If you live in or visit the Finger Lakes area of New York, and haven't discovered the Finger Lakes Land Trust, an introduction is in order. This non-profit organization protects areas that are characteristic of central New York by acquiring land and making it available to the public, by establishing conservation easements on private land, and through helping to fund additional projects. To date, the Land Trust has protected more than 12,000 acres, with a large variety of features including deep, dark forests, streams, winding gorges, waterfalls, old farmland, wetlands, etc. Note that Land Trust sites are much less developed and more natural than the local state parks, and one should expect to take care around waterfalls and cliff edges, as there are no fences or warning signs. Click here to visit their website.
Some of my favorite places to photograph around Ithaca are indeed, in Land Trust preserves. The Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook is a particularly stunning one, located a few miles up from Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca. Take Sand Bank to the intersection with Town Line, then turn right and go a few hundred yards to the bridge. Sweedler features a spectacular gorge and waterfall, along with a lovely winding stream with many smaller waterfalls. 1.3 miles of trails enables exploration of the stream as well as a neighboring, smaller gorge.
A relatively new acquisition is the Roy Park Preserve, near Ellis Hollow, along Irish Settlement Road. A short trail leads through fields and planted evergreens to an area of beautiful, mature forest, a lean-to, and two streams, one going through a small but picturesque gorge.
A few pictures of the Roy Park preserve can be found below, all taken near sunset.