This preserve, maintained by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, is a perfect refuge during hunting season. In fact, out hikers will be performing a service to the land trust by patrolling the woods as they walk. No worries. In sixteen seasons, patrollers have never encountered a hunter.
Steege Hill Preserve is about 800 acres, acquired in 2001 from an anonymous donor. The forest is regenerating after heavy logging in the 1970’s and contains many species of hardwoods. Preserve steward, Bob Corneau, has maintained a network of over 6 miles of trails, constructed largely on the old logging roads. On some of the steep slopes original hardwoods and conifers remain. From its hilltop vantage point there is a bird’s eye view of the Chemung River.
Worth mentioning are two notable creatures that inhabit this forest. Timber Rattlesnakes have long been residents here, especially on the sunlit rocky outcroppings and in the shade of the forest. They may be snuggly out of sight at this time of year, but be cautious when stepping off the trail. The distinctive nests of Allegheny Mound Ants are a common sight at trailside and in clearings that the ants have fashioned for themselves by destroying shade plants to insure adequate sunlight and warmth for the colony. Black bears also have been sighted in the area recently. For more about this preserve go to http://fllt.org/preserves/steege-hill-preserve
All groups will depart together from the parking area on Steege Hill Road, heading uphill for about a half mile on a moderate pitch. There are four trail loops to explore.
Please note: The parking space is very limited. Carpooling is highly recommended. Meet at Springwater Town Hall on Route 15 at 12:45 as the drive is 1 hour.
Naturalists will cruise around the Yellow Loop, a gentle 2 mile jaunt with a few small inclines and a tranquil pond. We may be fortunate enough to have the steward of the refuge join this group. If not, a volunteer leader is needed.
Tourists will traverse the blue and orange trails, enjoying a variety of terrain with some moderate climbs, about 3.5 miles. A volunteer leader will be needed for this group.
Climbers will tackle the white and red trails which offer some up and downhill challenges, as well as a nice valley view. Distance is about 4.5 miles.
Hopefully all groups will arrive back at the starting point at approximately the same time.
Directions From Springwater, take I 390 south to I 86 E towards Corning. Follow I 86 east to exit 48, then follow Rt.352 east for 1.5 miles. Turn right on South Corning Rd. for .7 miles. After crossing bridge across the Chemung River, turn left on Steege Hill Rd.. Follow up hill for 1 mile. Preserve is on the left. Look for green and white sign.
Social will be at Tag’s Restaurant, 3037 Rt 252 in Big Flats, It is a very short drive from the hike. Good food. We have feasted there previously.