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Guide to Hiking in Ithaca

MMH’15 Ashton Liu spearheaded a lot of hiking groups with classmates this past year and was kind enough to share some hiking trails and tips with future incoming MMHers.  Take advantage of your summer to go hiking before the long cold winter comes!! 
Here is some information regarding hiking in Ithaca.  There are some great state parks in the area, but if you’re serious about doing some hiking I would strongly recommend the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), which is a 500 mile long trail running through the region.  You can choose parts of the trail to hike on.
See below for some recommended trails.  I have listed them in increasing difficulty.  Do note you will need a car to get to these.
  1. Buttermilk Fals (1-2mi) – Great beginner hike.  You can hike and swim here.  As this is close to Ithaca, has parking and swimming, anticipate a lot of people during nice weather and weekends.  Trail map.  Details.
  2. Six Mile Creek Gorge Trail (Mulholland Wildflower Preserve) (1-6 mi) –  This is the one close to my home; it is a quick walk from College Town Terrace apartments.  Go down from the fish statue, cross the bridge, turn left and walk all the way until you see signs for the Preserve.  You can walk all the way along the water.  You will see a path on the left going on a steep incline.  Follow it up for good hiking and sites overlooking the gorges.  Map, see here.  Details, see here.
  3. Robert Tremen State Forest (~5mi) – This one is not far from us. You can camp, hike and swim here.  Forhiking, I recommend doing a combination of trails. For example, you can do the Finger Lakes Trail section going one way and the Gorge Trail coming back.  Trail map.  Details on FLT.
  4. Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area: Van Lone Hill Loop (<6 mi) – This is part of the FLT.  It is a great foot trail, but be prepared for some steep inclines.  You can also do this during winter.  Map & details.
  5. Watkins Glen (~6mi) – I would recommend you first go to the gorges and then go hiking on the FLT.  The gorges there are pretty spectacular.  The trail is solid.  Expect a lot of dense forest.  Gorges details.  Hikingdetails. 
  6. Shindagin Hollow State Forest (~7mi) – I would recommend printing out a map ahead of time.  My group had a bit of trouble getting to the FLT path.  There are still many other trails you can explore here.  Map & details.
  7. Danby State Forest: Abbott Loop (~8mi) – This is a great hike.  You will get a good range of terrain but do not expect a view (you’ll be deep in the forest).  Map & details.
  8. Texas Hollow State Forest (7-10mi) – This is another great, but challenging hike.  Budget your time appropriately as this is not a loop.  The group I led did not make it to Rogers Hill as we had to hike back the way we came.  Map & details
General Advice:
  • The website CNY Hiking is a great resource.  They have lists of good hikes and videos as well.
  • FLT has an interactive map that you can use to find trails, and most importantly, get GPS coordinates for parking.  Many of these trails are foot trails and do not provide parking (meaning  you park on the side of the road right next to the forest).  These can be hard to find.
  • For the Finger Lakes Trail, I would recommend printing out maps.  Trails are marked, but it can sometimes be difficult to get to the trail head.
  • Be prepared to have minimal phone reception.  Definitely one reason to go in groups.
  • Be aware that unless you are on a loop, you will have to hike back the way you came.  This limits the amount of ground you can cover.  One way around this is to have two cars.  One car parks at your end point and the other car goes (with the first driver) to the start point.
  • If you are looking for a hiking trip during spring break, I organized some friends to go to the Adirondacks (5 hour drive from Ithaca).  We stayed at the Trail’s End Inn and hiked peaks recommended by people at the local hiking shop, The Mountaineer.  Expect challenging hiking and great views.
  • Have fun.  The trails here are beautiful all year round.
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