Free Places to See Summer Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes Region!
If the best things in life are free, the Finger Lakes region is exceptional for its no-cost outdoor recreation opportunities. This rainy summer is the perfect time to explore the area, most notably the countless waterfalls and creeks that define this iconic landscape. We invite you to leave your wallet at home and head outdoors to experience the gorgeous natural beauty of our region’s waterscapes.
Cascadilla Gorge is a stunningly beautiful connective corridor that runs from downtown Ithaca to the Cornell University campus. The gorge is a short three-quarters of a mile in length, but it is long on amazing waterscapes. There are eight sizeable waterfalls that range from eight to 80 feet in height along this handsome stretch of Cascadilla Creek.
Experience two stunning 60-foot falls at this Ontario County park in Naples by wandering ½ mile or slightly more from the parking area. Waterfall sightseers should expect to get their feet wet since the gorge narrows upstream. Visitors are advised to stay on the trail after heavy rain.
Opportunities abound for all types of outdoor enthusiasts at the High Tor Wildlife Management Area in Naples, including hiking, biking, and paddling. Creek walking and gorge exploration also top the list at both Conklin Gully-Parish Glen and Clark Gully, two well-known gorges with beautiful waterfalls.
A winding stream accompanies hikers, runners, bikers, and even equestrians along the 6.8-mile Keuka Outlet Trail, home to two impressive waterfalls. The most notable is Seneca Mill Falls located at about the midpoint of the trail near the pavilion at the Lion Bruce Hansen Memorial Park. Many people stop here to view the falls and picnic.
The most popular destination in Labrador Hollow in Tully is the universally accessible, quarter-mile path to Tinker Falls. Tinker Falls is a stunning example of a “hanging” falls. Its origin dates back to when New York and much of the North American continent were part of an inland sea.
Lick Brook Gorge in Ithaca is a popular hiking spot that connects to Buttermilk Falls State Park and Robert H. Treman State Park via the Finger Lakes Trail. The Sweedler and Thayer Preserves, along with the adjacent 27-acre Lick Brook Natural Area, provide excellent examples of the area’s geologic history. Multiple waterfalls splash down along Lick Brook on its journey to Cayuga Lake, including one that is nearly 140 feet tall.
Favorite Camping Spots in the Finger Lakes Region!
Summer is here and it’s time to dust off that camping gear! The Finger Lakes region has plenty of locations to pitch your tent for a night under the stars. Iconic state parks offer various amenities for a complete outdoor experience, while state forests boast miles of hiking trails and plenty of solitude. For all you happy campers out there, explore some of our favorite spots in the Finger Lakes. For more suggestions, check out the map with the camping filter selected.
Camping is permitted throughout the 3,446-acre Birdseye Hollow State Forest following the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) at-large camping guidelines. The state forest also has seven designated primitive lakeside campsites along the shores of Sanford Lake. These sites require a permit and campers must pre-register at the DEC office in Bath; note that permits are limited from Memorial Day through Labor Day and are not available on site.
The Finger Lakes National Forest is home to over thirty miles of multiuse trails and three campgrounds which require a fee: Backbone Horse Camp which is mainly for equestrians, Potomac Group Campground for group camping by reservation, and Blueberry Patch Campground which has nine primitive campsites. Backpackers may camp anywhere within the national forest as long as they are at least 50 feet from streams, ponds, trails, and developed areas, and secondly, not within the pastures from May through October.
With nearly 20 miles of trails, old-growth forests, two pristine lakes, boat rentals, 137 campsites, a sandy swimming beach, and even golf courses (traditional and disc versions), there are numerous ways to get outside and enjoy Green Lakes State Park for an extended visit. At the heart of the 1,955-acre park are two natural wonders: meromictic lakes — a unique condition where surface waters and deeper waters do not intermix.
The 5,284-acre Morgan Hill State Forest remains the destination of choice for more serious hikers, backpackers, and those who want an extra challenge. In addition to backcountry camping, there is a lean-to as well as twelve roadside tent campsites near Spruce Pond. Camping here is free but requires a permit through the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Cortland office.
