Just about everyone left Sugar Hill Recreation Area this morning. My music-loving, door-side neighbors were gone by 8:30. The boy scouts and girl scouts were all gone by 10:00 leaving just three tents and a couple of horse trailers. I had my wonderful, quiet camping spot back for a few days ..... until it starts filling up again for the upcoming 4th of July weekend.
I wanted to get some hiking in, but I didn't want to just go for a walk in the woods when there are so many scenic places nearby. And I didn't want to go to places that I'll go with Linda when she gets back, so I chose Fillmore Glen State Park in Moravia, NY about 60 miles away. I figured the crowds would be lessening on Sunday afternoon, it's not likely Linda & I would make that drive when she gets back, and I could hike all the trails for exercise and there would be some great scenery too.
So, I headed out around 11:00 and arrived around 12:30. I paid my $7 entrance fee and drove in. The main parking area is near the entrance. There is also a swimming area there, and it's where most of the visitors seemed to be parked.
However, after a brief study of the park map, I decided to drive up the park road to the Upper Shelter parking area. That turned out to be a good choice. If you are just doing the most popular trail, the Gorge Trail, it starts next to the Upper Shelter. If you park at the lower parking area, you'll have to climb a very steep set of tall, uneven steps just to get to the start of the trail.
I saw several people struggling just to get to the top of those steps.
My goal was to hike the Gorge Trail (1.5 miles), the South Rim Trail (1.25 miles), the North Rim Trail (2 miles), and the Old Gorge Trail (.25 miles) off of the North Rim Trail. Click on the map below for a larger image.
I tried to figure out the best route to cover all the trails, and not make it overly difficult. The trails all go uphill from left to right on the map. So, I decided to hike up the South Rim Trail, drop into the gorge and hike the Gorge Trail back down, take the steps down to the lower level, hit the Cow Sheds (more on that later), and then hike back up the North Rim Trail all the way to the end. Then I would backtrack on the North Rim Trail, do the Old Gorge Trail, return to the North Rim Trail, drop down into the gorge once again and re-hike the Gorge Trail (since it's the most scenic) back to the Upper Shelter parking area. With the backtracking and doing the Gorge Trail twice, I figured it would be about seven miles total.
Okay, now for the photo tour of the hiking according to the route I described above.
I walked from the parking lot to the Upper Shelter where there is, of course, a picnic shelter, and there are restrooms. The Gorge Trail starts to the left of the restrooms, and the South Rim starts to the right of the restrooms.
The first part of the South Rim Trail is very steep, and I was already re-thinking this whole plan. But the climb is fairly short, and once it levels out, the rest of the trail is flat and easy. Though the trail runs along the rim of the gorge, .....
the views down are blocked by leaves and vegetation. So, it's just a nice walk in the woods. Even the Pinnacle Overlook, ....
had no view. If it's summer time and you want to hike the South Rim just to get to the overlook, don't bother - it's not worth the time or effort unless you just want the exercise.
This chipmunk near the overlook was my best photo on the South Rim.
I came to the connector trail that drops down into the gorge.
It's a short, but steep, downhill walk.
At the bottom was the first of eight bridges (actually the eighth of eight since I was doing the Gorge Trail "backwards") over Dry Creek.
On the other side of the creek, a right takes you on the connector trail going up to the North Rim Trail, while a left takes you down the Gorge Trail.
We've been told that it's been very dry in the Finger Lakes area so the waterfalls and streams in this park and others like it are not as impressive as they might be earlier in the year or after some heavy rains. But, although there isn't much water running, it was still very pretty.
In fact, the area below Bridge 8 (they are all numbered), is, in my opinion, the prettiest part of the Gorge Trail.
So, it's worth hiking all the way to the end if starting from the bottom, but keep in mind it's all up hill. It's not particularly steep, but a few people seemed to be worn out by the time they got to Bridge 8.
Continuing down the visitor-friendly path next to crumbling shale walls, .....
I came to the Number 7 bridge.
The trail continued along the south side of the creek .....
and then I reached another lovely area where Bridge 6 & 5 are together.
Just below Bridge 5.
Walking along the creek in the shade on this near 90-degree day, was quite pleasant.
Below Bridge 1, Dry Creek is a narrow strip running through the center of the rocky stream bed.
As it rounds the corner, it drops off creating the tallest waterfall in the park, but you can't see much from the top.
At that point, the trail takes a left up some steps and then levels out as it reaches the Upper Shelter where I started.
I continued past the Upper Shelter and went down the steep steps (that I showed you in the very first photo) to the lower area.
At the bottom of the steps, were directional signs.
I crossed over the stone bridge and looked back over the swimming area.
On the north side of the bridge were signs to the North Rim Trail and the Cow Sheds.
