In Pursuit of the Finger Lakes Lean-To

03/10/2022
Originally published on gofingerlakes.com

Lean-tos, the wonderful wooden shelters cherished by campers and trail enthusiasts of all kinds, are found in many forested areas of the Finger Lakes. Mostly nestled along sections of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), these rustic three-sided structures provide overnight lodging with celestial views. They also offer refuge from the rain and serve as a resting place for hikers, cross-country skiers, and more. Learn about our favorite lean-tos in the region.

A sign marking the entrance to the Bock Harvey Forest Preserve
Photo: Mark Chao

Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve

Owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and subject to a conservation easement held by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the 48-acre Bock-Harvey Preserve features about half a mile of the FLT. The trail runs across the preserve and past the Locust Lean-to, named for its location among black locust trees. Built out of tamarack logs by volunteers, this site also features a fire pit, picnic table, and a fenced privy nearby.

A lean-to shelter
Photo: Tom Reimers

Danby State Forest

Danby State Forest is home to the roughly 8-mile Abbott Loop which weaves through wooded glens with slow creeks and hilltop oak-hickory forests. Along this trail are two lean-tos, located on sections that overlap with the FLT. The Chestnut Lean-to lies in the western area of the forest, and the Tamarack lean-to on the eastern side.

The corner of a lean-to showing Finger Lakes Trail and North Country Trail signs
Photo: Chris Ray

James Kennedy State Forest

The 4,422-acre Kennedy State Forest is a packed collection of named trails, including the FLT/North Country Trail which runs along an east-west axis with the loop trails breaking off to both the north and south. The Foxfire Lean-to occupies a central spot in the forest, bordering farmland and with impressive views of the valley to the south.

A wooded trail
Photo: Tim Starmer

Morgan Hill State Forest

Over eleven miles of trails weave through wooded gullies, cross seasonal streams, and pass through a mixture of deciduous and conifer forests at Morgan Hill. Here, you can find the Hemlock Lean-to, located along the FLT, just off the trail between Morgan Hill Road and Shackham Road.

A trail leading to a lean-to in the woods
Photo: Brian Maley

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

Shindagin Hollow is over 5,266 acres and features more than 20 miles of trails, many designed for mountain biking. The hiking trail traverses laterally across the forest and almost exclusively follows a 5.7-mile-long section of the FLT. A popular stopping-over point for hikers along the trail is at the scenic Shindagin Hollow Lean-to which sits near a seasonal waterfall.

A side view of a lean-to
Photo: Tim Starmer

Sugar Hill State Forest

The vast 9,085-acre Sugar Hill State Forest is a unique conservation area with a large network of multiuse trails that accommodate equestrians as well as people with disabilities. It is also home to five Adirondack-style lean-tos found mostly along or near the FLT: the Buck Settlement Lean-to, north of Templar Road; the Parks Hollow Lean-to, north of Sugar Hill Road; the Twin Lean-tos (#1 and #2), south of the Sugar Hill Rec Area; and the VanZandt Lean-to, east of Tower Hill Road.

In most cases, lean-tos must be shared to capacity and are available on a first-come, first-use basis. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s web site offers guidelines.

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