In addition to its iconic namesake waterfall, Taughannock Falls State Park is home to a popular campground that is bustling with activity all summer long. Campsites and cabins are available by reservation, and campers can take advantage of the park’s many amenities during their stay. Over seven miles of hiking trails—including both a gorge and rim trail—a swimming beach, marina, large playground, and ample picnic tables and grills make this state park a premier camping destination.
May is National Barbecue Month! Enjoying a picnic or barbecue is one of the most enjoyable warm-weather activities to share with friends and family. The Finger Lakes offers ideal locations with amenities such as picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and plenty of gorgeous scenery. If dining outdoors by a picturesque lake or waterfall is your thing, we invite you to explore our top ten favorite spots in the region.
This 3,446-acre state forest in Bath has two day-use areas, two paddling opportunities—Sanford Lake and Birdseye Hollow Pond– and nearly 11 miles along the Finger Lakes Trail. Pavilions and picnic benches dot both of the day-use areas with other amenities to boot. The 18-acre Sanford Lake has an easily accessible boat launch, while Birdseye Hollow Pond has a fishing pier and direct access to the trail network.
Located at the southern edge of Ithaca, this popular state park has an upper and lower section, both offering plenty of recreational opportunities. At the base of Buttermilk Falls is a verdant lawn, the perfect setting for a picnic with a gorgeous waterfall in view. The upper section of the park includes 1.5 miles (one way) of hiking trails, picnic areas with grills, and Lake Treman.
This beautiful park in the quiet village of Moravia features campgrounds, a swimming area, and stunning waterfalls. Stone-walled paths, numerous bridges that crisscross the oddly named Dry Creek, and stone staircases are thoughtfully blended with the stunning natural setting of this deep gorge. The whole family can enjoy these natural marvels with plenty of picnic tables and pavilion spaces to spend a day in the park.
Nestled in the quiet hamlet of Branchport, sits the Finger Lakes Museum which offers public access to Keuka Lake via Sugar Creek. The museum’s 16-acre Townsend-Grady Wildlife Preserve, located at the north end of the west branch of the lake, has a series of maintained trails and a boardwalk with a beautiful octagon pavilion. Here, you can enjoy a picnic lunch by accessing the pavilion on foot from the hiking trail, or by canoe or kayak, tying off at the small craft dock on the lake.
There are several picnic areas and pavilions to choose from at this unique state park in Fayetteville, including one overlooking the sandy swimming area. With nearly 20 miles of trails, old-growth forests, two pristine lakes, and boat rentals, there are numerous ways to get outside and enjoy a full day at Green Lakes State Park.
With picturesque panoramic views of Honeoye Lake and its steep-sided valley, Harriet Hollister offers a bit more solitude than the region’s lively state parks. A popular spot for Rochester-area recreationists, the recreation area offers over 20 miles of trails for hiking and biking. Visitors can enjoy a small picnic area with tables and benches located in the main park, or a bench on the Overlook Trail.
Considered one of the best multiuse trails in the region, this 6.8-mile pathway stretches from Penn Yan to Dresden and follows a winding stream with two impressive waterfalls. The most notable is Seneca Mill Falls located at about the midpoint of the trail near the pavilion at the Lion Bruce Hansen Memorial Park. Many people stop here to view the falls and picnic.
Enjoy a full day at this community park which features picnic areas with tables and grills, ball fields, restrooms, play structures, and pavilions. This 400-acre county park has a vast network of trails, over 10 miles in total, which weave through the woodland and over steepened hillsides of the Bristol Valley. The popular “Jump Off” overlook offers a stunning panoramic view of the western horizon.
With a beautiful view of Seneca Lake at its center, Sampson State Park is ideal for enjoying a sunset barbecue or daytime picnic. With grills, restrooms, a swimming area, playgrounds, hiking trails, and more, there is something for everyone. And, as the former site of a World War II naval base and Korean War airfield, the site also holds particular appeal for military history enthusiasts.
