Since the last flurry of activity on the part of the Black Diamond Trail Enthusiasts Network, the trail has taken significant steps toward being reality. Large sections of it have been cleared of brush, culverts have been installed to make it accessible to maintenance equipment, culverts along the trail have been repaired or replaced — and, the most dramatic of all, the bridge at Glenwood Creek has been rebuilt. The bridge isn’t ready to use yet, but the foundations are in place and a concrete deck has been poured; we’re actually going to be able to cross the Glenwood Creek gorge on it, probably before the end of this year! All this progress has, just as we predicted, attracted lots of people who want to use the trail, and people are asking for specific information about the location to the trail and how to get access. The official answer is, please wait until the project is finished and signage and other information sources will point clearly to the trail. But, that will take a lot more time — quite certainly past even the 2013 anticipated construction of the next bridge. So, we’ve tried to get some information together to help people use the BDT now. It’s not official and may have inaccuracies — help us out by reporting fresh information and corrections. But, to the best of our knowledge as of 10/18/12, here’s how the trail shapes up.
If you’re new to the BDT, it follows a rail line that used to go through Ithaca and north to Seneca Falls. The part that is being developed is between Ithaca and Taughannock Falls State Park. There are ideas and rumors of extending the trail northward to Trumansburg; and, there are plans to eventually extend this trail to other parks south of Ithaca. But, for now, it’s the Ithaca to Taughannock Falls portion that we are anticipating. The map shows the route of that trail and you can click on “View full route” to get a map that can be enlarged and zoomed to give you as much detail as you need, including accurate distances between road crossings. Note that the trail crosses a number of roads on its way from Cass Park — Glennwood Heights, Perry City, Garrett, Houghton, Kraft, Agard, Willow Creek, and Gorge. When the project is done, you will be able to get on or off the trail at any of these roads. At present, some of the roads make more sense to use as access points than others, and some of the crossings should really not be used as access points at all.
On Thursday, October 18, 2012, I made a quick survey of all the road crossings and tried to get photos of each one to help people who may be searching for access. Here’s what I learned.
This is the easiest place to access the trail and, in many ways, the best. It’s easy because it’s close to Ithaca and there is a parking area that always has room. There are also public rest rooms to use before you embark on your hike or ride.
The BDT is to the west from the parking area — go across the waterfront trail that parallels the driveway, follow the broad gravel path to the foot of the hill, and turn right (north) along the path that runs next to the tall towers carrying NYSEG power lines. You can go about three and a half miles along this trail before hitting Glenwood Heights Rd. Before that, at about two miles, you pass the driveway leading up to the hospital and the Biggs building. From about this point north, the surface of the trail becomes primarily the coarse stone of the old railroad bed. It’s a bit rough, so wear good shoes and use as fat tires as you can on your bike.
Glenwood Heights Rd
If you want to start from this point, parking is a bit marginal. There is a place to pull off the road just downhill from the trail on the north side of the road. The trail in both directions from Glenwood Heights Rd has a metal gate across it. Looking south toward Cass Park, you’ll see a gate with a comfortable gap on one side for hikers or cyclists to pass. The trail in this section to Ithaca is clear of all brush and the surface is mainly the coarse rock that used to be railroad bed. It’s fine for walking, but a bit rough on bicycles — for a mountain bike, it would be no trouble, though. The distance to Cass Park is about 3.5 miles.
Northbound from Glennwood Heights Road, is another gate, this one a bit more thorough in blocking access. But, you can go around the right side of the gate without too much trouble and proceed as far as the new bridge construction, just a bit over a tenth of a mile (you can see the construction machinery from the trail at Glennwood Heights Rd). If you want to proceed north on the trail, you can’t yet cross the bridge; however, it is possible to detour around the bridge by going off the trail to the right (east) either down to NY 89 or to an older bridge still in place across the gorge near NY 89. This is also an excellent way to go to Glenwood Pines restaurant — a great dinner hike from Ithaca!
Perry City Road
This isn’t a very good place to start if you have a car. There is no plausible parking on Perry City Road. You would probably have to leave your car on NY 89, where there is some parking space along the road just about at the intersection with Perry City Rd.
South from here, the trail looks like someone’s driveway — probably the right-of-way has been used in that way for many years. Nevertheless, it is now the Black Diamond Trail and you can hike on it. Remember, though, that the new bridge construction is still under way and impassable just a quarter mile down the trail in that direction, so you will either have to turn around or find the old detour (head down toward NY 89 and look for the old bridge to cross the gorge).
Northbound from Perry City Rd, the trail is grassy and much less civilized looking. The grass has grown quite tall in the sunny parts, but you can definitely see where the trail begins and ends.
Garrett Rd, Houghton Rd
I need help on these crossings — I got out my GPS-enabled phone maps and looked for signs of the trail when the map said I was right on it. However, I saw nothing at all to indicate a trail on Garrett Rd — just driveways and ordinary yards. I’m told that people have traversed the trail through this section, so it must be here somewhere, but I sure didn’t see where.
On Houghton Rd, I did find what looks like a trail on the north side of the road just below the driveway with the house number 4172. But, while that looked like a trail for sure, opposite it was a driveway with a house number that I’d be pretty sure isn’t a public trail. Possibly it’s similar to the driveway off Perry City Rd., where the right of way was used for private purposes; but, I’ll await knowledgeable instructions on this one. If anyone can help out with these road crossings, please let us know.
From Kraft Road, there is no trail toward the south. At the road, you’ll find a broad cleared area, as though used by trucks for loading or the like. Going straight back across this clearing, there is a line of trees and brush and, beyond that, the remains of the old railroad bridge. There is no way to proceed through there — it’s fenced off and the gorge would be too steep and deep to cross on foot anyway. There used to be some signs around that expressed a clear un-welcome to trail seekers, so I’d stay clear of it until the bridge is rebuilt. To the north, there is a normal trail access point, and the trail is pretty much clear all the way to the top of Taughannock Falls State Park, about 2.3 miles away.
The crossing of Agard Rd has had the most attention along the trail — culverts were installed on each side of the road in order to give access to mowing and other trail maintenance equipment. Unfortunately, it seems that no maintenance has actually taken place since the work parties cleared most of the brush. Today, the trail looks completely overgrown with weeds, to the south of Agard Rd almost unrecognizable as a trail. Nevertheless, the trail is passable with no heavy brush impeding those who are willing to push through.
The Willow Creek Road crossing is at a narrow angle to the road and doesn’t seem exactly aligned, so it might be a bit difficult to spot. The northbound trail clearly follows a hedgerow that you can easily spot from the road. The southbound trail angles off right next to a driveway on the east side of the road. The northbound section of trail from here is one that the BDT enthusiasts have worked on the longest. It was from Taughannock to this point that the earliest volunteer trail clearing efforts were directed many, many years ago.
The Gorge Road crossing is the last before the trail ends at Taughannock Falls State Park, on the old railroad bridge over the creek. There is no good place to leave a car here; however, just around the corner (west to Jacksonville Rd., then north just a bit to the bridge over the Taughannock creek) there is an excellent parking area and access to a magnificent view of the upper gorge. If you park there, you can hike the trail south by first walking up to the old railway bridge. It’s well worth just visiting the bridge.