- Trails in Ithaca, New York
This is a list of trails in
Ithaca, New York.
Multiuse and commuter trails
Many of the major trails in Ithaca and the surrounding areas lie in abandoned railway beds. Ithaca was part of the first big railroad boom in the 1830s. While only one short-haul freight train remains, the area benefits from the use of the well-graded surfaces that the railroads left behind.
In 2004, the City of Ithaca drew up a master plan for its trail system, to fill gaps in trail coverage and to make them more usable as commuter trails in addition to providing better access by foot and bicycle to major area natural preserves and state parks. If all of the connecting trails are completed, Ithaca will have a fairly complete network connecting most neighborhoods in the area without roads.
Cayuga Waterfront Trail (incomplete)
This planned trail will connect Cass Park, on the western shore of
Cayuga Lake, to Stewart Parkon its eastern shore. The first, completed segment, is a 2 mile loop adjacent to and connecting to Cass Park. [ [http://www.cayugawaterfronttrail.com/ Cayuga Waterfront Trail - Home ] ] The trail will be 10–12 feet wide with an asphalt surface, and link Ithaca's waterfront destinations, including the Tompkins County Visitors' Center, the Ithaca Youth Bureau, Stewart Park, Cascadilla Boat Club, Newman Golf Course, Farmers' Market, Cornell and Ithaca College boathouses, Inlet Island (with a planned extension to the current US Coast Guard at the Inlet Island point), Cass Park and Allan H. Treman State Marine Park.
Many of the segments of the trail are already "unofficial" trails, but the trail will improve the surfaces, connect unconnected segments, and improve access to the trail by adding trail heads at Third Street and Willow Ave.
Phase Two of the trail, the most urban section, remains incomplete despite planning dating to 2001. The delays have been caused by disputes with owners of valuable commercial real estate on the proposed route, which passes through the developing (and congested) West End of Ithaca. Two primary points of controversy over the proposed route are the loss of a lane of a bridge that leads to the hospital, and the siting of the trail near a commercial propane facility. Owners of land on the route have also complained about poor communication with City officials and are worried about the possible use of eminent domain for what they see as a recreation facility.
Additional planning work has begun on Phase Three of the trail while Phase Two remains stalled by dispute.
outh Hill Recreation Way (complete)
This 3.30 mile, packed-gravel trail was developed in 1986 as a N.Y.S. Environmental Quality Bond Act Project. It runs parallel to (NE of) Coddington Road in the Town of Ithaca, mostly following the abandoned rail bed of the
Cayuga and Susquehanna Railroad, which was built in 1849 to ship coal from Pennsylvania mines to Ithaca for water shipment over the Erie Canal. Eventually it merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroadand was abandoned in 1956. The descent into Ithaca from South Hill was via two switchbacks. The trail skips the middle switchback. Instead it follows a short steep asphalt-paved connector (not part of the railroad) from the upper to lower grades. The tail tracks of the switchbacks are not included in the trail; these were located NW of Coddington Road at the end of the upper trail, and SE of the bottom of the connector, respectively. Except for the connector, the trail is a gradual downhill from Ithaca to Burns Road. Hiking paths lead off the biking trail into the Six Mile Creek gorge. The trail is a popular spot for cross-country skiing in the winter, and in the summer, connects Ithaca College students to sunning and (illegal) swimming in Six Mile Creek and the City Reservoir.
Small parking areas are located at the end of Juniper Drive and at the corner of Burns Road and Coddington Road in the Town of Ithaca.
East Ithaca Recreation Way (complete)
East Ithaca Recreation Way is a multipurpose, paved, commuter trail on East Hill consisting of several sections built mostly on the railroad bed of the
Elmira Cortland and Northern Railroad(1869)Fact|date=September 2008, later part of the Lehigh Valley Railroadand abandoned following Hurricane Agnesin 1972. The total length of the trail is 2.4 miles and runs through Cornell-owned natural areas along the Cascadilla Creek near Game Farm Road. This trail will be connected to the future Pew Trail in the Snyder Hill neighborhood. Many benches exist along the trail, providing rest areas for hikers and joggers. The section south of Maple Ave. to Pine Tree Road is built on the railroad bed of the Elmira, Cortland and Northern Railroad (1875-1936)Fact|date=September 2008, also a branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. This section was graded already in 1854 as part of the "Murdock Grade" and continues SE to Bessemer and Brooktondale; however most of this section runs through back yards and there is no plan to re-acquire it for public use.