While the iconic falls that are the namesake of this impressive park are undoubtedly its most popular attraction, an abundance of picnic areas also draw visitors to celebrate its charm. Grills and picnic tables dot the lakeside portion of the park, offering warm breezes and gorgeous views of Cayuga Lake. Equipped with state park amenities such as a swimming area, playground, and restrooms, there is even a summer concert series to entertain folks of all ages (currently on hold due to the pandemic).
Spring is here, and it’s the perfect time to explore the Finger Lakes region’s rail trails. Repurposed from abandoned rail lines, these mostly flat and broad pathways provide hikers, runners, and cyclists ample opportunities for getting outside and avoiding muddier trails. Traversing both urban and rural landscapes, multiuse rail trails often connect to other protected lands such as state parks. Explore some of the best in the region!
Though evocative of a hazardous downhill ski run, the 8.4-mile Black Diamond Trail is actually a broad, mostly level, multiuse trail. Its stone dust surface makes the trail a pleasure to ride on or to stroll along in what is essentially a picturesque tree-lined alleyway. The grade slopes downward most of the way from Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg to Cass Park in Ithaca.
The 14-mile Catharine Valley Trail follows the old Chemung Barge Canal tow path and sections of the abandoned Northern Central Rail lines. Contiguous from downtown Watkins Glen to Mark Twain State Park, it’s a great natural corridor that utilizes compact stone dust paths that are an absolute pleasure to walk or bike.
The Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail follows an old railroad bed beside a canal that links the two largest Finger Lakes while connecting picturesque villages along the way. Presently, 6.7 of the eventual 19 miles are finished and open to the public. Current access to the eastern end of the trail is in Waterloo while the western end can be accessed at Seneca Lake State park or at the Bishop Nature Preserve, owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
The Jim Schug Trail weaves its way from Main Street in Dryden through Dryden Lake Park and ends at an intersection with the Finger Lakes Trail. The majority of the trail is flanked by swamps, wetlands, and ponds with the more remote and wild portions bordering Dryden Lake Park to the north and south. Currently 4.2 miles long, there are plans to extend the trail another 3.3 miles.
A winding stream accompanies hikers, runners, bikers and even equestrians along the 6.8-mile Keuka Outlet Trail. The trail follows a generally downhill course from the outlet of Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to the inlet along Seneca Lake in Dresden. The trail varies from paved sections in Penn Yann to broad stone dust paths to mixed gravel to worn single track.
Your All-Purpose Adventure Kit for Early Spring Weather
March weather is unpredictable. Will it rain or snow? Maybe warm and sunny here and super muddy there? Should you hike, snowshoe, or go waterfalling? For all of Mother Nature’s moods, use these varied lists for your next outdoor adventure. And don’t forget to follow best practices when you’re out on the trails!
The Finger Lakes region has plenty of options for getting your kids outside. Exploring the natural world can offer much needed respite from cabin fever. From state parks, nature centers, rail trails, and nature preserves, there’s something for everyone.
When the snow starts melting, gushing waterfalls in the region are a sight to behold. Experiencing the roar of a waterfall in early spring is a must in the Finger Lakes. See our favorite waterfalls including famous spots and lesser-known gems. Note: visitors should consult the agency that maintains each location before planning a trip, as some state parks have seasonal trail closures.
As any Finger Lakes resident knows, March can still bring the possibility of a snow storm. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying a peaceful hike in the woods! Snowshoes are lightweight, easy to use and provide a fun way to get outdoors. Regardless of your skill level, there is no shortage of places to go.
Here in the Finger Lakes region, there are a few hikes along the FLT that really stand out, including hikes that pass through Finger Lakes Land Trust nature preserves, NY State Forests, and county parks. We invite you to explore some of the best.
Dogs make great hiking companions and can bring tremendous joy to your outdoor adventures, but not all trails are dog-friendly. Fortunately, the Finger Lakes region offers plenty of places to get outside with your canine friends. Here are a few of our favorites, from locations with firm leash policies to places where your furry friends have a bit more freedom.
