Urban Goat on the Go: Hiking Cornell and Cornell’s Plantations

Is your goat feeling like an outcast relegated to the rural lifestyle when all she really wants is to be a glamorous girl in the city? Well I wouldn’t recommend New York City as particularly goat friendly, (unless you plan to feed the homeless or something), but Cornell University is a pretty cosmopolitan place that can be visited on four hooves. So take a day to teach your goat how to navigate stop lights and sidewalks instead of creek crossings and switch backs!

Location: Cornell University & Cornell Plantations

Is it goat approved? If the goat is on leash and can handle large crowds of people then this walk works. If the goat cannot do leashes and prefers to keep humans at arm’s length stay clear!

How you get there: Park in the Cornell Plantations (google it!). See trail map for further indication of parking locations.

Time for hike: About 5 miles round trip, but you may want to take several side trips, especially in the plantations or if you have not visited Cornell’s awesome gorge infested campus. This is an out and back hike.

Best season to do this hike: Every season but you may like winter (during winter break) and summer (during summer break) the most as this dwindles the number of students on campus.

Trails to Take

Dogo the art critic surveys the sculpture garden

Start off at the parking area indicated at the Cornell Plantations. If that little lot is full, there are other nearby parking locations within the plantations themselves. Walk from the parking area towards a group of buildings (Plant Production Facility) that sit on the Forest Home Road. There will be a group planting of ornamental plants between these buildings and the hillside. Walk into this group of ornamental plants (some of which are toxic to goats!). There is a set of stairs up the hillside. Take it. At the top of the stairs is a sculpture garden which is pretty cool and was originally created in the 1960’s when this area was a cow pasture.

From the sculpture garden walk down Arboretum Road (or on its edge), then climb up the trail on the hill that Arboretum Road runs along the edge of. At the top of this hill is a large metal bell that you, (or small child of your choice), can ring. Walk around on the trail at the top of the hill to view the rest of the garden from a safe, and relatively people free, distance.

Herb Garden perimeter

Get back on Arboretum Road, walk up the hill, then at the top of the hill you will see a large field open to your left. This is the hay meadow, and is a great place for lunch and to let the goat graze a bit on your way back. At the bottom of this meadow, Arboretum Road intersects with Caldwell Drive. Cross Arboretum Road and walk through the plantings of small ornamental trees. You will reach the intersection of Forest Home (which enters after just crossing a metal bridge over the river) and Caldwell Dr. Cross over at this intersection and into the gravel parking lot across the road. Walk through the gravel parking lot and look for gravel paths headed into the woods.

Cornell Plantations Visitor Center

You are now in the Mundy Wild Flower Garden area. You do not want to go inside the massive deer fence! Goats are not welcome. Instead, take the gravel path that keeps you closest to the wooden park service buildings adjacent to the parking lot. This will lead you around the fence and to a set of stairs that go up the hillside. Go up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, continue down hill, cross the road, and go down the next set of stairs. You are now in the New York State Herb Garden. If you goat is not prone to treating every hike as a walking buffet line, this is a cool garden to stop and check out. However, poisonous plants are often present and it’s a garden right next to the visitors center so browsing might get you banned.

Walk under the archway and behind the building that sits behind the urban garden. This will take you to a small back garden, then to a paved road running along the bottom of a hill. You want to go right on this road and away from the fancy wood and metal building on your left. The fancy building is the visitors center. Which, since you don’t want to meet a lot of visitors, you certainly don’t want to visit yourself. The paved walkway leads around the hill, (keeping the hill between you and the visitors center). Once you are around the hill look for a trail cutting through the woods to the road (Forest Home Drive again). Cross the road, then head right along the edge of a stone wall. When the wall ends, look for the trail/stairs that lead down to the edge of the pond on your left. You want to proceed along the edge of the pond that runs parallel to Forest Home Dr. Don’t cross the bridge and walk on the opposite side! There will be a lot more people.

Architecture Building with Dragon Day decoration

You will come out on a sidewalk. Walk down the sidewalk for a short ways, then look for a paved walkway to go back down towards the pond. There will be a cement bridge over the river down hill from here. If it’s not too crowded, walk out on it, because this bridge actually crosses over a pretty spectacular gorge.

Once you are done ogling, continue in the same direction you were going back up an incline on a paved walkway. This will dump you out at an intersection. The architecture building is across the road, and to your right the road crosses another ornate bridge. Continue in the direction you were heading, and cross this intersection to continue on the sidewalk. Keep walking on the sidewalk until you see a trail head off to your right. Go down this trail.

View of the bottom of the gorge at the end of the hike

Following the trail will cause you to eventually pass a really cool suspension bridge. This one is also worth walking out on and admiring the view. If you continue down the trail you will reach a turn off that goes down a long set of stairs into the gorge. At the bottom of this set of stairs is another cool view of the gorge, but if you walk past the barricades and the signage telling you how people die in the gorges all the time there is a cliff face with a lot of sloughed off scree at the base. This is a great location to locate fossils. Check through the scree and look for pieces of slate with imprints of shells, barnacles, and occasionally more exotic critters in them if you have time.

Then turn around and walk back!

Cornell Gardens 1

Cornell Gardens 2

Cornell Gardens 3

Cornell University Hike


One of the many entertaining gorge safety signs! The fossil area is just past this sign.
  1. People will want to pet the goat. People will want to take pictures of the goat. Most of these people will not understand anything about goat behavior or biology. You know, the same old mantra.
  2. You will need to pick up after the goat, so remember a plastic bag or two.
  3. There are few good places to give the goat a drink, (despite the number of water sources on the route), so bring a water bottle.
  4. I once got trapped in the herb garden, (which is surrounded by a fence), by a large group of people who did not understand the need for personal space for goats. It got very troublesome. Always remember that on one wall of the garden is a set of stairs set in the wall that you and the goat can use to escape if you get trapped by camera toting tourists.

In sum: Goats can be really freaked out by their own reflections. In this urban environment, take the time to find a reflective building and enjoy the antics as the goat tries to figure out how the “other goat” got inside the glass.

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