Go Finger Lakes!

Lick Brook - Photo by Brian Maley

New website “gofingerlakes.org” is a free guide to the best hikes, bikes, paddles and outdoor adventures in the region

by Kelly Makosch, Finger Lakes Land Trust

Every weekend I make an effort to get my two daughters out of the house and into the woods, and last weekend was no exception. We hiked at beautiful Buttermilk Falls State Park, choosing a lesser traveled route around Lake Treman. Just beyond the old lean-to, the trail splits and we headed deeper into the forest on a spur trail that connects Buttermilk to the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Lick Brook Gorge preserves.

Volunteer work crews under the direction of state parks were busy building new bridges and shoring up parts of the trail damaged in recent summer storms. My daughters decided to use an old rope swing to cross over a now-dry streambed instead of testing out one of the new bridges. Swinging back and forth, and laughing with abandon, they were creating their own outdoor adventure.

Had I brought extra snacks to fuel the kids, I might have been able to coax them into hiking from Buttermilk, through Lick Brook Gorge, and all the way to Robert H. Treman State Park. The Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) connects these three dramatic gorge parks and provides trail runners and hikers the option of an epic adventure – one that very few people in the region know about.

The Finger Lakes region is bursting with these unknown opportunities, and filled with residents and tourists who want to get outside. The new “Go Finger Lakes” web site aims to connect the two – matching adventurous people to outdoor experiences.

Why Go Finger Lakes?

You may already be familiar with Buttermilk and Treman state parks, but within the 12-county Finger Lakes region, there are new places worthy of your discovery. Places like Gannet Hill Park in Ontario County with its stunning panoramic vista. The overlook here is easy to reach from a short, accessible path so everyone can enjoy the view, including the family dog. Explore Labrador Hollow Unique Area in Onondaga County where you can literally walk behind the waterfall at Tinker Falls. Spend an afternoon on the 6.8 mile Keuka Outlet Trail in Yates County any time of year. This multi-use trail was built along an abandoned railway connecting Keuka and Seneca Lakes and is equally appropriate for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and equestrians.

With so many hidden waterfalls and looping backcountry trails to explore across this beautiful region – how do you discover the perfect place for your next adventure?

At the Finger Lakes Land Trust, people are always asking us where they can get outside. Andy Zepp, our executive director, got the idea to create an online tool to help people discover the best places to explore across the region. He hopes the site will encourage people to go “over the ridge” and visit new natural areas that are often difficult to find.

Launched in May 2017 by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, gofingerlakes.org is designed to be a best-in-class discovery tool for anyone seeking outdoor adventure in the Finger Lakes region. The site features a mobile-friendly, interactive map with a carefully curated collection of natural areas currently comprising over 650 miles of trails at 58 locations.

The outdoor destinations are interpreted by Tim Starmer, author of Five Star Trails: Finger Lakes and Central New York, who offers his experiential spin on each unique natural area. All locations are further profiled with trail data, amenities, driving directions, photo galleries, and aerial videos.

For outdoor enthusiasts with a specific goal in mind, the site’s clear profiles and easily navigated filters help winnow down the choices. Site users can literally choose their own adventure – selecting filters that highlight places to go mountain biking, have a cookout with your family, or cross-country ski deep in the woods. There are also filters highlighting sites that are accessible, offer educational programming, allow leashed dogs, or provide boat launches. All of these filters aim to do one thing – help everyone spend more time exploring the outdoors.

More People are Heading Outdoors

More and more people are discovering the Finger Lakes – as tourists and residents. And many of these same people are seeking ways to experience the region outdoors.

Emma Frisch, cofounder of Firelight Camps in Ithaca, NY, agrees with the Land Trust. “We see thousands of guests visit the Finger Lakes from May through October, all of whom we encourage to get outside and explore the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding lakes, waterfalls, gorges and parks,” says Frisch. “The gofingerlakes.org site has already helped visitors identify the best hiking, biking, and paddling opportunities. This has been a huge asset for us.”

Finger Lakes Land Trust staff hope to grow the site in the coming year to include a handful of exceptional sites that will be profiled and added to the interactive map. Users will also find new scenic videos and educational articles about conservation in the region.

Behind the Scenes

Go Finger Lakes is a project of the nonprofit, member-supported Finger Lakes Land Trust. The Land Trust’s mission is to conserve forever the lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region, ensuring scenic vistas, local foods, clean waters, and wild places for everyone.

Gofingerlakes.org is an expression of that mission. The Land Trust hopes the site will inspire people to explore the beauty of our region and help us save more land and water.

Ithaca’s Press Bay Alley, Elmira Savings Bank, and Finger Lakes Visitors Connection have all enthusiastically sponsored the Go Finger Lakes site this year.


Brian Maley is a photographer from Ithaca, who is passionate about conservation and the natural world. More of Brian’s work can be viewed at maleyphoto.com or @porqupines on Instagram.