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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Best Mountain Biking Spots in the FLX!

Photo: Edie Jodz

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 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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Cayuga- Seneca Canal Trail

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.

Photo: Steve Gelb

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

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.

Photo: Rob Howard

Highland Forest

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.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Ontario County Park at Gannett Hill

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Morgan Hill State Forest

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!

Other places to explore…

Oakley Corners State Forest

Hammond Hill State Forest

Bear Swamp 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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Best Trail Running Spots in the FLX!

Photo: Joel Cisne

Best Trail Running Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Are you ready to take your running from the roads to the trails? Or perhaps you are already a trail runner looking for more of a challenge? Fortunately, the Finger Lakes region offers plenty of workout options for trail runners of all kinds. Check out our list of favorite spots, from easy sloping double-track trails to technical single-track routes with beautiful views.

Photo: Brian Maley

Hammond Hill State Forest

Hammond Hill is a popular destination for all sorts of adventuring, especially trail running. Runners love the versatility that Hammond Hill offers. With over 20 miles of trails to explore, this forest is the perfect location for runners looking for a quick jog after work or a long run on the weekend. Technicality varies here, offering options for single-track trails that require some maneuvering around rocks and roots or wide seasonal roads that let you take your eyes off the ground for a moment to enjoy the view.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Catharine Valley Trail

The Catharine Valley Trail is the perfect place for the seasoned road runner to get a feel for running on trails. As a natural corridor that follows the old Chemung Barge Canal tow path, the trail runs from Watkins Glen to the hamlet of Pine Valley at a very modest grade. You can run long or short distances, but keep in mind that the Catharine Valley Trail is an out-and-back route. The low grade and wide, crushed stone path also make the trail a great option for runners with small children in strollers.

Photo: Vinnie Collins

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

Nestled between Corning and Big Flats, the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Steege Hill Nature Preserve is a perfect destination for Southern Tier runners. With a trail network covering more than 6 miles and offering several looped route options, Steege Hill is ideal for trail runners of all levels. Do you yearn to see some wildlife while exploring the trails? Steege Hill is home to many different species of animals, so keep your eyes out!

Photo: Nigel Kent

High Tor Wildlife Management Area (WMA)

Located at the south end of Canandaigua Lake, High Tor WMA really has it all. With over 20 miles of trails to explore, High Tor WMA features ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, so you will never get bored on a long run. If you need to cool off, there are plenty of creek walk options to enjoy before continuing your run. If you love the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), then you’ll also love High Tor WMA, as it features a part of the Bristol Hills Trail, a branch of the FLT.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet Trail

The Keuka Outlet Trail, often referred to as simply the Outlet Trail, follows a generally downhill course from Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to the inlet along Seneca Lake in Dresden. As a rail trail, this is another great option for beginners or even seasoned trail runners looking for a place to shake out their legs while avoiding the roads. From point to point, the Outlet Trail extends nearly 7 miles, offering runners excellent short and long run options as an out-and-back route. Please be aware that equestrians frequent the Outlet Trail, so make sure your trail etiquette knowledge is up to speed!

Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

If you’re looking for a great location for technical elevation training, then Danby State Forest is the place for you. The popular Abbott Loop features 8 miles of trails that will get your heart rate up as you climb to the stunning lookout at Thatcher’s Pinnacles and your adrenaline pumping as you maneuver your way back down. With multiple spur trails, loops, and a seasonal road, every runner can find their right distance. Have trekking poles and want the chance to use them? Danby State Forest is an optimal place to try them out.

Other places to explore…

Finger Lakes National Forest

Highland Forest

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COVID-19 Update About Park & Trail Closings

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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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Dog-Friendly FLX Hikes

Photo: Joel Cisne

Dog-Friendly Hikes in the Finger Lakes Region

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. Whether on or off-leash, please be sure your dog is under your control at all times.