East-South Trail (planned)
The East-South connector trail extends from the terminus of South Hill Recreation Way near the intersection of Coddington Road and Burns Road, crosses Route 79/Slaterville Springs Road, runs along it for a short distance, and then connects through Snyder Hill to the planned Pew trail. Almost all of this connector trail will likely be either in the form of bike lanes along the road, or simply the addition of signage to indicate that bikes and cars will share the road. Although Burns Road has fairly light traffic, Route 79 is a major corridor, so safety might be an issue if the route is not separated from traffic.
Because it crosses a shallow valley to join South Hill and East Hill, Burns Road has fairly steep sections, but this likely remains the best route to connect the two existing trails.
Vincent and Hannah Pew Trail (complete)
This packed surface trail connects East Ithaca Recreation Way with Tudor Park and the Snyder Hill / Eastern Heights neighborhood. There is a parking area for trail users, a bus pull-off and transit plaza with connections to the trail on Pine Tree Road, benches, and plantings. The trail received a federal highway grant to aid in completion in 2004.
Varna Trail / Fall Creek Trail (planned)
The Varna and Fall Creek trails are one continuous segment on the Lehigh Valley (Elmira Cortland & Northern) railbed from Varna to the East Ithaca Recreation Way at its northeast terminus, passing through the Monkey Run nature preserve in the Cornell Plantations. As is the case for many of the other planned trails, several bridges need to be repaired or built along its route before it can be completed. Part of the route is already used by the Cayuga Trail.
Jim Schug Trail / Dryden Lake Trail
The Jim Schug Trail, named after the Dryden Town supervisor who secured most of the land but died shortly after the beginning of construction, is 4.2 miles in length. Like other trails in the area, it runs on an abandoned railroad bed (the Southern Central railway, for most of its existence part of the Lehigh Valley). It begins on Main Street in Dryden, and continues to the Cortland County border, where it connects to the Finger Lakes Trail. A proposed 3.3 mile extension of the trail would connect it northwest to the nearby village of Freeville (also in the Town of Dryden), and eventually via the Varna / Fall Creek trail to Ithaca. It is gravel packed and suitable for bicycling, and is also level for the entire route. [ [http://www.dryden.ny.us/Dryden%20Trails/jim_schug_1.htm Town of Dryden Department of Public Works] ]
Black Diamond Trail (planned)
The Black Diamond trail is the keystone of a major trail system in the Ithaca area, and has remained in some kind of planning stage since the 1970s. Although the trail has been delayed for decades, there is reason to hope that it will actually be built. Local government within Tompkins County has made alternatives to car transportation and completing the trail a priority, and some segments of the trail have received high-profile grants within the last 5 years. Some elements of the trail remain unfinalized, and no work can be begun on the trail until a master plan is approved by the State Parks Commissioner, which is projected to be complete within 2006. Still, signs for the trail exist at several points along the planned route, confusing optimistic locals and visitors alike.
The main trail segment would be the former
Lehigh Valley Railroadpassenger line from Ithaca to Geneva, New York, popularly known as the "Route of the Black Diamond" from the name of the Lehigh Valley's premier passenger train, which last ran in 1959. This line stretches along the western shore of Cayuga Lake from Cass Park to Taughannock Falls State Parkand Trumansburg, New York. Parts of this phase of the trail are already a popular snowmobiling route.
As of 2006, there are 2 main obstacles to completing this segment of the trail. First, a 60 foot segment of the trail, between Cass Park and Glenwood Heights Road (near the Cayuga Nature Center) remains private property. Second, two bridges on the trail need to be repaired. Work on the two bridges is planned to begin in late 2007 or early 2008, although the trail has been delayed for decades already.
