A Little Time to Yourself
While we don’t all have weeks to devote to hiking an entire trail system, getting away for an hour or two here and there is something most people enjoy. It’s something most people crave.
That’s why having access to trails that allow for short day hikes (or just a couple hours away from our normal routine) is so important. One of the best such trails around is located near Hammondsport in Pleasant Valley.
The Mitchellsville Gorge Trail is an easy to moderate 2.2 mile tract through forests, along a gorge rim, on historic railroad tracks, across a footbridge and a charming creek, and in a vineyard. It offers solitude, some pretty settings, and occasional wildlife.
There’s even a great spot to picnic beside the stream if you’re so inclined (but please do follow “leave no trace” principles).
The trail isn’t too steep, with an elevation change of about 500 feet over a 1.5 mile span making it a reasonable hike for most ability levels and excellent for a fun family outing.
The hike is on private land, however, so hikers should be mindful to stay on the trail. Please note, there is no camping on this section of the trail and also no fires.
“A nice walk along the rim of a scenic small gorge, a walk in a vineyard, a walk along old railroad tracks and a footbridge placed at a scenic location are just some of the reasons why this 2.2 mile section of trail is one of ‘The Best of the North Country Trail in New York.’” - CNYHiking.com
If you’re interested in multi-day hikes, or long distance treks, there are plenty of options. But if you’re looking for an hour or two in the woods, you may want to give this hike a try.
Traveling with friends in multiple vehicles? Leave one car at each end of the trail. This allows less fit or novice hikers to start at the top (in Mitchellsville) and enjoy the mostly flat or downhill route ending in the vineyard in Hammondsport.
If you’re up for a gradual ascent of about 500 feet, park near in the trailhead in the vineyard (or at the nearby Urbana Town Hall) and enjoy the full 4.4 mile hike (2.2 miles up and back).
Tapping Into an Indelible Sense of Calm
Whether you grew up in the countryside or amid the hustle and bustle of a big city, there’s no denying the way you just sort of settle down into your bones when you’re able to spend a little time in nature. The way you settle down into yourself.
Maybe it’s simply from slowing down and being present, being away from the noise of daily life. The quietness and the sense of being unencumbered that comes from finding yourself in a wide open space.
Maybe it’s from the interconnectedness of the natural world (the symbiotic relationship between trees, shrubs, plants, flowers and animals) which extends to us while we’re there. The way Thoreau suggested that being in nature allows us to reconnect more fully with ourselves.
All we know, is a walk through the woods feeds the soul.
Part of Something Bigger
In addition to the main trail that spans some 580 miles, the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) [hyperlink to FLT page] also consists of six branch trails as well as 29 loop trails and spur trails totaling another 400+ miles.
While part of the FLT, the Mitchellsville Gorge Trail is also shared by the North Country Trail (NCT) which stretches from North Dakota to Vermont.
The Mitchellsville Gorge Trail is located between the 50+ mile Bristol Hills branch trail and the 9+ miles section of the FLT/NCT called the Mount Washington Trail.
Closer to Corning, the Crystal Hills Trail (a branch trail of the FLT) is also part of the Great Eastern Trail which travels as far south as the Florida border, providing hikers with another long-distance route to explore if desired.
In all, the Finger Lakes Trail crosses over 450 private properties, four state parks, forty-one state forests, one National Forest (New York’s only one), and three Wildlife Management Areas.
Looking for a challenge? For the past five years, the North Country Trail has issued a 100-mile Challenge. The task: hike any 100 miles on the North Country National Scenic Trail between January 1 and December 31. It’s a free challenge and registering also gives you a chance for occasional giveaways. Complete the challenge and receive the special 2020 NCT Hike 100 Challenge patch.
Similarly, the Finger Lakes Trail is offering a new challenge for trail users across New York State called the FLT50. Registration is free and the intention is pretty straightforward: complete 50 miles on the FLT before the end of the year, record and submit your mileage, and get rewarded with a cool FLT50 patch and sticker.
Learn more about the Mitchellsville Gorge Trail, as well as other branch, loop and spur trails that are part of the Finger Lakes Trail system here.