Onondaga Trail

The Onondaga Trail is a 42-mile branch of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  The FLT collectively totals over 950 miles, running from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve.  In addition to the Onondaga Trail, other branch trails extend to Niagara Falls, the Genesee River valley, the Great Eastern Trail south of Corning, and the central Finger Lakes.  The Finger Lakes Trail runs concurrently with the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) from the Pennsylvania border to the Onondaga Branch.  I have hiked very little of the main FLT so far, but after getting my feet wet with the Onondaga Branch, I certainly intend to explore more of it in the future.

The Onondaga Trail was designed and constructed by the Onondaga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, which also maintains it.  The Onondaga Trail starts at the Three Trails Junction in Cuyler Hill State Forest, just north of Stoney Brook Road.  The blue-blazed Onondaga Trail/NCT goes west from this intersection, while the white-blazed FLT/NCT goes south and the orange-blazed spur trail to Chippewa Falls goes north.  The Onondaga Trail crosses through a patchwork of private and public lands (including Maxon Creek State Forest, Morgan Hill State Forest, Labrador Hollow Unique Area, Highland Forest County Park, and DeRuyter State Forest) before terminating at the intersection with the Link Trail on Holmes Road in the Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area.  The NCT continues north, following the Link Trail north through Cazenovia until it eventually joins the Old Erie Canal Trail in Canastota.

trip reports for each purple-labeled section hike linked in table below
I hiked much of the Onondaga Trail while pursing the NCT Hike 100 Challenge, and finished the remaining sections shortly thereafter.  Because I didn't know about the Onondaga Trail when I set out, I didn't plan the hikes in a logical fashion; my section hikes do not proceed linearly from end to end.  I jumped around between sections, and traveled in different directions, as made sense at the time.  All of the hikes were completed either with my five-year old son, or in the window of time between when I dropped him off at school and picked him up again, both of which necessitate fairly short hikes.  Also, because many hikes were accomplished as out-and-backs (and two included some non-Onondaga branch mileage on the FLT and Link Trail), I actually covered more than 77 miles through the course of hiking the 42 miles of the Onondaga Trail. 

Enough disclaimers!  Here are my Onondaga Trail hikes:

Map Label Date Unique Onondaga Trail Miles Total Hike Miles  Hike Description
A 10/12/16 0.2 6.9  Stoney Brook Road to Wiltsey Glen (Cuyler Hill State Forest)
B 09/21/16 5.0 5.0  Stoney Brook Road to Route 13 (Maxon Creek State Forest)
RW 11/30/16 1.3 2.6  Route 13 from Cuyler to Tioughnioga River (roadwalk)
C 09/28/16 3.3 7.6  Route 13 to Chickadee Hollow Road (Morgan Hill State Forest)
D 05/18/16 3.9 7.7  Shackham Road to Chickadee Hollow Road (Morgan Hill State Forest)
E 08/06/16 1.7 3.5  Shackham Road to Tinker Falls (Labrador Hollow)
F 07/30/16 1.6 3.2  Tinker Falls to Jones Hill (Labrador Hollow)
G 08/28/16 1.6 3.1  Spruce Pond to Jones Hill (Morgan Hill State Forest)
H 03/20/16 1.9 3.8  Shackham Road to Spruce Pond (Morgan Hill State Forest)
I 10/19/16 4.2 4.2  Shackham Road to Bardeen Road (Morgan Hill State Forest)
RW 11/30/16 1.4 2.8  Bardeen Road and Cowles Settlement Road (roadwalk)
J 05/11/16 5.2 5.2  Cowles Settlement Road to Dam Road (Highland Forest)
RW 11/30/16 0.8 1.6  Dam Road and East Lake Road (roadwalk)
K 04/13/16 2.9 5.8  East Lake Road to Armstrong Pond (DeRuyter State Forest)
L 05/07/16 1.6 3.2  Webber Road to Armstrong Pond (Kinney Hill)
M 09/14/16 3.2 6.4  Webber Road to Damon Road (private land & roadwalk)
N 03/30/16 1.8 5.0  Irish Hill Road to Damon Road (Tioughnioga WMA)
Total Miles 42.3 77.6

To plan a hike of the Onondaga Trail, I suggest the following resources:
  • The Finger Lakes Trail Conference.  Paper maps O1 and O2 cover the Onondaga Trail.  These are printed on Rite-in-the-Rain paper, and contain a lot of great detail, including topo lines, parking areas, and hunting closures.  The maps are very reasonably priced (less than $3 each) and support a great organization.  There is an interactive online map that allows for the display of elevation profiles, which can be very useful, but it is also good to have paper maps in case of battery failure and/or lack of data coverage. 
  • The North Country Trail Association.  There is a lengthy description of the Onondaga Trail, which the NCT Association considers a "premier segment."
  • The CNY Hiking site.  I cannot recommend this page highly enough!  Ed provides all the nitty gritty details one could need to plan a hike of the Onondaga Trail: topo maps, elevation profiles, and extremely detailed tables with mileage, elevation, and descriptions for various landmarks along the trail, including road crossings, trail registers, and features of note such as camping areas, views, etc.  CNY Hiking is incredibly useful for many other local hikes, as well.  
  • The Adirondack Mountain Club.  The Onondaga Chapter is very active, with numerous outings scheduled each month.  I have not attended any outings, but the Onondaga Trail is in beautiful shape and these folks are obviously very knowledgeable about hiking in general and the Onondaga Trail specifically.  
the Onondaga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club offers this awesome patch for completing the Onondaga Trail

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