South Hill Rec Way and Rim Trails – Three Trailheads
The South Hill Rec Way lies within the city and Town of Ithaca, running between Hudson Street and Burns Rd. Despite its proximity to the city urban center it offers a number of hike route options that have a very rural feel to them. It is probably my ( Jim ) favorite of the local Rail Trails
I’ve listed below the three most common trailheads we use for hikes of the Rec Way.
Hike # 2-1 Crescent Place
Meet-up: This is our most commonly used meeting spot for South Hill Rec Way hikes. Crescent Place is a few hundred feet east of South Hill Elementary School on Hudson Street, in the city of Ithaca. We meet where the street makes a big bend and there’s access to the South Hill Recreation Way. On-street parking can be limited, and our group often fills up all available curbside parking along the length of the street when we meet here, so plan on arriving early.
Click here to see the Google Maps page for the meet-up. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from The Commons.
An Ithaca Trails trail description and associated map for this area can be found here:
This is a great trail system along a wild and beautiful gorge – it’s amazing that such a walk could exist so close to downtown. It runs parallel to the popular and busy South Hill Rec Way, a former railroad right of way, but when you’re on the rim trail you’re in a different world. The narrow footpath runs along the side of a steep slope; there are lively terrain changes, pine trees and wonderful views down into the creek and reservoirs below.
The trail system here is broken into two sections; an upper trail system immediately below the South Hill Rec Way that’s safer for us to hike year-round, and a lower section of trails that leads to Six Mike Creek. Caution should be exercised even on the upper trails, which are not always clearly marked, and can be hazardous in winter months due to snow and ice accumulation, particularly around the several water crossings. There are side trails that can be extremely challenging; we’ve learned to avoid many of these, but it’s easy to blunder onto one.
In summer months when overall trail conditions are relatively safer we can take some of the lower blazed trails that bring us out onto Six Mile Creek directly opposite the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve.
An interesting write-up of the side trails along with some maps can be found here:
That author got a little more adventurous in his explorations than our group does on our hikes.
Hike # 2-2 Juniper Drive
Meet-up: Dead end of Juniper Drive, off Coddington Road, just south of the Ithaca city limits.
Click here to see the Google Maps page showing the meet-up area.
This walk takes us through a little-used area along the south side of Six Mile Creek. It’s extremely picturesque and lots of fun. In one of the high points, we walk down a rocky stream bed to an overlook high above Six Mile Creek below. If the water in the stream bed is high, it can be a little challenging making our way. We then have to climb up a quite steep slope to a ridge top – if the ground is muddy or there are lots of dried leaves, the climb can be a bit slippery and you may feel like you’re going to fall over backwards. Up on the ridge there are very large old growth trees, and some wonderful views. At one point we drop down to visit the large dam at the base of the upper reservoir. This is a loop trail; we make our way back to the cars mostly on the South Hill Rec Way, with one detour into a small beautiful pine woods. There are some strenuous and challenging spots.
Hike # 2-3 Burns Rd
Burns Rd offers the group another trailhead we can use that puts some of the same blue blazed trails on the more easterly end of the Rec Way as hike # 2-2 within reach of our two-hour hikes. The limited parking availability on Burns Rd restricts use of this trailhead to our Wednesday hikes.
Last edit 02/2024 JFR