Go Outside And Find Joy | Finger Lakes Trail | New York

Its funny how something you were completely unaware of for along time can become one of your favorite things. Growing up we were a fairly outdoorsy and active family. We went camping and visited some state parks. But it is crazy to realize how much you don’t know that you don’t know regarding the wide variety of outdoor experiences that exist.

I didn’t discover that we have this amazing trail system that runs right through the region I live in until well into my adult life. I have always enjoyed getting outside and hiking and enjoying nature, especially as my interest in photography grew. And it is hard to believe that I didn’t even realize there was over 950 miles of trails out there on the Finger Lakes Trail system that I was completely unaware of for way too long.

White blazes painted on the trees indicates you are on the main Finger Lakes Trail

Ever since I first stepped foot on it I have tried to spend more and more time on it. I would love to eventually see the entire main trail at least.

Types of land on the Finger Lakes Trail

In order to have such an extensive trail system crisscrossing New York state it requires a lot of land. And there are a lot of volunteer hours that go into building and maintaining these trails across our state. Stretching from east to west and north to south volunteers are key to the stewardship of our trails, so be thankful for all the hard work others put in so we have this place to enjoy.

One cool feature of the Finger Lakes Trail is that portions of it pass through some of our most beautiful state parks here in New York. One of the parts of the trail that passes though a state park that I spend the most time on is where the Finger Lakes Trail runs through Watkins Glen State Park. There is amazing scenery. And if you take one of the other trails you can walk down into the gorge and se the splendor of the gorge and waterfalls. One of my first adventures on the Finger Lakes Trail took me through another of our beautiful state parks at Robert Treman State Park. The trail there mostly keeps you up on the rim of the gorge and then eventually drops you down into the end of the valley where the stream that forges the gorge there leaves the park.

Trillium flowers grow wild in spring along the Finger Lakes Trail

State Forest land is another aspect of the Finger Lakes Trail. There are large sections of the trail that pass through state forest land. These sate forests are some beautiful landscapes. Many of these state forests I didn’t even know existed until I stated exploring the Finger Lakes Trail. I love the trails through the state forest because they often feel like the most remote sections of the trails. Really good space for solitude and connecting with nature.

There is also a significant portion of the Finger Lakes Trail that consists of private lands. We couldn’t do it without them. The only way to connect this trail from end to end is by partnering with private land owners who are willing to allow people to pass through their property. These land owners don’t have to let us use their land. They are doing this out of the kindness of their heart. They do not get anything out of this. Please be extra considerate when on private lands. Please check the Finger Lakes Trail website regularly before a hike to make sure there are no closures on public land, especially around hunting season. And if you encounter a sign on the trail stating that a section of private land is close please respect that. Sadly in recent years there have been too many occasions where people continue to pass through private lands when the trails are closed. This has caused some private land owners to discontinue allowing the Finger Lakes Trail to access their property. They have every right to do this and I don’t blame them. If people cannot respect their wishes why should they allow us access. Please keep in mind if you walk on private property when it is marked as closed you risk losing access to that area for everyone. Then we all are forced to use roads to connect sections of trail instead of the peaceful countryside we all love.

The Finger Lakes Trail as it passes through Robert Treman State Park

Enjoying the Finger Lakes Trail

There are so many different ways to enjoy the trails. I find joy in a variety of different things. Sometimes it is hard to find time for all the different types of things I enjoy. But one thing is for sure, I can enjoy most of them right here on the Finger Lakes Trail.

The most common way to experience the Finger Lakes Trail is with day hikes. On a day hike you can travel just a couple miles or take an all day journey. Hike out and back to your car. Plan a point to point adventure where you drop off a car at your designated end point before you start. You can even look for one of the several loop routs on the Finger Lakes Trail like the Abbott Loop.

One fascinating way to enjoy a long trail is with a through hike. This is something I always think about but I don’t know if I will actually end up doing it. With a through hike the goal is to cover the entire distance of the trail in one trip. To hike the main Finger Lakes Trail you have to cover 580 miles. There are also other shorter branch trails that branch off the main Finger Lakes Trail. If the 580 mile long main trail seems to daunting, maybe consider the Bristol Hills, Crystal Hills, or Interloken branches for a through hike.

Scenery from a run out on the Finger Lakes Trail

The opposite of a through hike would be to go segment by segment. Many people want to see as much of the Finger Lakes Trail as they can. But completing a through hike is a daunting challenge both physically and mentally where fitness and logistics are critical. A different way to see the whole trail is to take a segment by segment approach. Hike a segment of the trail one day then on your next trip out start where you left off on your last hike. This is the approach I have been employing to try to see the entire Finger Lakes Trail. I started on the trails closest to where I live and then as I plan future trips I try to start where I left off.

For those of us who love nature and enjoy running the Finger Lakes Trail is the perfect place to enjoy some runs. Head out for some fun casual trail runs solo or with your friends. There are also many trail races that cover portions of the Finger Lakes Trail that you can participate in if you want to be a little more competitive. And for those of use who enjoy really long distances there are opportunities for Ultramarathons on the finger Lakes Trail. There are ultramarathon distance races that include parts of the Finger Lakes Trail in their race courses. There is also the option of taking on a solo or unsupported ultramarathon outside of a race venue. My first ultramarathon experience was a solo adventure on the Finger Lakes Trail and I have returned to that style of running several times over the years.

Beautiful stream running parallel the to FLT

I also enjoy connecting with nature in ways that are not necessarily movement focused. The Finger Lakes Trail is also a prime location for these types of ventures as well. I enjoy birdwatching and the Finger Lakes Trail provides such a wide variety of environments along its trails that one can see quite a variety of birds along the way. My biggest passion is for photography. The Finger Lakes Trail is a great place for many different types of nature photography.

Scenery on the Finger Lakes Trail

As you move across the Finger Lakes Trail you have the opportunity to see so many different types of environments. All of the sightseeing one could imagine connected and flowing together. Walk the trail and behold natures gifts.

Streams flow along and across the trail. The streams flow down into and along valleys. They carve gorges across our landscape. The water can be a trickle or a constant flow of water and over time it carves away the land to create waterfalls.

Waterfall in a gorge along the Crystal Hills Branch of the FLT

The Finger Lakes Trail will lead you up to scenic vistas along hillsides. You can see for miles. Other sections of the trail will guide you along the beautiful lakes that are a feature of the Finger Lakes Region.

One of my favorite things is to follow the trail through the many forests along the way. I find peace and solitude there. I also enjoy seeing the variety of wildflowers and plants that grow in our forests. Often discovering plants I never new existed. And of course every forest is made up of individual trees. I take a special interest in looking at the details of a given tree. What is its bark like. Is it colorful or textured, and how tall or big around is it.

Go exploring

Get out and explore the world around you. It doesn’t have to be anything exotic. Look and see what there is right in your own neighborhood. You never know what might be available that you were just unaware of.

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