On the Trail(s) in Central New York

Lean-to in the woods

The Central New York Region boasts hundreds of parks and open spaces, complete with trails for hiking and biking.

There’s a path for any level of fitness: Enjoy a casual stroll with the entire family at Nichols Pond in Madison County or challenge yourself with a longer hike through George Landis Arboretum in Montgomery and Schoharie counties.

Get the bikes out for any length of adventure on the 78-mile portion of the Finger Lakes Trail that runs through Chenango County. No matter what destination you choose, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views, historic landmarks, and plenty of fresh air along the way! After your time on the trail, don’t forget to explore the surrounding shops, restaurants, and attractions nearby.

How about a little history with your hike or mountain bike trip? Montgomery County offers both at the 4,600-acre Charleston State Forest.

The Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek provided both Indians and white settlers with transportation and settlement. In 1780, the area was the site of many skirmishes between the British, Indians, and settlers. Today, soak in the breathtaking views of the two major waterways from trails throughout the forest.

For a shorter, but no less impressive trip, hike Wintergreen Park and Gorge in Canajoharie and see a plunging gorge and dramatic waterfalls. Be sure to look for the unique, circular pool in the riverbed which the Iroquois Indians called the “kettle that washes itself,” or Canajoharie, in their language!

For a wild hiking adventure, visit the 2,000 acres of state land in the Rural Grove and Yatesville (Buttermilk) Falls State Forests. For scenic trails galore, Binghamton is a must-see (or must-walk, really). Between the City of Binghamton River Walk, the Vestal Rail Trail and the walking trail from Whitney Point High School to Dorchester Lake, you better bring your comfiest walking sneakers and plenty of water – there is a lot of ground to cover.

Speaking of Dorchester Lake, if you’re a water sports fan, you can rent canoes, rowboats, paddleboats, sailboats and kayaks there. Another great place to take in nature? Otsiningo Park, where bicycle and pedestrian paths are combined with picnic areas and athletic fields on a beautiful wooded riverbank.

Hike and bike through the pages of a book: Visit the open spaces in Otsego County that inspired author James Fenimore Cooper’s famous Leatherstocking Tales. Start by exploring the eight miles of trail in Glimmerglass State Park – on foot or bike. Take the uphill trail and be rewarded with a view of Otsego Lake, called Glimmerglass by Cooper.

Also open to visitors is the Hyde Hall Mansion, a covered bridge, and the Beaver Pond Nature Trail. Natty Bumpo’s Cave Trail is another must-see for fans of Cooper and adventurous hikers alike! Follow the eastern shore of Otsego Lake to a small opening in a cave; the cave ascends to an opening with a spectacular lake view (not for inexperienced hikers).

For an authentic experience of the Catskill foothills, look no further than Gilbert Lake State Park. Its lake and three ponds are nestled in the hillside and are connected by over 12 miles of trails just waiting for you to hike or bike! In addition, there are over 4,000 acres of county- and state-owned land encompassing old logging and farming roads ideal for rural biking and hiking in solitude.

Otsego County’s most beloved place for outdoor activities is around Otsego Lake. For one heck of a fishing trip, check out C.P.’s Charter Service, fully equipped boats with everything from tackle to fish-finding equipment and electronics for luring in bass, lake trout, brown trout and salmon. C.P.’s also offers private historical sightseeing tours if fishing’s not your thing. Taking delivery to a whole new level, Time Out Boat Rentals in Otsego will actually deliver a pontoon boat to your hotel or camp for you! Exploring the great outdoors doesn’t get much easier than that.

Person biking down a trail

Bike and hike your heart out at Brookfield State Forest, part of the highly acclaimed Brookfield trail system, located in southeast Madison County. There are horse trails as well, if you’d prefer that someone else do the hiking, located on Charles E. Baker State Forest.

Take a trip to Oxbow Falls Park in Canastota for a rugged hike through 125 acres of woodland; but don’t forget your camera. Along the way, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Oneida Lake and even Lake Ontario. The highlight of Oxbow is its stunning 100-foot waterfall. Y

ou won’t run out of trail to hike on the Link Trail! It’s part of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) that includes 4,600 miles of pathways that when completed will make for the longest off-road hiking trail in America! The Link Trail in Madison County connects natural, cultural and historic landmarks such as Chittenango Falls State Park and the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park at Canastota. It even runs through Cazenovia and links up with the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation Trail System.

Take a hike through history and explore Nichols Pond. this former Oneida Indian Village was also the site of the 1615 Champlain-Oneida Battleground! Today, you can hike through this 45-acre natural area which includes an observation deck overlooking a thriving wetland habitat. Interpretive signage throughout the area ensures you get the whole story of what’s happening at Nichols Pond.

For waterfalls to walk beneath, above-ground caves to explore and a wooded trail to follow, hike Nature Trail Along the Otsquago Creek, in Van Hornesville, located on Route 80. Who knows – you may even stumble across some historical remnants in your promenade through wildlife and spring flowers.

Located adjacent to Lock 17 on the Erie Canal System, Moss Island near Little Falls, has the highest lift lock on the Erie Canal System. Inspect glacier-formed potholes 10-plus feet deep on the edge of the island and meander through lush, wooded walking trails nearby. Another trail to trample is the Herkimer County Community College Nature Center Interpretive Trail, located behind the College. Key in on the wildlife community surrounding the area.

For the best of New York State’s natural beauty – ideal for hiking, biking, fishing and camping – you don’t have to go very far. It’s all in one convenient, central location, the Central New York Region.

No matter what outdoor destination you choose, you’ll notice plenty of perks along the way, from breathtaking views stretching as far as the eye can see to historic landmarks reminding us of the area’s past significance. After you’re finished trailblazing through the Central New York Region, don’t forget to explore the quaint villages nearby, filled with boutiques, gourmet restaurants and unique attractions.