Top Ten Picnic Spots in the FLX!

Photo: Andy Zepp

Top Ten Picnic Spots in the Finger Lakes Region!

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Birdseye Hollow State Forest

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.

Photo: Tom Reimers

Buttermilk Falls State Park

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Fillmore Glen State Park

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.

Photo: Helen Heizyk

Finger Lakes Museum

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.

Photo: Chris Ray

Green Lakes State Park

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

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.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet 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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Ontario County Park at Gannett Hill

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Sampson State Park

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.

Photo: Andy Zepp

Taughannock Falls State Park

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).

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The Best Rail Trails in the FLX!

Photo: Chris Ray

The Best Rail Trails in the Finger Lakes Region!

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!

Photo: Jeff Katris

Black Diamond Trail

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.

Photo: Bill Hecht

Catharine Valley Trail

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.

Photo: Dave Duprey

Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail

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.

Photo: Josh Baldo

Jim Schug Trail

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.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet Trail

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.

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Locations Without Hunting in 2020

Photo: Bill Hecht

Go Finger Lakes Locations Without Hunting in 2020

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.

Photo: Baltimore Woods

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

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.

Photo: Brian Maley

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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.

Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

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.

Photo: D. Elswit

Roy H. Park Preserve

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.

Photo: Vinnie Collins

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

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.

Photo: Gail Norwood

Tanglewood Nature Center

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.

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Easygoing Hikes in the Finger Lakes

Photo: Matt Champlin

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Catharine Valley Trail

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.

Photo: Dave Duprey

Cayuga-Seneca Rail Trail

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.

Photo: Cornell Botanic Gardens

Cornell Botanic Gardens

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Ganonondagan State Historic Site 

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.

Photo: Sarah Nickerson

Labrador Hollow Unique Area

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.

Photo: Tanglewood Nature Center

Tanglewood Nature Center 

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.

Other places to explore…

Black Diamond Trail 

Jim Schug Trail

Keuka Outlet Trail

Sampson State Park 

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Favorite Fall Hikes in the FLX!

Photo: Matt Champlin

Favorite Fall Hikes in the Finger Lakes Region

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.

Photo: Baltimore Woods

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Birdseye Hollow State Forest

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.

Photo: Tom Reimers

Buttermilk Falls State Park

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.

Photo: Chris Ray

Clark Reservation State Park

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.

Photo: Tom Reimers

Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area

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.

Photo: Bill Hecht

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

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.

Photo: Monika Wood

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

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.

Other places to explore…

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Pratt’s Falls County Park

Roy H. Park Preserve

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Kid-Friendly Outdoor Spots!

Photo: Edie Jodz

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Spots in the Finger Lakes

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:

Photo: Tim Starmer

Catharine Valley Trail

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.

Photo: Lauren McLoughlin

Cumming Nature Center

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.

Photo: Rick Lightbody

Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve

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.

Photo: Chris Ray

Green Lakes State Park

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.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet Trail

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.

Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Sampson State Park 

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.

Photo: Tanglewood Nature Center

Tanglewood Nature Center

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Taughannock Falls State Park

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Wesley Hill Preserve

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.

Other places to explore…

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

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Wild Places for Everyone

Photo: Brian Maley

Wild Places for Everyone: A Message on Racism from the Finger Lakes Land Trust

The Finger Lakes Land Trust believes that safe, easy access to quiet trails and open spaces is a right. We condemn racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

POSTED JUNE 4, 2020

Watching the horrifying events across the country over the past month shows us that for many Black Americans, there is no such thing as safe access to nature. That for Black people in this country, watching birds, jogging, sleeping—everyday activities and human rights—are fraught with potential danger.

The Land Trust is working hard to ensure that our network of nature preserves and trails are safe, so that people from all communities will feel welcome. Our mission remains:  To conserve forever the lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region, ensuring scenic vistas, local foods, clean waters, and wild places for EVERYONE.

We can do better.

We recognize that we are beginners in this work and commit to amplify the voices and experiences of Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color; to learn from groups working to diversify the conservation movement; and to work with partners to better serve the diverse communities of the Finger Lakes region.

