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Finger Lakes/North Country Trail

Sweedler Nature Preserve @ Lick Brook

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After the Revolutionary War, the land that is now the Sweedler Nature Preserve was cleared and used for agriculture. The farms in the area were later abandoned, leaving the land to recover and eventually return to forest. Since the 1800's, Lick Brook has been a favorite picnic and hiking spot. In 1993, the Finger Lakes Land Trust purchased Lick Brook from Moss and Kristin Sweedler. Today, thanks to the Sweedlers and contributing members, the Land Trust owns this "Lost Gorge" to protect its unique and largely undisturbed woodland from future development.

Natural History

Lick Brook's 128 acres provide excellent examples of the area's geologic history and ecological systems. During the last ice age, glaciers thousands of feet thick covered much of northern North America. The ice scoured the land, sculpting the beautiful topography of the Finger Lakes Region.

Much of the Sweedler Preserve is covered by stands of Eastern Hemlock and White Pine, but many varieties of trees and shrubs thrive here, including familiar oak and maple as well as the less common cucumber magnolia. In the autumn, Lick Brook becomes part of a colorful tapestry that blankets the region in red, yellow and orange. The steep topography of the preserve dictates the downward flow of soil nutrients, which collect in the forest and meadows at the base of the slope. This produces a tremendous springtime wildflower display. Among the flowers that cover the forest floor are Wild Geranium, Dutchman's Breeches, and the aptly named Spring Beauty.

Lick Brook historically was hunting grounds for the Peregrine Falcon, which has become endangered from the use of pesticides. On a spring day listen for the flute-like song of the Hermit Thrush and the "zee zee zee zoo zee" of the Black-throated Green Warbler; grab some binoculars and wait in the meadow to view the vivid color of a Yellow Warbler. In the winter, walk carefully through the snow and find the tracks of Wild Turkeys, fox or deer. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even see a Peregrine.

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The Finger Lakes/North Country Trail enters Sweedler Nature Preserve from the west near the parking area off NY 13/38/96.  The trail crosses Cayuga Inlet and soon enters the preserve.  The crossing at Cayuga Inlet is the lowest point of the Finger Lakes Trail in all of New York state at 430 feet.  After crossing Lick Brook there is a side trail that leads to the waterfalls.  There is also a blue blazed trail that steeply leads up the gorge.  Following the FLT/NCT, the trail ascends at a better grade and passes an unnamed waterfall.

This section of the trail is one of the most popular in New York.  It climbs over 1000 feet from Cayuga Inlet on it's way to Danby State Forest.  The trail crosses Townline Road and leaves Sweedler Preserve entering private land.  Remember that it's the generosity of these landowners that allows the trail to continue through these private lands.

The trail reaches a junction with an orange blazed spur trail that leads 1.7 miles to Buttermilk Falls State Park.  This spur trail is closed for hunting from Oct 13-Dec15.  Please respect the landowners request and stay off the trail during these dates.  As you cross a pipeline there is some views to your right.  The trail continues to follow and even crosses Lick Brook until it reaches Jersey Hill Road.  This starts a 1.4 mile road walk.

The trail leaves Townline Road on an abandoned section of the road near the corner of Layden Road.  You are still on private property.  After crossing Hilltop Road, there are impressive views of Inlet Valley to your right and soon in front of you.  The trail follows a field before reentering the woods.  The trail will leave the woods and enters a corn field before entering woods again.

The trail suddenly leaves the woods and crosses an airplane runway then goes back into the woods.  Be sure to look for airplanes BEFORE crossing!!!  From here the trail makes it way to Comfort Rd and the end of this section.  You can help support this trail by purchasing the official map of this section of trail by visiting the Finger Lakes Trail Conference web site.  Look below for a map and description of this section of trail.

DIRECTIONS - From Ithaca, NY 13/34/96 south past Buttermilk Falls State Park and NY 327.  The parking area is off NY 34/96 at the NY 13 split on the left side.

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Mile Elevation Description
0.0 436 ft

From the large parking area off NY 13/34/96 follow the white blazes east.

0.2 430 ft

Cross Cayuga Inlet on railroad bridge.  Warning: This is an active railroad.

0.5 435 ft

Cross Lick Brook and enter Sweedler Nature Preserve.

0.6 477 ft

Lower falls of Lick Brook on your right.  Junction with steep blue blazed loop trail.

1.6 815 ft

High Falls of Lick Brook.  Junction with steep blue blazed loop trail.

1.9 918 ft

Cross Town Line Rd and leave Sweedler Nature Preserve.

2.3 1027 ft

Junction with orange spur trail on left that leads 1.7 miles to Buttermilk Falls State Park.

2.8 1083 ft

Cross Lick Brook

3.2 1109 ft

Reach West Jersey Rd and turn right following road.

3.9 1153 ft

Turn left on Town Line Rd.  Views to the right of Inlet Valley.

4.6 1308 ft

Layen Road on left.  Continue straight on old section of Town Line Road.

4.9 1361 ft

Cross Hilltop Rd.  Views.

6.1 1346 ft

Reach Bruce Hill Rd.  Turn left and then right off road.

6.2 1361 ft

Trail register

6.5 1394 ft

Trail goes beside a cornfield

7.4 1504 ft

Trail crosses a small runway (watch for planes).

8.0 1523 ft

Reach Comfort Road.  Trail turns right and follows road.  For a continuation, see Danby State Forest.

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CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Finger Lakes Trail Finger Lakes Trail Central Section
North Country Trail in CNY Danby State Forest Robert Treman State Park

Sweedler Preserve

FLT Trailhead at Town Line Rd.


One of the many waterfalls along Lick Brook.

Lick Brook

View from the Finger Lakes Trail / North Country Trail.


Sign along FLT near the top of the High Falls of Lick Brook.

More waterfalls

Finger Lakes Trail along Lick Brook.


Another waterfall as the FLT heads away from Lick Brook. This waterfall is not from Lick Brook, but another smaller stream.


The FLT/NCT follows a ridge in the Sweedler Preserve section.

High Falls

The High Falls of Lick Brook.

Railroad Bridge

The railroad bridge over Cayuga Inlet along the FLT.

FLT Parking Area

The FLT Parking Area along Enfield Creek, near the NY 13/NY 34/NY 96 split.

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