Best Mountain Biking Spots in the Finger Lakes
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 your next ride, check out this list of favorite spots in the region, chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
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!
Opportunities abound for all types of outdoor enthusiasts at the High Tor Wildlife Management Area (WMA): paddling along the West River, cycling along the Lehigh Valley Rail Trail, and, of course, hiking and biking the expansive upland plateau. Mountain biking throughout the upland plateau provides extensive and challenging opportunities. After a grueling climb to the plateau, dozens of miles of interconnected gravel access roads can be enjoyed in multiple loops that wind between forest and field.