GFLX Locations Without Hunting

Photo: Brian Maley

Go Finger Lakes Locations Without Hunting

Many of your favorite trails and outdoor locations may be closed or have limited access during the fall hunting season. For anyone looking for peace of mind and open space without trail closures, explore this list of places where hunting is not allowed. We also advise you to check with each location before visiting as hunting policies can change.

A leafy trail in the woods
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.

View of a lake from a park with benches
Photo: FLLT

Cayuga Waterfront Trail

Whether you walk a mile or run the full, 16-mile round trip, the Cayuga Waterfront Trail (CWT) is a great way to experience all that Ithaca’s Cayuga Lake waterfront has to offer. Benches, scenic overlooks, interpretive signs, and trailheads with decorative paving and kiosks help make the CWT a special place to relax or exercise, all while enjoying Ithaca’s beautiful waterways.

A pagoda and bench overlooking a pond
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.

The entrance to the Lime Hollow Nature Center
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.

People walking on a trail in the woods
Photo: David C. Spaulding

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.

Two people and a dog on a hiking trail
Photo: Monika Wood

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.

A Merlin
Photo: Bridget Sharry

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.

*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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Accessible Outdoor Experiences

Photo: Kevin Sio

Accessible Outdoor Experiences in the Finger Lakes

The things that many people love about getting outdoors in the Finger Lakes region—deep gorges, majestic waterfalls, lake views, and rolling forests—are often inaccessible to people with physical or cognitive challenges. Nonetheless, there are opportunities to experience nature for people of all abilities. See what our region has to offer with this list of inclusive outdoor spaces. For more locations, check out the map with the “accessible” filter selected.

A view of a waterfall from a wooden viewing platform
Photo: Max Heitner

Carpenter Falls Unique Area

A dramatic gorge and waterfall await visitors to Carpenter Falls Unique Area, adjacent to the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve. New York State recently completed access improvements at Carpenter Falls, including an elevated boardwalk leading 630 feet from the parking lot to an observation platform, accessible to people with mobility impairments.

Two people on a paved trail with a lake in the background
Photo: Friends of Stewart Park

Cayuga Waterfront Trail

Used by people of all abilities, the paved Cayuga Waterfront Trail (CWT) is a safe and accessible eight-mile, multi-use trail connecting Stewart Park to the Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, linking many popular waterfront destinations along the way. The CWT can be accessed at a variety of locations by car including Cass Park, Ithaca Farmer’s Market, and Stewart Park which is home to an accessible playground. Nearly all of the CWT is 10-12 feet wide with few exceptions, and electric-assist wheelchairs are allowed on the trail at a speed below 10 MPH.

A wooden boardwalk flanked by evergreen trees
Photo: Rob Howard

Labrador Hollow Unique Area

A popular destination at Labrador Hollow is a 2,000-foot boardwalk that traverses a diverse wetland complex and is accessible to those with mobility impairments. Labrador Pond also features an accessible fishing pier located off Markham Hollow Road, on the west side of the pond.

A large waterfall
Photo: Nigel Kent

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park opened the country’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of people on the autism spectrum in 2021. The Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment. Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking and restrooms, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

A sign welcoming visitors to Lime Hollow Nature Center
Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center offers a plethora of community programs and events on its 430-acre property in Cortland. A quarter-mile trail—the Trail for All—is wheelchair accessible and continues to various scenic overlooks on nearby Gracie Pond. A trail-ready wheelchair is available at the visitor center along McClean Road, if needed, for venturing further into Lime Hollow.

A woman sitting on a bench in front of a wetland area
Photo: Kevin Sio

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

Wildlife viewing opportunities abound at the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Lindsay-Parsons Preserve wetland overlook. The wetlands are home to Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, and the occasional river otter. While there are no accessible trails on the preserve, the overlook has a bench and nearby parking and can be found on Sylvan Lane, opposite the main preserve entrance.

