Finger Lakes Trail, Danby State Forest, New York
Watch the sunset from a bluff-top campsite
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You won’t see any lakes, but you’ll get plenty of open ridgeline views, wilderness solitude, and chances to spot a black bear on this 16.7-mile overnight lollipop-loop along the Finger Lakes Trail near Ithaca. Go in spring for reliable water sources and woodland wildflowers like sarsaparilla and red trillium, or wait for fall when the ridges and hollows light up in a living tapestry of color. After, stick around town to sample the region’s legendary selection of cider. Just be sure to save the hard stuff for after your hike—the deceptively strenuous trail has more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
Turn-by-turn Head south on the Finger Lakes Trail, gaining 500 feet in the first mile, before splitting off onto the orange-blazed Abbott Trail near mile 4.3. Top off water at Michigan Creek (mile 6.3) and ascend to the campsite (mile 8.9; first-come, first-serve) at the Thatcher’s Pinnacles overlook, perched 800 feet above the Inlet Valley. Next day, continue 1.9 miles on the main path and reconnect with the Finger Lakes Trail at Diane’s Crossing, a footbridge over Michigan Creek (mile 10.8). Head south, following a narrow corridor through sugar maples and red pines—watch for woodland birds like the scarlet tanager and the blue-gray gnatcatcher—past the Abbott Trail junction to retrace your steps back to Danby Road.
Get there Several companies (Greyhound, Big Red Bullet, Short Line) bus passengers between New York City and Ithaca (starting at $40, 4.5 hrs; departures vary). From the Ithaca bus station, walk .8 mile east on State Street, then hop on bus #65 at the Aurora@Commons stop and ride to Hillside View at the end of the line ($2.50, 15 mins; weekday departures 6:35 a.m. to 5:07 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.). Walk or hitch 1.1 miles east to the trail crossing on Danby Road.
Additional options You can access the Finger Lakes Trail in Buttermilk Falls State Park (bus #67), but it involves more road-walking.