e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Take a Hike at SUNY-ESF

ESF Trails


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — School will be out soon, leaving inquisitive little minds time to ponder.

1) Why is that tree standing on stilts?

2) What are those bumps and depressions all over the ground?

And perhaps most importantly to the caregivers of those little minds:

3) What is there to do this summer?

The answers to those questions (and lots of others) can be found along nature trails on field campuses maintained by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). June, which is designated as National Trails Month, is an especially fitting time to explore these trails. They are marked, easy to access and free for use by anyone in the mood for a stroll in the woods.

The trails are on 25,000 acres of property across New York state that the college uses for teaching, demonstration, research and public service.

And here are the answers to those questions. 1) It grew on a stump that later decayed, leaving the tree looking as if it is growing on stilts. 2) “Pit and mound" topography indicates the forest floor has never been cleared for farming. The pits formed when trees toppled over and the roots were ripped from the ground. The mounds formed as the tree and its roots decomposed. 3) Here are some suggestions:

Heiberg Memorial Forest, off Maple Ridge Road, (take Grove Street 1.8 miles south of the village of Tully) Tully, N.Y. Driving time from Syracuse is about 30 minutes.

The Heiberg Memorial Forest Nature Trail traverses a small part of the 4,000 acres that make up ESF's southernmost campus. The forest is located in the Onondaga County towns of Tully and Fabius, and the Cortland County towns of Truxton and Preble.

The .75-mile nature trail winds through several forest communities and an old farm field. Visitors can learn how a forest develops and reclaims farmland. Sixteen numbered signs correspond to descriptive passages in a printed brochure. Hikers will see clues to the area's past, and learn why some trees naturally grow in a straight line while others grow in a circle.

New York State Ranger School, off Route 3, Wanakena, N.Y. Driving time from Syracuse is about 2 1/2 hours.

The Microburst Trail introduces visitors to the effects of the massive blowdown that toppled trees on 235 acres of Ranger School property in 1995. The storm resulted in the biggest single cleanup operation in ESF's history.

Ranger School faculty and students constructed the self-guided trail in an area that was particularly hard hit. The 45-minute walk takes visitors past areas where hundreds of thousands of young trees are growing, the result of natural regeneration after the microburst. The trail meanders about a third of a mile to the top of a hill, where visitors have a view of a red pine stand planted by the Ranger School Class of 1915.

Also on the Wanakena campus is the Orin Latham Memorial Trail, which takes visitors to a rocky outcropping called Cathedral Rock, that affords beautiful views of the surrounding forests. Nearby is a fire tower that was moved from Tooley Pond Mountain after the state adopted more modern means of fire protection. Ranger School alumni and friends painstakingly dismantled the tower and reconstructed it at Cathedral Rock.

Those who prefer to learn about the forest from inside their cars can do so on the James F. Dubuar Self-Guiding Forest Tour. It takes less than an hour to drive the three-mile route. Visitors should be aware the tour road closes at 4 p.m. and take care to avoid being locked in.

The road passes a red pine plantation established in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a 100-year-old northern hardwood stand, and Grassy Pond, once home to a population of beavers.

The Ranger School arboretum is also open to visitors. A brochure for self-guided tours will help visitors identify 99 species of trees.

Adirondack Ecological Center, off Route 28N, Newcomb, N.Y., east of Long Lake. Driving time from Syracuse is about 3 1/2 hours.

Goodnow Mountain: Nearly 200 years ago, Sylvester Goodnow homesteaded a plot of ground at the base of the mountain that now bears his name. Now, a 60-foot-tall fire tower at the summit affords hikers a fine view of the Adirondack High Peaks region.

The trip to the top of Goodnow Mountain involves a two-mile hike with an elevation gain of 1053 feet. The trail is marked with black arrows on red diamonds.

Eleven stations along the trail, designated by black letters on yellow squares, provide information on some of the forces shaping Adirondack forests. (Winter hikers should investigate stations marked with black numbers for information specific to that season.) The interpretive stations contain educational information about tree growth, water flow, and the cycle of growth and decay.

Interpretive information in the fire tower's cabin teaches visitors about the tower's history and provides guidelines for identifying the surrounding landforms.

Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center at Newcomb: The Adirondack Park Agency maintains one of its two visitor interpretive centers (VIC) at ESF's Newcomb campus. Three trails offer visitors a variety of experiences.

The .6-mile Rich Lake Trail takes most people less than an hour and is rated an easy hike through a variety of habitats. It winds from mixed open hardwoods to cedar swamps to the edges of an old-growth hemlock forest.

The mile-long Sucker Brook Trail, which takes up to 90 minutes, is a moderate hike along the outlet to Rich Lake. It offers a great variety of habitat and wildlife. It takes visitors through cedar wetlands to mixed hardwoods and to an inactive beaver colony.

The .9-mile Peninsula Trail is a challenging route through a forest that has been largely untouched by humans. The trail takes walkers onto the high, rocky peninsula on Rich Lake, with fine views of the lake and mountains.

Charles Lathrop Pack Demonstration Forest, off Route 9, Warrensburg, N.Y. Driving time from Syracuse is 3 1/2 to four hours.

The Grandmother's Tree Nature Trail is one of the few nature trails in the Adirondacks that is accessible to people using wheelchairs. It traverses a 50-acre natural area that introduces visitors to the ecology of an Adirondack old-growth hemlock-white pine forest and one of New York's historic trees. It takes about an hour to walk the moderately level, one-mile trail.

An interpretive brochure explains key points of interest at 14 spots along the way, including the towering eastern white pine known as Grandmother's Tree. The tree, listed in the state's historic tree register, the “Famous and Historic Trees in New York," is about 175 feet tall and at least 315 years old.

It is on land once owned by the Woodward family. John Woodward planned to cut the tree down and sell the wood so he could buy his wife a set of dishes for their anniversary. His wife, Margaret, was so upset by his plan that she said she would rather do without new dishes than lose the tree. Family tradition protected the tree until 1927, when the property became part of ESF's Pack Demonstration Forest. The college created a 50-acre natural area to help protect the tree.

Pack Forest is named for a wealthy lumberman who purchased a 2,200-acre tract for the college to use in demonstrating scientific and economic forestry.