“This loop hits some of the better trails on the eastern side of Bear Swamp Forest.
— Cycle - CNY
A seasonally high water table and lackluster drainage do not support riding in wet weather conditions. During snow-covered conditions, fat bikes are generally discouraged, as this is a very popular location for skiing.
Bear Swamp State Forest covers 3,300 acres at the southern end of Skaneateles Lake in the upstate NY Finger Lakes region. It's known for its Nordic ski trails and large wetland and creek that bisect the forest. There are approximately 12 miles of marked multi-use trails in the forest, suitable for mountain biking, hiking, snowmobiling, or horseback riding. This short featured ride loop connects several of the best trails for a fun six-mile loop.
Need to Know
This forest is popular for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-county skiing. As such, be aware and respectful of other trail users and yield the trail when appropriate.
More information can be found on the Cycle-CNY website or on the NYS DEC website, here
Bear Swamp State Forest can be accessed from the west via Hartnett Road off Route 41A, or via Iowa Road on the east side of the forest. This Featured Ride loop begins from the large parking lot off Iowa Road (technically Bear Swamp Road), in the southeastern corner of the forest.
The recreational trails at Bear Swamp are generally doubletrack and don't provide a technical challenge, but there is significant elevation changes and many miles of trail to explore. This trail system is ideal for beginner or intermediate level riders, provided they have the fitness and stamina needed for the hill climbs.
Numerous intersections and other trails allow for extending or shortening this ride as desired. The trails are marked with the typical DEC trail markers - by colored disc and number.
The initial trails from the parking lot, Yellow 1 (Y1)
and Yellow 6 (Y6)
, will introduce you to the hill climbs found here. The doubletrack trail eventually runs alongside the southern tip of Skaneateles Lake through some nice forest land. Y6 eventually connects you with Blue 2 (B2)
, Blue 1 (B1)
, and Blue 6 (B6)
... offering some fun and flowy downhill.
Blue 6 (B6)
connects you to Hartnett Road, where a left turn will get you headed back towards the trails and parking lot. If you're interested in a short, scenic extension, take Blue 5 (B5)
out to the overlook of the actual Bear Swamp wetlands. Once back on Hartnett Road, go east and connect with Blue 3 (B3)
for the most challenging climb of the loop, followed by a fun and flowy long descent on Yellow 3 (Y3)
and Yellow 2 (Y2)
to return you to the main parking lot.
History & Background
Bear Swamp State Forest is managed by the NYS DEC in a multiple-use concept of recreation, hunting, and timber sale. The state forest and surrounding area was dramatically affected by glaciation about 10,000 years ago. Skaneateles Lake, the steep valley walls, and the flat-top ridges are the result of this geologic event. Most of the state forest was abandoned farmland bought in the 1930s. The large amount of open land was planted with coniferous trees—red pine, Norway spruce, and larch. The present day landscape of pine, spruce, and hardwood forests reflects these past events. Remaining old growth can be seen on the steep valley slopes leading to Skaneateles Lake, as well as in small pockets around the creek.