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The Finger Lakes Trail: Upstate's Hidden Gem

The Finger Lakes Trail: Upstate's Hidden Gem

By Chris Coyne

There is nothing quite as invigorating as a nice walk in the woods. Experiencing the serenity of nature is good for the soul and negotiating the rugged terrain is great exercise. We are fortunate to live in one of the most visually stunning regions in the country, and thanks to the efforts of several state organizations and thousands of enthusiastic and conscientious volunteers, we have a wonderful thoroughfare on which to explore the beauty of our surroundings.

The main Finger Lakes trail is nearly 560 miles of trail systems that stretch all the way from Allegheny State Forest in Cattaraugus County all the way to the Catskill Forest Preserve. There are 400 more miles of branch trails and loops that originate from the main trail off to points in all directions.

Along the trail, you'll be treated to an astonishing array of beautiful vistas, tumbling waterfalls, awe-inspiring gorges and fantastic historic locales. The main trail crosses through four state parks, 41 state forests, three wildlife management areas, and one national forest. It's maintained by volunteers from 15 organizations and sponsors, with some maintenance from state and federal groups on certain sections.

Regional Highlights of the Finger Lakes Trail

Here are some of the highlights of portions of the trail that are near enough to the Twin Tier's to make for a fabulous day trip. (Courtesy of FingerLakes.com)

Near Cayuga Lake

When visiting Cayuga Lake, check out the Robert Treman State Park, just five miles south of Ithaca. This park offers some of the most scenic hiking trails in the area. The waterfalls, gorges and rock formations in the park are well-known with outdoors enthusiasts. Use the upper park entrance and check out the Old Mill Falls, among others, and follow the Gorge Trail to Enfield Glen.
Birders and wildlife enthusiasts will revel in the beauty of Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, a 230-acre preserve, home to the world-renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology and over four miles of hiking trails meandering on trails through gorgeous forests and on boardwalks over ferny swamps and along lively ponds.

Near Seneca Lake

Near Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen State Park is a beautiful canyon with waterfalls galore, and it's very popular with visitors as a result. The hiking trails around Montour Falls are especially appealing to hikers. While you're there, be sure to check out the Queen Catherine Marsh and Havana Glen. The Interlaken Trail, a 12-mile marked trail that runs past two ponds and traverses varied terrain, is one of the trails to check out in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Less well-known, but certainly worth your time, is the Hector Land Use Area-it has 25 miles of hiking trails and a handful of camp sites.

The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, which connects Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake, is a great hiking trail that runs along abandoned railroad tracks from Penn Yan to Dresden. The five mile trail winds past old mills that have long since fallen into disuse and two stunning waterfalls that are very much still alive. The Keuka Lake State Park, near Penn Yan in Bluff Point, has some nice hiking trails and plenty of other attractions as well.

Near Canandaigua Lake

Rich with hilly trails and scenic vistas, the area around Canandaigua Lake has some of the best hiking in all of the Finger Lakes. The 900-acre Cumming Nature Center in Naples has six miles of hiking trails that wind through the expansive park. Onanda Park, just south of the town of Canandaigua, features some of the best views of gorges and waterfalls around Canandaigua. The Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area, just outside of Naples, has some trails that range from moderate to challenging, some that traverse steep and sometimes rocky terrain.

For serious hikers, Hi Tor is the place to explore-you can make a multi-day hike of it in Hi Tor. For more sedate day hiking, visit the Ontario County Park in Naples.
And there's a lot more! If you get the hiking bug, you can explore even more of this stunning trail to the east, west north and south.

For the definitive guide to hiking the trail go to the official website of The Finger Lakes Trail Conference at fltconference.org. You'll find interactive maps, trail conditions and special events to make your ‘walk in the woods' a truly memorable experience!