Times are strange lately. Things escalated quickly involving COVID19 and none of us are quite sure how long this pandemic will last. To be honest, it's pretty scary. The majority of us have quarantined ourselves in our homes while the "essentials" are still out there braving the masses (or what's left of them anyway). We've all been told about social distancing and it's a very serious matter. We absolutely (100%) need to be staying away from others as much as possible. Oh, and don't forget to wash your hands! So, if you're like many others out there, you're stuck at home indefinitely ... and your dog couldn't be any happier about it! Our furry friends love our company and would be with us every second of every day if it were up to them. But we should still be getting them outdoors; walking, running, hiking, and exploring. Now for the big question that you're most likely asking; "where can I go that won't be overpopulated?!"
Normally, it wouldn't matter how many people may be walking by (or next) to you. But with CoronaVirus all around us (especially here in Onondaga County), we all need to be smart about this. Sure, try your usual spots. Maybe you already have some great ones! But just in case you don't (or they're currently overrun), I have a handful of excellent nature trails that you should check out. I, personally, stay away from crowded spots anyhow, so I'm still hitting up all my usual hiking trails as if nothing is even happening. First off, I'd avoid state parks. I'm not saying that they'll always be busy, but most people head to well known areas first (like state parks). I absolutely love Clark Reservation in Jamesville, but I went there a few weeks back and it was jam packed. I couldn't even find a parking spot. Now that many of us are out of work, I imagine that it's still just as busy, if not more. I also drive by the Erie Canal quite often and see a bunch of people walking that trail too. Keep in mind though, the Canal gets super busy in certain sections. In E. Syracuse, the Canal is very busy, as well as the Canal entrance near Warners. However, if you hit up the section in Memphis, you'll probably see way less traffic, plus it's a very pretty section. If you head towards Weedsport, you probably won't see many people until around Elbridge. I'd also steer clear of the Parkway next to Onondaga Lake. It's recently been packed. I'd hit up the Westshore trail off Longbranch Rd. (across from Longbranch Park). You'll probably see a lot of cars parked there, but if you veer off to the right (off of the paved trail) a short way in, you'll avoid most of the people, who mainly stay on the paved portion.
And now for some of my favorite trails! Keep in mind, these are not posted trails, so there's no need to be worried about trespassing.
1. Split Rock: This trail system is vast with different types of terrain, including wooded areas, rock beds, and fields. There're also old ruins and structures, some hilly areas, and a pond called "Lost Lake." I normally park at the trail head on Kasson Rd. If you start driving on Kasson next to the Walmart in Camillus, you'll go about a mile or so up the road. When you hit the top of the hill, there will be a small place to park on your left. I grew up around this area and loved exploring there as a kid. Since then, there have been even more trails added and repaired. I still take my dog, Cairo, there to this day. If you go far enough, you'll find an old ammunition factory (I believe that's what it was) back from WWII with a small cave system to explore.
2. Assembly Trail: This trail system is a little newer for me, but I love it! I've been hiking there for a couple years now. The terrain starts out completely wooded (with raging streams in the spring) for the first half, then turns into fields for the finish. There are lots of different sections to explore. The beginning of the trail is on Fay Rd. in Syracuse (Taunton area), across from The Cider Mill (Maury's Cider Mill), at the very back of the parking lot of Grace Assembly of God Church. The trail head is to the far back right and I rarely see anyone there.
3. Gully Road Trails: Located in Skaneateles, this isn't just one trail system. There are multiple trail heads all down this road ... and also on the intersecting road (New Seneca Turnpike). The first trailhead down the road (if you're coming from Old Seneca Turnpike), is about a mile down on the left; it's called Guppy Falls Trail. It's a nice size loop with a pretty waterfall to look at. My favorite on this road, is if you drive past Guppy Falls about a half mile. You'll see a place to park on the right. In this section, there are multiple trails to choose from weaving in and out of each other. The terrain is mostly wooded with a beautiful view of a pond/lake. There are some points where there are bridges taking you over the water to the other side. Keep in mind though, the other side of the water has a bit of elevation.
Those are my top three go-to spots for hiking, but here is a short list of other not so well known hiking spots that I love...
- Harris Road Trails: Turn left onto Harris Rd. (Syracuse) from Split Rock Rd. and park on the right about a half mile up. It's just a small spot to pull your car over. The trail head is on the opposite side of the street. Mainly wooded and not too difficult/long of a hike.
- Hinchcliff Family Preserve: This is a little further out, but it's worth the drive. It's located on route 41. If you're coming from Skaneateles, it'll be on your right hand side, probably about ten or so miles down the road. It's one big loop, but has a little bit of everything (terrain-wise) including some crazy elevation at the end. You'll see lots of cool animals, grassy fields, wooded areas, water, and old structures.
- Camillus Unique Area: I love this place. It's huge and there's rarely no more than a handful of people there ever ... most who I never even encounter. I just know they're there because of the few cars that are in the parking lot. It's located in the Camillus/Warners section of Syracuse and has a lot to offer, such as elevation, fields, wooded areas, and water. Turn left onto Thompson Rd. off of Warners Rd. and it'll be on your right. Warning - it gets super muddy in the springtime.
- Bird Sanctuary (Rand Tract Park): A nice size loop with some elevation (all wooded) at the dead end of Hopper Rd. in The Valley portion of Syracuse.
All of these places are great options for maintaining social distancing while still getting plenty of exercise. No need to fret! This pandemic is horrible. That's the sad fact. We might as well make the best of it while being as safe as possible. That doesn't mean we have to stay inside 24/7. Now that you have these cool new spots to check out, you'll have plenty to do ... and your pup will love you for it! Please, everyone ... stay as safe as possible out there. Don't go out around others unless it's absolutely necessary. We'll get through this together, and while you're stuck home, enjoy the company of your four legged pals! They love you unconditionally and can't wait to check out all these new trails with you. Happy hiking!
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