Unless you are an avid hiker, you might not even know it exists. But the Finger Lakes Trail is a 562-mile path — along with miles and miles of adjoining trails — that meanders through the heart of upstate New York, and a 1,400-member volunteer organization keeps it groomed and maintained.
The Finger Lakes Trail celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and to celebrate National Trails Day, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference organized a hike that covered the entire main trail in one day. It was a success! The entire main branch of Finger Lakes Trail was completely hiked on Saturday June 2, 2012. All 562 miles were walked as part of 75 different hikes throughout the state in simultaneous treks of 5-10 miles each. Almost 560 hikers participate. Some were older and some were as young as 9 months, some were seasoned hikers and others first-timers.
The Finger Lakes Trail traces its origins to 1961, when Wallace Wood of Rochester hiked portions of the Appalachian and Long Trails in Vermont, and he thought that a similar trail system was possible in New York. The Finger Lakes Trail Conference was founded the following year, and the organization began to contact local hiking clubs and started to develop a continuous footpath that stretched across the state. A half century later, 562 miles of trails that cross NY have been established.
The Finger Lakes Trail system provides avenues into some of the most wonderful features of the Finger Lakes region — panoramic views, deep gorges and waterfalls, cool forests and open fields. It’s an escape from the city and suburban sprawl. It’s a vital natural resource, but also, as some say, one of this area’s best-kept secrets. The trails provide the ideal gateway to a host of natural wonders.
The Finger Lakes Trail runs 562 miles from Allegany State Park west of Salamanca (PA/NY border) in Cattaraugus County to the Catskill Forest Preserve near Walton in Delaware County. There are another 257 miles of branch trails taking you to interesting places like the east side of Letchworth Gorge, and along 17 old canal locks near Nunda. The Queen Catherine Scenic Trail between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls (Schuyler County) is another spot with lots of Indian and Revolutionary War history, plus an old canal.
The highest point is 3660 feet near Balsam Lake Mt in the Catskills and the lowest point is 430 feet at the crossing of Cayuga Inlet near Ithaca. The trail has 26 lean-to’s and crosses four state parks, 41 state forests, 3 Wildlife Management Areas, one National Forest and over 450 private landowners graciously allow the trail to cross their land. So respect the trail and the lands it traverses!
The 4600 mile North Country National Scenic Trail coincides with the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) for 380 miles before veering away from the FLT on its way to the Adirondacks and its proposed eastern terminus at Crown Point, NY.
There’s a branch that goes all the way to Canada, too. The Conservation Trail begins at Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, goes through Niagara University Campus, and meets the main trail 75 miles away near Ellicottville.
The places I’ve mentioned so far actually get some traffic, though not nearly as much as you’d think. If it’s emptiness you’re after, try Swift Hill or Palmer’s Pond in Allegany County. Guaranteed, your only companions up there will be deer, turkeys, raccoons, and an occasional lonesome bear.
My favorite spot is Letchworth State Park with its amazing waterfalls and gorges and the lush, bucolic, cool moist woods. But Rock City State Forest near Ellicottville where giant-sized boulders are splitting away from an ancient Appalachian mountaintop, making a half square-mile labyrinth of nooks and crannies provides excellent rock climbing. Only a couple of miles below Rock City is an abandoned CCC camp that makes for enjoyable exploring. The Finger Lakes Trail hits many such places as it meanders across New York’s Southern Tier.
Respect the trail…. The trail system is maintained voluntarily by families and hiking clubs, which usually means the trail is cleared and marked, but that’s all. You won’t get lost, and there are lean-tos along the way, but if you’re looking for picnic tables every mile, forget it. This is real outdoors for real outdoor people. You need not be a “professional” and anyone who can walk can participate. Trails are free, no toll booths or permits required.
Jewels like the Catskills, the Finger Lakes, the trails, the state parks and numerous outdoor recreational opportunities are the reason many people relocate to Upstate NY. Imagine stepping outside your home surrounded by woods, fields, streams, lakes, breathtaking waterfalls and wildlife. One afternoon spent hiking the trails and you will be hooked!
You can own your own piece of upstate heaven by calling the area’s “Best of the Best” Realtor, Kellie Place at 607-432-7653 ext 102.
Kellie M. Place, “The Land Expert”
“Upstate New York’s Real Estate Development Expert”
“Multi-Million Dollar Top Producer”
CENTURY 21 Chesser Realty 607-434-5263 – cell
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