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Did You Know The Finger Lakes Has a National Forest?

Tucked away between Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga, in upstate New York, is the Finger Lakes National Forest. Comprised of more than 16,000 acres, the peaceful getaway has 30 miles of trails! We hiked just 2.5 miles and here’s where we went!

Where is it?

The Finger Lakes National Forest (FLNF) straddles the counties of Seneca and Schuyler in New York. There are 154 national forests in the U.S., but FLNF is New York’s only federally managed national forest (not national parks, folks). It’s roughly a 4.5 hour drive northwest from New York City or Philadelphia.

A little pond at the start of the trail

A bit of history

The area around the Finger Lakes National Forest was originally inhabited by the Iroquois Indians. During the American Revolution, the Iroquois sided with the British. After the Revolution, the land was divided up into “military lots” and given to Colonial soldiers as a reward for their service. Eventually, the federal government acquired the land under the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933 (the forerunner of the 1935 Works Progress Administration, or WPA).

In 1954, all of the land administration was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, and in 1982, the land became part of the National Forest System, as the Hector Ranger District, Green Mountain National Forest. To avoid confusion with Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, the name was changed to the Hector Ranger District, Finger Lakes National Forest in 1985. Hector is the name of the town in New York where the ranger station is for the FLNF.

trail map at one of the trail heads in Finger Lakes National Forest

How’d we decide to visit FLNF?

While many of you may have may have read my posts on wine tasting and cycling in the Finger Lakes, (The Finger Lakes Two Ways - Trip 1 and The Finger Lakes Two Ways - Trip 2) there’s also tons of hiking in the area.

We spent the weekend in Watkins Glen, and wanted to go to Watkins Glen State Park, but it was CROWD–ED! So we decided to do something different - we tried one of the trails in the Finger Lakes National Forest and had the entire trail to ourselves!

Not gonna lie. Parts of the trail were muddy.

a pretty pond along the way

The trail we hiked

We decided to do the Finger Lakes Gorge Trail that we found on AllTrails, which listed it as an easy out and back with an elevation gain of 341 feet. Reviews noted some muddiness.

The trail was well marked

Parts of the trail only look flat

Our two cents

Pro: It was a peaceful out and back trail. We had the trail to ourselves and the scenery was lovely.

Con: If you’re looking for breathtaking, this isn’t the trail. There was a stream, but no real gorge. It’s listed as easy terrain, but due to some short inclines, the sometimes slippery path and the mud on the first ¼ mile (and last ¼ mile – since it’s an out and back), I’d say it was on the easy side of moderate.

Opinion: If I had to choose between incredible scenery with crowds or understated scenery and no crowds, I’m taking the latter.

The fauna is striking if you look for it

What’s there to do besides hiking in the park?

Well, there’s biking, camping, bird watching, picnicking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, just to name a few things!

Any entrance or parking fees?


So, if you're looking for a peaceful, secluded, and scenic hike in the Finger Lakes, try the Finger Lakes National Forest!

Tiny flowers along the trail


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