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“…scenic vistas, local foods, clean waters, and wild places for everyone.”

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COVID-19 Update

Photo: Nikhil Nagane

COVID-19 Update About Park and Trail Closings Around the Finger Lakes Region

Please check before visiting, and protect yourself and others so that we all may continue to enjoy nature’s benefits.

 

Updated April 16, 2020

Dear Finger Lakers,

Gofingerlakes.org, a project of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, was created to inspire people to get outdoors and explore the natural beauty of our region.  As your guide to the best spots for outdoor recreation across our 6,000-square-mile area, we are pleased to offer this free service – especially now when a hike in nature can be a particularly potent form of solace.

To keep you and your family safe during the COVID-19 crisis, we recommend that you check with the public agency or organization that administers any Go Finger Lakes location before you visit.  Decisions to close parks and trails may be made in the interest of public health.  Please continue to enjoy the outdoors close to home and be sure to practice social distancing guidelines defined by the CDC.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Web Sites

You can read the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s COVID-19 response.  You might also find useful or emergent information about Go Finger Lakes locations on these web sites:

State

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

County

Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail
Chemung River Friends
Ontario County
Onondaga County Parks
Town of Dryden
Friends of the Outlet
Cayuga County
Seneca Meadows

National

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
United States Department of Agriculture

Go Finger Lakes Locations

Here is the complete list of Go Finger Lakes locations which include a direct link to the administrator for authoritative information.

State Forests, Parks, and More

Bear Swamp State Forest
Birdseye Hollow State Forest
Black Diamond Trail
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Cascadilla Gorge Trail
Catharine Valley Trail
Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail
Chemung River
Clark Reservation State Park
Conesus Inlet Wildlife Area
Connecticut Hill Wildlife Area
Danby State Forest
Erwin Wildlife Area
Fillmore Glen State Park
Finger Lakes National Forest
Gannett Hill Park
Green Lakes State Park
Grimes Glen Park
Hammond Hill State Forest
Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area
Hemlock-Canadice State Forest
High Tor Wildlife Area
Highland Forest
Howland Island
Jim Schug Trail
Keuka Outlet Trail
Labrador Hollow Unique Area
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Morgan Hill State Forest
Oakley Corners State Forest
Owasco Flats
Pratt’s Falls Park
Robert Treman State Park
Sampson State Park
Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve
Shindagin Hollow State Forest
Sugar Hill State Forest
Taughannock Falls State Park
Texas Hollow State Forest
Watkins Glen State Park

Nature Centers

Baltimore Woods Nature Center
Cayuga Nature Center
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cumming Nature Center
Lime Hollow Nature Center
Montezuma Audubon Center
Tanglewood Nature Center

Finger Lakes Land Trust Preserves

Bahar Preserve & Carpenter Falls
Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve
Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve
Hinchcliff Family Preserve
Lick Brook Gorge
Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve
Roy H. Park Preserve
Staghorn Cliffs
Steege Hill Nature Preserve
Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

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Hunting Season Safety

Photo: Chris Olney

“Be Safe, Be Seen” on Your Outdoor Adventures During Fall and Winter Hunting Seasons

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.  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.

Photo: Chris Olney

Wear Blaze Orange

Please see this November 2018 alert from New York State:  DEC and State Parks Remind Outdoor Enthusiasts that Hunting and Trapping Seasons are Open.

We share excerpts here:

DEC encourages every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter.  Doing so will allow these individuals to be seen more easily and from greater distances.

‘Data from hunting-related shooting incidents show us that hunters that wear hunter orange are seven times safer,’ Commissioner Seggos said. ‘If it makes sense for hunters, it makes sense for other outdoor enthusiasts as well.’

In addition, wearing blaze orange or pink or another bright color also makes it easier to be found by a Forest Ranger, Environmental Conservation Police Officer, or other rescue personnel if visitors become lost, sick, or injured while afield.  Pet owners are encouraged to dress dogs, as well.

Dogs should wear blaze orange or pink or another bright color too, and stay leashed at all times.

Trapping seasons for many species including fox and coyote are open throughout the fall and early winter; traps set for these species can also capture dogs that are not under control.  Keeping dogs on a leash is safer for the dog, for other people, and gives pet owners peace of mind.

Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails.  Hikers are encouraged to recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to participate in these activities on Forest Preserve and Conservation Easement lands.  Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.

Also on the DEC web site:  Hunting Seasons, Trapping Seasons, Hunting Safety.  Learn more about Statewide Hunting Regulations in NY State Parks and the Policy on Possession of an Unloaded Firearm for the Purpose of Accessing Adjacent Lands for Lawful Hunting Purposes.

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Best Birding Spots!

Photo: Tom Reimers

Best Birding Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Finger Lakes region. If you are a beginning birder, it’s a great place to get started. If you are already a diehard, you can devote hours and hours, week after week, to birding here and never run out of rewarding discoveries. And whether you live in our region or are here just for a short visit, you have endless options about where to find the birds, all year round.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma is the crown jewel of the area’s birding sites, almost literally at the top center on the map of the region at the north end of Cayuga Lake, within an hour’s drive of Syracuse, Rochester, and Ithaca. The refuge itself encompasses almost 10,000 acres, but is only one part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, a vast patchwork of almost 50,000 protected acres, or about 78 square miles. Most people begin their visit at the refuge’s visitor center, and then proceed slowly on the Wildlife Drive around the Main Pool. During spring and fall migration, these open waters host hundreds of thousands of migrating ducks, geese, swans, grebes, coots, cormorants, and every now and then, even local rarities such as American White Pelicans. Montezuma also hosts a dazzling array of charismatic breeding birds throughout the summer, and in winter, the area is still excellent for roadside birding, perhaps most notably for wintering Snowy Owls and Northern Shrikes.

Heron at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Heron feeding at Montezuma NWR. Photo: Chris Ray

Sapsucker Woods

Located in Ithaca, this 220-acre sanctuary is the home of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of the world’s leading institutions dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. Sapsucker Woods is a particularly good place to start if you are new to birds and birding. The sanctuary itself has more than four miles of trails, which are all wide and flat, making for easy walking even for young children. Comprising beech-oak forest, swampland, brushy edges, and ponds, Sapsucker Woods typically hosts more than 150 bird species per year. During peak migration in May and September, birders collectively find 20+ species of warblers, plus vireos, thrushes, and much more. Summer is less of a riot of diversity, but still, with a well-trained ear, one can find 50 or more breeding bird species in Sapsucker Woods, including Barred Owls, Northern Waterthrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, and of course eponymous Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager. Photo: Lang Elliott

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

With ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, there is an abundance of wildlife habitats within the 6,315-acre wildlife management area in Yates County. Numerous songbirds and marshland birds may be viewed here.  No doubt the rich habitat and all the wildlife it supports is why the Audubon Society has recognized High Tor as an Important Bird Area.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area

The Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area is 1,120 acres of broad, flat floodplain nestled between two glacially steepened hillsides at the foot of Conesus Lake. Its marshland habitat is a favorite stopover for numerous species of migratory birds, and Bald Eagles have been nesting within the area and can be seen fishing the lagoon.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area
Conesus Inlet. Photo: Nigel Kent

The Finger Lakes Land Trust owns many lesser-known nature preserves, open to the public and much beloved by locals but often overlooked by visitors. Here you can really discover the variety in our regional landscapes, and accordingly, the diversity of our breeding birds.

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

Located in West Danby, Tompkins County, this preserve covers more than 500 acres of meadows, hedgerows, hardwood forest, hemlock woods, and streams and ponds. Over 70 species of birds nest here in a typical year, including both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, plus Prairie Warblers among 17+ breeding warbler species.

Hinchcliff Family Preserve

The Hinchcliff Preserve in Spafford, Onondaga County, has a similarly impressive mix of habitats and bird species across its 206 acres, plus a sweeping view of Skaneateles Lake.

Birding at Hinchcliff Family Preserve on Skaneateles Lake
Photo: Bill Hecht

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

And in the 390-acre Wesley Hill Preserve between Canandaigua and Honeoye Lakes, you can expect to find Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, and up to three dozen other species on a slow morning walk through the mature hardwoods and conifers in spring and summer.

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Portions of this article also appeared in Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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