Favorite Fall Hikes in the Finger Lakes Region
It’s fall hiking season in the Finger Lakes! Many outdoor enthusiasts take to the trails in autumn to enjoy the vivid richness of fall foliage, cooler temps, and lower humidity. Options abound for trails of varying lengths and skill levels, and some feature waterfalls and scenic vistas. Before the leaves are gone, hit the trails at one of these locations chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust. And don’t forget to be mindful of safety during fall and winter hunting seasons.
With an elevation greater than 2,000 feet, the dense woodlands at Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area make for an enjoyable hike through mostly deciduous forest. Broad stable trails here include lengthy lines-of-sight, not to mention the picturesque panoramic view of Honeoye Lake and its steep-sided valley along the Overlook Trail.
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.
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.
While other gorge parks hit you with some of their most dramatic views right from the start, at Robert H. Treman you have to work just a little bit harder to get to the wow factor. The initial part of the gorge trail is relatively flat for a mile and three-quarters. But as you begin to hear thundering falls and see the route out of the gorge, it’s easy to see why “wow” might not be sufficient to describe the scene. The 115-foot Lucifer Falls is clearly central, and the handsome stonework winding up along the sheer cliff is equally remarkable. The dramatic waterscapes continue in the “upper gorge” area and it is clear why visitors often linger in this stunning section.
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.
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.
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. Three trails are available to explore: the north rim, the south rim, and the real gem — the gorge trail. 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.
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.
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 19. 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.