View from Mark Twain Trail in Elmira
Upstate New York

These Nature Trails in Elmira are the Perfect Escape in New York

With the stress and limitations we are all experiencing in this year, a nature escape is just the therapy we all need. Luckily, there are several places in New York where you can do just that! You can get more in touch with your inner spirit or seek out the gorgeous scenery and wildlife around you. These nature trails in Elmira are just the ticket!

A special thank you to Chemung County Chamber of Commerce for hosting me on my recent trip to Elmira and the nature trails mentioned.

Tanglewood Nature Center

The Tanglewood Nature Center & Museum is a mecca of nature and wildlife in southern New York. Free for all visitors, Tanglewood embraces and promotes all native animals and plants in the area.

Tanglewood Nature Center

Nature Trails

Tanglewood is home to over ten miles of nature trails in Elmira, with routes varying in length and difficulty. Choose from the shortest and easiest of trails if you’re visiting with the kiddos. Or if you’re up for a challenge, the longest trail comes in at 3 miles long and moderate difficulty. That’s the Mark Twain Trail (also referred to as the Red Oak Trail), named in honor of the American author who called Elmira home for his summers.

The Mark Twain Trail has sign posts along the way with quotes from some of Twain’s most famous works. It leads out to Frenchman’s Bluff and back, offering some incredible views along the way. In fact, these are the same views that inspired Twain’s writing. The Chemung River below reminded him of the Mississippi from his childhood.


There are several animals that call Chemung County home. One of the most notable is the timber rattlesnake, who can be spotted along the trails, though it is rare. A wide variety of birds can be seen as you hike, as well as frogs, smaller snakes, and the typical chipmunks and squirrels.

Please note that dogs are NOT allowed at Tanglewood or on the trails.


The museum at Tanglewood, like the trails, is free for all visitors. They offer educational programming for children and adults, including highlights on the flora and fauna from the area. There are live animals on exhibit as well.

Crow Calls Nature Sanctuary

Another option for connecting with nature in Elmira is Crow Calls Nature Sanctuary. Following the tragic death of their teenage son, Martha and Bill Benedict sought answers. They spent several years in Lilydale, New York, studying spiritualism and finding ways to connecting to the world. After being ordained as spiritual ministers, they founded Crow Calls as a place to share their spirituality with others.

The different points of interest in the sanctuary offer different places to connect with nature. The Benedicts are strong believers in the meaning of different aspects of your surrounding through day sign readings. Every aspect of nature around you represents meaning – the animals crossing your path, the strength of the wind, the direction in which each occurs.

Trails, Meditation, and More

So what is Crow Calls? It’s a nature sanctuary – a place for you to connect with nature, seek peace, and reflect on yourself and your goals. Martha and Bill are incredibly hospitable and eager to share their knowledge with visitors. Their property is home to several nature trails and places to reflect.

Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is for both nature lovers and those seeking inner peace. The Japanese coined the phrase “shinrin-yoku” in the 1980s as forest bathing became a popular way for people to escape from technology to the natural landscape around them. The purpose of forest bathing is for people to walk through the forest, in a natural or near-natural state and take time to appreciate their surroundings and reflect. It’s a meditative experience.

If you have the Benedicts leading you through the trail, they will teach you the significance of everything around you. A fallen branch over the pathway indicates a bump in the road, and a spot for you to stop and reflect. The spiderweb you got caught on was weaving a story. If you get snagged on a branch, it’s a sign that you should pause and reflect. And most importantly, the oils emitted from the surrounding trees will cleanse and calm you.

Chickadee’s Circle Labyrinth

One of the highlights of Crow Calls is the labyrinth. Martha and Bill spent time studying the land to find the power center. Once they found it, the location became the center of the labyrinth they built in 2011. They cleared all the land in the field, laid down barrier to make the paths, and then let nature take over the rest. Honeysuckle, milkweed, Catalpa trees, ferns, and more make up the hedges separating the paths within the labyrinth.

What is a labyrinth? Most people use the word interchangeably with a maze. But, although similar in nature, the two have very different purposes. Mazes are designed to entertain royalty, confuse travelers, and even trap trolls according the Norwegian folklore. But Labyrinths date further back and are meant to be places that are peaceful and reflective. They have one single path from start to finish. The pathways generally form layers of a half-circle, representing the constant shift between left brain and right brain.

Chickadee’s Circle does just that. Martha recommends that you enter the labyrinth seeking the answer to a question. And each ring of the labyrinth represents a different question to ask yourself while you walk the pathway on the search to your ultimate answer. The Benedicts will offer you containers of cornmeal and tobacco to spread throughout the labyrinth to show your respect for nature. While you walk, Martha will do a day sign reading of everything that happens around you while you walk the labyrinth. Our reading included a bluebird in the east, song birds in the south, crickets in the west, and thunder off in the distance to the north.

More Places to Explore at Crow Calls

In addition to the trails mentioned, there are many other pieces to Crow Calls. A medicine wheel was created in Native American tradition. There’s a reflection pool and a meditation area. In addition, when possible, Martha and Bill host spiritual retreats and allow ceremonies to take place on their property.

And to be clear, Crow Calls isn’t just for people who are overly spiritual or religious. It’s the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life or the stresses of work and family. Take a break and give yourself some time to reflect on your life and renew yourself with positive energy.

Nature Trails in New York

These nature trails in Elmira are just a taste of the natural beauty in New York. Looking for more nature escapes around the state? Check out these parks and waterfalls in Central New York!


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