Best Places in the Finger Lakes to Hike with Your Friends
Spending too much time indoors these days? Looking to shake off the winter blues and connect with friends while on an outdoor adventure? An invigorating hike and good conversation might be just what you need. Our region has many options for winter hiking at state parks, nature centers, rail trails, and more. Enliven your senses with good company and beautiful Finger Lakes scenery at one of these locations chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
Spanning more than 3,000 acres, Birdseye Hollow has nearly 11 miles along the Finger Lakes Trail which winds its way mostly north to south through predominately deciduous forest. Deep woodlands and babbling brooks occupy the majority of the trail experience, but there is also the short blue-blazed lakeside trail that traverses the transitional space between forest and wetland and offers ample wildlife viewing along the way.
The Catharine Valley Trail follows the old Chemung Barge Canal towpath and sections of the abandoned Northern Central Rail lines, connecting the communities of Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Millport, Pine Valley, and Horseheads. The corridor itself is well worth the trip, but nearby are several notable locations including the stunning gorge within Watkins Glen State Park and Queen Catharine Marsh which has foot trails accessible from the trail.
Just a short drive from downtown Ithaca, this Finger Lakes Land Trust preserve features several loop trails that can be adjusted for longer or shorter hikes. You will find an informational kiosk at a junction where the trail from the parking lot splits. Starting to the left will take you along a peaceful stream and through a forest where 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.
Experience the customs and beliefs of the Seneca on three main trails with interpretive signage, open year-round: the Earth is Our Mother Trail, the Trail of Peace, and the Granary Trail. Visitors are encouraged to take self-guided themed walks using GPS on these trails including the Tree Tour and Medicine Walk. And be sure to visit the Seneca Art & Culture Center which serves as a year-round interpretive facility featuring a theatre, gift shop, and multimedia exhibits that tell the story of Seneca and Haudenosaunee art and culture.
At the heart of this 1,955-acre park, literally and figuratively, are two meromictic lakes — a unique condition where surface waters and deeper waters do not intermix. But the natural wonders don’t stop with the lakes. The gorge, with steep slopes over 150 feet high, and the surrounding area feature old-growth forest as well. The trails through this forest are less frequented by most of the park’s visitors and are more extensive than around the lake (approximately 13 miles of trails).
Letchworth’s grandeur and unique opportunities make it a can’t-miss natural wonder. Open year-round, the park and its rich history encompass seventeen miles of staggeringly sheer gorge, three towering and broad waterfalls, dozens of smaller waterfalls, and 66 miles of trails. The southwestern portion of the park includes most of what would be considered day-tripper activities. Here you find the three main waterfalls, clusters of picnic areas, museums, a nature center, the Glen Iris Inn, as well as the more popular and built-up trails.
Hikers will find a couple of key features at Tanglewood Nature Center that are often missing along other trails in the Finger Lakes region, namely varied terrain and a destination with a sweeping vista. 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.
Ithaca is most certainly a city of gorges, but the gorge at Taughannock Falls, in nearby Trumansburg, is the biggest of them all. The waterfall at the end of the lower portion of the gorge is one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State. The mile-long trail within the gorge is nearly level and easily accessed, making it an excellent trip for all members of the family, from toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between.
*Please check with each location before visiting as hours of operation may change.