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Finger Lakes National Forest Trails

Finger Lakes Region, New York

Wildlife, Gravel Grinder

Directions & Trail Description

Location: North of Watkins Glen, NY between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. Schuyler County.

Length/Configuration: 30+ miles of interconnecting trails. About 13 miles available for mountain biking on the No-Tan-Takto, Burnt Hill and Backbone Trails with added loops using the northern 2 miles of the Interloken Trail. or forest roads.

Terrain/Surface: Dirt natural surface trail with sections of gravel and grass.

Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Elevation Change: Relatively flat with total gain less than 200 ft.

Trail Use: mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling


Vehicles on forest roads, avoid riding trails when wet. Check ahead for seasonal trail and road closures.

Blackfly season has been for centuries part of Upstate New York's outdoor culture. Just deal with it and don't miss "The Blackfly MTB Challenge". June - early July.

Hunting in season. Wear blaze orange.


Finger Lakes National Forest Trails

Note: This trail map is a graphical representation designed for general reference purposes only. Read Full Disclaimer.

General Description

The mountain biking experience along ridge tops and open pastures of the 16,176 acre Finger Lakes National Forest with roadways on one mile square grids and free-ranging cattle is reminiscent of the wild west. The forest straddles a formation known as the "Hector Backbone," a large ridge running north-south, approximately halfway between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, the two largest of New York's Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes National Forest Trail System comprises over 30 miles of multi-use trails. These, along with interconnected unpaved and gravel forest roads traverse and border gorges, ravines, pastures and woodlands.

Park Facilities

There is backcountry camping and several semi-primitive developed campgrounds. Amenities are few and include with vault toilets, water - hand pump, picnic areas with grills, playground. The Horse campground features a small corral, hitching rails, water troughs.

Blueberry Patch Campground

The most popular is the Blueberry Patch Campground, located along Picnic Area Road (County Route 2). Adajacent to the campground is a five-acre high and low bush blueberry patch managed by the forest. You can pick the blueberries in season .Yum.

Apples, raspberries, and other fruits are abundant in openings throughout the Forest.

Backbone Horse Campground

Backbone Horse Campground is a small, semi-primitive campground designed for campers or picnickers that bring horses with them. Located along County Route 2. The campground is on the left, opposite the intersection with Burnt Hill Road.

Potomac Group Campground

Potomac Group Campground is a day-use area with primitive camping facilities for groups of 10 to 40 people. It is a hike-in only site.

Fingerlakes National Forest Trail Connections

The trails in the Fingerlakes National Forest are part of the FLT trail network. Foot trails include the 1.2 mile Gorge Trail, 2.25 mile Potomac Trail, 0.8 mile Ravine Trail and the 0.75 mile Southslope Trail which intersect the Interloken Trail.

Forest Roads

Finger Lake National Forest roads are maintained for car travel during the summer and several remain open in the winter. These provide excellent entry points into the forest.

Both the Mark Smith Road and Burnt Hill Roads are popular Gravel Grinder entry points into the Finger Lakes National Forest. They are easily accessed by turning north off State Highway 79 in Hector. They border each side of the 1.25 mile Gorge Trail and travel through Hemlock and hardwood forest to connect with the Interloken and Burnt Hill Trails to the north.

Trail Access:

Gorge Trailhead parking on Mark Smith Road is about .75 mile north of State Route 79, Trailhead parking on Burnt Hill Road is about 2.5 miles north of 79.

Fossenvue Trail

Caywood Point is the only part of the Finger Lakes National Forest bordering Seneca Lake. The Fossenvue Trail, a gravel path, travels through the forest and leads to an gravel beach and historic Camp Fossenvue.

Fingerlakes National Forest Mountain Bike Trails Description

The No-Tan-Takto Trail, Burnt Hill Trail, Backbone Trail and the northern end of the Interloken Trail are available for mountain biking. These 13 miles of interconnected trails along with forest roads provide opportunities for a variety of ride lengths and loop options along the ridges between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake.

Trail and weather conditions tend to vary greatly seasonally. There may be wet and muddy trail sections during the spring, overgrown forest trails and mowed to overgrown grass as the trail travels through gated (close gates behind you) and along fenced pastureland and forest paths during the summer.

You may encounter a few Moos on your travels from May 15 through October 15, the time period alloted for cattle grazing according to current Land Use Agreements. The best time to mountain bike is during the Fall. During the winter, trail and road conditions are more appropriate for Fat Tire Mountain Biking.

No-Tan-Takto Trail: 4.5 miles one way.

Trailhead / Blaze: Green

Access from the Blueberry Patch Campground via the Backbone Trail, from the Backbone Horse Campground or from the parking area on Parmenter Road.

By doing an out and back on No-Tan-Takto trail and combining the 2 mile Northern Interloken Loop, you can make this an 11 mile ride. The terrain is relatively flat with a primitive trail tread.

There are beautiful vistas to the east and west and nice lake views. From the Backbone Campground the trail heads north into Seneca County, crosses the Interloken Trail at Seneca Road and follows Townsend Road east for about 0.5 miles before heading north to the Parmenter Road parking area.

Interloken Trail: 12 miles one way

Trailhead / Blaze: Orange

Access from the Blueberry Patch Campground via the Backbone Trail and head north on the No-Tan-Takto Trail, or from the parking area on Parmenter Road.

Mountain bikes and horses are permitted only on the north end of the trail between Seneca and Parmenter Roads. In this area, the trail is flanked by tall conifers and is generally flatter and more open than the southern section. It passes through pastures and alongside numerous swamps. The Interloken Trail is a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail system (FLT). It bisects the Forest north to south.