A scenic vista of green hills
Photo: Nigel Kent

Ontario County Park at Gannett Hill

From an elevated platform or within a stone-wall encircled viewing area at Gannett Hill, the Bristol Valley sprawls across the western horizon in a stunning panoramic vista. The view is illustrative of the major influence that glaciers had in sculpting the U-shaped valleys and overly steepened hillsides of the Finger Lakes region. What is even better is that this overlook can also be accessed via a short ADA-accessible path so every member of the family can enjoy the view.

Other Places to Explore…

Cornell Botanic Gardens

Sampson State Park

Taughannock Falls State Park

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Top Gorge Hikes

Photo: Nigel Kent

Top Gorge Hikes in the Finger Lakes

Gorges—those narrow, sinuous openings in the landscape that often reveal eons of geological activity. They also happen to make for a fascinating and vigorous hike! There is much to appreciate on a trek through one of our region’s iconic gorges: dazzling waterfalls, beautiful stonework, flowing streams, and a variety of plants and wildlife. Many gorge trails and their associated rim trails can be adjusted for longer or shorter hikes, depending on preference. If you’re looking for a quintessential Finger Lakes adventure, check out one of these gorge hikes chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

A waterfall and gorge with a stone staircase
Photo: Chris Ray

Robert H. Treman State Park

A marvelous way to experience the gorge at Treman State Park is to walk up the Gorge Trail and then climb down the long stone staircase along the Rim Trail. The 115-foot Lucifer Falls is clearly central, and the handsome stonework winding up along the sheer cliff is equally remarkable. Like many state parks, the beautiful work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps can be admired for its appearance but also in the feat of constructing the trail which literally clings to the cliff. A beautiful stretch of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) runs through the park, and hikers can follow the FLT beyond Treman to Lick Brook Gorge and then all the way to Buttermilk Falls State Park.

A large gorge with waterfalls and a stone bridge
Photo: Nigel Kent

Watkins Glen State Park

There is no place more iconic of the Finger Lakes waterfall and gorge experience than Watkins Glen State Park.  Stunning waterfalls, dramatic flumes, and picturesque potholes combine to make a gorgeous waterscape. The scene is further enhanced by handsome stone staircases, arched bridges, and winding tunnels that weave up and through the scenic gorge. The trail through the gorge is an awe-inspiring confluence of water’s persistent and powerful stone sculpting and a thoughtful merger of human craftsmanship.

Two people standing in front of a large waterfall
Photo: Nigel Kent

Letchworth State Park

A lot of places claim to be the Grand Canyon of the East, and while none truly compare in terms of scale, Letchworth State Park’s grandeur and unique opportunities make it a can’t-miss natural wonder. 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. There is a greater quantity of trails on the western side of the gorge, leading to scenic overlooks with panoramic views. Hikers have a lot of options at Letchworth, and can even plan overnight or multi-night backpacking trips.

A rocky creek in the woods
Photo: Nigel Kent

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

Opportunities abound for all types of outdoor enthusiasts at the High Tor Wildlife Management Area, including creek walking and gorge exploration in Conklin Gully-Parish Glen and Clark Gully. Conklin Gully is a recent addition to the WMA, with trails that follow the rim and have several stunning scenes of the gorge and Angel Falls. The more adventurous and sure-of-foot can creek-walk the gorge.  Expect to get your feet wet along this unmarked scramble and be cautious of slippery and high water conditions.

A gorge with a rocky creek bed and long waterfall
Photo: FLLT

Taughannock Falls State Park 

The gorge at Taughannock Falls is perhaps more accurately described as a canyon and its namesake waterfall is one of the tallest in New York State. But the falls are not the only impressive aspect of the park. The Rim Trail that encircles the lower and upper gorges provides stunning views down into the canyon. And many will find the history of how the long, broad gorge was formed to be equally impressive while walking through the canyon and viewing the 400-foot-high gorge walls.

