Top XC Ski Spots!

Photo: Ben Roosa

Top 8 Cross Country Ski Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

On a crisp winter’s day, there is nothing quite like the feeling of strapping on your skis and gliding through silent forests of towering oaks, maples, spruce, and pine.  Cross country skiing is a great way to experience nature while getting a terrific workout, and our Finger Lakes region offers plenty of places to get out on the trails.

Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area

Located on the high wooded ridge just west of Honeoye Lake, this state recreation area is one of the go-to places for Rochester-area skiers. Harriet Hollister features a 20-mile network of trails through mature forest with several trails groomed by the Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation. Trails are marked with the cross country skier in mind including grade and difficulty levels. Elevations are above 2,000 feet, which makes it a better bet for snow cover than many other locations. Be sure to check out the Overlook Trail for a panoramic view of Honeoye Lake while you are there.

Highland Forest

This Onondaga County park spans 2,700 acres of hill country south of Syracuse. There is an extensive trail system of interconnected loops to accommodate long and short trips with the added benefit that the skiing and snowshoeing trails are separate. Along the loops are numerous lean-tos with orientation maps providing great places to stop and gauge your progress. Skis may be rented at the park’s lodge. If a few hours of skiing in this winter wonderland is not enough; visitors can also enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride, for which the park is well known.

Bear Swamp State Forest

Known for its “Adirondack-like” character, Bear Swamp features extensive wetlands along with 15 miles of multiuse trails that provide lots of options for skiing. The forest overlooks the southwestern shore of Skaneateles Lake and is located in an area that typically receives ample “lake effect” snow. For the most part, the trails weave around and up-and-over two ridges that flank Bear Swamp Creek. 

Photo: Ben Roosa

Hammond Hill State Forest

This forest’s 20 miles of trails include easy trails for beginners as well as challenging downhill runs for the most expert skiers. The best maps of the trail system are available online from and the Cayuga Nordic Ski Club, one of several organizations that collaborate with the DEC to maintain the trails in the forest. The trails are broad and provide ample line of sight making downhill runs exhilarating and less worrisome than narrow hiking trails found in other forests.

Oakley Corners State Forest

Located in the Southern Tier just north of Owego, Oakley Corners features a network of 13 miles of trails that were built by the Triple Cities Ski Club. This 1,000-acre forest is located about a half-hour drive from both Ithaca and Binghamton. In addition to passing through typical stands of hardwoods and conifers, the trails also provide access to a marshy lake. The state forest is divided into northern and southern sections by Dutchtown Road and though the forest remains mostly the same, skiers will find flatter terrain in the southern section and slightly more rugged difficult trails in the northern section.

Photo: Hannah George

Gentler rides on rail-trails…

Jim Schug Trail

Black Diamond Trail

When there’s lots of snow…

Finger Lakes National Forest

Other places to explore…

See the map!

Show the blue filter bar and set the filters for “XC skiing” and any other factors you’re looking for!

Portions of this article also appeared in Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

Do you love blazing trails?

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Photo: FLLT

You’re Invited to Get Outdoors with Our Land Trust Volunteers

How does the Finger Lakes Land Trust maintain thousands of acres of nature preserves across a 12-county region with a small staff of only a few people?  Volunteers!  Sign up here!

The Land Trust operates over 30 nature preserves that are free and open to the public for quiet recreation.  You can see a few of them on the Go Finger Lakes map (find the tree icons) and you can see them all on our web site at  We care for them with our volunteer corps!

Here are a few photos of volunteers including our “Trailblazers,” who build trails, clear brush, construct signs, and generally care for the nature preserves, and others who help us host educational and recreational events that are open to the public.

You can sign up to volunteer.

See our schedule of events.

Get your friends to sign up, too!

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, do good work, and get outdoors in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

Want to get dirty? Help the Finger Lakes Land Trust blaze miles of trails!

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Outdoor Events

Photo: Nigel Kent

Get Outdoors at Public Events Hosted by the Land Trust and Fellow Organizations

You can participate in hikes, bikes, paddles, and outdoor events of all kinds across the Finger Lakes region.  Almost every event hosted by the Finger Lakes Land Trust is free and open to all.

Go to the Land Trust events calendar

Photo: Rick Lightbody
Photo: Rick Lightbody

On our events calendar, you will find outings for all ages.  We often list events co-hosted with partner organizations.  Don’t miss great events in your area – sign up for the Living Land, the monthly email newsletter of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Do good work in the great outdoors… Join the Trailblazers at the Land Trust!

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Trail Safety

Photo: Brian Maley

How to Be Safe When Exploring These Great Places

Consult each location manager for definitive maps, rules, risks, and advisories.

The locations featured on present a variety of terrains and conditions.  Each location comes with its own risks and regulations.  Trail details, hours of operation, seasonal updates, and other “facts on the ground” are subject to change without being reflected on this web site.

The maps and data on are intended to help you discover great opportunities for outdoor recreation — not to serve as authoritative navigational aids or definitive assessments of difficulty and risk.  Thus, users should consult the agency that maintains each location.  Information is provided on each location page.  For example:


Best practices for staying safe include following the official maps and regulations for each location, staying within your experience level, traveling with companions, telling someone where you are going, and watching the weather.  Finger Lakes trails present a variety of terrains with slopes, rocks, uneven ground, hanging limbs, variable weather patterns, and other hazards.  Be smart.  Happy exploring!


