Photo: Gary Brownell

Etna Nature Preserve

The hiking trail passes by low wetlands, crosses a bridge over a tributary stream, and loops through a spruce plantation.  The habitat diversity along the trail facilitates bird watching.

Natural History

The Etna Nature Preserve consists of woods, wetlands, streams, and sections of floodplain that adjoin Fall Creek, Cayuga Lake’s largest tributary and the focus of Land Trust efforts to protect the integrity of the watershed.

Short trails are located in places that complement the landscape and facilitate bird watching, the most popular activity here.  Except for one small hill, the trails are flat and easy and go through a variety of habitat types, including a wetland pond and a conifer forest on the hill.

Recent History

The Etna Preserve, a few miles northeast of Ithaca, was created in February 1991 when Walter and Sally Spofford donated 12 acres to the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  The Spoffords had lived in Etna for many years and were avid birders.  The original parcel comprising the Etna Preserve consists of approximately 11 acres of woods, wetlands, streams, and floodplains on the east side of NYS Rt. 366, and one acre of land along Fall Creek on the west side of the highway.  The Land Trust has maintained a hiking trail that begins at the corner of the cemetery on the east side of the road, passes by the low wetland, crosses a bridge over a tributary stream, and loops through a spruce plantation.

In October 2011, the Land Trust accepted a gift of 12 additional acres of land from the Henderson family, which consists of more than 2,000 feet of frontage along one side of Fall Creek, and more than 2,200 feet of frontage along the other side.  The parcel is located approximately ½ mile north of the original Etna Preserve (not contiguous).  In November 2011, an additional 1.5 acres adjacent to the Henderson tract was purchased, providing more than 1,100 feet of additional protected road frontage. In 2023, the Land Trust acquired eleven acres with more than 3,100 feet of frontage on both sides of  Fall Creek situated between Upper Creek Road and Route 366, bringing the total number of protected streambank here to 6,200 feet. There are no marked trails on these upstream parcels of the Etna Preserve, but the banks of Fall Creek can be walked for fishing or wildlife observation.

Both sections of the Preserve can be accessed from two different road shoulder pull-off parking areas located along Rt. 366.

Land Acknowledgment

The Finger Lakes Land Trust recognizes that our nature preserves exist on the homeland of the Haudenosaunee. We hope to honor indigenous peoples’ ongoing relationship with the land by conserving wild places forever.

Public Use

Please see our public use policies for recreational activities on nature preserves.

Go Finger Lakes logo


Go Finger Lakes is the free web site created by the Finger Lakes Land Trust to promote recreation and conservation. Use the interactive map of 50+ hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, and outdoor adventure destinations across the region!


From Ithaca, follow Rt. 13 north to junction with Rt. 366. Follow Rt. 366 north for 1/2 mile. Preserve is located on both sides of road, next to cemetery. Park on left side.