A rushing creek and trail separated by a stone wall
Photo: Nigel Kent

Fillmore Glen State Park

In the quiet village of Moravia, is another beautiful gorge park — Fillmore Glen. After an initial climb, the Gorge Trail here is relatively flat and easily negotiated.  Further along are several stunning smaller cascades and waterfalls that culminate with the tallest falls, Dalibarda Falls, followed shortly after by Upper and Lower Pinnacle Falls. Autumn is a notably beautiful time to visit, either when the leaves are emblazoned with contrasting colors or just after fallen leaves reveal parts of the gorge previously hidden from view by the dense understory.

A large flowing waterfall
Photo: Chris Ray

Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Connective corridors are typically parks or natural areas that connect two distinct areas within a community—for example, separate neighborhoods or villages. Within the heart of Ithaca, there is no better example than Cascadilla Gorge. It is a stunningly beautiful connective corridor that runs from downtown to the Cornell campus. The gorge is a short three-quarters of a mile in length, but it is long on amazing waterscapes.

Other places to explore…

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Grimes Glen Park

Lick Brook Gorge

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Favorite Swimming Spots

Photo: Nigel Kent

Favorite Swimming Spots in the Finger Lakes

Nothing beats a refreshing swim on a hot summer’s day, especially when you are immersed in gorgeous scenery. New York State Parks provide access to safe swimming areas, often within sight of waterfalls, lake views, and other natural features. To boot, amenities such as picnic tables and restrooms facilitate easy outdoor adventures that can last all day! Leave the pool behind and cool off at these favorite natural spots, chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Photo: FLLT

Taughannock Falls State Park

The lakeside portion of this well-known park, known as Taughannock Point, extends nearly a quarter-mile into Cayuga Lake. It is home to a swimming beach, an abundance of picnic areas, and boat slips. Combine all these features with a popular campground and it’s not surprising that the park is bustling all summer long!

Photo: Chris Ray

Green Lakes State Park

With nearly 20 miles of trails, old-growth forests, two pristine lakes, boat rentals, and a sandy swimming beach, there are numerous ways to get outside and enjoy Green Lakes State Park. At the heart of the 1,955-acre park, literally and figuratively, are two meromictic lakes — a unique condition where surface waters and deeper waters do not intermix.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Filmore Glen State Park

Not every waterfall and gorge trail is located in Ithaca. Approximately twenty miles north, in the quiet village of Moravia, is another beautiful gorge park — Fillmore Glen. It features campgrounds, a swimming area, and of course a deep gorge with stunning waterfalls just like its southerly brethren: Buttermilk Falls, Robert Treman, Taughannock Falls, and Watkins Glen State Parks.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Robert H. Treman State Park

Robert Treman State Park has a swimming area, handsome stonework, and stunning waterfalls, including the dramatic 115-foot Lucifer Falls. Similar to Buttermilk Falls State Park, the swimming area is beneath a beautiful waterfall and is extraordinarily popular during the summer.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Sampson State Park

Once a naval base, this land was transferred to New York State in the 1960s, and its new life as a recreation park began. Hundreds of buildings were dismantled and much of the park is slowly reverting to woodland and fields. Today, a designated swimming area along Seneca Lake’s shoreline provides public access to the Finger Lakes’ largest lake.

Photo: Tom Reimers

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Located just on the southern edge of Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls is a wildly popular spot for tourists and local residents, especially during the height of summer. Upon entering the park, newcomers quickly see why. Across a verdant lawn is a foaming and frothy waterfall with a deep pool and dammed swimming area below. While the base of the falls is chock-full of picnickers and swimmers, hikers can ascend the handsome stonework stairs for an endless supply of stunning waterscapes.

*Note that drought conditions and lifeguard shortages could affect hours of operation. Please check the official web site of each location before visiting.

Other places to explore…

Letchworth State Park*

Watkins Glen State Park*

*Pool only

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Long Hikes for Warm Spring Days

Photo: Rick Lightbody

Long Hikes for Warm Spring Days in the Finger Lakes

When the days get longer and the spring rains taper off, there is much to appreciate in a long, warm-weather hike. Nothing beats a forest filled with birdsong and the sweet scents of new life blooming everywhere. In the Finger Lakes region, there are many options for an extended trek filled with endless trails and gorgeous scenery. Immerse yourself in the ephemeral beauty of spring and hit the trail at one of these locations.