Locations managed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust are identified as shown above.  For those locations, please see Public Use Policies on our web site and contact us with any questions or concerns.


You are responsible for your own safety.  Trail conditions change with weather and other factors.  The Finger Lakes Land Trust does not assume responsibility for the condition of trails or any difficulties or hazards that you may encounter in the outdoors. 

Please stay on marked trails, where they exist, to minimize disturbance of native plants and wildlife, and to avoid hazards.  Always be aware of potential hazards such as: dead trees, hanging trees or branches, cliffs, steep slopes, loose or slippery shale, rocks or other unstable footing, thin ice, old wire or building remains, plants with thorns or toxins (such as poison ivy), ticks, and stinging insects.  Trail conditions change daily.


Do you see info on that could be updated?  Please contact us.


In addition to being safe, you want to be a good “citizen” and steward of these trails — showing respect for other hikers, animals, and plants!  See some of our ideas about trail etiquette.  Please share that page with fellow outdoor enthusiasts and contact us to suggest ideas to add.


Let’s care for our trails and open new nature preserves!

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FLX Animals

Photo: Tanglewood Nature Center

Favorite Animal Photos from the Finger Lakes

Here are some of our favorite animal photos, shot in the Finger Lakes region by volunteers of the Finger Lakes Land Trust and other folks on nature preserves across the region.

Thanks to our volunteers and partners for sharing!

Do you have great photos and videos of wildlife in our region?

Want to share with the Finger Lakes Land Trust?

Please contact us at

Your imagery can help advance conservation through our communications and outreach on the web, social media, print and more!

Save wild places in the Finger Lakes for everyone to enjoy!

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Top 10 Strategies

Photo: Bill Hecht

A Conservation Agenda for the Finger Lakes Region

Bold new report highlights 10 strategies for permanently protecting the priceless lands and waters of our region

The Finger Lakes Land Trust, in consultation with over 40 organizations, has identified 10 strategies for seizing timely opportunities, countering active threats, and securing the lands and waters that sustain agriculture, tourism, and quality of life.  The illustrated report, Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever, is available free online so you can download digital copies, request free print copies, and see success stories.  Please visit and share with friends who love the Finger Lakes.


The strategies were developed through a review of natural resource inventories and conservation plans, coupled with outreach to public conservation agencies, planning departments, watershed groups, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and other stakeholders.

The 10 strategies are grouped into 3 themes:

Protect Our Lakes, Streams, and Drinking Water

  • Buffer Our Streams & Create New Wetlands
  • Save Our Last Undeveloped Shoreline Now
  • Protect the City of Syracuse Drinking Water Supply
  • more about this theme

Save Farms, Wineries, and Rural Character

  • Save Threatened Farms & Wineries
  • Protect Scenic Vistas & Designated Byways on Cayuga and Seneca Lakes
  • Maintain Rural Character Through Stronger Land Use Planning
  • more about this theme

Keep Nature Wild and Enhance Public Access

  • Create the Canandaigua Skyline Trail
  • Complete Cayuga Lake’s Emerald Necklace
  • Create the Chemung River Greenbelt
  • Save the South End of Skaneateles Lake
  • more about this theme

What can you do?

If you love the Finger Lakes region, please take a moment to read Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever.  You can download a digital copy at and request free print copies.  Please share with friends who love our lands and waters, and consider supporting the Finger Lakes Land Trust by becoming a member and getting involved at our events and volunteer opportunities.


Get your copy of our top 10 conservation strategies for the Finger Lakes! Sign Up

Hanging Falls!

A Birdseye View of Carpenter Falls Unique Area

In your travels around the Finger Lakes, be sure to visit the western shores of Skaneateles Lake, where you will find Bahar Preserve and Carpenter Falls.  The Finger Lakes Land Trust conveyed 36 acres of these lands to New York State, creating the Carpenter Falls Unique Area, while the remaining 51 acres of land downstream toward the lake continue to be owned and managed as the Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve.  The Land Trust has entered into a cooperative management agreement with the state, engaging volunteers to help take care of this special place.

To find other outdoor adventures near Carpenter Falls, see the interactive map.

See what people are saying about this video on Facebook.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?

Want to share with the Land Trust?

If so, please email us at

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

Go to Sign Up

Chemung Fog & Sun

Photo: Bill Hecht

A Brilliant Autumn Day on the Chemung River

See this beautiful stretch of Chemung River between Bottcher’s Landing and Fitches Bridge as the classic morning fog burns off to reveal a stunning landscape of hillsides, farms, and forests, including conservation lands protected by the Finger Lakes Land Trust and other organizations.

To find other outdoor adventures near the Chemung River, such as the Steege Hill Nature Preserve, see the interactive map.

Please join the conversation about this video on Facebook.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?

Want to share with the Land Trust?

Please email us at

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

Go to Sign Up

Over the Boardwalk

Photo: Bill Hecht

Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

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Aerial FLX!

Photo: Bill Hecht

Favorite Airplane Photos of the Finger Lakes

Here are some of our favorite aerial photos of the lakes and natural areas across the region, sent by volunteers of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  Help us save more land and water!

Thanks to our volunteers for sharing!

Do you have great photos and videos of our region?

Want to share with the Finger Lakes Land Trust?

Please contact us at

Your imagery can help advance conservation through our communications and outreach on the web, social media, print and more!

Join the conservation conversation…

Land Trust on Facebook Sign Up