Photo: Noel Bastien

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

The Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Wesley Hill Preserve has a 5.6-mile trail system which winds past several gullies, diverse stands of mature forest, and a pond. Perfect for exploring, the preserve is home to the immense Briggs Gully and features sweeping views of the hills surrounding Honeoye Lake’s southern end. Dogs must be under their owner’s control at all times.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Morgan Hill State Forest

Morgan Hill is a popular spot for Syracuse and Cortland-area hikers looking for some solitude. Dogs are welcome off-leash to explore over 22 miles of marked foot trails and public forest access roads. The trails at Morgan Hill cross seasonal streams, pass through a mixture of deciduous and conifer forests, and extend to the North Country Trail—a 4,600-mile trail that traverses seven states and connects North Dakota to New York.

Photo: Monika Wood

Erwin Wildlife Management Area

Five miles west of Corning, the Erwin Wildlife Management Area features over 2,490 acres and more than ten miles of trails. Dogs are free to roam deep gullies with hemlock-shaded streams, deciduous forests, and several small ponds. Similar to state forests, wildlife management areas do not require dogs to be on a leash as long as they are under their owner’s control.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Sampson State Park

Full of military history from World War II and the Korean War, what really shines at Sampson State Park for outdoor enthusiasts is the three and half mile long Lake Trail, much of which follows the shore of Seneca Lake. Here, the access road between the village of Willard and the state park has been designated as a trail and follows within feet of the extraordinarily deep lake. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet Trail

The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail follows a generally downhill course from the outlet of Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to the inlet along Seneca Lake in Dresden.  Along sections of the trail are the remains of old mill buildings and locks, lush woodlands, and two impressive waterfalls.  A winding stream accompanies hikers, runners, bikers and even equestrians along the 6.8-mile route. Dogs should be kept on a leash and under their owner’s control at all times.

Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

A favorite spot for Ithaca-area hikers, Danby State Forest has 7,337 acres and over 19 miles of trails including two lean-tos and a section of the Finger Lakes Trail. The forest’s popular 8-mile Abbott Loop features a stunning lookout at Thatcher’s Pinnacles, where you’ll find sweeping views of the Cayuga Inlet Valley and the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve. Dogs are free to explore this state forest off-leash.

Photo: Joel Cisne

A reminder to recreation enthusiasts that many parks, forests, and nature preserves allow hunting and trapping in designated periods. 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. See our hunting safety guidelines.

Other places to explore…

Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail

Bear Swamp State Forest

See the map for more locations!

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Top FLX Snowshoe Destinations!

Photo: Lois Darlington

Top Snowshoe Destinations in the Finger Lakes Region

When the snow starts falling, it’s the perfect time to step into a pair of snowshoes and explore the Finger Lakes. Snowshoes are lightweight, easy to use and provide a fun way to get outdoors in winter. Regardless of your skill level, there is no shortage of places to go in the Finger Lakes region. Here are a few of our top snowshoe destinations.

Photo: Karl Hanafin

Cumming Nature Center

Don’t own a pair of snowshoes? Not a problem! Cumming Nature Center in Naples rents them for $5 and has a 3-mile loop just for snowshoeing. The trails here are perfect for beginners or those looking for a leisurely pace, and are patrolled by the Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol. Acting as the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s “living museum,” the center is perfect for family-friendly fun.

Photo: FLLT

Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area

Looking for a challenge? Explore the hilly terrain and peaceful solitude of New York State’s largest wildlife management area, encompassing 11,645 acres. For a shorter trek, take the 2.6 mile-long Bob Cameron Loop which lies within a deep, mostly hardwood forest and crosses several seasonal streams. For a long excursion, the 5.7 mile-long Van Lone Loop shares a picturesque section of the Finger Lakes Trail which follows Cayuta Creek then climbs beside a wooded stream and follows forest roads to the end.

Photo: Chris Ray

Green Lakes State Park

While the trails at many state parks are often closed in winter for safety reasons, Green Lakes is an exception. The park features an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, where visitors can snowshoe and enjoy wide-open views. For a more challenging experience, a 13-mile trail system on the western edge of Round Lake weaves through open fields and old growth forests, a rare circumstance in the northeast.