Photo: Bill Hecht

Bear Swamp State Forest

This sprawling 3,316-acre forest features over 15 miles of multiuse trails and miles of quiet, unpaved roads. For the most part, the trails weave around and up-and-over two ridges that flank Bear Swamp Creek. This habitat provides ample recreation opportunities and is also considered vital for at-risk species, such as the Cerulean Warbler, a rare deep forest songbird.

Photo: Monika Wood

Erwin Wildlife Management Area

Five miles west of Corning, the Erwin Wildlife Management Area features over 2,490 acres of prime wildlife habitat and more than ten miles of trails. Deep gullies with hemlock-shaded streams add a primeval feel in sections, while deciduous forests in various states of succession make up the majority of the woodland.

Photo: FLLT

Finger Lakes National Forest

Wooded glens and open pastures comprise the majority of the landscape in the Finger Lakes National Forest, home to over thirty miles of trails. Though a short portion of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) crosses the southern boundary of the forest, much of the trail system is closely tied to the twelve-mile north-south-oriented Interloken Trail—a branch of the FLT.

Photo: Chris Ray

Green Lakes State Park

The natural wonders don’t stop with the lakes at Green Lakes State Park. Its gorge, with steep slopes over 150 feet high, features old-growth forest as well. The trails through this forest can be reached at the western edge of Round Lake and are less frequented by most of the park’s visitors. Indeed, the trail network above the lake is more extensive than around the lake (approximately 13 miles of trails), and a little distance is always a sure way to find a bit more solitude.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

There are many beautiful places to get outdoors in the Finger Lakes, but few allow you to explore the shores of an actual Finger Lake.  Not so for the trails in Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. And to put a cherry on top, so to speak, the shores of these gems are free of development and utterly wild. The unique situation is thanks to the fact that Hemlock and Canadice lakes are the source of Rochester’s drinking water supply.

Photo: Chris Ray

James Kennedy State Forest

For hikers who hate to retrace their steps, you can’t go wrong in choosing from the many loop hikes at James Kennedy State Forest. The 4,422-acre forest is a packed collection of named trails, including short, one-mile family-friendly loops; short half-day loops; and, figure-eights or more convoluted patterns to hike all day or overnight. The white emblazoned main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) runs along an east-west axis with the loop trails breaking off from it to both the north and south.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State 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 trail network is essentially divided into two sections: trails to the east and west of the gorge. There is a greater quantity of trails on the western side, which lead to scenic overlooks with panoramic views of the gorge. The eastern side is remote, promising ample solitude, and is more akin to a state forest experience than a state park. A single-day trip will likely not be enough to take in all the experiences, and fortunately, there are many overnight opportunities available within the park.

Other places to explore…

Genesee Valley Greenway State Park

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Highland Forest

Oakley Corners State Forest

 

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Finger Lakes Nature Centers

Photo: Lauren McLoughlin

Favorite Finger Lakes Nature Centers

With its glacially carved landscapes, majestic forests, sparkling lakes, and unique flora and fauna, the Finger Lakes region is alive with natural wonder. Interpreting it all are the many nature centers that provide environmental education and recreational opportunities for visitors and residents alike. Their trail networks, indoor exhibits, public events, school programs, and more are designed to foster an appreciation of the natural world. Visit some of our favorite nature centers in the region!

An historic wooden building surrounded by trees with red and orange leaves
Photo: Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Rolling wooded hills, well-groomed trails, varied niches, and year-round educational and environmental programs make this small gem a must-visit for all members of the family. Despite the small footprint, one visit will barely be enough to enjoy all this 182-acre nature center has to offer.

