Photo: John Sutton

Hinchcliff Family Preserve

The 303-acre Hinchcliff Family Preserve peers over the eastern shore of Skaneateles Lake offering impressive vistas, diverse habitats, and a unique window onto the human history and changing natural landscape of the property.

The Hinchcliff Family Preserve is a key part of a growing greenbelt of preserved land around the southern end of Skaneateles Lake. Land protection here and throughout the watershed is vitally important because the lake serves as the source of drinking water for the city of Syracuse and several other communities.

Natural History

The Hinchcliff Family Preserve consists of two sections. The largest extends from Spafford Landing to just north of Glen Haven on the east side of Skaneateles Lake. There, a 1.4-mile trail loop passes mostly through northern hardwood forest at various stages of succession. Watch and listen here for Wood Thrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, and other breeding songbirds in spring and summer. The trail also winds past mixed hemlock-hardwood forest, as well as several ephemeral and perennial streams, gullies, and waterfalls. Grassy clearings offer habitat for sparrows and other open-country birds, as well as sweeping views of the wooded slope and the lake. Along the way, you will also see remnants of former habitation and work at the site – the foundation of an old dairy barn, a 1937 Chevrolet army truck possibly used by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a grand stone fireplace and chimney that once served as the centerpiece of the Wickwire family cottage.

The hiking loop is steep in some sections.

All dogs must be on a leash and kept in full control by their owners. Please do not allow your dog to chase wildlife or intimidate other visitors.

The upper corridor of the preserve connects to the Ripley Hill Nature Preserve, a property acquired by the Central New York Land Trust with the assistance of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. In 2019, staff and volunteers from both organizations completed a one-mile hiking trail connecting the two preserves. Visitors to the Hinchcliff Family Preserve can hike up Covey Rd., carefully cross State Rte. 41, and extend their trek along a trail with a beautiful view of Skaneateles Lake.

With the purchase of 75 contiguous acres in 2020, the preserve now connects to the Land Trust’s High Vista Preserve which neighbors to the south. A new one-mile trail built by staff and volunteers can be accessed from a High Vista Preserve trailhead on Vincent Hill Road in the town of Scott, or from the loop trail near the scenic overlook at the Hinchcliff Preserve.

Recent History

The original 196 acres purchased to create the Hinchcliff Family Preserve was formerly part of a farm operated by the Burns family.  In 1938, about 64 percent of the land within the current preserve boundary was in active agricultural use, while only 36 percent was forested.  At that time, the farm included a full dairy operation, including the cultivation of corn and hay to feed the cows. Now, over 83 percent of the preserve is forested, while only 17 percent is open fields.

The purchase and protection of the land have been made possible through broad support from the community, including leadership gifts from the Hinchcliff family, and by a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  Since acquiring the property in 2013, the Land Trust has added the trail, a parking area, scenic overlooks with benches, and an interpretive kiosk to the site.

With the acquisition of the additional 75 acres in 2020, the organization has created a 2.25-mile-long corridor of conserved lands overlooking the eastern shore of Skaneateles Lake.

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

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 over 50 hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, and outdoor adventure destinations across the region!

Go Finger Lakes logo



The Hinchcliff Family Preserve lies at the end of Covey Road off Route 41 in Spafford, Onondaga County. From Skaneateles, take Route 41 south for 14 miles, then turn right onto Covey Road. The preserve’s parking lot lies at the end of the road. From Ithaca or Cortland, take Route 13 north to Route 281 north, then take a left onto Route 41 north in Homer. Stay on Route 41 north for about 11 miles, then take a left onto Covey Road to the preserve. Covey Road is unpaved, steep and only seasonally maintained; it is not plowed in the winter. Passage may be difficult under poor weather conditions.