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Finger Lakes Trailblazing

Written by Rose Zonetti '09

Jason Sibley-Liddle '10 rides the trails in the Shindagin Hollow State Forest. Photo by Jeff Goodwin '10

No need to forge your own path. Both on campus and around town, Ithaca boasts top-notch trails for the hiker, the mountain biker, the runner, and the cross-country skier.

The Hiker

Just a mile from IC’s campus, Buttermilk Falls State Park lured Lauren Glattly ’10 back again and again freshman year with the challenge of the steep Rim Trail and the mellowness of the Park Trail. “The stone stairs and walls, little waterfalls, and natural round pools make this an enchanting hike,” she says. “At the bottom, hikers are treated to a lovely view of the falls.”

Glattly’s love of hiking inspired her to enroll in a class called Environmental Sentinels: Becoming a Natural Scientist, which led to her discovery of all sorts of on-campus trails. She chose a spot in the woods behind the Garden Apartments to journal for the course and still takes frequent walks through this miniature forest. Her favorite spot to hike, however, is through the woods behind Boothroyd Hall.

“It’s really gorgeous, and you can immerse yourself and get lost without fear of not finding your way back to campus,” says Glattly.

Other Favorites

  • Cascadilla Gorge, basically a nonstop staircase with views of cliffside mansions from downtown’s Fall Creek area up to Collegetown and Cornell.
  • Taughannock Falls in Trumansburg (eight miles up the west side of the lake), a mostly flat trek to the highest single-drop falls east of the Mississippi.

The Mountain Biker

The possibilities for biking in Ithaca -- despite the hills -- are endless. National cycling magazines routinely feature Ithaca in their destination pieces.

Bike magazine included Ithaca in the “Top 5 Mountain Biking Towns,” and Bicycling magazine called it “a cycling nirvana.” And though Ithaca didn’t make Vernon Felton’s “America’s Best 10 Trails” cover story for Bike, it was included in his subsequent blog “The 10 We Shoulda Picked.” His favorite spot? Hammond Hill State Forest in Dryden, just 14 miles from campus. “It’s fairly remote, it’s heavily wooded, it’s twisty, and it’s full of short, mellow climbs and outrageously fun descents,” he wrote. “There are also a ton of fallen trees and log-overs to hop over. It’s just a ton of good, cross-country single-track.”

Mike Blizniak, M.S. ’10, former president of the IC Cycling Club, agrees. “Hammond Hill offers great views and less technical riding,” he says. For more experienced riders, Blizniak recommends Shindagin Hollow State Forest, 2,000 acres of woods and 18 miles of trails in Caroline, 10 miles from Ithaca. “Riders can experience great single-track riding,” says Blizniak. In fact, the website singletracks.com ranks Shindagin Hollow among the best in the world. 

Other Favorites

  • Connecticut Hill, an 11,000-acre wildlife management area in southwest Tompkins County.
  • Swan Cycles, for expert advice on equipment, great trails, and Swandrome, an annual cyclo-cross event.

The Runner

“It is great to be able to avoid running on pavement, and it is such beautiful and challenging terrain,” says women’s cross-country captain Amanda Boccio ’10 of the three-mile loop through the woods behind IC’s Terraces residence halls. “The scenery and change of environment make for a relaxing and enjoyable run.”

Just off campus you’ll find the South Hill Recreation Way, a 3.3-mile flat, gravel trail that mostly follows an old railroad bed along Six Mile Creek. It features numerous dirt path offshoots that offer runners a variety of routes. Some of these connect to the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve, which offers more varied terrain as it winds above the creek and around reservoirs. Color abounds when the wildflowers come to life in spring and summer.

Other Favorites

  • The Waterfront Trail, two (flat!) miles downtown in Cass Park and along Cayuga Lake and the inlet.
  • The 560-mile Finger Lakes Trail, which connects Connecticut Hill, Robert Treman State Park, Danby State Forest (a cross-country team fave), and Shindagin Hollow State Forest in the 50-mile stretch within Tompkins County. 

The Cross-Country Skier

Looking to get outside during the snowy months? “Skiing makes winter go by a little faster, and it’s an amazing workout,” says Mary-Katharine Huebener ’10, co-president of IC’s Nordic Ski Club.

The club, which accommodates both competitive and recreational skiers, frequently tours the trails behind the Terraces and occasionally wanders down South Hill Recreation Way. But the club’s favorite place to ski is Swan Cycles off of Route 366 in nearby Freeville. “Glenn Swan grooms the fields around his farm in the winter, and our team, the Cornell ski team, and other skiers utilize the awesome groomed trails all winter,” says Huebener.

Other Favorites

  • Podunk Ski Touring Center, north of Trumansburg, provides rentals, instruction, and five miles of groomed trails.
  • Connecticut Hill, with over 20 miles of skiing on unplowed roads and trails. Just be warned: It’s a favorite among snowmobilers too!




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