By Kyra Mancine
Looking for an adventure? It’s the perfect season to savor spectacular views and get exercise at the same time. Before you go, be sure to check the weather. As always, wear appropriate footwear (hiking or water shoes), leave no trace (carry in/carry out what you bring), stay on marked, designated trails and don’t forget water, sunscreen, a snack and your mask.
1. Chittenango Falls State Park
2300 Rathbun Road, Cazenovia
Less than half an hour from Syracuse, this 193-acre park includes many places to hike, and you can view an impressive 167-foot waterfall. A winding trail into the gorge affords you a closer look from the footbridge.
2. Bahar Nature Preserve
3800 Appletree Point Road, Skaneateles
Part of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, this 25-acre preserve includes a lush forest and gorge with breathtaking views of the Bear Swamp Creek Ravine. You’ll enjoy shade on your hike, but proceed with extreme care, as the terrain is steep and uneven with many tree roots (and not all trails are marked). This challenging trek is meant for the more adventurous, experienced hiker. There are four falls here, including the 90-foot Carpenter Falls and the 62-foot Angel Falls. If you aren’t up for a lengthy hike, the two tallest falls can be viewed with a short walk to the right and left from the kiosk by the small parking lot.
3. Pratts Falls Park
7671 Pratt’s Falls Road, Manlius
Home to Onondaga County’s first mill operation in 1796, you’ll enjoy walking through the woods on natural dirt and gravel trails. A highlight of your hike will be a 137-foot waterfall. Open sunrise to sunset, April through October, park admission is just $2. There are over five miles of trails here, with the shortest loop trail being less than a mile long.
4. Green Lakes State Park
7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville
If you want to feel like you’re in the Caribbean without leaving Central New York, this is the park to visit. The most popular trails here go around two ‘meromictic’ bodies of water — Green and Round Lakes. These stunning lakes have deep, dense waters that don’t overturn or stir up sediment. This means you’re treated to a reflective, clear view of gorgeous blue/green hues. These lakes are so unique that they’ve been designated as a National Natural Landmark. The park itself includes 10 miles of trails on 1,774 acres, but the two lake loop trails can be walked easily in about an hour (roughly a 5K distance-wise). Trail terrain is flat with a gravel, dirt and mulch walking path.
5. Sweedler & Thayer Preserves
Townline Road (1.6 miles past Sand Bank Road), Ithaca
Want to immerse yourself in a forest? Located in Tompkins County, this 148-acre nature preserve is owned by Cornell University. Part of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, this wild and undeveloped area includes many different species of trees, wildflowers, birds, three waterfalls (ranging from 25 to 93 feet) and a stream bed. Bug spray is a must! The Lick Brook trail is 1.2 miles round trip and includes a climb with a 500-foot elevation. Park at the small trailhead parking area.
6. Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, Penn Yan
Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake, Penn Yan
This partially paved, partially gravel trail offers seven miles of hiking. Located between Penn Yan and Dresden, it follows a railroad corridor that used to be a part of the canal that drained into Keuka Lake. This scenic hike includes a mill site, old lock sites and numerous waterfalls (Seneca Mills Falls, Cascade Mills Falls).
7. Fillmore Glen State Park
1686 St. Rte. 38, Moravia
This 941-acre park offers hiking with history. Before you hit the trails, check out the replica of a cabin where President Millard Fillmore was born. From there, you can follow the 1.3-mile Gorge Trail or the North Rim Trail. Most people flock to see “Cowshed” Falls, a glacier-carved, 30-foot waterfall with an overhang where cows supposedly took shelter from storms. If you’ve worked up a sweat, take a dip in the park’s natural swimming hole after your hike.