Photo: Danielle Kisloski

Roy H. Park Preserve

Just a short drive from Ithaca, this 241-acre preserve, which features portions of an extensive forest, rolling meadows, and wetlands, is an important connector in a larger array of some 8,000 acres of protected lands. From the north entrance, cross the boardwalk and snowshoe your way into more than 20 miles of multi-use trails at Hammond Hill State Forest. An easy meandering one-mile trail that begins from the south entrance of the preserve leads you through a meadow that encircles a beautiful evergreen plantation.

Photo: Betsy Darlington

Oakley Corners State Forest

Located in the Southern Tier just north of Owego, Oakley Corners features a 13-mile multi-use trail system. All trails are color-coded and have a skill level designation: short, gentle trails for beginners, and steeper, longer trails for intermediate and advanced snowshoers. The network of trails here were built by the Triple Cities Ski Club through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Adopt-A-Natural Resource program and are another great example of how public and private partnerships can make natural resources accessible.

Another location to rent snowshoes…

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Other places to explore…

Finger Lakes National Forest

Highland Forest

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Top 8 Cross Country Ski Spots in the Finger Lakes

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Top XC Ski Spots!

Photo: Nigel Kent

Top 10 Cross Country Ski Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Cold, crisp air, snow falling silently through a hemlock forest, a distant birdsong – it’s winter in the Finger Lakes. Cross-country skiing is a great way for people of all skill levels to enjoy the beauty of the season. From technical terrain in state forests to groomed trails and more, there’s something for everyone.  See our top ski spots on this page, and also see the main map with the ski filter selected.

Photo: Hannah George

Bear Swamp State Forest

Known for its “Adirondack-like” character, Bear Swamp features extensive wetlands along with 15 miles of multiuse trails that provide lots of options for skiing. The forest overlooks the southwestern shore of Skaneateles Lake and is located in an area that typically receives ample “lake effect” snow. For the most part, the trails weave around and up-and-over two ridges that flank Bear Swamp Creek. 

Photo: Nigel Kent

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Located on the high wooded ridge just west of Honeoye Lake, this state recreation area is one of the go-to places for Rochester-area skiers. Harriet Hollister features a 20-mile network of trails through mature forest with several trails groomed by the Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation. Trails are marked with the cross country skier in mind including grade and difficulty levels. Elevations are above 2,000 feet, which makes it a better bet for snow cover than many other locations. Be sure to check out the Overlook Trail for a panoramic view of Honeoye Lake while you are there.

Photo: Hannah George

Highland Forest

This Onondaga County park spans 2,700 acres of hill country south of Syracuse. There is an extensive trail system of interconnected loops to accommodate long and short trips with the added benefit that the skiing and snowshoeing trails are separate. Along the loops are numerous lean-tos with orientation maps providing great places to stop and gauge your progress.

Photo: Cumming Nature Center

Cumming Nature Center

Nestled between Canandaigua and Honeoye Lakes, Cumming Nature Center is home to 900 acres of diverse habitats, including their iconic 90-year old red pine stand. In winter, the center offers twelve miles of groomed trails that are flat, easy, and perfect for beginners. No skis? No problem! Equipment rentals are available. The center also charges a modest admission fee to use the trails and recommends purchasing tickets in advance.

Photo: Hannah George

Hammond Hill State Forest

This forest’s 20 miles of trails include easy trails for beginners as well as challenging downhill runs for the most expert skiers. The best maps of the trail system are available online from gofingerlakes.org and the Cayuga Nordic Ski Club, one of several organizations that collaborate with the DEC to maintain the trails in the forest. The trails are broad and provide ample line of sight, making downhill runs exhilarating and less worrisome than narrow hiking trails found in other forests.

Photo: Patrick Buckley

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

Located on a hilltop high above the Chemung River, the 793-acre Steege Hill Nature Preserve is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s largest conservation area. A series of connected loop trails, seven miles in total, are excellent for cross-country skiing. Pause near a remote brook nestled in a hemlock-lined ravine, and you get the feeling of being in the most untouched of forests.

