Hiking the Finger Lakes Trail

Planning a hike

Plan your hiking or backpacking trip well. Know where you will be going by studying up-to-date maps and guides. The latest FLT trail condition reports of problems can be found on the FLT web site and on the Notices page for CTC trails and CTC sections of the FLT. Have the proper clothing, equipment, and gear for the trip you are planning. Make a trip plan listing where and when you are starting and finishing. If a multi-day trip, the location of where you expect to camp each night should be listed. Take a copy with you and leave a copy with a responsible person, so the person can alert authorities if you do not return as scheduled. On extended trips, plan to check in every four or five days.

Overnight camping locations are shown on FLTC maps. They may be lean-tos or other campsites along the trail. Campsites are generally primitive with only a fire ring. Camping is permitted on state forest land for up to three days in the same location, provided you set up camp at least 150 feet from the trail, a stream, or other source of water. Groups consisting of more than nine people must get a permit from the DEC. Camping is not permitted in state wildlife management areas, except with permission from the DEC. Camping is allowed in state parks at designated sites only. Backpackers are expected to share facilities at any lean-to or campsite with others desiring to use the facility. Groups of more than four persons should provide their own tents when camping at lean-to sites in state forests. Lean-tos and campsites are not intended for long-term occupancy; therefore, backpackers should limit overnight stays to one night.

Trail conduct


All water along the trail system must be treated in some manner to make it safe for drinking. Methods include boiling for 5 minutes, using water purification tablets, or filtration. Because of the parasite Giardia lamblia found in much of the backwoods water supplies, it is especially important to treat all water, even if you drank it before with no problems. There is some question as to the effectiveness of water purification tablets and some filters to kill or remove Giardia cysts. For best protection, obtain an appropriate filtering device from a reputable backpacking outfitter.

Be careful not to contaminate any water supplies by personal washing, equipment washing, or human waste disposal in or near water supplies.


Use only dead and down wood for campfires. Be sure that you do not leave a fire unattended and when you leave the campsite be sure the fire is totally out. If possible, use water to put out the fire. Place your hand near ashes to be sure they are cold. Be careful of fires near tents.


Use a trail stove for cooking. Suitable firewood is often in short supply around a campsite or lean-to. Do not cook or prepare food in lean-tos. Spilled food attracts animals that come later. It is very dangerous to use a stove in a tent and to cook in such close quarters.

Food storage and disposal

Since you will probably not be using any foods requiring refrigeration, the biggest concern will be animals at night. Remove all food from your pack and tent and put in a "bear bag" and suspend it with rope from a tree branch at least 4 feet from the trunk and 12 feet above the ground. Better yet, consider a bear-resistant food canister.

Dispose of leftover food by burning if you have a campfire. Otherwise, carry out food waste with you in a plastic garbage bag. Remember to remove any non-burnable material, such as cans, aluminum foil, glass, and bottle caps, from the campfire and carry them out.


Outhouses are located at many lean-tos and should be used when available. Otherwise, dig a 4- to 6-inch hole, 200 feet or more from campsite and water. Cover completely with dirt after use.

Take only pictures and leave only footprints

Take out what you brought in. Clean up the trail and campsite leaving it better than you found it. If you bring a pet, keep it under control and bury its waste to protect water supplies. Do not disturb plants or animals.

Rights of landowners

Respect the rights of landowners. Stay on the trail, don't take shortcuts or walk on crops, and do not camp or build fires unless at a designated campsite. If asked by a landowner not to use the trail to cross his or her property, please comply and then report the situation to CTC Trails Chairman or FLTC Trail Conditions page.

© Copyright, 2009 Cayuga Trails Club