If you are looking for a wide variety of trails, some medium to serious elevation gain, and varied technicality, Ithaca, New York has some trails for you!
The town, located about 1 hour south of Syracuse in upstate New York, is not only home to some amazing forests and trail systems, but also houses Cornell, Ithaca College, wineries, amazing breweries, and lots more.
There’s an active trail running (and road running) community with races from April through October and more events throughout the winter. If you’re looking for a vacation near a smaller town with some serious trails in the Northeast U.S. put Ithaca on your list.
Running & Trails
With dozens of trails within 15 miles of the city center you have several to choose from. We’ll mention a few that are very close to town, add in a few more, and give you some resources for finding more if you feel like venturing a bit further out.
Keep in mind that the Finger Lakes Trail (over 900 miles in length) runs through Ithaca and intersects or comes near many local trails. Check out the FLT website for seasonal closures due to hunting and additional information such as trail conditions.
- Buttermilk Falls – One of the closest to the center of town. A steep gorge houses the falls itself and a trail system goes up/down both sides. You can continue on the trail past the falls as it follows the water source and eventually wanders off south a bit before connecting with the trail from Treman State Park.
- Treman State Park – Just a few miles away from Buttermilk Falls, Treman State Park is home to Lucifer Falls and a couple of local trail races. You can rack up some good elevation in this area, a half marathon route has about 2400 feet of gain. There are multiple trails you can take on either
side of the falls and you can connect this with the trails to Buttermilk Falls (about 12.5 miles each way).
- Abbott Loop – Technically located in Danby, this 8 mile loop is located just a few miles outside of town and is also home to a local race in the fall. A fun course with some good ups and downs, it covers a lot of terrain on a well used, mostly singletrack, trail.
- Shindagin Hollow – Some steep sections of beautiful trail along a section of the Finger Lakes Trail.Great for hiking and trail running with a wide variety of elevation profiles and plant growth.
Additional Trail Resources
People come from all over to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. While you may come for the trails, there’s several reason to get out and explore more of the area via bicycle or car.
The area is home to a large number of wineries – you can find them near each lake, usually set off the lake a short ways for optimal temperatures to grow the grapes in. If you are interested in a wine tour you can do a quick search for “finger lakes wine tours” and come up with several to choose from with varying group sizes, number of wineries to visit, etc. Alternatively, you can check out the wine trail and do it yourself!
The beer scene is also strongly represented here with many fantastic breweries in Ithaca or within easy driving or biking distance. Just as there is a wine trail you can check out the beer trail here.
Cornell is located just up the hill from downtown Ithaca and is worth checking out if you are in town for a couple days. The Cayuga trail runs through part of campus and you can get in a serious workout running from downtown up to the top of campus! In addition to the campus grounds themselves there is a large arboretum area which the Cayuga trail passes through before continuing out into the less populated areas north of the college.
Down the hill from Cornell and in the center of town is the Ithaca Common’s. You can walk through this car-free area and get a bite to eat, check out some shops, read a book, and more.
If you are in town over a weekend, Ithaca features a large farmer’s market with lots of great food options, in addition to local crafts and more. A great idea is to go for a run near one of the flanking parks (Stewart park and Cass park) and either stop or end at the farmer’s market or drive over after you’re done. The market is on the lake and has a dock which is a great place to hang out and enjoy some food after a weekend morning run.
The city itself is situated at the south end of Lake Cayuga, so if you’re interested in paddle boarding or other water activities you’re coming to the right place. There are many homes for rent along the lake on both sides and there are several other lakes nearby.
In addition to the farmer’s market there are several places to get superb food in Ithaca. Whether you’ve just finished a run and need something quick or are looking for something more substantial you can find what you need.
A few local favorites are:
- Ithaca Bakery – several locations throughout town. They serve a variety of food but specialize in bagels, sandwiches, and baked goods. Outstanding breakfast bagel sandwiches!
- Purity Ice Cream – not only serving some great ice cream but now also serving breakfast and lunch. If it’s warm outside you owe yourself a stop in this ice cream shop.
- Saigon Kitchen – need a warm bowl of Pho or some vermicelli noodles? They’ve got what you need – great food, good prices, and pretty fast service.
There’s obviously many more places that you should consider, we can’t possibly list them all here! Give the Ithaca Yelp page for restaurants a shot if you’re looking for something else.
Breweries and Wineries
As mentioned above, many people come to the area for the wineries and wine tours and the large (and growing) number of breweries.
If you’d like to find a tour or bus just search for something like “wine tours finger lakes” and you’ll find several worth checking out!
Some of the local favorites include:
- Hopshire – Great small brewery family owned and run. Amazing beers across a wide range of styles.
- Lucky Hare Brewing – Opened in 2016 with much anticipation and they have lived up to it! A great beer stop on the wine trail but worth a visit on its own.
- Ithaca Coffee Company – Not a brewery, but both locations carry northeast brewed beer with frequently rotating taps. Also a great place to pick up a bite to eat, some coffee, and snacks.
- Ithaca Beer Co – Located on the southern end of town this is a great place to sit down either at the bar or a table and enjoy some good food and some of their well known beers.
Getting into Ithaca you have several options. There is a small airport on the northeast side of town that services a few larger airports such as Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, and a couple others. You can get rental cars from this airport, although make sure you aren’t there around college graduation time or you’ll need to book a long time in advance for flights or cars!
In addition to the local airport, you have several options with in 60 minutes or so. Syracuse is about an hour north and Elmira is located 40 minutes west. A little further out you can fly into Rochester or Binghamton.
Driving into Ithaca is fairly easy, although it is located off the main freeways. You’ll likely spend
some time on smaller 2 lane highways that might not be so well maintained, so just be ready for that if you’re driving in from a distance.
Sadly, no trains operate to Ithaca, although Amtrak does go through Syracuse on it’s way to and from Chicago and New York City.
A bus depot is in the place of the old train station in Ithaca, you can get tickets online or in person.
You have a wide choice of lodging – although Ithaca is a smaller town, with the colleges and businesses around there are many hotels to handle the large flux of families and travelers.
If you’re looking for something more personal or with more flexibility, you can try one of these (we recommend doing this for many reasons!):
Downtown you can find a couple shops that will help you out with anything running related that you might need.
The first is the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company. This is the go to for running related gear and apparel. You can also join up on a group run throughout the week, especially in the warmer months.
Across from the FLRTC is the Ithaca Outdoor Store. While more hiking and general outside sports oriented you can head here for additional items that you might have missed elsewhere.
Recovery or PT
There are a number of specialists in town including spas and gyms where you can set up massages, PT, etc.
Ithaca is a great location for running on trails and roads. There’s an active community in the area with races throughout the year, including some regional and national championships. With a lot of activities to do in addition to running it’s worth a trip out, especially during the summer and early fall when the weather is best.
Questions or comments? Let us know here and we’ll get back to you.