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Finger Lakes Trail System
The Conservation Trail is a footpath which begins at the New York/Pennsylvania border in Allegany State Park and extends northward about 171 miles to meet the Bruce Trail in Niagara Falls, Canada. The Conservation Trail is part of the 900+ mile Finger Lakes Trail System. The main 550 mile Finger Lakes Trail extends eastward across New York State to the Catskills.
Foothills Trail Club sign along US 20 at Darien Lakes State Park (photo courtesy of Kirk Doyle)
Volunteers from the Foothills Trail Club built and maintain the Conservation Trail. The Foothills Trail Club was founded in 1962 by a few hikers and outdoors enthusiasts who wanted to build a trail from Allegany State Park to Lake Ontario. This is the Conservation Trail.
Follow the orange blazes (photo courtesy of Kirk Doyle)
The entire Finger Lakes Trail System is marked with standard 2" x 6" paint blazes on trees. Turns are indicated by a double paint blaze; at double blazes, the hiker should locate the next blaze before continuing. Where the trail is hard to blaze, such as along field edges, orange ribbons are sometimes used to supplement blazes.
The blazes on the trail for the first 55 miles from the Pennsylvania line to South Canada Hill Road are white, as this section of the Conservation Trail coincides with the main Finger Lakes Trail as well as the North Country National Scenic Trail. The portion north of South Canada Hill Road is a branch trail of the Finger Lakes Trail System and, is marked with orange blazes.
The Conservation Trail in Sardinia, NY (photo courtesy of Kirk Doyle)
The southern section of the Conservation Trail, from the Pennsylvania border to South Canada Hill Road, is in rugged country with hills up to 2,300 feet high and valleys as low as 1,300 feet. In Allegany State Park the climbs are gradual and the trail is only moderately strenuous, but from the park to South Canada Hill Road the climbs are steep and strenuous. From South Canada Hill Road to Route 16 the trail is moderately difficult, crossing fields, woods and farmland with relatively gentle ups and downs. There are many wet areas on this part of the trail. From Route 16 to Warner Hill Road the trail is quite strenuous, as it crosses many deep ravines.
Sunset at Mabel James Campsite (photo courtesy of Kirk Doyle)
From Warner Hill Road to Darien Lake State Park it is a fairly easy route through woods and farmlands, also passing through a county park. After leaving Darien Lake State Park, the trail is in a more developed area, following many field edges and back roads. Much of this area is quite swampy, unsuitable for hiking in wet seasons. The trail then follows the Peanut Line to the bike path to Ellicott Creek Park. It then continues to the Riverwalk and on to the South Grand Island Bridge. Once over the bridge, the trail follows the Niagara River to Buckhorn Island State Park to the North Grand Island Bridge and on to the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. The last section of trail goes through a populated area and stays almost entirely on paved roads, some of them heavily traveled. Blazes are very rare as you approach Niagara Falls.
Trailhead sign (photo courtesy of Kirk Doyle)
The north terminus of the trail isn't really the end of this trail. You do have the option of crossing the Rainbow Bridge into Canada and taking a bike trail north about 6 miles. There you meet the south end of the popular Bruce Trail which extends 500 miles into northern Canada.
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