Long trails are in short supply in the Finger Lakes and Central New York. Loop trails as well. Fortunately, Highland Forest has plenty of both. The extensive network of trails — over twenty miles of hiking/snowshoeing trails and many additional miles of mountain biking/skiing trails — intersects numerous wooded streams and rolling terrain through a variety of deciduous and coniferous forests. (Note: hiking trails are also used by equestrians.)
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 hikers and cyclists.
With so many options it may seem that picking a route or finding your way would be a tad daunting. But rest assured the separate trails are well marked — square for the hiking/snowshoeing trails and diamonds for the biking/skiing routes. There are also a plethora of location markers along the various routes so finding your way is fairly straightforward. Additionally, numerous lean-tos along the loops provide great stopping spots and have maps inside, providing yet another way to find your location and gauge your progress.
The North Country Trail (NCT), a trail that runs from North Dakota to the eastern edge of New York, bisects the park. The NCT connects the Finger Lakes with the Adirondacks, which is a fitting connection as Highland Forest is often described as an Adirondack experience in the heart of Central New York. At over 2,700 acres, this Onondaga County park rivals many state forests in size and has a similar remote, deep forest setting. Unlike state forests, there is very limited camping and hunting (bow hunting is allowed by park permit only), and parks hours are essentially dawn to dusk.
Another way the park really shines is easy access to alternative outdoor activities. This is a great place to get outside and try something new while enjoying nature. Cycling surfaces vary from country roads to forest riding trails and include three levels of difficulty, providing a wide variety of options and experiences. Furthermore, snowshoes and skis are available to rent at the lodge. Outfitters offer horseback riding trips during the summer while horse drawn sleigh rides are available during winter. Cabins and campsites are available for youth groups such as Boy Scout troops. So there is ample reason to revisit the park throughout the year to explore and expand your experiences in this deep forest setting.