With late fall in the Finger Lakes comes hunting season and many of your favorite trails and outdoor locations may be closed or have limited access. For anyone looking for open space and peace of mind without trail closures, explore this small list of places where hunting is not allowed during the fall and winter hunting season this year, October 1 through December 22, 2020.
Rolling wooded hills, well-groomed trails, and varied niches make this small gem in Marcellus a must visit for all members of the family. Short trails through an arboretum as well as wildflower and herb gardens near the John A. Weeks Interpretive Center are perfect for those who just want a brief, easy stroll. The longer Valley, Boundary, and Field to Forest trails offer extended trips to expand the experience and are thoroughly enjoyable by hikers of all levels.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, more commonly known as Sapsucker Woods, is a birding haven and great resource for long time birders and those with an aspiring interest. Four miles of trails wander through the 230-acre sanctuary, with multiple interconnected loops that can be intermixed for longer trips. The mostly level trails weave through deep woods, atop boardwalks in swamps, and beside ponds bursting with wildlife of all kinds.
Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrub land, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout the 430-acre property in Cortland. The deep forest sections found along the Mill Pond Trail feature large diameter trees that are reminiscent of the old growth forest found at Green Lakes State Park.
An easy meandering trail accessed from the south parking area of this Finger Lakes Land Trust preserve in Dryden leads you through a meadow that encircles a beautiful evergreen plantation. Follow the spur trail and you will find yourself in a mature forest that leads to the hemlock-studded gorge and waterfalls along Six Mile Creek. Please note that while hunting is prohibited in the Roy H. Park Preserve, it is allowed in the adjacent Hammond Hill State Forest which can be accessed from the preserve’s northern entrance.
The 793-acre Steege Hill Nature Preserve in Big Flats has seven miles of hiking trails and is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s largest conservation area. Located on a hilltop high above the Chemung River, hikers can choose from a series of connected loop trails for longer or shorter hikes.
The Tanglewood Nature Center in Elmira is home to a six-mile trail system. Multiple loops of varying difficulty and length, allow for leisurely strolls in the meadows or more vigorous excursions through the woodland. The trails are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain whose wit and thoughts help frame our views of nature in new and amusing ways.
*The Baltimore Woods Interpretive Center, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Lime Hollow visitor centers, and Tanglewood Nature Center Museum are currently closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trails are open with social distancing practices in place.
*Please be advised that hunting may be occurring on adjacent properties. We encourage every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so will allow you to be seen more easily and from greater distances. Learn more about hiker safety during hunting season.
Easygoing Autumn Hikes for Families and Seniors in the Finger Lakes Region
The Finger Lakes region is known for its rugged gorges, forested hillsides, and eleven awe-inspiring lakes. However, not all outdoor adventures require you to exceed your comfort level or ability. For families, seniors, or anyone looking for a leisurely stroll, there are many beautiful places to explore the natural and cultural history of our region.
The Catharine Valley Trail is contiguous from downtown Watkins Glen to the hamlet of Pine Valley. It’s a great natural corridor that utilizes compact stone dust paths that are an absolute pleasure to walk or bike. Birdwatching opportunities await at the nearby Queen Catharine Marsh, accessible from the trail. When complete, the route will be roughly 12 miles long and will connect the communities of Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Millport, Pine Valley and Horseheads.
This trail follows an old railroad bed beside the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. The western end can be accessed by parking at Seneca Lake State Park or at the Bishop Nature Preserve, owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. The preserve has a large gravel parking area off West River Road and a newly constructed path that connects directly to the trail. Once on the canal trail, you can walk or bike along a broad, level, stone dust trail. Free of obstructions, the path allows you to take in the sights of the pastoral landscape.
There is something for everyone at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, formerly known as the Cornell Plantations. There are hiking trails, nature walks, gardens, ponds, woodlands, meadows, glens, and more. The more cultivated and landscaped gardens and arboretum are ideal for young children, elderly parents, or simply for anyone wishing for a leisurely stroll.