Photo: Hannah George

Oakley Corners State Forest

Located in the Southern Tier just north of Owego, Oakley Corners features a network of 13 miles of trails that were built by the Triple Cities Ski Club. This 1,000-acre forest is located about a half-hour drive from both Ithaca and Binghamton. The state forest is divided into northern and southern sections by Dutchtown Road and though the forest remains mostly the same, skiers will find flatter terrain in the southern section and slightly more rugged difficult trails in the northern section.

Photo: Brian Maley

Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area

Connecticut Hill is the largest wildlife management area in New York State, encompassing 11,645 acres. It is also one of the largest contiguous high elevation forests in the region. Skiers will enjoy the 5.7-mile Van Lone Loop which shares a picturesque section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) that follows Cayuta Creek along a mostly level route free of obstructions. The trail then climbs beside a wooded stream and finally completes the loop by following sections of remote forest roads. Skiers looking for a shorter route can follow the 2.6-mile Bob Cameron Loop near the FLT, but entirely separate.

Photo: Edie Jodz

Lime Hollow Nature Center

This hidden gem in Cortland County boasts 2.5 miles of cross-country ski trails that weave through meadow, forest, and scrub land, often encircling numerous ponds found throughout the 430-acre property. Open dawn to dusk, the mostly flat trails are perfect for beginners and families with children—with a few steep slopes along the way.

Photo: Brian Maley

Birdseye Hollow State Forest

The 3,446-acre Birdseye Hollow State Forest has nearly 11 miles along the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) which winds its way mostly north to south. Deep woodlands and babbling brooks occupy the majority of the trail experience here, providing skiers with plenty of solitude. There is also the short blue-blazed lakeside trail which traverses the transitional space between forest and wetland and acts as a nice complement to the FLT.

Gentler rides on rail-trails…

Jim Schug Trail

Black Diamond Trail

When there’s lots of snow…

Finger Lakes National Forest

Other places to explore…

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Show the blue filter bar and set the filters for “XC skiing” and any other factors you’re looking for!

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

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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 Hikes on the Finger Lakes Trail

Photo: Jeff Katris

Our Favorite Hikes on the Finger Lakes Trail (in the FLX Region)

Over 950 miles long and covering some of the most scenic land in New York, the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) system runs from Allegheny State Park on the Pennsylvania border to the Catskill Forest Preserve, with branch trails to Niagara Falls, the Genesee River valley, the Great Eastern Trail, the central Finger Lakes, and the Syracuse region.  This system is built and maintained almost entirely by volunteers.

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.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Birdseye Hollow State Forest

Spanning more than 3,000 acres, Birdseye Hollow State Forest has seven designated primitive lakeside campsites and nearly 11 miles along the Finger Lakes Trail.  The white-blazed FLT winds its way mostly north to south through predominately deciduous forest, though several conifer plantations dot the landscape as well.  Deep woodlands and babbling brooks occupy the majority of the trail experience here, 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.

Photo: Robert Teitelbaum

Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve

A highlight of the Finger Lakes Trail, this wooded 48-acre preserve offers ideal options for an easy walk or connection to a much longer, more challenging hike. Owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference subject to a conservation easement held by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve features some of our region’s oldest, most majestic trees.

Starting from the parking area on Rockwell Road, the FLT passes through a grove into a large meadow. At a fork in the trail, a yellow-blazed path leads to the “old-growth loop,” which passes by the preserve’s tallest maples, thought to be 300 years old. In the other direction, the trail leads to an overlook with views across Enfield Creek valley and then passes by a lean-to, fire pit, and picnic table perfect for camping.

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 Danby State Forest. Though the forest is relatively close to Ithaca — less than 10 miles — its 7,337 acres feel perfectly tranquil and the lengthy trail proves the old maxim that a little distance will ensure solitude along the trail. Additionally, in a region with so many out-and-back hikes, the loop configuration is greatly appreciated by those who dislike retracing their steps.

The trail weaves primarily through wooded glens with slow creeks and hilltop oak-hickory forests. Of particular interest along the loop is the trail leading hikers to a stunning lookout at Thatcher’s Pinnacles, found along the steep western edge of the forest. The forest is thinned here, and from the pinnacle you’ll find sweeping views of the Cayuga Inlet Valley and the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Photo: Joel Cisne

Finger Lakes National Forest

The 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. The trails vary from roads and worn footpaths in the forest to sunken ruts or merely painted stones in the fields. 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.  The Interloken Trail forms the central axis through the forest while the other trails are either side loops or form parallel north-south oriented trails.

