Are dogs allowed on hikes?
We welcome dogs on most of our hikes. Any dog who hikes with us must be under its owner’s control at all times. If you let your dog off leash, you’re still responsible for keeping it under control. Additionally, we reserve the right to ban any dog that acts aggressively toward hikers or other dogs.
Different hike locations have different rules about dogs on their property. Some trails require that dogs be leashed, and some nature preserves do not allow dogs. We expect hikers with dogs to honor these rules, and we try to note any such restrictions in the hike descriptions.
Why do we not give distances for each hike listed on the Hikes page?
We plan our hikes for time, not distance. Many of our hikes are “out-and-back” hikes, where we hike a particular trail for an hour, then turn around and retrace our steps for the second hour. Occasionally a hike may be planned to run beyond our normal two-hour duration, but we try to announce that before the hike.
The group’s walking speed may vary by season. A trail where we can cover a lot of ground quickly on a dry summer day will take longer in deep snow, so in winter we’re likely to cover less ground during our two hours.
Given ideal conditions, we tend to average about two miles per hour, so you can reasonably expect to hike around four miles on most of our hikes.
Why do we not rate each hike for difficulty?
The difficulty level of a particular hike varies from hiker to hiker based on any number of factors including age, general fitness level, season, trail conditions, etc. People from more mountainous western states with steeper trails might find our hikes to be exceedingly easy, while someone visiting from Kansas and unused to our hilly terrain might feel the opposite.
Most of the trails we hike involve some degree of gradient changes, differing trail conditions such as mud, snow, water crossings, deteriorated footpath, obstructions on the trail such as blow-down trees, etc., over the course of the typical hike.
Our Join Us page lists several factors to help you judge your ability to hike on our usual trails, such as the ability to walk a 20-minute mile or to walk from the bottom of Buffalo Street to Eddy Street without stopping.
If you’re unsure of your own personal fitness level, consider joining us on one of the local rail trails for a first hike. These trails tend to be flatter and less strenuous than the narrow footpaths found on most area hiking trails, so they’re more forgiving to beginning hikers.
What hiking gear do I need?
Footwear. Having the right footwear can make or break a hike. You’ll need something more substantial than sneakers or sandals. Your shoes or boots must fit properly and be well broken in. The uneven footing of woodland trails requires sturdy soles with good traction. Some hikers prefer boots with ankle support; others like trail walkers. It’s a good idea to consult a professional at an outdoor gear store to help you find the footwear that works for you.
In winter, we recommend nano- or microspikes for traction on icy trails. These attach to your boots and dig into slippery ice. Nanospikes are smaller and are good for most of the hikes we do in winter (as well as trips to the mailbox on an icy driveway!). Microspikes are bigger and more aggressive at biting into the ice, but when conditions are more snowy than icy, the snow tends to clump onto these spikes. Many of our hikers have both kinds of spikes and choose which kind of traction to use based on the conditions for a particular day and trail.
Clothing. We hike year round, so the best clothing for a hike depends on the season. In warmer months, ticks are active so you may want to wear clothing treated with permethrin–many of our hikers wear lightweight hiking clothes with long sleeves and full-length pants tucked into socks. If your skin is sensitive to the sun, consider a wide-brimmed hat and clothing with SPF sun protection.
For socks, wear cushioned hiking socks made of merino wool or a technical, moisture-wicking fabric. Avoid cotton, which is slow to dry and will make sweaty feet hot or clammy and uncomfortable, perhaps causing blisters.
Light or steady rain won’t necessarily cancel a hike. If you’d like to join us on rainy-day hikes, a waterproof poncho or other rain gear (raincoat, rain pants) will help keep you from getting soaked.
In winter, wear layers that will keep you warm at the start of a hike but can be shed as needed as you warm up. Try a lightweight base layer made of merino wool or a technical fabric to wick away sweat, keeping you both warm and dry. Avoid cotton here, too–you don’t want to be wearing a damp, sweaty layer next to your skin in cold temperatures. Top the base layer with a mid-weight layer: a fleece or a merino sweater to provide breathable warmth. For the outer layer, choose something with a water- and windproof shell. Finally, gloves keep your fingers from freezing at the start of a hike. Some hikers start a winter hike wearing mittens for warmth, then switch to lightweight gloves as they warm up.
During the fall hunting season it is encouraged that hikers wear some type of blaze orange or blaze pink clothing items that are intended to improve your visibility to hunters we may be sharing the forest with
Most hikers wear a hat–something to keep the sun out of your eyes in summer and your heard warm in winter. Sunglasses will protect your eyes against glare.
Many of our hikers wear gaiters to keep snow and mud out of their boots.
Trekking poles. Some hikers love these; others don’t use them. Trekking poles can be helpful going up and down steep slopes. They help to maintain balance on icy, rocky, or root-filled trails and while crossing streams. In hot weather, using poles keeps your hands from swelling. Some hikers get poles with removable rubber tips and/or snow baskets.
Water. Although our hikes are two-hour day hikes, it’s always a good idea to carry water when you’re in the woods. You’ll want to carry more water on hot days to ensure you stay hydrated. You can use a water bottle or a hydration belt or pack (such as a CamelBak).
Other gear. It’s generally agreed that there are “10 essentials” smart hikers carry with them on hikes. Although we don’t insist that all hikers carry all of these items on our two-hour hikes, take a look at the list and see what makes sense for you to carry.
How will I know if a hike is cancelled?
We hike in almost all kinds of weather, but occasionally a hike may be cancelled due to bad weather. This decision is made by the hike leader before 8:00 on the morning of the hike.
If a leader decides to cancel a hike, an announcement is sent out to the Ithaca Hikers email list by 8:00 a.m. Additionally, the hike is cancelled in our Meetup group, an annoucement is posted there, and a message is sent to all Meetup members who RSVP’d.
If you’re unsure about whether a hike will take place on a day when the weather looks bad, check your email and/or the Ithaca Hikers Meetup page before you set out.