Experience firsthand the customs and beliefs of the Seneca at Ganondagan State Historic Site. Open year-round, the 7.6-mile trail system features a series of interconnected paths that can be adjusted for longer or shorter hikes. The Trail of Peace is a 0.8-mile mowed loop trail which passes the Bark Longhouse and details Seneca oral tradition, how the Haudenosaunee became a confederacy, and the story of the original town of Ganondagan. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of birds that inhabit the meadows here along this mostly level path.
The most popular destination in Labrador Hollow is the universally accessible, quarter-mile path to Tinker Falls. Tinker Falls is a stunning example of a “hanging” falls. Its origin dates back to when New York and much of the North American continent was part of an inland sea. Additionally, the Labrador Hollow accessible boardwalk is nearly 2,000 feet in length and traverses a diverse wetland complex that provides a glimpse of New York’s flora and fauna.
The Tanglewood Nature Center features a variety of wildlife exhibits and a six-mile trail system. Multiple loops of varying difficulty and length, allow for leisurely strolls in the meadows or more vigorous excursions through the woodland. The trails are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain whose wit and thoughts help frame our views of nature in new and amusing ways.
This list was compiled as a general guide for families and seniors wishing to get outdoors. Visitors should check the web site for each trail, nature center, etc., for specific details on closings and other restrictions due to Covid-19.
Cool weather has arrived and the summer crowds are gone. It’s fall hiking season in the Finger Lakes! Immerse yourself in the beauty of autumn by exploring some of these natural areas recommended by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Put on a sweater, go leaf peeping, and be mindful of safety during fall and winter hunting seasons.
Rolling wooded hills, well-groomed trails, and varied niches make this small gem a must visit for all members of the family. Short trails through an arboretum as well as wildflower and herb gardens near the John A. Weeks Interpretive Center are perfect for those who just want a brief, easy stroll. The longer Valley, Boundary, and Field to Forest trails offer extended trips to expand the experience and are thoroughly enjoyable by hikers of all levels.
The 3,446-acre Birdseye Hollow State Forest features nearly 11 miles of the Finger Lakes Trail, which winds its way mostly north to south through deciduous forest and conifer plantations. Deep woodlands and babbling brooks occupy the majority of the trail experience here, but there is also the short blue-blazed lakeside trail which offers ample wildlife viewing.
The park’s namesake falls, Buttermilk Falls, lies beside the Gorge Trail which features beautiful stone walls and staircases that accentuate the scenery. At the end of the Gorge Trail, is the Bear Trail which connects to the upper section of the park and includes 1.5 miles (one way) of hiking trails, picnic areas and Lake Treman. On the loop trail around the lake, hikers can pick up the orange-blazed Finger Lakes Trail and extend their journey to nearby Lick Brook Gorge and on to Treman State Park. In all, there are roughly 8 miles of trails within the park, but visitors should be aware that the Gorge Trail is only open from early May to early November.
Clark Reservation State Park packs in a great deal of botanical and geological diversity in a small footprint. At the heart of the park is Glacier Lake, which is similar to the astoundingly unusual Green and Round Lakes at Green Lakes State Park. But unlike the level and groomed trails around the lakes at Green Lakes State Park, the trail that encircles Glacier Lake is rugged and wild in character. Other trails wind through deep forest and beside the lake’s outlet/swamp so there are multiple routes through a variety of niches.
In a region dominated by out-and-back hikes, the Connecticut Hill WMA boasts not one but two separate loop hikes: the Van Lone Loop and the Bob Cameron Loop. The 5.7 mile-long Van Lone Loop shares a section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) which follows Cayuta Creek, while the 2.6 mile-long Bob Cameron Loop is near the FLT, but entirely separate.
