The Jim Schug Trail offers a short, sweet excursion in New York's Finger Lakes region. The trail was known as the Dryden Lake Trail until it was renamed in 2002 in memory of the late town supervisor who acquired the land. The trail follows a remarkably level Lehigh Valley Railroad corridor; the railroad constructed the bed by creating cuts and using the removed earth and rock to fill in low spots. The resulting trail is level, while the surrounding landscape dips and rises, leaving you on an elevated berm or passing through cuts where ground level is above your head.
There are numerous road crossingsmany with small parking areasthat provide easy trail access. From the village of Dryden, the trail runs south and east; it also links with the Finger Lakes Trail, a footpath for hikers.
Begin in Dryden on West Main Street at the signboard for the Agway store. (There are plans to extend the trail another 3 miles from Dryden north to Freeville.) A half mile south a railroad bridge carries the trail over Virgil Creek. Benches mark your distance every 0.5 mile, and accompanying informational signs reveal historical and natural features along the trail.
When the trail crosses State Route 38, the landscape becomes more rural. Farm fields and silos, woods and wetlands lie ahead. Don't hurry through the next mile but rather sit and listen to the sounds of the wetlands. In the evening, especially in spring, the sounds of frogs surround you.
The area around Dryden Lake and along the trail is said to have some of the best birding in the Finger Lakes region. Dryden Lake Park surrounds the lake and has picnic tables, a pavilion and fishing access, including a handicapped-accessible platform. All seasons see activity on the lake: Birders flock to the area for waterfowl in the spring and fall. In the winter, the lake is a popular spot for ice fishing.
Adding to the bucolic appeal is an array of cultivated, alien and native plant species. From spring through autumn wildflowers bloom along the trail, and the woods show spectacular fall color. The ever-changing natural palette warrants return visits to this trail throughout the year.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Dryden trailhead: From Ithaca follow Route 13 (Dryden Road), which becomes Main Street. Turn south on Mill Street shortly before the first traffic light in Dryden. Turn left immediately onto George Street. A municipal parking lot is on the right but to reach the trail from the parking lot, you have to retrace your route. Turn right onto George Street and follow it to Mill Street. Turn right onto Mill Street and turn left onto West Main Street. The trail entrance is on the left, opposite Rochester Street and between Don Mayes Photography and Dryden Agway.
Dryden Lake Park offers the most parking opportunities. From downtown Dryden take State Route 38 south for 2 miles and turn left on Chaffee Road into the park. You will cross the trail just before the park entrance.