Finger Lakes Trail
The main trail (FLT) is 557.7 miles (897.2 km) long and extends from the New York-Pennsylvania border from Allegany State Park in southwestern New York to the Catskill Forest Preserve in eastern New York. There is an additional 400.0 miles (643.7 km) of branch trails and loops which branch off from the main FLT. Over 400 miles of the FLT system is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) and affiliates with the North Country Trail Association.
The Trail System passes over a mixture of public and private land, and also public roads where there is no public or private land available. The main FLT crosses through 4 state parks, 41 state forests, 3 wildlife management areas, 1 national forest and over 400 private landowners property.
It is maintained by volunteers from 15 organizations and approximately 60 individual and family trail sponsors, except for personnel of the NYSDEC Operations Crew who maintain the trail in the Catskills. The US Forest Service maintains the Interloken Trail in the Finger Lakes National Forest.
The highest elevation on the entire FLT is 3660' near Balsam Lake Mountain in the Catskills. The lowest elevation is 430' where the FLT crosses the Cayuga Inlet near Ithaca, NY. There are also four fire towers located along the trail. The first is the abandoned Mt. Tuscarora Fire Tower in Allegany State Park. The second is the Sugar Hill Fire Tower outside Watkins Glen State Park. The Berry Hill Fire Tower is located outside Bowman Lake State Park and the fourth is the Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower in the Catskills.
The Finger Lakes Trail has been completed 353 times as of April 20, 2013. Joe Dabes has hiked the entire trail ten times. The five banch trails have all been completed 77 times by 76 people with Joe Dabes doing it twice as of November 5, 2012. The FLTC gives out patches for completing both the main trail and all its branches.
When using the trail, it is important to know whether the portion you are using is on private or public land and the rules applicable to that particular portion.
Those portions of the trail that pass over private lands are subject to rules established by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (“FLTC”) as negotiated with the private land owners. The portions of the trail that pass over public lands are subject to the laws and rules of the political entity that owns the public land.
For example, the portions of the trail that are in Allegany State Park are subject to the rules of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation ("NYSOPRH"). The portions of the trail that pass through New York State forests and New York State reforestation areas are subject to the rules of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("NYS DEC"). The portions of the trail that pass over county owned lands are subject to the rules of the particular county.
This multi-jurisdiction can create a good deal of confusion. For example, there are some designated camping spots ("bivouac" areas and lean-tos) on both private and public lands. On private lands camping is allowed only in specifically designated locations. In some state parks camping is allowed anywhere on or near the trail that is not visible from a road. In other state parks, camping is allowed only in designated camping areas along the trail. On the portions of the trail that pass over New York State forests and New York State reforestation areas camping is anywhere that is at least 150 feet from any trail, road, and water source.
Likewise, mountain biking is generally prohibited by the FLTC. In state parks, mountain biking is allowed only if specifically designated by the NYSOPRH. In state forest and reforestation areas, mountain biking is allowed unless the NYS DEC has specifically posted otherwise. Similar disparate rules apply to possession of firearms, both long guns and licensed handguns.
Portions of the trail that pass over private lands are closed during various hunting season (fall turkey season, fall big game season, and spring turkey season.) The portions of the trail that pass over public lands are generally open all year long including public lands on which hunting is allowed.
The FLTC sells detailed maps that specify the portions of the trail on public and private lands, and the portions of the trail that are closed during various hunting seasons.
- Conservation Trail - 178.0 miles (286.4 km) - Allegany State Park to Niagara Falls State Park
- Letchworth Trail - 25.6 miles (41.1 km) - Letchworth State Park
- Bristol Hills Trail - 54.2 miles (87.2 km) - Ontario County Park to Mitchellsville, NY (FLT)
- Crystal Hills Trail - 49.1 miles (79.0 km) - Part of Great Eastern Trail
- Interloken Trail - 12.0 miles (19.3 km) - Finger Lakes National Forest
- Onondaga Trail - 41.0 miles (65.9 km) - Part of North Country National Scenic Trail