What is the Finger Lakes Trail System?

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The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking.

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The Trail System has been and continues to be built and maintained by 15 organizational and approximately 60 individual and family trail sponsors. All of these groups and individuals are volunteers.

The concept of a long-distance hiking trail traversing New York State was launched in late 1961. The Finger Lakes Trail Conference, Inc. (FLTC) was organized in 1962 to promote and coordinate the building, maintenance, and protection of the FLT System. The 992-mile trail system is located almost equally on private and public land. There are currently approximately 700 private landowners who allow the trail to be on their land.

NCTALogo.gifBetween the Pennsylvania border and the northeast end of the Onondaga Branch (421 miles), the Finger Lakes Trail is the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail. When completed, the North Country Trail will extend 4,600 miles across seven states between eastern New York and central North Dakota.

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Our newest branch trail — the Crystal Hills Branch is part of the Great Eastern Trail (GET) which will extend from Alabama to New York.

Footpath

The Finger Lakes Trail is a footpath. Please read the following policy statements.

Footpath Use Policy

FLTC Footpath Use Policy

The designation of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) as a “footpath” establishes the criteria for its construction and maintenance, so as to minimize human impact on the natural state of the land, and maximize the trail user’s “wilderness type” experience. As a result, the FLT may easily be distinguished from “multi-use trails” in appearance, design, and enjoyment. The use of conveyances, including but not limited to bicycles, motorized vehicles, horses, and snowmobiles, violates the above desired objectives, and, the mission of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC).

Adopted, FLTC Board of Managers, January 25, 2009

Geocache Policy

Geochaching on the Finger Lakes Trail

The Finger Lakes Trail Conference Board of Managers (FLTC BOM) adopts this policy in order to strike a balance between the value of “geocaching” and similar pastimes as outdoor recreational activities and the potentially significant negative impacts to natural and cultural resources and landowner/land manager permissions that unmanaged geocaching and similar activities can cause. The FLTC BOM enacts this policy for the primary purpose of protecting and preserving the continuity and long-term viability of the trail. The FLTC desires to minimize impact on the environment, maximize the hiker’s wilderness experience, and support the right of landowners and land managers to control public access to, and use of, their lands. The FLTC also intends its FLTC Geocache Policy to be consistent with North Country Trail Association (NCTA) Geocache Policy, which can apply to all North Country National Scenic Trail that is coincident with the Finger Lakes Trail, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s ATC Policy on Geocaching.

Please see the FLTC Geocache Policy and permission form 

Who owns the trail?

The Finger Lakes Trail was built by volunteers and is maintained by the FLTC and affiliate clubs, organizations, and individuals. Much of the trail is on public land—land owned by the State of New York in its State Forests, State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and other public lands of local governments. But much of the trail is on private land with the permission of the owners. Some of this private land is owned by land trusts or conservation organizations, but most of the private land is owned by families and individuals who have chosen to share a narrow corridor through their property with responsible hikers. Without the generous support and cooperation of these private owners, the Finger Lakes Trail probably would not exist.

Who can use the trails of the Finger Lakes Trail System?

The entire FLT System is open for use by the general public with no fees charged for its use. However:

  • The Trail is closed  where it crosses private land for 24 hours on the first Monday of February each year. This is necessary to protect the legal rights of landowners.
  • The Trail is closed on several sections on private land during hunting season(s) at the discretion of the private landowner. You must respect landowner rights: do not use those sections of the Trail when they are closed. Hunting closures are indicated on FLTC maps and guidebooks and in Trail Condition notices on this website.
  • Even on sections of Trail that are not closed during hunting season, hikers are urged to respect the right of responsible hunters to engage in legal hunting. Minimize use of sections where hunters are present, wear blaze orange, and avoid interference as much as possible.
  • The Trail System is intended for foot travel. Motorized vehicles, mountain bikes, horses, and snowmobiles are not permitted unless specifically approved by the landowner or public authority having jurisdiction.
  • Groups should be kept as small as possible, particularly for backpacking when the size should not exceed ten persons.

Following these simple rules will help preserve the Finger Lakes Trail System for years to come.

  1. Respect private property and stay on the trail
  2. Travel in groups of 10 or fewer people
  3. Share shelters and campsites with others
  4. Camp or build fires only in designated areas
  5. Cook on campstoves if possible
  6. Use wood only when necessary for fires
  7. Use dead wood
  8. Do not cut green wood
  9. Purify all water you use
  10. Take all litter back home.

Who maintains the Trail?

The Finger Lakes Trail was built and is maintained by volunteers. Each year, volunteers log in approximately 20,000 hours of trail work. But trail work alone does not keep the organization going. There are many other tasks performed by volunteers to support the organization and provide services to our members, our partners, and the general public.

How can you help?

We hope that you will consider volunteering some of your time and talents to the FLTC. Here is a list of volunteer opportunities to consider. Have a look and then contact us if you are interested.