Fall Foliage of Hemlock and Conesus Lakes

Fall Foliage

The fall foliage this year has been magnificent. This being my first year living in the Finger Lakes Region, I can not say if this was an average year or not. Everyone gives top credits to the New England area for fall foliage, but I sure the Finger lakes can beat them out.

Harriet Hollister Recreation Area fall colors fall foliage

Flowers are still in bloom, but some shrubs are starting to change colors in the middle of September at Harriet Hollister Recreation Area

Harriet Hollister Recreation Area Fall foliage close up

Harriet Hollister Recreation Area Fall Foliage close up

Bristol Mountain Ski Resort opens up a chair lift each fall and thousands of people use it to explore the fall foliage from the ride up and from the peaks. I thought about doing it, but, figured it is a waste of money. The view from my window at St Micheal’s is a mountain top view.

Fall view from St. Michael's

Fall view from St. Michael’s

I saw my first glimpse of the leaves at the beginning of September when I was up at the Thousand Islands. Two weeks later, you could see the leaves changing here in the Finger Lakes. My walks in the woods or along the lakeshore revealed an ever-changing palette of colors.

Fall foliage

A view of Hemlock Lake from the East Lake Trail/ Boat Launch Trail

Starting from the north boat launch parking lot, this trail heads south on a wide path for about 1.75 miles. There it continues on a narrow path reaching the south boat launch parking lot a number of miles away.

East Lake trail along Hemlock Lake

The East Lake Trail, along Hemlock Lake, Is wide and is mostly flat. It does have a slight climb but it is hard to notice unless you are looking down at the lake.

Hemlock Lake is a part of the Hemlock-Canadice State forest. Unlike the majority of the other Finger Lakes, there is no development around the lake.

fishing on Hemlock Lake, one of the Finger Lakes

Fishing on Hemlock Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. This photograph was taken a mile from the trailhead at the boat launch. My private beach is across the lake.

Conesus Lake

St Michael’s Mission, where I live, is on the slope above Hemlock Lake. However, it is in the town of Conesus. Conesus Lake is about 4 miles to the west. The difference between the two lakes is hard to comprehend being so close. Conesus Lake has a shoreline that is built up. There are houses along most of the shoreline and in many places, they are just a few feet separating homes. While Hemlock Lake is restricted to human-powered boats and boats 17 feet in length and any motors 10 HP or less, Conesus is not. A nice summer day will see hundreds of boats on Conesus Lake.

fall foliage vitale park lakeview ny

Vitale Park, Lakeview NY sits at the north end of Conesus Lake

Conesus Outlet

Conesus Outlet at Vitale Park

Conesus State Park is about 4 miles from the north end of Conesus Lake. The park is really just a boat launch site and a large parking lot. Kayaks can launch here as well, however, there are four hand launch sites around the like that will be a better choice.

Conesus State Park, Conesus boat launch

Twilight at the Conesus State Park Boat launch

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site.

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site. Looking north

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site. Looking south

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site. Looking south

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site. Looking south

A few homes along the shore of Conesus Lake at the Boat Launch site. Looking south

Letchworth State Park

Mount Morris Dam

Mount Morris Dam near the north end of Letchworth State Park

Do not have time to take a trip to the Grand Canyon? Then visit the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park. Voted the best state park in the United States and the best attraction in New York, it is a great place to visit any time of the year. However, it really is at its best in the fall.

From the state’s website The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Trails are also available for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.

letchworth state prk

A view from the Overlook

Before you go, it is best to go to the state website and download a park map. Putting Letchworth into your maps program and having it give you directions is not the best choice. The park straddles the Genesee River. The park is 17 miles (ca. 27 km) long, in that distance, there are only two bridges. One is a railroad bridge near the south end of the park. The other is a footbridge near the lower falls. The GPS might place you 20 miles from where you want to be.

big bend Letchworth state park

The Tea Top area has picnic tables at the Great Bend of the Gorge.

fall foliage letchworth state park

This is from the Tea-Top viewing area. The Gorge is over a 600-foot drop from the top to the river below

You can see other photos I have taken of Letchworth State Park t other times of the year at my Flicr Letchworth album

Last week the temperature was a nice 86° then, 36 hours later it was 34°. Since then, it has been mostly misty and no sun. I guess fall is about over and winter will be here soon. Thinking of going cross-country skiing this year instead of hiking.

