One of the best ways to explore Ithaca is by foot, but sometimes, we don’t know where to start. Here is a list of some of the best running trails the city has to offer which will get you hitting the pavement or gravel in no time.
Run through a diverse landscape of woods, fields, rivers, creeks, and cliffs on the Cayuga trail, a nine-mile trail that takes you through Cornell University, Cornell Botanic Gardens, and off-campus natural areas. As you make your way along Fall Creek, you will be met with railroad history, lush areas of ferns, pine plantations, and hardwood forests. The trail starts at the Fall Creek gorge and runs east into the Town of Dryden.
Monkey Run Cayuga Trail
Interconnected to the Cayuga trail stands Monkey Run Natural Area, a 10-mile looped path of earth and gravel. Open all year, this 550-acre swath of the Cornell Botanic Gardens follows a long natural corridor along Fall Creek to Cayuga Lake. Surround yourself with rich forest, seeps, and wet meadows, and make sure to take in the views afforded by the 100-foot bluffs along the path.
Black Diamond Trail
Sheltered by a towering canopy of hemlock, oak, maple and hickory trees, the 8.5-mile Black Diamond trail is the perfect place for a scenic run. The stone-dust path features views of agricultural lands and ravines. Leave your headphones behind to embrace the soundtrack of the cascading water and rustling leaves. Open to eager runners all year, the path spans from the city limits of Ithaca to the picturesque Taughannock Falls, which historically served as a passenger line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad from 1896 until 1959. Runners can find parking at Cass Park and at the west end of Taughannock or at various road crossings dotted along the trail.
Cayuga Waterfront Trail
Lace up your sneakers and hit the eight-mile Cayuga Waterfront Trail for a run with picturesque views of the lake. Along the way, run past some of your favorite Ithaca destinations like Stewart Park, Cascadilla Boat Club, Ithaca Farmers Market, the Cornell and Ithaca College Boathouses, Boatyard Grill, and more. If you need to take a rest, take a seat at one of the benches dotted along the trail, or stop to soak in the view of the lake.
Dryden Rail Trail
This 5.5-mile scenic trail down a railroad bed will take you from Village of Freeville to the Village of Dryden. As you run along the gravel and stone dust path, you will pass the Cornell Botanic Gardens Pervis Road Wetlands Natural Area. Hosting active beaver dams and wetland habitats, this area along the run is an optimal site for wildlife viewing. If you need a quick rest, stop at one of the benches at every half mile marked with an interpretive sign where you can learn about the natural and historical features of the trail.
This one-mile loop circles the man-made Beebe Lake that sits on Cornell’s campus. Along your run, witness mature forests, cross the historic Sackett Bridge, meander to Hemlock Gorge, and take in the views of the sweeping natural area. If you want to lengthen your run, connect with the other trails in the vicinity within the Cayuga Trail network and the Cornell Botanic Gardens, or take a running tour through Cornell’s expansive campus.
East Ithaca Recreation Way
Jog along the 3.5-mile former railroad bed of the Elmira Cortland & Northern Railroad from 1869. The trail will take you through the Upper Cascadilla Creek Natural Area of the Cornell Botanic Gardens, where you will run past a demonstration wetland and the MacDaniels Nut Grove. As your run takes you south, you will find yourself in the Pine Tree Wildlife Preserve and the East Ithaca Nature Preserve. Situated along the way, the gazebo is the perfect place to take a rest.