6 hours north of New York City are the Finger Lakes; 11 long lakes, cut by glaciers centuries ago, they descend from Canada like a hand.
We left New York around 9 am driving up NY 17 towards the Finger Lakes National Forest, a sizable forest nestled between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake.
Before entering the Finger Lakes you pass through Ithaca a perfect place to stop for lunch. Ithaca is a very pretty town, a good verity of restaurants dot South Aurora St. and the Ithaca Commons next door. Being a college town you might have to wait for a seat but the town is a good stopping point. For last minute supplies there are two outdoor stores and an organic supermarket. From Ithaca it's 20 minutes to the national forest.
Being a national forest means you can backpack in and camp anywhere; making sure to be 50 feet off the trail. It's surprisingly hard to find a trail map for this place, but at each trail entrance we found a few maps in a box to grab. However after a lot of searching online I tracked down a high res version of the same map they provide in the forest.
This forest offers some of the most relaxing backpacking I've done. You can make your hike any length you want. Multiple parking spots are scattered throughout the forest. You can park anywhere and walk as far as you want, and then use the interconnecting trails to take a new route back.
Throughout the forest there are several camp sites set up with fire pits and picnic tables, available on a first come first served bases. We opted to park near Foster Pond. From google maps satellite view we could just make out a picnic table indicating a proper camp site.
Parked we grab our packs, let Kleine loose, and headed into the woods. It was getting late, we parked around 5, so we where happy to see how close Foster Pond was. 20 minutes into the woods and we were at a picnic table and fire ring next to a small pond.
The Finger Lakes National Forest is packed with trails. Some cut through cow pastures full of cows from farmers renting the land, other trails cross abandoned vineyards. I think spending 2-3 nights zig zagging through the forest exploring these areas would be an amazing long weekend.
This is a great beginners backpacking spot or awesome for a last minute relaxing trek. We were close enough to our car to go back and snag some kindling but deep enough in the woods to feel like we’d escaped into nature. Picnic tables and fire pits make the work of finding a level cleared area to set up camp is removed. The Finger Lakes National Forest offers the advantages of campground camping with the relaxation of enjoying nature.