 

Finger Lakes Retreat St. Michael’s Mission

 Nature Lovers Retreat – St. Michael’s Mission

St. Michael’s Mission in Conesus New York, is a perfect getaway for nature lovers. While officially located in Conesus one of the Finger Lakes, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake. Nestled in an area of forest and farmland, the 50 plus wooded acres of the Mission is a nature haven in itself. Add in that it is adjacent to land owned by the nature conservatory and a state forest. The Eagle Crest Vineyards, a leading vineyard with historical ties to St. Michael’s Seminary, is just a short walk away.

If you love nature, then you will find that St. Michael’s Mission is the perfect place to live, have as a weekend retreat, or to have as your vacation base. Just thirty minutes from Rochester the mission sits near the shore of Hemlock Lake, one of the famous Finger Lakes. The Finger Lake region of New York is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau.

View of St Michael's Seminary and Mission and surrounding areas including Hemlock Lake, a finger Lake

View of St Michael’s Seminary – Mission and surrounding areas

Hemlock Lake — A Special Finger Lake

Hemlock Lake and it’s smaller sister Canadice Lake are unique among the different Finger Lakes. These two lakes are the water supply for the City of Rochester and no development has been allowed along their shorelines. A number of years back the State of New York purchased the land from the city and created a 6,684-acre state forest.

Hiking Finger Lakes Style

If hiking is your way of getting your dose of nature, then this is the right place for you. St. Michael’s Mission is perfect place for hikers. You can walk around the 50 wooded acres or take a trail that leads to the lake from the picnic pavilion. A short walk along the lightly used Mission Road will lead you to three parking areas for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest each have a number of trail heads. Other State Forest trails are a short drive away.

The Finger Lake region is well-known for hiking and other outdoor activities. There are hundreds of miles of trails near-by. The Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake webpage has more details on local hiking.

Fishing Hemlock and Canadice Lakes

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are outstanding places to fish. The lake is about seven miles long and maybe a mile wide. It has a depth of 90 feet and an average depth of 35 to 40 feet. This allows for a variety of fish in the lake. The lakes are in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and have some restrictions. Most of these restrictions favor the fisherman who enjoys a peaceful day of fishing.

You can fish from the shoreline or a boat except for the northernmost mile of the lake. No high power boats nor personal watercraft, you know this jet ski guys that scare away the fish. Small boats with trolling motors and kayaks are the craft you will see.

Hemlock Park at the very north portion of Hemlock lake is not a part of the state forest. You may not launch your boat nor kayak here, however, fishing from the shore is allowed.

This is from the DEC website for Hemlock lake:

Lake trout historically provided the most significant sport-fishery on Hemlock Lake. In 1957, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducted the first biological survey of Hemlock Lake. DEC records show that stocking of lake trout, landlocked salmon and cisco(lake herring) into Hemlock Lake began more then one hundred years ago. Later stocking efforts included rainbow trout, brown trout, smelt, walleye, and lake whitefish.

Currently, Hemlock’s salmonid fishery consists of lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and landlocked salmon. All these fish may be taken year-round-check your Fishing Regulations Guide for size and bag limits.

Good populations of smelt and alewives provide excellent trout and salmon growth. Annual stocking by DEC sustains the lake trout, brown trout, and landlocked salmon populations. The rainbow trout fishery is supported by natural reproduction from Springwater Creek.

Hemlock’s warm water sportfishery includes smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. The latter are noted for their large size. Significant opportunities are also available for panfish including bullhead(especially in spring), yellow perch, rock bass, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

You can read about the State forest here.

Hunting

Hunting is a sport that polarize many people. Many people are highly in favor of it, while others think it should be stopped. Hunters present the point that then help keep the deer population under control. That without game management, many animals will starve over the winter. I would say that without hunting, the deer population would be out of control in this area. On an average day, it is common to see a dozen deer. My record, was 25 deer in the recreation field and another 125 in four fields between the Mission and Conesus, about 8 miles.

deer

The State Forest allows deer hunting. Here is some additional information on deer hunting and deer conservation programs in New York.

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

Kayaking the Finger Lakes

If you are a nature lover, and enjoy the water, then consider Kayaking. The Finger Lake Region has hundreds of locations for you to explore. Beyond the major and minor Finger Lakes there are many more small lakes, ponds, rivers and streams just waiting for you.
Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake each has two launch points for small boats. Small motorboats with trolling size motors are allowed, however, jet-skies and more powerful boats are not. The majority of the craft on these lakes are kayaks. These lakes are only minutes away from St. Michael’s Mission.

