Place-Based Adventures During COVID-19

UPDATED: March, 25, 2020

Cornell Outdoor Education wants you to stay home as much as possible. Yes, as outdoor educators we want you to stay indoors! However, we understand that indoor virtual learning and remote work can be emotionally taxing. With proper social distancing practices ( and some basic hiking safety precautions (, you can take a break from indoor spaces and get out and enjoy the outdoors. Studies show time spent in nature decreases stress and anxiety and contributes to overall well-being. We encourage and recommend limiting your time outdoors to brief, local outings and close-to-home adventures. This is the reason we call this a place-based adventure guide.  When planning your outings, please consider opting for less visited sites and trails as many popular outdoor locations and facilities have recently been overrun with visitors, defeating the purpose of social distancing and putting at risk the health of employees who oversee and manage these natural areas. Lastly, remember to always maintain compliance with federal, state, and local health and safety guidelines. Whether you are on Cornell campus, in NY state, or your home state, the following ideas will give you options to go outside a few hours a week for a safe and healthy time in the outdoors.

Cornell University on-campus hikes – Check out the trails and natural areas right here on campus managed by Cornell Botanic Gardens.  or

Hikes in the Ithaca area – Did you know that Ithaca is one of the top hiking destinations in NY state? The friends at Ithaca Trails have created an online resource to find a trail near you. The Finger Lakes Land Trust also has interactive resources and guides to their 35 nature preserves

Hikes in NY state – NY State has waived entrance fees for state parks in an effort to promote responsible enjoyment of the outdoors. Find your nearest state park with this link

Hikes in your state -- Not in Ithaca, no problem! The Hiking Project has great hiking trails suggestions near you.

Biking in Ithaca and beyond – Want to ride your bike? Here are some local favorite bike routes. Use and filter by “biking” or “mountain biking” to see what trails are open to biking. Not in Ithaca? Find a biking trail near you

Road Biking - Create a free, basic account at Use the Route Planner to create your own routes with mileage, elevation and turn by turn directions. Use the Find function to search routes others have created in your area

Mountain Biking - and can help you find trails, get descriptions and route suggestions, AND see where you are in real-time all over the world. Download the free apps on your phone, and be sure to download your state or country so you can navigate offline. Depending on the area, one app or the other may have better trail coverage.

Paddling -- Whether you like kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddling, this guide will help you locate a paddling adventure near you

Merganzer in Taughannock Creek, Photo by David KatzBirdwatching – Download Merlin Bird ID free app from the Lab of Ornithology and enjoy the spring bird migration.

Stargazing – Have you looked up at the sky lately? These free stargazing apps can turn any night sky (even from inside) into a spectacular show of constellations. To learn about the myths associated with constellations follow these links and

Geocaching – Join the world’s largest treasure hunt! Use GPS coordinates to find hidden containers or ‘caches”. Some require decoding puzzling clues to receive the coordinates. Caches are described by difficulty of find (how well it is hidden) and difficulty of terrain (how hard it is to get to). There are hundreds in Ithaca!. Once you get the hang of it, you can consider creating your own caches for others to find. Then, you’ll be perfectly positioned to teach future COE Geocaching courses!

Outdoor Photography -- Spring days will bring beautiful colors and blooming landscapes. These outdoor photography links will show you tips and tricks for your next session. and

Nature Journaling -- Practice recording your outdoor experience through the use of art and words. Nature journaling is a magnificent way to capture your time outside. These links will give tips and inspirations for your first journal entries and

Wildflower Discovery -- Spring is the perfect time to go out outside and discover new wildflowers. This interactive identification site will show you common wildflowers in your area.