For an outdoor enthusiast, Central New York may seem like nothing more than endless fields of dairy cows and rolling hills that stand in the way of the Adirondack Mountains. However, if you know where to look, you can find more than a few scenic natural areas that are worth making a trip to. One of these hidden gems is the Leland Reserve, located just outside the Village of Hamilton, New York.
The Leland Reserve is an 18-acre property that features a variety of landscapes, including shrubland, young forest and wetland. The reserve is maintained by the Southern Madison Heritage Trust, a land trust that works to protect natural areas all around Madison County, New York.
The Leland Reserve features a short, relaxing trail that remains relatively flat for its entirety. The trailhead is found next to the reserve’s parking lot, which is located just south of Preston Hill Road, near the top of the hill.
The first section of the hike winds you through a shrubland of high grasses and a bird and cricket population that chirp from every direction. However, the majority of the reserve is made up of a young hardwood forest. This land, which was once cleared to make room for cow pastures, has been repopulated over the last 50 years, largely by sugar maple, black cherry and white ash trees. If you want to experience these trees at their pinnacle, come during mid-fall, as their leaves will form the fiery sea of orange, red and yellow that central and upstate New York are famous for.
For a good portion of the hike, the trail will be accompanied by a stream that flows adjacent to the path as it makes its way through the Chenango River basin. This stream is a hotspot for wildlife and is a good place to relax if you want to catch a glimpse of a white tail deer.
As you make your way through the woods, the trail will become less of a trail and more a part of the forest floor. Do not fear, you’re not lost. Follow the yellow signs that are posted on the trees and you will be back to a visible path in no time.
Note: The Leland Reserve is closed to the public every year during bow season, as certain individuals are permitted to hunt during this time. The exact dates of bow season vary, but it’s safe to say that the reserve is closed between mid-October and mid-December.