After Cass Park, the about 2 miles of the planned route follows the Cayuga Flood Control Channel along Route 13a, and then crosses the flood control channel (via a new, yet to be built bridge) directly opposite Cecil Malone Drive at Cherry Street, providing access to the Cherry Street Industrial Park, the city's Southwest district, and eventually to the new housing development planned there. From there, it follows the DL&W right of way, crossing over the fish ladder and eventually goes underneath the Route 13 bridge near the Town/City of Ithaca line, and then proceeds parallel to its south side, terminating in
Robert H. Treman State Park. This urban section of the trail is estimated to cost $5 million, mostly for the construction of three new bridges: the bridge connecting to Cecil Malone Drive, one near the fish ladder, and a third bridge crossing over the Cayuga Inlet near the trail branch connecting to Buttermilk Falls.
This last connecting trail branches near the City of Ithaca / Town line to connect to the (planned) Gateway Trail, through
Buttermilk Falls State Parkand towards South Hill Recreation way. A pedestrian/bicycle bridge already stretches over Route 13 near Buttermilk Falls to provide access to the planned Gateway trail. This "bridge to nowhere" was built before any rights to the abandoned DL&W were secured and at the time widely criticized as a spectacularly visible example of a "pork barrel" waste of tax money, as the trail it connects to will not be usable for several years.
As of 2007, 2 public hearings have been held about the trail and much more information, including the master plans are available online at the
Black Diamond Trailwebsite. [ [http://blackdiamondtrail.org/ Black Diamond Trail ] ] The work has gained some urgency because a grant that would partially fund construction is tied to the construction beginning in 2008.
Gateway Trail / Buttermilk Falls Corridor (planned)
The Gateway trail goes up South Hill, connecting the Black Diamond trail in the City's Southwest area with the northern branch of the South Hill Recreation Way, using the former DL&W right-of-way. We discuss the trail in 2 sections
Lower Buttermilk falls to somewhat past Stone Quarry road
This portion is in good shape and the land belongs to the State of New York and Pennsylvania Lines LLC. [ [http://www.ithacamaps.org/gisdisclaimer.asp] Dead link|date=March 2008] It would take some work to connect it to the "bridge to nowhere", but it currently has a connection to the Buttermilk Falls parking lot, and to near the southern end of Spencer St. This section continues parallel to Spencer St. and goes past Stone Quarry Road, which might require some signage.
Portion near Emerson
This portion belongs to Emerson, and still has old railroad ties, and would need substantial work. It has a substandard bridge over the extension of S. Cayuga Street. It then connects to the end of Turner Place near Hillview Place. Because Hillview is too narrow for a completely separate path, the current plan involves the use of bike lanes or shared roadway signage for the last connection. The most favorable routing would go through Emerson Power Transmission property, and rights have not yet been negotiated. Despite the steepness of the only possible route and barriers to completion, completing this connector trail is frequently cited as a priority by State and County officials when discussing the Black Diamond Trail, because of the connection to the heavily used South Hill Recreation Way. It would provide a completely new connection to the Southwest area, avoiding the indirect route that automobile traffic currently must take.
East Shore Trail (planned)
This trail would extend along the hillside above the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, connecting the City and Town of Ithaca with Lansing. It would use the abandoned
Central New York Southern Railroadgrade (popularly known as the Ithaca-Auburn Short Line). Bridges were removed from the line when it was dismantled in the 1920s; two were replaced by footbridges built by the sewer district which uses this right of way and used for monitoring sewer lines, but they are posted "No Trespassing" and have locked fences at both ends.
