James Kennedy State Forest- Cortland County
James Kennedy State Forest in Cortland County contains 4,422 acres over three distinct and dispersed areas within the forest boundaries. We start several of our common hikes from various trailheads throughout the state forest. Be sure that you are driving to the correct trailhead for an announced hike.
General information on the forest may be found here:
The DEC map of the forest may be found here:
James Kennedy State Forest Hike # 40-1
North Region – Virgil Mountain, Cortland County
Virgil Mountain, the location for this hike, is in the northeasterly portion of the state forest.
For this two hour hike, meet at the junction of seasonal O’Dell and Baldwin Rds in Cortland County
For those with low-slung vehicles with little ground clearance, the approach to the parking area on O’Dell Rd may be challenging at certain times of the year.
If you are using Google maps to arrive at the junction of O’Dell and Baldwin Roads, do NOT follow Google driving instructions that send you over the seasonal part of O’Dell from the direction of Hauck Hill and Cartwright Roads! This seasonal portion of O’Dell Rd may be impassible for parts of the year. Come to the trailhead via O’Dell Rd from the direction of Van Donsel Rd
See Google map here:
For our two hour group hike format this hike is best done as an out and back.
The FLT passes by the parking area and then plunges into the woods a short distance up O’Dell Rd. From there the trail winds through evergreen trees, flowers, and along and through multiple steams that are very attractive at certain times of the year. The footpath of the trail has an enjoyable bed of pine needles through much of the lower portion before reaching Van Donsel RD that makes walking on the FLT footpath in that area to be quite enjoyable.
Crossing over the seasonal Van Donsel Rd, the FLT continues up Virgil mountain, past the ski lifts of Greek Peak and onwards to a nice overlook across the valley. This is where the group would normally want to turn around to begin the return to the cars.
If hiking this area alone, a hiker may continue on the white blazed FLT and then the orange blazed Virgil Mountain loop to return to near the O’Dell Rd parking area. This route will take more than our normal two hour hike limit, however, and I don’t find following the utility lines along this part of the trail to be very appealing by comparison to the FLT on other portions of the mountain
See more of a trail description for this hike at All Trails:
For those hikers who might want to pick an alternate parking area that’s safer to drive to during winter months, or who wish to add more miles to their hike, starting at the corner of Bleck and Hauck Hill Rd might be an option. This will give the hiker additional trail time through woods before beginning to climb Virgil Mountain itself.
See our Dabes Diversion Loop below for directions to that parking area:
More information about this section of the FLT, including still photos, may be found at:
James Kennedy State Forest Hikes # 40-2 & # 40-3
Central Region – Dabes Diversion Loop
The Dabes Diversion Loop hikes are in the central area of the James Kennedy State Forest.
Driving directions to the trailhead for these hikes:
From Ithaca, travel east to the Village of Dryden.
At the four corners in Dryden Village ( stoplight, junctions of State Routes 13, 38 and 392 ) continue east on State Route 392 ( Virgil Rd )
Turn right on West Meetinghouse Rd, then left on Daisy Hollow Rd. Continue through the intersection of Owego Hill Rd onto Babcock Hollow Rd. Once on Babcock Hollow Rd, bear left onto Hauck Hill Rd.
Park at junction of Bleck Rd and Hauck Hill Rd.
More information and a more detailed line drawing map that includes the route for hike #2, here:
More information on the Loop, including some still photos, may be found at:
More information on hike #3 here:
Both hikes start from the same parking location and start by traveling along the Dabes Diversion Loop. From the parking area, hike west and then south on the Dabes Diversion Loop. This mildly strenuous route takes you through some majestic stands of trees and over some minimal water crossings. The southern terminus of the Diversion Trail offers excellent panoramic views of farm fields.
