CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Our 2010 Hikes FLT/NCT - Finger Lakes National Forest FLT/NCT - Sugar Hill State Forest


Our 2010 Hikes - May 20

North Country Trail

Finger Lakes Trail

Hike #1 - Excelsior Glen

Hike #2 - Buck Settlement


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Below find information on our two hikes on May 20, 2010.  Our first hike was exploring Excelsior Glen along the Finger Lakes Trail / North Country Trail.  Our second hike was exploring the Buck Settlement area of Sugar Hill State Forest along the Finger Lakes Trail / North Country Trail.  Both hikes are located in the Watkins Glen area.


Hike #1 - Excelsior Glen

Date:  May 20, 2010

Length of hike 2.1 miles round trip

Location:  Watkins Glen on private property

Trailhead:  Jolly Road

Trailhead Coordinates:  N42 23.714 W76 51.080

Name of Trails:  North Country Trail, Finger Lakes Trail

Hike Difficulty:  Moderate.  Mod/Difficult return trip

Hike Elevation Gain:  576 feet

Trail Conditions:  Well maintained and marked trails.  The crossing of Excelsior Creek is very slippery and can be treacherous.

Features:  Views of Seneca Lake, scenic forest, gorge, waterfalls

Links: FLT/NCT - Finger Lakes National Forest

It was a beautiful day when we decided to make Excelsior Glen the first of our hikes of the day.  The only downside was the flu we had been battling over the last week.  I really thought heading out for a couple of nice hikes would help my flu, instead it got worse and I would spend the next week or so trying to get rid of this nasty flu.

We started our hike by parking on the side of Jolly Road.  There is plenty of room to park along the same side of the road as where the FLT/NCT meets the road.  This is a popular section of trail and you can expect others to be exploring the area.  We saw no one else during our hike.

From Jolly Road the hike starts out slightly descending and is level at times.  Follow the white blazes.  At 0.5 miles you'll reach the crossing of Excelsior Creek.  You may notice a nice cascade and waterfall below in the gorge.  Watch your step as you start making your way across the creek.  The rocks along both sides are extremely slippery and you can easily fall (as we did). 

Cascades near creek crossing

After crossing the creek the trail begins its sometimes steep descent along the south side of Excelsior Glen.  You'll hear the main waterfalls at times as you continue your descent.  There are some views of Excelsior Falls through the trees, however the best views are from unofficial trails near the creek that can be slippery.

NY 414 and Seneca Lake from along the trail

The trail comes into an opening near power lines and you'll notice busy NY 414 below as well as a few views of Seneca Lake.  If you look toward the south you'll see Clute Park.  The trail winds back into the woods and passes a trail register.  The trail travels next to a rock cliff before reaching the side of busy NY 414 and the end of this part of the hike.

From here simply retrace your steps back to Jolly Road and your vehicle for 2.1 mile hike.  It's just about all uphill for your return hike.  Some may want to explore the waterfalls prior to making the return trip.  Just take extra care with each step.

Directions:  From Watkins Glen take NY 414 North to NY 79.  Turn right on Jolly Road and follow road to green Finger Lakes Trail sign.  Park along side of road.


Hike #2 - Buck Settlement

Date:  May 20, 2010

Length of hike 2.1 miles round trip

Location:  Sugar Hill State Forest and private property

Trailhead:  Templar Road

Trailhead Coordinates:  N42 22.116 W76 57.488

Name of Trails:  North Country Trail, Finger Lakes Trail

Hike Difficulty:  Easy

Hike Elevation Gain:  301 feet

Trail Conditions:  Well maintained and marked trails.  Stream crossing at start of hike may leave feet wet depending on if your hiking boots are waterproof.

Features:  Old cemetery, scenic forest, lean to, cliffs, waterfalls, scenic creek, old foundations, 1850's road, old stone walls.

Links: FLT/NCT - Sugar Hill State Forest

Our second hike of the day took us west of Watkins Glen to an unknown gem called Sugar Hill State Forest.  This state forest has over 40 miles of hiking trails as well as a fire tower with spectacular views.  This particular hike will surely become a favorite of many as it has a little bit of everything for everyone.  This hike starts along dirt Templar Road at the crossing of the Finger Lakes Trail / North Country Trail marked with a green Finger Lakes Trail sign.

Waterfalls near Templar Road along the trail

From Templar Road descend gently along an old road the trail follows to a small creek.  You'll here the sounds of waterfalls and see the falls as you make your way toward the creek.  The better views are across the way.  You'll have to ford this creek.  A nice test to your waterproof boots or take them off and wade across.  The creek isn't that deep, maybe a few inches.  After crossing you'll notice a camping area on your right.  There is a nice view of the waterfalls from here.

Kiosk at Buck Settlement Cemetery

Continue your hike following the white blazes as you are back on an old road with a ditch for water on the right.  As you climbed gently, did you notice the remains of an old building on your left?  After the trail levels off there is a side trail on the right that leads to a kiosk of the old Buck Settlement Cemetery at 0.2 miles.  This old cemetery was saved by a local boy scout troop.  At 0.3 miles reach a junction where the trail turns right and enters private property briefly.

Welcoming open gate entering private property

The other trail leads to the end of Locust Lane and is one of the other multi-use trails in the state forest.  The trail also follows the abandoned section of Locust Lane past a crossing of the NCT/FLT (for those looking for other hike options).  Following the white blazes on this hike the trail enters private property at a welcoming open gate.  After traveling through an area that looks like it was logged a few years ago, look closely at the way the trail was built.  Your following the remnants of an old road from the 1850's.

Buck Settlement Lean To

Soon the trail veers off the old road and reenters the state forest.  The trail passes through a real nice section of forest before beginning its descent toward Buck Settlement Lean To.  As you descend there will be an old stone wall along the trail on your right.  Soon you'll see the lean to in the distance as the trail begins to level off.  A signed side trail on your right takes you to the lean to, reaching it at 0.7 miles.

Large old stone foundation along trail

Turn right back on the main Finger Lakes Trail / North Country Trail, soon passing another stone wall before a quick descent toward Glen Creek.  Reach a rather large stone foundation located next to the creek at 0.8 miles.  I have not found any information about these remains.  I believe it may have been a mill at some point a real long time ago (but did not see any evidence to support my theory).

View of Glen Creek from along the trail

The trail briefly follows close to the edge of Glen Creek before turning away and ascending.  There are views of the creek at different times, however the best view is from an unmarked overlook just off the trail at 1.05 miles.  This overlook is found after a short steep climb with some switchbacks.  If you look to your right at the top you should see an opening with a nice view of Glen Creek.  Be careful as you are on top of a steep cliff that looks unstable.

View of Glen Creek from overlook

To return simply retrace your steps for a pleasant 2.1 mile hike or you could continue and turn left on the Seneca Trail and make your way back for a loop hike.  If you've never been to Sugar Hill State Forest, take a weekend to explore this fantastic place.

Directions:  From Watkins Glen take NY 409 and turn right on County Route 28.  Veer left (straight) onto County Route 23 and then a left on Cross Road.  Follow Cross Road to the end at Van Zandt Hollow Road.  Turn right and then right (straight) onto Templar Road.  Follow to green FLT sign and park along side of road.


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