I was thinking "Who wants to see old cow sheds?", but then I remembered reading that, before the park, cows used to come up into this area to stay cool in this natural "cow shed". It's just a short walk from the sign.
Glad I didn't skip it as it's probably the prettiest spot in the park and includes that waterfall I mentioned earlier.
Then I headed back and started up the North Rim Trail. It also includes a very steep start .....
and then levels out, .....
but then climbs up again .....
before becoming mostly flat until it meets the gorge connector trail.
You still can't see down into the gorge but, in my opinion, the North Rim Trail is better than the South Rim. It's higher and has a little more diversity as you walk through the woods.
Eventually, I came to a picnic table and the connector trail down into the gorge.
These are the signs for those coming up from the gorge.
I continued on toward the dam. The trail dropped down and I passed a sign facing the opposite direction, so I turned to read it.
That was the intersection for the Old Gorge Trail, but I decided to do that little side trail on the way back.
A little farther was another access point for the Old Gorge Trail.
Next, I crossed this bridge and walked up these steps as I got closer to the dam.
I reached the old dam which is the only place on all of the trails where I wasn't in the shade.
The flow of Dry Creek is subject to the overflow of the dam, and there wasn't much overflow today, although it did create a pretty little waterfall.
From the dam, I walked up the extra two tenths of a mile to the end of the trail where there is a parking area with some picnic tables.
It's an easy walk from there to the dam.
From there, I back-tracked past the dam and then picked up the Old Gorge Trail at the second access point I showed earlier. Not far in was a bench where you can sit and look at this somewhat obstructed view of a waterfall.
It looked like a really pretty, quiet spot to have a late lunch. I thought there was surely a way to get to the waterfall for a full view, but I couldn't find a trail. If just a couple of limbs were trimmed, the view from the bench would have been perfect, but I wanted a better look.
So, I scrambled down and sat on the rocks out of view where I enjoyed my lunch and the peaceful solitude.
I thought it was one of the top three most beautiful spots in the park and was surprised there was no trail to the base of this nice cascading waterfall. However, I will also say that I wouldn't scramble down there again. It was steep, rocky, muddy, and a bit dangerous. Linda would not have allowed it, and she won't be happy with me when she reads this.
After my time at the waterfall, I scrambled back up and continued on the Old Gorge Trail, which was marked with pink ribbons.
I went to the end of the trail although there wasn't much else to see.
I returned and signs pointed me back to the Gorge Trail via the North Rim Trail.
The only reason, again in my opinion, to do the Old Gorge Trail is that nice waterfall, BUT it is an obstructed view from the trail, and I don't recommend leaving the trail. Scrambling down didn't look that bad, but I could have easily gotten hurt and not many people get to that trail - you know what they say "hindsight is 20/20".
Back on the North Rim Trail, I once again came to the picnic table and gorge connector trail.
Whew, that connector is made up of three very steep switchbacks.
I saw a couple at the bottom looking up and deciding against that climb. I was also glad I didn't come up that way.
At the bottom, the connector trail went along the creek a little ways until I came to the intersection of the South Rim connector and Gorge Trail. From there, I hiked back down the Gorge Trail to the Upper Shelter and then back to the Jeep stopping for one last picture ..... of a squirrel.
I was in the park for about four hours hiking and taking pictures. It was a nice day, not too many people, and great exercise. And I think my route turned out to be pretty good with only the two steep uphill sections at the beginning of the rim trails - everything else was flat or downhill.
Of course, the Gorge Trail and the Cow Sheds are the scenic highlights of the park. So, unless you are swimming or just want the exercise of hiking all the trails, I would recommend parking at the Upper Shelter parking lot and doing the Gorge Trail from there. Once you return, drive down to the lower area and take the short walk to the Cow Sheds. That would be a couple of hours of easy, scenic hiking without too much stress on the heart, lungs, knees and feet.
That about covers hiking at Fillmore Glen State Park.
Oh, by the way, the park is named after President Millard Fillmore who was born in a log cabin about five miles away in 1800. There is a replica of the log cabin in the park near the main pavilion.
On the way out, I drove through the park campground. There is a bridge with a 9 ton weight limit that cuts the campground in half. According to the reservation website, there are only 13 sites that are 35 feet or longer, and all of those are across the bridge. I didn't care for the campground much, but it would be fine for a couple of nights.
I made the hour and a half drive back to Sugar Hill where it was back to the wide open, peaceful place it was when we arrived last Thursday. Our solar panels had the batteries fully charged, and it seemed a front was moving in. It was getting cool, so I started an early fire, roasted a brat, called my Dad and Linda, and read by the fire.
It was quite breezy so I let the fire die down and went inside a little early tonight. I was feeling pretty good, but I was tired and it didn't take me long to start dozing off. We'll see how I feel in the morning and I'll decide what's next on the agenda. Until next time, enjoy life. :)