Conesus Lake has four boat launches, three of which are for hand launches. Two are at the north end of the lake in Lakeville, one is near the south end of the lake on the west side, and there is a trailer launch site on the east side of the lake. That site is always busy with boaters.
The Erie Canal is closer to Rochester than Conesus, however, it is a world-class kayaking destination that deserves a look. The NYS Canalway Water Trail comprises 450 miles of canals and interconnected lakes and rivers. It includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals. Their official website is amazing. You can download maps and guides of the waterway. You can also purchase them in a hard copy for the cost of shipping.

Another great resource for local kayaking, as well as other activities, is the Day Tripping Rochester website. They have an article 58 Places to Explore Rochester’s Waterways.

Here is some more detailed information about local kayaking. One of the positive things to come out of the COVID-19 situation, is that many people are reconnecting with nature. Kayaking has been one outdoor activity that has gain from social distancing.

Sky Watching

As you look out towards the lake at night from St. Michael’s, the only light you will likely see is a blinking red one on a cell tower about 5 miles away. There is little or no light pollution in the area. This leads to outstanding star watching. Both the north and south buildings have an open patio on the third floor that makes for outstanding star gazing.

The recreation field across Mission rd, also makes for a good location to watch the stars.

Skiing

You can classify skiing into Alpine (downhill) or Nordic (cross-country). Both of these styles are available in the Finger Lakes. There are three Alpine resorts nearby. Bristol mountain and Hunt Hollow are about a half hour away and Swain is 45 minutes. There are other places to ski an hour or two away.
Nordic skiing is alive and very well in the Finger Lakes Region. Depending on your skill level, the hiking trails of the State Parks and Forest are available to you. The Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation, RXCSF, maintain trails in four areas including the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area and Mendon Ponds Park.

Snowmobiling

Having a snowmobile is great, however, it is often difficult to find places where you can ride them. Not some much in the Finger Lakes. New York’s has 10,500 miles of funded trails. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has a Snowmobile Unit, whose purpose is to promote snowmobiling. Many of the local state lands, including Hemlock- Canadice State Forest and the Harriet Hollister Recreation Area, have snowmobile trails.

The New York State Snowmobiling Association (NYSSA) has 230+ Clubs and County Associations that make up invite you to enjoy this winter. You can visit their interactive map to see the trail network and find contact information for local clubs.

If you plan on snowmobiling in New York’s Finger Lakes Region download the state’s guide to snowmobiling.

Bring on Winter in the Finger Lakes

While the Finger Lakes is often looked on as a summer destination, the winter has lots to offer as well. Where will you play this winter?

 

Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

If your perfect day includes escaping civilization with a hike, then hiking St Michael’s Mission is the perfect place for you. While officially located in Conesus, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake one of the small Finger Lakes.

st michael's mission hiking trail airbnb

St Michael’s Mission Hiking Trail

In the early 1900s, Hemlock Lake had a few cottages and homesteads along the shores of the lake. Small steam ferries traveled the lake bringing passengers and goods to the isolated homes. The City of Rochester obtained Hemlock lake and Candice Lake which is nearby as a water supply and the lands surrounding them. The city did not allow any development around the lake. Today, while some Finger Lakes have limited development, most of the Finger Lakes have sections of heavy development. Conesus Lake, as an example, has homes side by side for almost the entire lake shore. The only buildings around Hemlock Lake is the water authority.

New York’s Finger Lake region is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau. The area is rural in nature with a number of small towns and villages. Public lands including State and community parks, the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and the Finger Lakes National forest abound. Hikers can easily find many interesting places year round for hiking.

Hiking St Michael’s Mission

Over 50 acres of wooded land provides ample space for a leisurely hike. However, the property is overshadowed by the adjacent land. The majority of the property and the main building are on the west side of Mission Road. The east side of the road has the recreation area and that portion of the property adjoin land owned by The Nature Conservancy which merges with the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

Mission Road was the start of a trail managed by The Nature Conservancy. That trail started at the edge of the mission’s property and followed a ridge above a ravine to Hemlock Lake, then followed the shore line to the pump house of Eagle Crest Vineyard then up a very steep road to the vineyard. I tried that trail but ended up finding posted no trespassing signs. Talking with the vineyard owner revealed to me that they stopped access to their property because of a dispute with the Nature Conservancy concerning hunting.

St Michael’s Mission- Hemlock Trails

Ok, I just named them that. There are a few nice trails that start on the Mission property and continue on The Nature Conservancy property. Starting at the south driveway of the mission and crossing the road will bring you to the recreational area with a large field and a picnic pavilion. To the right of the pavilion is a wide trail. It follows along the same ravine the old Nature Conservancy trail started with. The trail has just a slight downhill till about .4 miles from the start. Here the trail has a branch to the left and continues straight but starts getting a bit steeper.