Two children looking at a treehouse
Photo: Chris Ray

Cayuga Nature Center

Open dawn to dusk year-round, visitors can explore more than 3 miles of easy trails with various loops that cross open fields, wooded glens, and stream beds on this 100-acre property. The main building, known as The Lodge, hosts exhibits focused around the Cayuga Lake basin and is home to a variety of animal ambassadors on exhibit.

A sign on a tree that reads "red pine"
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. The trails explore an array of environs ranging from a thirty-five-acre beaver pond, scrublands, meandering wooded streams, open marshes, and deep forests.

Two people sitting on a bench by a wetland area
Photo: Sarah Nickerson

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year-round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrubland, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout this 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.

A metal Bald Eagle sculpture
Photo: Bill Banaszewski

Montezuma Audubon Center

This Audubon Center is often referred to as the information hub of the Montezuma Wetland Complex, a vast network of important ecological niches. Walking trails, an observation platform, streams, and wetlands welcome visitors from near and far. The center also offers numerous events that focus on habitat restoration, wetland ecology, bird migration, and general nature-oriented programs.

A nature center building
Photo: Tanglewood Nature Center

Tanglewood Nature Center

Hikers will find a couple of key features at Tanglewood that are often missing along other trails in the Finger Lakes region, namely varied terrain and a destination with a sweeping vista. The trails here are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain who had a summer home in nearby Elmira.

*Please check with each location before visiting as hours of operation may change.

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In Pursuit of the Finger Lakes Lean-To

Photo: Brian Maley

In Pursuit of the Finger Lakes Lean-To

Lean-tos, the wonderful wooden shelters cherished by campers and trail enthusiasts of all kinds, are found in many forested areas of the Finger Lakes. Mostly nestled along sections of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), these rustic three-sided structures provide overnight lodging with celestial views. They also offer refuge from the rain and serve as a resting place for hikers, cross-country skiers, and more. Learn about our favorite lean-tos in the region.

A sign marking the entrance to the Bock Harvey Forest Preserve
Photo: Mark Chao

Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve

Owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and subject to a conservation easement held by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the 48-acre Bock-Harvey Preserve features about half a mile of the FLT. The trail runs across the preserve and past the Locust Lean-to, named for its location among black locust trees. Built out of tamarack logs by volunteers, this site also features a fire pit, picnic table, and a fenced privy nearby.

A lean-to shelter
Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

Danby State Forest is home to the roughly 8-mile Abbott Loop which weaves through wooded glens with slow creeks and hilltop oak-hickory forests. Along this trail are two lean-tos, located on sections that overlap with the FLT. The Chestnut Lean-to lies in the western area of the forest, and the Tamarack lean-to on the eastern side.

The corner of a lean-to showing Finger Lakes Trail and North Country Trail signs
Photo: Chris Ray

James Kennedy State Forest

The 4,422-acre Kennedy State Forest is a packed collection of named trails, including the FLT/North Country Trail which runs along an east-west axis with the loop trails breaking off to both the north and south. The Foxfire Lean-to occupies a central spot in the forest, bordering farmland and with impressive views of the valley to the south.

A wooded trail
Photo: Tim Starmer

Morgan Hill State Forest

Over eleven miles of trails weave through wooded gullies, cross seasonal streams, and pass through a mixture of deciduous and conifer forests at Morgan Hill. Here, you can find the Hemlock Lean-to, located along the FLT, just off the trail between Morgan Hill Road and Shackham Road.

A trail leading to a lean-to in the woods
Photo: Brian Maley

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

Shindagin Hollow is over 5,266 acres and features more than 20 miles of trails, many designed for mountain biking. The hiking trail traverses laterally across the forest and almost exclusively follows a 5.7-mile-long section of the FLT. A popular stopping-over point for hikers along the trail is at the scenic Shindagin Hollow Lean-to which sits near a seasonal waterfall.

A side view of a lean-to
Photo: Tim Starmer

Sugar Hill State Forest

The vast 9,085-acre Sugar Hill State Forest is a unique conservation area with a large network of multiuse trails that accommodate equestrians as well as people with disabilities. It is also home to five Adirondack-style lean-tos found mostly along or near the FLT: the Buck Settlement Lean-to, north of Templar Road; the Parks Hollow Lean-to, north of Sugar Hill Road; the Twin Lean-tos (#1 and #2), south of the Sugar Hill Rec Area; and the VanZandt Lean-to, east of Tower Hill Road.

