by David Figura | Syracuse.com, link to original post
Central New York is an outdoors wonderland. The diversity of eye-opening and mind-clearing settings a little more than an hour’s ride from Syracuse is incredible.
There’s picturesque waterfalls; lush, green hiking trails; multi-facted nature centers; the breath-taking scenery around the Finger Lakes; Adirondack-like woods; nationally recognized birding areas – ocean shore-like settings on Lake Ontario.
There’s 15 weekends, beginning with this weekend and extending through Labor Day. With that in mind, here are 15, great Central New York outdoors destinations that will reveal how generous Mother Nature has been to us.
Take the Figura Challenge. Visit them all this summer.
Take your family, your significant other or just check out the spots yourself. Pack a lunch or dinner. Make a morning, an afternoon or a day of it. Take pictures.
Send your experiences and photos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Briefly note what you liked, what you didn’t like and recommendations for others who are planning to visit there. I’ll compile your impressions each week on my outdoors page on Syracuse.com.
Have I left out any of your favorites? Drop me a line. The guidebooks from Footprint Press can provide maps & all the details you’ll need to explore these and other places. Meanwhile, here’s my list:
1). Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge: A mecca for bird lovers. Enough said. The refuge headquarters and visitor’s center is off Route 20, west of Auburn. For more, see fws.gov/refuge/montezuma or call 568-5987.
2). Fair Haven State Park: Features high bluffs above sandy beaches and hilly woodlands. Inland, there is Sterling Pond. Fishing is excellent and very accessible. Rowboats, paddleboats and canoes are for rent. The park is located off Route 104A in Fair Haven. For more, see nysparks.com/12 or call 947-5205.
3). Sterling Nature Center: This 1,400-acre nature center located in the northeastern corner of Cayuga County in the town of Sterling on Jensvold Road boasts more than 10 miles of hiking trails and two miles of lake shore. The center is open dawn to dusk. One particular highlight is its huge great blue heron rookery (nesting area). For more, see cayugacounty.us/web/Departments/Parks/Sterling or call 947-6143.
4).Taughannock Falls: The hiking trails at this state park offer spectacular views and unique geological formations, including the 215-foot falls, which is 33 feet taller than Niagara and is the highest vertical single-drop waterfall in the Northeast. It’s located on the western side of Cayuga Lake off Route 89.For more, see nysparks.com/parks/62 or call 607-387-6739.
5). Fillmore Glen State Park: This park is an oasis of cool, dense woods crowding into a long, narrow gorge. Its hiking trails offer great views and unique geological formations, including five waterfalls and a botanically rich glen. Located off Route 38 in Moravia. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/157 or call 497-0130.
6). Bear Swamp: A picturesque state reforestation area in Sempronius, in southeastern Cayuga County off Route 41A, with several vantage points overlooking Skaneateles Lake. It contains about 15 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Enter by the Colonial Lodge restaurant/tavern in Sempronius. (It’s also a good place for a meal or drink afterward).
7). Baltimore Woods Nature Center: This outdoors gem, located off Bishop Road in Marcellus, features more than six miles of hiking trails, numerous outdoors-related programs and an interpretative center. A great place to check out woodland wildlflowers along hiking trails and also at the center’s Faust Garden. A heads up: no dogs allowed. For more, see baltimorewoods.org or call 673-1350.
8). Beaver Lake Nature Center: The popular, county-run facility offers nine miles of hiking trails and more than 400 annual nature/outdoors-related programs. It offers a rich mix of habitats, that create the possibility of seeing more than 200 species of birds and more than 800 varieties of plants. It also features a small lake, which visitors can enjoy with rented kayaks and canoes. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/beaver-lake-nature center or call 638-2519.
9). Labrador Hollow Unique Area: Nestled in a valley on the Onondaga/Cortland county line on Route 91 east of Tully, this area offers an Adirondack-like, forestry feel and picturesque Tinker Falls in one part — and an expansive, bio-diverse wetland and pond made accessible by a raised boardwalk in another. The area’s 1,474 acres is a favorite spot for hikers, birders, nature lovers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
10) Highland Forest: This county run park, which is tagged the “Adirondacks of Central New York,” is located in southeastern Onondaga Couny in Fabius. It features more than 20 miles of year-old trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It also overs group camping sites for youth and a huge lodge with an eye-opening view of a valley below. A self-guided nature trail is the perfect introductory hike. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/highland-forest or call 683-5550..
11). Pratt’s Falls: Scenic trails leading to a 137-foot waterfall beacon visitors to bring a well-stocked picnic basket and a sense of adventure at this county park, located on Pratt’s Falls Road in Manlius. In addition to hiking, Pratt’s Falls offers an archery range. This park has been used for national, state and local orienteering events that allow participants to navigate through a marked course using only a map and compass. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/pratt-s-falls-park or call 435-5252.
12). Chittenango Falls State Park: An eye-opening, 167-foot waterfall is the main attraction. Glacial sculpting of 400-million-year-old bedrock is responsible for this scenic feature. An interesting variety of both plants and wildlife may be found along the trails. Located off Rathbun Road in Cazenovia. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/130 or call 655-5205.
13). Green Lakes State Park: The highlights of this popular park in Fayetteville include two glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest. The lakes offer opportunities for swimming, fishing and boat rentals. Hikers, joggers and mountain bikers can take advantage of more than 10 miles of trails. Camping facilities are available. And yes, there’s also an 18-hole golf course. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/172 or call 637-6111.
14). Clark Reservation State Park: This park is a geologic wonder of the last ice age and a botanist’s paradise. The park’s natural features include rugged cliffs and rocky outcrops, woodland meadow, a wetland and glacial plunge basin lake in which surface waters and bottom waters do not mix. Features include five hiking trails. Fishermen and birders are frequently visitors here. For more see, nysparks.com/126 or call 492-1590.
15). Selkirk Shores State Park: This state park’s campsites overlook a bluff on Lake Ontario. In addition to Great Lakes swimming, visitors can expect outstanding fishing and sunsets, plus hiking and biking trails. Birders take note: It’s on the direct migration route for a wide variety of bird species. It’s located off Route 3 in Pulaski. For more, see nysparks.com/84 or call 298-5737.