10/16/22 – Hike – Finger Lakes Trail Ithaca

I spent a few days in Ithaca this past fall to do some hiking and see the foliage. I hiked at a few of the popular spots, such as Buttermilk Falls and Taughannock Falls, as well as a section of the Interloken Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail. However, my favorite hike of the trip was the Ithaca section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT). For those unfamiliar, the Finger Lakes Trail runs from the NY/PA border in Allegany State Park all the way to the Catskills and passes through many state parks and forests, wildlife areas, nature preserves, as well as a good deal of private property. In addition to the well over 500 mile main trail, there are also six branch trails. I’m a huge fan of the FLT; it tends to be less crowded and a bit more remote than many popular hiking areas. You also never know what to expect as far as terrain/trial conditions (yes, there is both good and bad to this). This particular section of trail starts just west of Robert Treman State Park and I had hiked a little bit of this section earlier in the summer during my visit to Robert Treman. The first thing I noticed is that the parking area had been re-done and expanded, and, without even starting the hike, the views of the hills in the distance, which were at peak foliage. The first half mile or so of the trail is flat and goes through the Tapan Mitra Preserve (a recently acquired piece of land by the FLT) and the Lick Brook Natural area. There was a creek crossing (which is the lowest elevation point on the entire FLT) before I reached Lick Brook Falls. Having seen pictures of this falls, it looks quite beautiful when it has water in it. When I saw it over the summer it was completely dry and on this day there was only a small stream of water. The fallen leaves on the shale made for a beautiful fall scene regardless. After crossing Lick Brook the trail heads into the wood and starts to climb rather steeply, up a gorge for the next mile and a half into the Sweedler and Thayer Nature Preserves. The climb itself was challenging, but beautiful. The sun shined through the tree canopy illuminating the fall colors. From the top, there is a partially obstructed view over the gorge and across the hills and valleys in the distance. Sweedler/Thayer is a popular area on the FLT, and I saw quite a few people here. The hike continues along the edge of the lick brook gorge, a beautiful area with many small waterfalls. When I reached the end of the preserves, there was a private property section that was closed for hunting season so rather than walking the road bypass I turned around to head back. I decided to take the lick brook spur trail on the way back, although it cut some distance, it ran right along the gorge. The trail work here is impressive. Switchbacks all along the trail with steps around every steeply graded corner. Much easier on the knees than I expected this to be. Every time I hike a new FLT section I say it is my new favorite and this one was no exception. Highly recommended if you are in the area.
– Nicole Pane