Hollow area east of Ithaca, donated 111 acres to the Land Trust. Her family enjoyed its many natural delights since purchasing the land in the 1970s, and now wanted to ensure that it would remain unspoiled and available for wildlife and for quiet public recreation.
A little less than a mile east of the original Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve (non-contiguous) lies an addition to the assemblage of protected lands in the Ellis Hollow — the 39-acre Pearman Woods tract of the Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve. Bordering Cornell University’s Durland Bird Sanctuary, the Pearman Woods parcel was purchased by the Land Trust in October 2009. The sellers, Charles Pearman and Carol Skinner, were long-time conservation supporters who also donated a conservation easement on an adjacent 11 acres.
Acquisition of the Pearman Woods tract secures part of a larger area of contiguous forest habitat (just listen for the barred owls there!), and provides the potential for future trail connections with other protected lands in the area. There is currently no defined parking area or marked hiking trail on the Pearman Woods tract, but an informal path through the heart of the property is being kept clear by volunteers.