hike #42

Finger Lakes National Forest, Hector  —  three different hikes

This is a wonderful large and deserted area of mixed forests and fields and gently rolling terrain that sits on a high ridge and provides occasional views of Seneca Lake in the distance.  It’s a little far from downtown Ithaca so we don’t hike here as often as we would if it were closer  —  on the other hand, if you only come here infrequently, it retains a nice air of novelty and freshness.

We routinely do three hikes here:

  • Potomac Road trails in the east central part of the forest
  • Gorge Trail in the southeast part of the forest
  • Finger Lakes Trail east from Logan Road (CR 4) to Burnt Hill Road and beyond

There’s a great map of the forest published by the US Forest Service, which administers the park  —  the map clearly shows all the trails, streams, ponds and roads, and it’s a pleasure to use, IMO  —  click here

Speaking of maps, here’s an overview map of the south-central area showing the satellite view  —  if you click to change to the map view you can see contours and street names  —  you need to enlarge the map to see the terrain.  This will help you get a better idea of the extent and scope of the national forest.

Hike 42.1   Potomac Road trails

Meet-up:  Parking lot on Potomac Road just north of the Potomac Group Campgrounds.  There are several parking lots right there  —  look for our cars  — don’t sit there if you don’t see any other hikers.  Click here to see where the group campgrounds are and the approx. location of the parking lot on Google Maps.   You get to Potomac Road by going into downtown Reynoldsville.  The easiest way is to take Route 79 W until it meets Route 227, then backtrack on 227 into downtown.  Here’s another map view that opens on the downtown area so you can see the road configuration  —  it’s not that obvious where Potomac Road starts.  Note you can also get to Reynoldsville from Route 79 by taking Stage Road, which is showing on the right side of the linked map  —  I like to think this is a short cut.

Hike 42.2        Gorge Trail at Mark Smith Road

Meet-up:  A couple of minutes north of Route 79 on Mark Smith Road.  You’ll see what’s obviously a parking lot on the right.  The road is a bit rough but don’t get discouraged, just keep going.  You can see a Google Map showing the approximate location of the meet-up here.  Mark Smith Road meets Route 79 about one minute after 79 intersects Route 227 coming from Reynoldsville.

This is our closest entrance to the national forest, and it’s a very nice hike.  We start by climbing fairly steeply along a lovely creek and gorge for a while.  After some ups and downs we reach the junction with the Interloken Trail, which gives us several options.  It can be muddy along this stretch so be forewarned.

Hike 42.3 — FLT east from Logan Road (CR 4) to Burnt Hill Road and beyond in the Finger Lakes National Forest

Meet-up: Logan Road just north of the junction with Wykoff Road, and 1.4 miles north of Route 79, Burdett

Map

When going Easterly from Logan Rd, the first half hour or so is a continuous climb that follows a gorge and streambed.

At the top of that climb hikers meet a junction with the Westerly terminus of  the South Slope Trail which links to the Interloken Trail

Continuing East on the FLT takes hikers along the crest of a hill and then up and down several small rises and stream crossings.

Eventually reaching Burnt Hill Rd, hikers have several options on where to continue their hike, including the Finger Lakes Trail or a connector trail to another point on the orange-blazed Interloken Trail. Both of these options take hikers through the former Dunham Homestead farm, with evidence of the former homestead remaining in the form of several stone walls that hikers pass by.

Continuing on the Finger Lakes Trail brings hikers past the Dunham Lean-To before emerging back onto Burnt Hill Rd and points South.

Risks to be aware of on this hike include uncertain footing on sections of the trail South of the Dunham Lean-To, as the trail at that point follows an old stream bed that contains many loose stones that may contribute to  fall hazards.

Hike 42.4 — FLT west from Logan Road to Satterly Hill Road and beyond

Meet-up: Logan Road just north of the junction with Wykoff Road, and 1.4 miles north of Route 79, Burdett

Map

This walk takes us uphill, steeply at a few points, to a high open plateau at Satterly Hill Road with great views over Seneca Lake and to the south As we continue past the road, the trail heads downhill toward Watkins Glen. This is an area of overgrown fields. Sometimes the trail itself can be overgrown. Parts of the walk can be muddy in wet conditions, and there are sections that local horse riders use that can be churned up. The first part of the walk, just beyond Logan Road, goes through an area of open woods that is quite pretty. There’s a large stream crossing where the bridge was destroyed for a while, but then rebuilt. This area has a great profusion of dames rocket in late spring.