Wooded glens and open pastures comprise the majority of the landscape in the Finger Lakes National Forest.  However, the pastures are what make these trails distinct from those in other forests. As is the case on many federally-owned lands, grazing is permitted. Hikers will find that they share the pastures with cattle during the months of May to October, and must use a series of locking cattle gates when venturing in and out of the fields. Aside from the oddity of bovine accompaniment, the pastures provide excellent vistas and habitat for a variety of grassland birds.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Gannett Hill Park

There are not many trails with broad scenic views in the Finger Lakes region, but the ones that do exist are high on the must-visit list. Among those trails with a view, the “Jump Off” overlook at Gannett Hill is one of the best. But the lookout is just the beginning of the activities available in the 400-acre county park. A vast network of trails, over 10 miles in total, weaves through the woodland and over steepened hillsides of the Bristol Valley.

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—difficulty being a measure of ruggedness and elevation change rather than distance. The trail network actually extends beyond the park boundaries along the Bristol Hills Trail, a spur of the Finger Lakes Trail. This branch trail snakes its way through several parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas. It totals roughly 55 miles from Gannett Hill in the north to the main Finger Lakes Trail in Mitchellsville to the south. The trails beyond the park boundary are for foot travel only, and you will certainly notice the change as access is through tight V-shaped structures that preclude anything but hikers from passing further.

Photo: Bill Hecht

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

Opportunities abound for all types of outdoor enthusiasts at the High Tor Wildlife Management Area (WMA). With ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, there is an abundance of outdoor experiences waiting within the 6,315-acre wildlife management area.

There are over a dozen miles of hiking trails in the 3,400-acre upland portion of High Tor WMA, including the 4.8 mile High Tor Loop of the FLT. No matter which approach you choose to reach the upland site, the climbing is steep. But, once you reach the top, the hiking is fairly level. The trail network is a mixture of access roads and rugged worn footpaths that wind their way through open fields and dense woodlands with the occasional wooded glen and pond to spice up the experience. The trail system is also a part, albeit only a short section, of the more extensive Bristol Hill Trail, a branch trail of the FLT.

Photo: Chris Ray

Lick Brook Gorge

During the last ice age, glaciers thousands of feet thick blanketed much of northern North America, sculpting the beautiful topography of the Finger Lakes region.  The effects of these glaciers can be seen in the multiple waterfalls that splash down along Lick Brook on its journey to Cayuga Lake, including one that is nearly 140 feet tall.  The Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Lick Brook Gorge preserve hosts a popular stretch of the Finger Lakes Trail that runs along the gorge.  Ambitious hikers can continue along the trail to Buttermilk Falls State Park to the east and Robert H. Treman State Park to the west.

Photo: Chris Ray

Morgan Hill State Forest and Labrador Hollow Unique Area

Morgan Hill State Forest and Labrador Hollow Unique Area are often referred to as one and the same, and to a certain extent it is true. They are, for the most part, contiguous parcels and are connected by the North Country Trail.

The best trips to the area include both locations and combine the striking scenery from Labrador Hollow (including a 100-acre glacial lake) with the rugged wildness of Morgan Hill. However, Morgan Hill remains the destination of choice for more serious hikers, backpackers, and those who want an extra challenge. The rugged trails feature some higher levels of difficulty along lengthy rising and falling treks which experienced hikers will cherish. Since the trails to Tinker Falls and the Jones Hill hang glider launch at Labrador Hollow are the most popular and farthest many visitors travel, hikers that delve into Morgan Hill will be rewarded not only with a deep forest setting, but solitude as well.

Find more hikes – see the map!

You can learn more about these and other great places to hike on the Go Finger Lakes interactive map.  We also encourage you to visit the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) web site and volunteer to keep the trail beautiful; see their site for maps and tools.

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

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