There are over a dozen miles of hiking trails as well as a network of access roads in the 3,400-acre upland portion of High Tor WMA. No matter which approach you choose to reach the upland site, the climbing is steep. But, once you reach the top, the hiking and biking are fairly level. The trail system is a part, albeit only a short section, of the more extensive Bristol Hill Trail, a branch trail of the even longer Finger Lakes Trail.
The 793-acre Steege Hill Nature Preserve has 7 miles of hiking trails and is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s largest conservation area. Located on a hilltop high above the Chemung River, hikers can choose from a series of connected loop trails for longer or shorter hikes. The predominantly oak-hickory forest turns brilliant with fall colors, making autumn an excellent time to visit.
*A reminder to recreation enthusiasts that many parks, forests, and nature preserves allow hunting and trapping in designated periods. Go Finger Lakes would like to encourage all outdoor lovers to be especially mindful of safety during the fall and winter hunting seasons, from October 1-December 22. We advise everyone to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color on outdoor adventures to be seen more easily and from greater distances.
Each location profile on Go Finger Lakes includes a link to the managing organization – whether it be the Finger Lakes Land Trust, a New York State agency, or a nature center – and visitors should consult that agency for hunting information BEFORE EACH OUTING.
When school is out, it’s time for family fun outdoors. If hiking, swimming, biking, paddling, or camping is your thing, the Finger Lakes region has plenty of options for getting your kids outside. From state parks to nature centers and more, there is something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorite spots:
Looking to take the kids for a walk or bike ride that doesn’t include climbing steep hills? The Catharine Valley Trail is contiguous from downtown Watkins Glen to the hamlet of Pine Valley. It’s a great natural corridor that utilizes compact stone dust paths that are an absolute pleasure to walk or bike. Birdwatching opportunities await at the nearby Queen Catharine Marsh, accessible from the trail. When complete, the route will be roughly 12 miles long and will connect the communities of Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Millport, Pine Valley and Horseheads.
Acting as the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s “living museum,” this 900-acre preserve does an exceptional job at just that. Separated into five thematically different loops, the excellent walking trails are full of historical and artful exhibits as well as informational placards. The trails here are well-marked, flat, easy, and explore an array of environs ranging from a thirty five-acre beaver pond, sections of scrub land, meandering wooded streams, open marshes, and deep forests.
Need a break from the hassles of everyday life? A walk through the fern-carpeted forests of the Ellis Hollow Preserve could be just the thing. Only a 15-minute drive from downtown Ithaca, the preserve’s streams drain into Cascadilla Creek and offer the perfect opportunity for younger children to explore their shallow waters. The trail system here is just under two miles, making it an ideal location for those looking for a short hike.
With nearly 20 miles of trails, old-growth forests, two pristine lakes, boat rentals, 137 camp sites, a sandy swimming beach, and even golf courses (traditional and disc versions), there are numerous ways to get outside and enjoy Green Lakes State Park. Summer is when the vast majority of visitors frequent the park, but it remains open year round and has equally stunning scenery and outdoor activities in other seasons.
Late in the twentieth century, recreation advocates blazed the way in repurposing this former tow path and rail-bed into one of the best multiuse trails in the region. The trail follows a generally downhill course from the outlet of Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to the inlet along Seneca Lake in Dresden. A winding stream and two impressive waterfalls accompany hikers, bikers and even equestrians along the 6.8 mile route. The most notable waterfall is Seneca Mill Falls located at about the midpoint of the trail near the pavilion at the Lion Bruce Hansen Memorial Park, where many people stop to view the falls and picnic.
Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrub land, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout the 430-acre property. A quarter mile trail, the Trail for All, is wheelchair accessible and a trail-ready wheelchair is available at the visitor center along McClean Road if needed. The center also acts as an information hub for budding naturalists through summer camps, forest preschool, and year round school programs.
On the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in the town of Romulus lies Sampson State Park, the site of a former Air Force and Navy base. Today, there is a museum on-site dedicated to its history, but those looking for an outdoor adventure have plenty of options. Camping, a sandy beach with swimming, hiking along the shore of the lake, biking, and paddling are sure to please every member of the family.
