The Inns of Aurora Nature Trail
Designed by our Outdoorsmen Matt Stevenson and Michael Shaw, the Inns of Aurora Nature Trail gives guests a whole new way to experience the landscape surrounding the Village of Aurora. Covering a three-and-a-half-mile loop to the east of the village, the trail highlights areas of natural beauty and historic significance. These forests and fields are vital to Aurora’s unique character: the sweeping views, shaded forests, and sylvan ravines have attracted people to this place for hundreds of years. Below are a few of our favorite highlights.
The Council Tree
The land around Aurora was originally inhabited by the Cayuga Tribe of the Haudenosaunee Nation. Aurora is close to where the Cayuga village of Chonodote once stood: the hills and forests where the trail runs were cultivated to provide food for the village, including an orchard of hundreds of peach trees. Tragically, the village and its orchards were destroyed by the Sullivan Campaign in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the Cayuga people were driven off the land. The majestic oak tree now known as the Council Tree is one of the few surviving trees from that time. It stands as a living memorial to the Cayuga people who once made their homes here and is a site of reverence. From a respectful distance at the Council Tree Overlook, guests can enjoy views of this beautiful tree and its peaceful meadow, backdropped by Cayuga Lake.
The Old Stone Well
Now shaded by second-growth forest, the Old Stone Well is a relic from Aurora’s agricultural past. The land around the well was once a pasture connected with the beautiful, steepled Webster Barn (near the trail’s entrance on Route 90). Livestock would have watered at the well once upon a time; now, it’s been reclaimed by the surrounding woodland, offering a shady spot for a short rest.
While there are many wonderful ways to enjoy Cayuga Lake from the village, the vistas from Lakeview Ridge are truly special. The elevation gives a dramatic scale to the landscape, with the lake stretching away from the village to the south and the north. In the fall, this spot offers a spectacular view of the autumn colors decorating the lake as the leaves change, as well as the magnificent sunsets that Aurora is known for throughout the year.
The Overlook Platform
There’s so much to see as you climb the trails above the village, and the view gets even better from atop the Overlook Platform. Bring your yoga mat, your birdwatching guide (more on that below), or your picnic basket. This is an ideal place to enjoy an elevated view of the surrounding area: a grown-up tree fort in one of the most beautiful places along the trail.
The nature trail designed itself: rather than plowing a path straight across the hillside, our outdoors crew intentionally followed existing game trails and the contours of the land as they created the nature trail. The final result showcases a variety of landscapes that exemplify the Finger Lakes region, including grasslands, evergreen and deciduous forests, and highland meadows. This range of scenery provides a beautiful display of the area’s defining natural features, all within the same system of approachable trails.
The varied terrain surrounding the nature trail is a wonderful habitat for the many species of birds that live in the area. Aurora is only sixteen miles south of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge—one of the most significant bird watching areas in the country and an important nesting site for bald eagles on the East Coast. Some of the young eagles from Montezuma have been spotted in and around Aurora. Osprey and hawks are also seen frequently, as well as the songbirds that are common in the region. Birdwatching guides and binoculars are available for guests to borrow from our innkeepers.
The same habitat enjoyed by the local bird populations is also home to a number of animal species. Deer, opossums, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, and occasionally skunks all travel through the fields and forests at various times of the day and night. Looking for animal tracks is like a scavenger hunt; for aspiring outdoor survivalists, training your brain to spot the signs left by animals is an invaluable skill. Book a private guided hike with an Inns of Aurora guide to learn some tracking tips, or head out with a guidebook to see what you can find on your own.
The nature trail can be enjoyed year-round with the right equipment. Aurora enjoys a unique microclimate that protects it from the coldest winter temperatures; however, when the snow does fall, you can borrow a pair of snowshoes to trek out on the trails. Snow brings forth a kind of beauty that’s entirely different from the summertime scenery. With a little practice, snowshoeing is an invigorating way to enjoy the soft stillness of the winter woods.
For those who have never tried it before, archery is a wonderfully versatile pastime. It can be a competitive sport or a solo meditative practice; as a group activity, archery is almost as much fun to watch as it is to practice. It’s physically active without being exhausting. And for those who have never picked up a bow before—with a little instruction, beginners can learn the basic techniques in a short amount of time. Guests can book private archery sessions with one of our outdoor guides by contacting our reservations team.