Highlights include lovely views of Seneca Lake. Can be wet fall and spring. During the winter months, this is a popular Nordic cross country ski route.

Backbone Trail: 5.5 miles one way

Trailhead / Blaze

Backbone Horse Campground. From the north, the trail can be accessed at the corner of Ball Diamond Road and Wardner Corner Road or at the Foster Pond parking lot.

The Backbone trail travels through forest, fields and shrub land on a combination of dirt and grassy doubletrack trails and long abandoned roads. Many old homestead sites, cellar holes, stone walls, and other remnants mostly from post-revolutionary war settlements and farms can be seen along this trail and throughout the forest. The trail intersects the Interloken and Burnt Hill Trails to the south and the No-Tan-Takto trail to the north.

Burnt Hill Trail: 2.5 miles one way

Trailhead / Blaze

View Point parking area (just east of the Blueberry Patch Campground). The trail is located on the south side of the road.

Natural surface trail that offers many beautiful vistas along it's path. Located at the southern end of the Forest, extending south from Picnic Area Road, it crosses shrub lands, open fields and pastures. The trail intersects the Interloken Trail as well as the Backbone Trail providing an opportunity for a nice loop ride. In the fall, these open areas are dusted with a beautiful palette of russett, burnt siennas, oranges and reds.


Trail Highlights & Points of Interest

Wildlife Watch & Photography

The Fingerlakes National Forest is a year round birdwatchers destination. Over 160 different species of birds frequent the Forest at various times of the year. The Finger Lake National Forest encompasses a wide range of habitat; from abandoned farmland and grasslands to old growth forest which provides a home for a diverse wildlife populaton.

Henslow's sparrows are rather uncommon in New York State and are found primarily in the central and western parts of the state, especially the Appalachian Plateau and Great Lakes Plain.They frequent the forest from May to August and love fallow, weedy, often moist fields and meadow land.

Ring-necked pheasant, Eastern Meadlowlarks, American woodcock, scarlet tanager, bobolink, yellow warbler, Eastern towhee, yellow-billed cuckoo can be heard and spotted in the park's open areas, pastures and shrubland.

Signs of an active beaver population can be seen in the number of ponds that dot the forest. White-tailed deer, free-ranging cattle, wild turkey, bobcat, skunk and red fox can be observed along the park's network of roadways.

If you are camping here, listen for the calls of the screech, barred and great horned owls in the evening. The area is also well known for its varied species of raptors which include the American kestrel, northern harrier.

Historic Districts & Architecture

Camp Fossenvue & "Queen’s Castle"

Listed on the State Register of Historic Places in 1999, Queen's Castle (Camp Fossenvue) is what remains of an historic lakeside camp structure built about 1881 on the shore of Seneca Lake. It became part of the Hector Ranger District of Finger Lakes National Forest when it was purchased in 1996.

Camp Fossenvue was started by a group of seven women from Geneva looking for a place to camp for their summer vacation. They chose Faucetts Point now called Caywood Point located on the eastern shores of Seneca Lake, New York. These women were leaders in the women’s suffrage movement. In existence from 1875 to the early 1900’s, it was an unusual "lakeside retreat" for wealthy social reformers, artists, poets, suffragettes including Susan B. Anthony, John Ruskin and many other famous people.

While it makes for a good photo op, the cabin is not open and can not be entered. The lakeshore area is also subject to seasonal flooding.


Faucetts Point, home of Fossenvue for more than 25 years, is now known as Caywood Point, and is public land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. To visit the Queen’s Castle, park at the Caywood Point sign on route 414 just south of the old underpass, and walk down the path to the lakeshore. It’s a bit more than 1 mile. Or you could arrive by boat on the point waterfront.


Historical Notes: A Dance For All People

The Finger Lakes Region takes it's name from early Iroquois mapmakers who, when examining 11 thin and very long lakes in the Southern Region of New York, felt they resembled two hands that had been placed on the earth. They settled and inhabited the area for thousands of years. The Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen Thanksgiving Address is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. It is an expression of acknowledgement, greetings, love, and appreciation for every part of the Natural World.

Today, the Finger Lakes National Forest is a multiple use land management area. Prior to its becoming federally managed land, the area was a patchwork of privately owned farmsteads, which were first settled in the early- to middle-19th centuries. The land was eventually abandoned and sold to the U.S. government in the 20th century. Cellar holes, barn and outbuilding foundations, artifact scatters, and field boundary walls can be seen throughout the forestscape.

A fight to prevent oil and natural gas exploration, fracking and drilling in the Finger Lakes National Forest, has been raging for years. Strong opposition has so far prevented that from happening. Can you imagine what that would do to New York State's only National Forest and it's environment and wildlife? Let's not forget about the "old ones" and more than 48,000 visitors per year looking for forest chlorophyll and outdoor activities in this tiny forest.


Directions To Trailheads

There are many entry points into the forest. Which road or trail you take will depend on your direction and method of travel: car, mountain bike, snowmobile etc. For general campground access, take Rt. 414 north from Watkins Glen for 9 miles, past the Hector Ranger Station of the Finger Lakes National Forest. Continue .5 mile to Schuyler CR 2 then . . .

Blueberry Camground: Turn right and follow CR 2 east for 4.0 miles to the Blueberry Patch Campground and parking area.

Backbone Camground: Travel for 3.5 miles east. Backbone Campground and parking area is on the left, opposite the intersection with Burnt Hill Road.


Land Manager

Finger Lakes National Forest

Hector Ranger Station
5218 State Route 414
Hector, NY 14841

Phone: (607) 546-4470

Website: Finger Lakes National Forest



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