This museum and nature center features a variety of wildlife exhibits, youth education programs, and summer camps. Hikers will find multiple trail loops of varying difficulty and length that allow for leisurely strolls through meadows or more vigorous excursions through woodland. An additional 50 acres and more trails are available at Personius Woods located on West Hill Road, where the family dog is welcome on-leash.
The waterfall that is this park’s namesake is one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State. A mile-long trail that leads to the falls is level and easily accessed, making it an excellent trip for all members of the family, from toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between. The lakeside portion of the park is home to a swimming beach, picnic areas, a playground, and boat slips.
Put down the devices and immerse your family in nature at the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Wesley Hill Preserve. Diverse stands of mature forest, a wide array of wildflowers, and sweeping views of the hills surrounding Honeoye Lake’s southern end make this site truly special. Over five miles of hiking trails, a pond, and excellent examples of the area’s geologic history provide the perfect setting for nature discovery.
This list was compiled as a general guide for families wishing to get outdoors. Visitors should check the web site for each individual park, nature center, etc., for specific details on closings and other restrictions due to Covid-19.
Whether you are a seasoned mountain biker or tackling the trails on two wheels for the first time, there is a spot in the Finger Lakes for you. Area parks offer everything from technical single-track to wide stone-dust rail trails if you know where to look. For more information, be sure to reach out to local mountain bike groups like Cycle-CNY, CNY Dirt, and the Finger Lakes Cycling Club who volunteer to maintain area trails and host events.
Bikers here will find that the majority of trails follow old forest roads, but single track paths also round-out the network of interconnected and parallel loops. Trips of varying length and difficulty can be easily accomplished after a quick study of the trail map before heading out. What makes it enjoyable for bike ride—a deep woodland feel with broad stable trails that include lots of lengthy lines-of-sight—also makes for an ideal cross-country skiing destination in the winter.
If rail trails are more your style, look no further than the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail which follows an old railroad bed beside the canal. The western end can be accessed by parking at Seneca Lake State Park or at the Bishop Nature Preserve, owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. The preserve has a large gravel parking area off West River Road and a newly constructed path that connects directly to the trail. Once on the canal trail, bikers can enjoy an out-and-back style ride along a broad, level, stone-dust trail. Free of obstructions, the path allows you to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the pastoral landscape.
This state forest is a Finger Lakes favorite for mountain bikers—with over 5,266 acres and roughly fifteen miles of trails geared specifically for cyclists. The miles of dedicated mountain bike trails are classified as technical single-track, vary in difficulty, and can be combined to make extensive trips. Generally speaking, the blue trails are considered more difficult than the red and yellow trails but their proximity means it’s easy to mix and match. Note that the red and yellow trails dry out faster than the blue trails and riding wet trails only degrades the system and all the hard work that has gone into creating the trails.
The extensive network of well-marked trails—over twenty miles of hiking trails and many additional miles of mountain biking trails—intersects numerous wooded streams and rolling terrain through a variety of deciduous and coniferous forests. The two types of trails are separate but crisscross each other frequently, making trail intersections more a common occurrence than a landmark. There are so many route options within the two interwoven networks that long, difficult treks as well as short interludes can be enjoyed by all levels of cyclists. Cycling surfaces vary from country roads to forest riding trails and include three levels of difficulty, providing a wide variety of options and experiences.
For a great ride with our without your kids, try the multiuse trail system at Gannett Hill. Trails are laid out in different loops that occasionally connect. Each trail is well marked, has its own color, and also provides an indication of trail difficulty so you can put together a route that suites both your skill and energy level! When you are done with your ride, head over to the overlook for an amazing view of the Bristol Valley sprawling across the western horizon.
The trails here have been gaining popularity with the Shindagin mountain biking crowd due to its proximity to Ithaca and Syracuse. To help improve the experience, volunteers have been working hard to add miles of trails in recent years. Riders find this state forest is in a prime location and offers fun and scenic riding with good camping spots to boot!