Finger Lakes Trail Basics for First-Time Hikers

Traversing across Southern, Western and Central New York, the main Finger Lakes Trail and its branches, loops and spurs span 958-miles, passing through a mix of public land, New York State Parks, and privately held property, which is accessible to the Finger Lakes Trial thanks to numerous gracious landowners.

Because of this mix of private and public land, portions of the Finger Lakes Trail experience closures throughout the year during various hunting season windows. During these time periods, increased awareness of trail conditions and dressing appropriately in blaze orange is encouraged. Hikers should visit for up-to-date information on trail conditions and closures.

Need-to-know Information for First-Time Hikers

If it’s your first time hiking the Finger Lakes Trail, here’s a list of helpful tips to keep in mind before heading out on the trail and when you’re out adventuring:

  • Trailheads – A trailhead is a point at which a trail can be accessed. These can be found via our helpful interactive map, as well as maps from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference store, where you can purchase printable and digital versions.
  • Signs + Blazes – You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see 11” square Finger Lakes Trail signs featuring our logo. These will be at all trailheads and junctions. Along the trail, blazes – or 2” x 6” paint marks – will indicate you are on a trail, typically on a tree or post. These will vary in color according to where you are along the trail, what season it is, and a double blaze will indicate a turn is coming up.
  • Food + Water – Even if you’re heading out for a short day hike, bringing along some nourishment and water is always a smart move. Pack a small day pack with protein-rich snacks, and always bring an extra bottle of water for yourself and others in your party, particularly children.
  • Be Prepared – Throughout the seasons, it’s always wise to come prepared with a variety of clothing and packing essentials. Weather changes can move in quickly, so be sure to pack rain gear, warm layers, and other essentials – check out our recommendations for what to pack.
  • Be Respectful – Staying cognizant of your impact on the environment during your hike is crucial. Avoid disturbing animals and natural habitats, practice ‘Leave No Trace’ when dealing with trash and human waste, and be respectful of private landowners and their property.