From the observation point overlooking the field, hikes 2 & 3 become their own distinct hike routes:
Hike # 40-2 – FLT east to the Kuzia Cutoff and points beyond
Turning easterly on the Finger Lakes Trail, hikers continue on the FLT to Bleck Rd. Shortly after crossing Bleck Road, hikers will find the blue-blazed Kuzia cut-off to the FLT. Continue northerly on the Kuzia Cut Off to the seasonal portion of Hauck Hill Rd. Turning northwest on Hauck Hill Rd, a short road walk brings hikers back to Bleck Rd and the vehicles.
Hike # 40-3 – FLT west to the Irish and Lithuanian Loops of the International Trail
From the junction of the Dabes Diversion Loop and the FLT, traveling westerly soon brings hikers to the Foxfire Lean-to and then the Kells bivouac area.
Continuing west the FLT passes by several additional fields such as the one at the junction with the Dabes Diversion Loop. The FLT passes through some minor water crossings and associated mudholes before reaching the International Loop #2, consisting mainly of the Irish and Lithuanian Loops. This multi-loop trail system covers the steep hillsides east of Babcock Hollow Rd.
Our hike here will consist of a loop around the hillside and then return to the Dabes Diversion Loop and our cars.
Because of the time to get to the International Loops via the Dabes Diversion Loop, this hike will be limited to the longer summer Tuesday hikes where time is less of an issue than for our other organized hikes.
Although using a different starting point, more information on this hike may be found at:
James Kennedy State Forest Hikes # 40-4 & # 40-5
These hikes start at different locations. Do not confuse which hike is planned.
Hike # 40-4
This is our traditional ” Kennedy State Forest Hike” that the Ithaca Hikers have done for many years.
Meet-up: Corner of Daisy Hollow Road and Carpenter Hill Road. There is a small off-road parking area that was re-built in 2022 for logging that was taking place in the forest, but most of the group parks along the shoulder of Daisy Hollow Rd
Click here to see the Google Maps page showing the meet-up, and the directions from downtown Dryden. Sometimes Google Maps tells you to take Route 392 east to Palmer Road to Virgil Creek Road to Daisy Hollow Road. Other times Google says to stay on Route 392 to West Meeting House Road (127A) and turn south on that to catch Daisy Hollow Road. Pay attention to the road names — some hikers got confused in the past and got lost so they missed the hike. You can see a blow-up of what I’m talking about here.
Either way you go, the countryside between Dryden and the trail head is wonderfully picturesque, so be sure to look around.
This hike takes us through a large and gorgeous hemlock forest, and the trail runs along a beautiful stream for much of the way. It’s a bit strenuous at times, and the trail surface is very challenging in spots, with roots and rocks and eroded spots, but it’s lovely the whole way. It’s possible to make part of the walk into a loop by walking on the Swedish Loop and then Owego Hill Road, a very scenic rural road, instead of just going in and out on the FLT. Click here and scroll down a ways to the pertinent map to see what I’m talking about.
Hike # 40- 5 — Partial Spanish Loop and Finger Lakes Trail Loop Hike
For this hike, meet on the seasonal part of Owego Hill Rd just beyond the intersection with Adams Rd.
From 1024 Daisy Hollow Rd, turn onto the unsigned Adams Rd
Drive up Adams Rd approximately one mile until you reach the fork in the road.
Take the left fork to reach the parking area, approximately a quarter mile from the fork in the road.
Google map here:
The Spanish Loop follows Adams Rd and turns onto Owego Hill Rd as the road becomes a seasonal road. The parking area is a wide shoulder where the Spanish Loop turns back into the woods.
This hike follows the Spanish Loop as it descends along pine needle covered trails into the valley below. The trail crosses a couple of seasonal streams and follows the streams before climbing the hill on the opposite bank until it meets the Finger Lakes Trail. After reaching the Spanish Loop and FLT intersection, depending on group hiking pace usually a combination of north and southbound hiking on the FLT is required to reach our two hour hike time.
When completing the loop and returning to the cars, hike north on the FLT until it reaches Owego Hill Rd; hike Owego Hill Rd back to the cars.
Last edit 06-2023 JFR