In most cases, lean-tos must be shared to capacity and are available on a first-come, first-use basis. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s web site offers guidelines.

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Uncommon Winter Activities, Part 2

Photo: Nate Hunter

Popular Spots for Uncommon Winter Activities in the Finger Lakes, Part 2

The mid-winter snow is falling! You might be familiar with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but what about fat biking or skate skiing?  If you can get your hands on the right gear and have a good sense of adventure, the Finger Lakes region has excellent options for cold-weather fun. Check out these uncommon activities and popular spots for mixing up your winter routine.

A group of people riding bikes in the snow
Photo: Nate Hunter

Fat Biking

Yes, you heard that right—fat bikes. No need to wait for optimal trail conditions when you can ride through snow, mud, sand, and other loose terrain. The larger surface area of a fat bike’s tires provides more traction and stability and facilitates weight dispersal, perfect for slippery environments. So, no more dreaming of dry trails all winter long. Saddle up and ride at these popular spots where small groups of ambitious bikers are sure to be found.

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

Green Lakes State Park

Morgan Hill State Forest

Photo: Cat Massa

Skate Skiing

With a side-to-side movement similar to ice skating, skate skiing is a style of cross-country that allows for a faster and more rigorous pace. Skate skiers use a V-shape technique and shorter skis to achieve a gliding motion as they move through the winter landscape. To cover more ground and achieve an invigorating speed, groomed trails are the preferred terrain. Here are a few locations for your skate skiing adventures:

Harriett Hollister Spencer Recreation Center

Highland Forest

Cumming Nature Center

A group of people running in snowhoes
Photo: Finger Lakes Runners Club

Snowshoe Running

Trail running doesn’t have to end when the snow starts falling thanks to running-specific snowshoes. Smaller and lighter than hiking models, running snowshoes are designed to grip the snow without excessive flopping. It’s a strenuous exercise involving whole-body movements that will keep you in excellent shape through the winter. Conquer the cold at one of these locations, just remember to run on the side of ski trails to avoid making postholes.

Hammond Hill State Forest

Finger Lakes National Forest

Oakley Corners State Forest

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*Don’t let a lack of equipment hold you back from these activities! Check your local outdoor retailer for equipment rentals.

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Uncommon Winter Activities, Part 1

Photo: Andy Zepp

Popular Spots for Uncommon Winter Activities in the Finger Lakes, Part 1

Winter is here, hearty Finger Lakers! Shake off that cabin fever and tackle the winter elements with a cold weather adventure. With proper planning and appropriate equipment, getting outside this time of year can lift the spirits and improve physical health. Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or just want to try something new, explore these winter activities and celebrated Finger Lakes locations to mix up your winter routine.

Photo: Brian Maley

Winter Camping

If you love a challenge and dislike mosquitos or crowds, winter camping can be an invigorating experience. A surprising number of people delight in cold, crisp nights under starry skies with days spent hiking or cross-country skiing. In the Finger Lakes, there are several options for tent camping or staking claim to one of the region’s celebrated lean-tos. Check out these locations for an immersive winter experience.

Danby State Forest

Finger Lakes National Forest

James Kennedy State Forest

Sugar Hill State Forest

Photo: Hannah George

Animal Tracking

You can find animal tracks and signs in many places throughout the year however, there is something magical about looking for them in the snow. Plenty of creatures are actively searching for food in winter and leave behind clues about their behavior. Locations with diverse habitats including fields, forests, creeks, and ponds will produce interesting finds. Here are some locations that fit the bill.

