Originally published at gofingerlakes.org.
When the days get longer and the spring rains taper off, there is much to appreciate in a long, warm-weather hike. Nothing beats a forest filled with birdsong and the sweet scents of new life blooming everywhere. In the Finger Lakes region, there are many options for an extended trek filled with endless trails and gorgeous scenery. Immerse yourself in the ephemeral beauty of spring and hit the trail at one of these locations.
Bear Swamp State Forest
This sprawling 3,316-acre forest features over 15 miles of multiuse trails and miles of quiet, unpaved roads. For the most part, the trails weave around and up-and-over two ridges that flank Bear Swamp Creek. This habitat provides ample recreation opportunities and is also considered vital for at-risk species, such as the Cerulean Warbler, a rare deep forest songbird.
Erwin Wildlife Management Area
Five miles west of Corning, the Erwin Wildlife Management Area features over 2,490 acres of prime wildlife habitat and more than ten miles of trails. Deep gullies with hemlock-shaded streams add a primeval feel in sections, while deciduous forests in various states of succession make up the majority of the woodland.
Finger Lakes National Forest
Wooded glens and open pastures comprise the majority of the landscape in the Finger Lakes National Forest, home to over thirty miles of trails. Though a short portion of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) crosses the southern boundary of the forest, much of the trail system is closely tied to the twelve-mile north-south-oriented Interloken Trail—a branch of the FLT.
Green Lakes State Park
The natural wonders don’t stop with the lakes at Green Lakes State Park. Its gorge, with steep slopes over 150 feet high, features old-growth forest as well. The trails through this forest can be reached at the western edge of Round Lake and are less frequented by most of the park’s visitors. Indeed, the trail network above the lake is more extensive than around the lake (approximately 13 miles of trails), and a little distance is always a sure way to find a bit more solitude.
Hemlock-Canadice State Forest
There are many beautiful places to get outdoors in the Finger Lakes, but few allow you to explore the shores of an actual Finger Lake. Not so for the trails in Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. And to put a cherry on top, so to speak, the shores of these gems are free of development and utterly wild. The unique situation is thanks to the fact that Hemlock and Canadice lakes are the source of Rochester’s drinking water supply.
James Kennedy State Forest
For hikers who hate to retrace their steps, you can’t go wrong in choosing from the many loop hikes at James Kennedy State Forest. The 4,422-acre forest is a packed collection of named trails, including short, one-mile family-friendly loops; short half-day loops; and, figure-eights or more convoluted patterns to hike all day or overnight. 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.
Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park and its rich history encompass seventeen miles of staggeringly sheer gorge, three towering and broad waterfalls, dozens of smaller waterfalls, and 66 miles of trails. The trail network is essentially divided into two sections: trails to the east and west of the gorge. There is a greater quantity of trails on the western side, which lead to scenic overlooks with panoramic views of the gorge. The eastern side is remote, promising ample solitude, and is more akin to a state forest experience than a state park. A single-day trip will likely not be enough to take in all the experiences, and fortunately, there are many overnight opportunities available within the park.