Straight ahead

There is a trail from the entrance of the south building to Hemlock Lake which is three quarters of a mile, one and a half mile round trip plus any walking along the shore. Hiking over that distance there is a 350-foot elevation change. The first .4 miles to the branch sees only a 120-foot change in elevation barely noticeable. The next .3 miles will see a 200-foot change. This is a bit steep but does not require any aids. Just some sure footing going down. The path becomes fairly flat the last few hundred feet from the lake. When you reach the lake, you can walk the shore line in either direction. The trees are further back on the path to the south.

Find a piece of driftwood to relax on and look out over the lake. It should not belong before you see a fish jumping out of the water or a bird swooping down catching its dinner. If you are lucky, the bird might be an eagle. There are a number of them that make Hemlock Lake their home.

The Loop

 

A trail that is very nice in the spring and fall is one that I call the loop and is one mile long. In the summer, the grass can narrow the trail making it difficult to pass in a small section. Starting at the mission follow the same route as above until you come to a branch to your left (.4miles). As you turn left, the trail has a gentle slope down. Follow the trail for 500 feet and you will come to a section where there are no tall trees to your left and right. This seems to be an old road or fire break that has been overgrown. If you do not see the break and pass it, you will come to a ravine in about 50 feet. Just turn around and walk back.

Turn uphill at the break and in about a quarter of a mile you will come to an open field with a small stand of trees in front of you. Follow to the right of the trees and it will lead you to the north edge of the recreational field. You can cross the road, climb the steps and walk across the grounds of the Mission. This loop has an elevation change of only 140 feet over a half mile.

Forest Trails

There will be a separate section for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails, however, there are a few trail heads that are just a short walk from St Michael’s Mission. There are two trail heads off from Mission Road and another off from Blank road, all within one mile.

Forest trail heads

These trails do have an elevation change, however, as they do not go all the way to the lake the change is only between 200 and 250 feet. A good portion of the distance are across the contour, leaving a few steep climbs. There are many streams in the spring time and a number of small waterfalls.

 

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest Brochure page 2

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

The  Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails just mentioned are only a few of the many trails around the two lakes.The state maintains about 14 trails in the park. All the trails are natural except the boat launch road which is a seasonal road. A local site has a set of 10 topographic maps that show many of the trails around the lake.

The Reynolds Gully Falls trail is considered by many as one of the best waterfalls trails in the Eastern US. Technically it is outside the state forest and is under the control of the Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, however, the parking lot is in the state forest.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. The main park and parking lot is located on Canadice Hill Road where you can find 22.83 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and a snowmobile route. With an elevation greater than 2,000 feet, the dense woodland receives far more reliable snow cover than elsewhere in the region, making it a prime destination for winter activities.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. Finger lakes wine and hiking

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY.

Other Nearby Finger Lake Hiking Destinations

Here are a few other nearby hiking destinations that are surely worth the short drive.

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East, is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Letchworth Photos by Charles Davis

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park is a 90-mile open space corridor that follows the route of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and the Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch (1882-1963) from the Erie Canalway Trail in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to the Village of Cuba in Allegany County. The Greenway will eventually extend to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.

rochester junction lehigh valley hiking trail finger lakes

Rochester Junction of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad

Lehigh Valley Trail Linear Park

This Monroe Country Park is about a 20-minute drive away. It is a trail about 15 feet wide and 15 miles long across the county on the bed of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad. This trail does connect to other trails including the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park.

LVT Brochure 2017
Rochester Junction

Rochester Junction

Lehigh Valley Trail North Branch

The old Lehigh Valley Railroad had a north-south branch ending in Rochester. The north branch starts at Rochester Junction and ends in Genesee Valley Park in the City of Rochester.

Finger Lake Trail Map

The Finger Lakes Trail System

The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking.

mendon ponds park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park

 

One of my favorites,Mendon Ponds Park is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms. In 1969, it was named to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks due to its geologic history and presence of significant kames, eskers, and kettles. Visit the county park page for maps.

Mendon ponds hiking

The Trails Never End– Quaker Pond Trail Mendon Ponds

The list can go on and on. The variety of hiking trails around the Mission is remarkable and you will find trails for every skill level. If you are looking for relaxing days on the trails, St. Michael’s Mission is a great starting place. Rooms, a entire floor or a seperate building is availalbe on airbnb. See the different listings for St. Michael’s Mission here.