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

Tanglewood Nature Center

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

Photo: Nigel Kent

Winter Hiking with Waterfalls

If hiking through a snow-covered landscape while breathing in cool, refreshing air and marveling at beautiful waterfalls is your idea of fun, the Finger Lakes region is the place to be. While most gorge trails are closed in winter for safety reasons, there are still many locations to discover. Here is a list of places where hikers can enjoy winter waterfall scenery.

Labrador Hollow Unique Area

Letchworth State Park

Keuka Outlet Trail

Taughannock Falls State Park

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Best Locations for Solitude on the Trail

Photo: Rick Lightbody

Best Locations for Solitude on the Trail in the Finger Lakes

Fall is a season of change, heralded by the arrival of colder nights, shorter days, and changing leaves. The transition from long summer days to hectic school and work schedules can be stressful, especially during the pandemic. Many studies have shown that immersion in nature contributes positively to mental and physical wellbeing. If you are seeking a bit of solitude on the trail, consider a long hike at one of these locations.

An aerial view of Bear Swamp Creek
Photo: Bill Hecht

Bear Swamp State Forest

Southwest of Skaneateles Lake, this sprawling 3,316-acre forest features over 15 miles of multiuse trails and miles of quiet, unpaved roads. The trails weave around and up-and-over two ridges that flank Bear Swamp Creek.  As such there are some climbs and descents when moving east-to-west, but the terrain is mostly flat while moving north-south.

A lean-to
Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

Hikers looking for a quiet and secluded setting need look no further than the roughly 8-mile Abbott Loop in the Danby State Forest. Though the forest is relatively close to Ithaca—less than 10 miles—its 7,337 acres feel perfectly isolated and tranquil. It is a favorite spot for Ithaca hikers, but the lengthy trail proves the old maxim that a little distance will ensure solitude along the trail.

A wetland area
Photo: Sarah Schutt

Erwin Wildlife Management Area

Five miles west of Corning, the Erwin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) features over 2,490 acres of prime wildlife habitat and more than ten miles of trails. Deep gullies with hemlock-shaded streams add a primeval feel in sections, while deciduous forests in various states of succession make up the majority of the woodland.

A trail sign
Photo: FLLT

Finger Lakes National Forest

The national forest is home to over thirty miles of trails which have a mixture of uses ranging from hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and horseback riding. Though a short portion of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) crosses the southern boundary of the forest, much of the trail system is closely tied to the twelve mile north-south-oriented Interloken Trail — a branch trail along the FLT.

A blue lake with green hills in the background
Photo: Nigel Kent

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

There are many beautiful places to get outdoors in the Finger Lakes, but few allow you to explore the shores of an actual Finger Lake. Not so for the trails in Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. Lacking the typical houses and cottages as well as large noisy boats, exploring Hemlock-Canadice State Forest is like stepping back in time to behold the Finger Lakes in their natural state. With over 20 miles of multiuse trails there is a lot to do and see.

An aerial view of the south end of Canandaigua Lake
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. The climbing is steep but once you reach the top, the hiking is fairly level. The mix of roads and footpaths wind their way through open fields and dense woodlands with the occasional wooded glen and pond to spice up the experience.

A trail through the woods
Photo: Chris Ray

James Kennedy State Forest

For hikers who hate to retrace their steps, you can’t go wrong in choosing from the many loop hikes at James Kennedy State Forest. The 4,422-acre forest is a packed collection of named trails, including short, one-mile family-friendly loops; short half-day loops; and, figure-eights or more convoluted patterns to hike all day or overnight.

A wooded path with a trail sign
Photo: Tim Starmer

Sugar Hill State Forest

Trails here are part of the Six Nations Trail System, a network of roughly forty miles of trails that covers this and ten other nearby state forests.  The vast majority of these trails reside within Sugar Hill State Forest. Also of note, because of the structure of the trail network, Sugar Hill State Forest has one of the more extensive Motorized Access Programs for People with Disabilities. Unlike some accessible systems that tend to remain close to civilization’s edge, the accessible sections here allow for very far-removed and wild experiences.

Other places to explore…

Birdseye Hollow State Forest

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Highland Forest

Oakley Corners State Forest

Learn More

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