The BRISTOL HILLS TRAIL (BHT) is a 55 mile branch trail of the Finger Lakes Trail system – starting at Ontario County Park (OCP) in Bristol Springs, NY. I’m familiar with some of the area OCP trails from mountain biking, but have never really familiarized myself with the BHT. I figured it’s about time to do so.
Headed down to OCP very early yesterday to spend a few hours on the BHT and begin to familiarize myself with a trail that will – quite likely – become my first 100+ mile solo trail run by the end of next year. (To my knowledge there is only one guy who has ever run the whole trail end-to-end in one shot, which was only accomplished in August of last year.) No time like the present to get started…
My brilliant plan was to hit the trailhead at 5am (OCP is only a :40 drive South from where we live near Rochester). I neglected, however, to bring my headlamp… I should know better; deep woods are still dark at sunrise. I hit the trail anyway in the half-light of dawn somewhat able to make out the orange blazes on the trees… Starting at the famous “Jump Off” (view above), I quickly fell into a nice rhythm on the beautiful trail… until I got about a mile or so in. And than I got got lost. Totally, positively, thoroughly lost. Took me another 30 minutes to find my bearings at which point the sun had fully risen and I had wasted a lot of time finding my way back to only 5 minutes from where I’d first started. Fail. Thankfully my prior mountain biking jaunts on the other OCP trails served me well and I was able to connect with some trails I recognized. As an aside, this is a good place to plug the need for survival knowledge for anyone who undertakes backcountry efforts alone. Know your stuff; seriously. I cannot possibly overemphasize this enough!
After regaining the trail I kept dropping slowly and than steeply downhill for several miles (BHT starts around 2200′ elevation) until leveling out near a beautiful marsh with more windy, rocky, rooty, muddy trail to cover.
Finally popping out in a field, I than turned around at the first road crossing. What a trail! The climb back up was long and steep… think Adirondacks.
I am absolutely going to fall in love with this trail! More technical than Sehgahunda, but somehow even more beautiful. Deeply wooded, challenging terrain, 1,000’+ drops and climbs are routine… Amazing!
Plus, OCP has hot showers. You really can’t beat hours on beautiful, technical trail, followed by a nice hot shower on site. Perfect.