Best Trail Running Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Photo by Joel Cisne
Originally published at

Are you ready to take your running from the roads to the trails? Or perhaps you are already a trail runner looking for a new challenge? Fortunately, the Finger Lakes region offers plenty of options for trail runners of all kinds. Check out our list of favorite spots, from easy-sloping double-track trails to technical single-track routes with beautiful views.

Photo: Brian Maley

Hammond Hill State Forest

Hammond Hill is a popular destination for all sorts of adventuring, especially trail running. Runners love the versatility that Hammond Hill offers. With over 20 miles of trails to explore, this forest is the perfect location for runners looking for a quick jog after work or a long run on the weekend. Technicality varies here, offering options for single-track trails that require some maneuvering around rocks and roots and wide seasonal roads that let you take your eyes off the ground for a moment to enjoy the view.

Photo: Tim Starmer

Catharine Valley Trail

The Catharine Valley Trail is the perfect place for the seasoned road runner to get a feel for running on trails. As a natural corridor that follows the old Chemung Barge Canal towpath, the trail runs from Watkins Glen to the hamlet of Pine Valley at a very modest grade. You can run long or short distances, but keep in mind that the Catharine Valley Trail is an out-and-back route. The low-grade and wide, crushed stone path also makes the trail a great option for runners with small children in strollers.

Photo: Vinnie Collins

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

Nestled between Corning and Big Flats, the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Steege Hill Nature Preserve is a perfect destination for Southern Tier runners. With a trail network covering more than 6 miles and offering several looped route options, Steege Hill is ideal for runners of all levels. Do you yearn to see some wildlife while exploring the trails? Steege Hill is home to many different species of animals, so keep your eyes out!

Photo: Nigel Kent

High Tor Wildlife Management Area (WMA)

Located at the south end of Canandaigua Lake, High Tor WMA really has it all. With over 20 miles of trails to explore, High Tor WMA features ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, so you will never get bored on a long run. If you need to cool off, there are plenty of creek walk options to enjoy before continuing on. If you love the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), then you’ll also love High Tor WMA, as it features a part of the Bristol Hills Trail, a branch of the FLT.

Photo: Steve Knapp

Keuka Outlet Trail

The Keuka Outlet Trail, often referred to as simply the Outlet Trail, follows a generally downhill course from Keuka Lake in Penn Yan to the inlet along Seneca Lake in Dresden. As a rail trail, this is another great option for beginners or even seasoned trail runners looking for a place to shake out their legs while avoiding the roads. From point to point, the Outlet Trail extends nearly 7 miles, offering runners excellent short and long-run options as an out-and-back route. Please be aware that equestrians frequent the Outlet Trail, so make sure your trail etiquette knowledge is up to speed!

Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

If you’re looking for a great location for technical elevation training, then Danby State Forest is the place for you. The popular Abbott Loop features 8 miles of trails that will get your heart rate up as you climb to the stunning lookout at Thatcher’s Pinnacles and your adrenaline pumping as you maneuver your way back down. With multiple spur trails, loops, and a seasonal road, every runner can find their right distance. Have trekking poles and want the chance to use them? Danby State Forest is an optimal place to try them out.

A trail through the woods
Photo: Chris Ray

James Kennedy State Forest

Runners of all abilities can find the perfect trail at James Kennedy State Forest. This 4,422-acre forest is a packed collection of named trails, including short, one-mile family-friendly loops; short half-day loops; and, figure-eight patterns. The white emblazoned main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) runs along an east-west axis with the loop trails breaking off from it to both the north and south.

Two trail runners passing through an open pasture
Photo: Joel Cisne

Finger Lakes National Forest

Home to over thirty miles of trails, the Finger Lakes National Forest offers a varied landscape of wooded glens and open pastures and includes a portion of the Finger Lakes Trail. The pastures offer excellent vistas that are especially beautiful in the fall when the hills across Seneca Lake are emblazoned with autumn colors.

Other places to explore…

Genesee Valley Greenway State Park

Highland Forest

See the map!

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