Hiking trails and paths
Finger Lakes TrailSystem
The main Finger Lakes Trail passes south of Ithaca proper and follows the south boundary inside Robert H. Treman State Park. An orange-blazed connecting trail from upper Lick Brook links it with the trail system at Buttermilk Falls State Park, near the S end of Lake Treman. The portion of the Finger Lakes Trail between Watkins Glen and Caroline is maintained by volunteers of the
Cayuga Trails Club. [ [http://CayugaTrailsClub.org Cayuga Trails Club] ]
The 8.5 mile long Cayuga Trail originates at the Stewart Avenue bridge over Fall Creek, and passes eastward through the Cornell University campus and plantations, generally paralleling Fall Creek. It crosses the Creek on a suspension bridge in the vicinity of Forest Home, and again via the Route 13 bridge. After the second crossing, it turns westward again, using the LV railbed part of the way, and ending in the vicinity of Varna. The Cayuga Trail was built and is maintained by volunteers from the Cayuga Trails Club.
Natural features and attractions
A trail leads from the College Avenue Bridge down along the gorge to Court and Linn Street in Ithaca, providing a convenient route between downtown Ithaca and the Cornell University campus. A path also extends through the Cornell Campus from the College Avenue Bridge upstream to the Hoy Road Bridge. The trail is closed during the winter.
ix Mile Creek
Access to this gorge trail can be found within the Town and City of Ithaca. Two major access points within the city are via the South Hill Recreation Way, or via a small parking lot at the intersection of Giles and Water streets. On a given summer day, you might find both human fishermen and a great blue heron. The trail also provides access to the old City Reservoir, a popular (but illegal and unsafe) swimming destination in the summer.
Some maps [http://www.omniscienceisbliss.org/sixmilecreek.html] [http://www.ithacamaps.org/download/maps/SixMileCreekTrails.jpg] [http://www.zevross.com/sixmile/kiosk1.pdf]
Allan H. Treman and Taughannock Falls State Parks are both near Lake Cayuga and are oriented towards shorter, lighter walks and hikes, while Buttermilk Falls and Robert H. Treman State Parks are marked by their waterfalls, and focus on hiking trails which follow their respective creeks, and are thus more difficult although still rewarding trails.
Allan H. Treman State Marine Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park(Also extends into the Town of Newfield)
Taughannock Falls State Park(In town of Ulysses)
Allan H. Treman State Marine Park
* Cayuga Inlet
* Fall Creek (via Stewart Park)
* Beebe Lake
* [http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/tompkins/trails/ The Ithaca / Tompkins County Hiking Site ]
* [http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/new_page_24.htm Town of Ithaca Parks, Trails, and Walkways ]
* [http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/trans/facts/maps/12%20Recreation%20Map.pdf Town of Ithaca Existing and Proposed Trails]
* [http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/trans/facts/maps/14%20Prioritized%20Bike%20Network%20Map.pdf Town of Ithaca Prioritized Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements]
* [http://www.co.tompkins.ny.us/itctc/BikeSuitability/IthacaTompkinsBikeMap.pdf Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Commission Bicycle Suitability Map] (final draft as of 2007)
* [http://www.co.tompkins.ny.us/itctc/projects/tcs/tcs_document.pdf Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council Study] (1996)
* [http://www.town.ithaca.ny.us/trans/plan/Analysis%20-%20Alternatives.pdf Tompkins County Transportation Alternatives] (2005)
* [http://edie.com/trails.htm Tompkins County Hiking Trails]
* [http://www.co.tompkins.ny.us/itctc/lrp/2025lrp-chapters/2025lrp-final/2025lrpCh3-final-121404.pdf 2025 Long-Range Transportation Outlook] (includes maps)
* [http://www.omniscienceisbliss.org/sixmilecreek.html A Running Map for Six Mile Creek]
* [http://www.footprintpress.com/FingerLakes/TAHfingerlakes2Preview.htm Take A Hike - Finger Lakes / Guidebook to Ithaca area hiking trails] (includes maps)
* [http://www.footprintpress.com/FingerLakes/TYBfingerlakes2Preview.htm Take Your Bike - Finger Lakes / Guidebook to Ithaca area biking trails] (includes maps)
* [http://www.footprintpress.com/Waterfalls/WaterfallsPreview.htm Take 200 Waterfalls / Guidebook to trails to waterfalls in the Ithaca area] (includes maps)
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