Fitness in the Finger Lakes

New free hiking challenge offers incentives for people to get active on the trails this summer

By Kyra Mancine

FLT logoTo encourage hiking on the more than 1,000 miles of trails across New York state this season, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLT) has launched the FLT50 Challenge. FLT is a nonprofit based in Mount Morris, Livingston County.

Walk, run or hike a total of 50 miles on FLT’s expansive trail system and you’ll receive a patch, certificate and sticker and be entered into monthly drawings for prizes. For you hiking overachievers out there, if you up your mileage to 50 miles for three months over the course of the year, you can earn a hat. Tag your progress on social media and you might even be highlighted on the FLT’s website and social media sites.

“So many people have discovered the benefits of hiking and walking and being outdoors during this crisis — it’s been one of the few things we can still do,” said Christy Post, director of marketing and communications at FLT. “And I think that’s been great for people — and for families — especially now that the weather is getting nice. I know my kids and I are getting out more together, and I see a lot more people and families out on the trails than I used to.”

If you’re concerned about maintaining social distancing outside, this is the perfect pursuit. “Activities that allow physical distancing will be the new normal for most of the summer, and trails give people the space they need to be safe,” said Post. “Our hope is that this challenge brings people and families together for healthy activity — with appropriate social distance — and brings us all together virtually with shared pictures and adventures on the trails.”

Open to all ages, participation in the FLT50 is easy. Simply pick a FLT trail, complete your miles and submit your tally once you’re finished. Largely built and maintained by volunteers, FLT’s numerous trails run from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve and includes branch trails to Niagara Falls, the Genesee River valley, the Great Eastern Trail south of Corning, the central Finger Lakes and the Syracuse region. Founded in 1962, FLT’s mission is “to build, protect, enhance, and promote a continuous footpath across New York State. Forever!”

Organizers say this is the perfect opportunity to get outdoors. They cite a RunRepeat study of over 12,000 people from 139 countries showing that during March people who normally exercised once or twice a week increased exercise frequency by 88%. Even moderate athletes who normally exercised three times a week increased their frequency by 38%.

“This challenge came at exactly the right moment,” according to one FLT50 challenge participant. “We’d found ourselves moping about the house, putting on pounds and full of self-pity for backpacking trips canceled. I had no idea such incredible, sweeping vistas were less than 15 miles from home. I felt entirely transformed. I can’t wait to get out there again and rack up those miles!”

You can start the challenge at any time, and miles must be completed and submitted by the end of 2020.

If you want to join the FLT50 challenge, visit for more details, including maps and a mileage tracker you can download.