If someone tells you to "take a hike," you're in luck if you live in Western New York, where there are numerous hiking trails.
Some are what are referred to as "Rails to Trails," old rail beds or other transportation corridors that have been preserved as greenspace to be used by hikers and bicyclists. Some are located on state-owned lands, while others pass through private property. Some trails are urban, while others are quite remote and literally off the beaten path. There are trails located in all Western New York regions, so no matter where you live, you're not far from a place where you can hit the trail.
With spring finally here, it's time to lace up those hiking boots and take a hike. This article highlights some of what the area has to offer.
The Genesee Valley Greenway is a multiuse trail that will eventually extend 90 miles from Rochester to Olean. This trail was created along the former rail bed of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the canal towpath left from the Genesee Valley Canal of 1840-78. This level trail is popular for hiking and biking and, in some sections, even horseback riding and snowmobiling. A good access point for this trail is near Letchworth State Park in Mount Morris, just off NY 36.
A portion of the Finger Lakes Trail also travels through our region. The Finger Lakes Trail is an 800-mile trail system that runs west from Albany into the Finger Lakes Region and the Southern Tier. It is a rather hilly trail, more suitable for hiking than biking. Trail heads are marked with a one-foot-square yellow sign with a green FLT logo. One of the branches of this trail is the Bristol Trail, running from Bristol to Hammondsport.
In the Rochester area, hikers may want to check out Mendon Ponds Park in Honeoye Falls. At 2,500 acres, it is the largest park in the Monroe County Park system and has more than 20 miles of multiuse trails.
There are also hiking trail systems in northern Ontario County, including the Ontario Pathway Rail Trail, a 23-mile multipurpose trail that follows an abandoned rail bed running between Canandaigua and Seneca Lakes. Nearby, the Victor Hiking Trail System has 18 miles of trails throughout the town of Victor, using former rail beds and connecting parks.
Also in the Finger Lakes Region is the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, a mostly flat 7.5-mile trail that runs from Dresden to Penn Yan in Yates County. This trail, considered one of the top 25 hiking trails in the Northeast, follows a former canal towpath, the "Crooked Lake Canal," which ran between Keuka and Seneca Lakes in the mid 1800s. The towpath was later used by a railroad until the early 1970s. As you hike this trail, you'll see the foundations of sawmills and other industries located here in the late 1800s.
Head to Chautauqua County, where there are several trails. The Chautauqua Rails to Trails consists of 30 miles of former railway corridors that have been converted to multiuse trails. The trails run between Sherman and Brocton, with many access points along the way.
The Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail is an 18-mile trail that travels through New York State Reforestation areas and the Canadaway Creek Wildlife State Management Area. The trail runs from the Cassadaga area to Gerry. The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail is a 25-mile trail that goes from Mayville to the Pennsylvania state line. Its namesake is considered the "Father of the Chautauqua County Parks System." Detailed maps to the above trails can be obtained from the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau.
The 2,927-acre Zoar Valley State Multiple Use Area in Cattaraugus County, a wilderness area near Gowanda, has numerous hiking trails that are very rugged and should only be traveled by the most experienced hikers. One remote section, known as the "Valley of the Giants," has some of the largest old-growth forest trees in the eastern United States, including the world's tallest basswood (128.2 feet).
Of course, you'll find plenty of hiking trails in some of the area's state parks, including the 65,000-acre Allegany State Park in Salamanca, the largest park in the New York State Park System. There are 18 hiking and nature trails throughout the park. Letchworth State Park has more than 66 miles of hiking trails throughout the 14,350-acre, 17-mile park.
The North Country National Scenic Trail, which will be the longest scenic trail in the country at more than 4,600 miles long, will span between North Dakota and New York when complete. It is currently being developed through a partnership between government agencies and volunteer organizations. Part of this trail picks up the Finger Lakes Trail System and passes through Allegany State Park, Ellicottville and Letchworth State Park.
A little closer to home, check out the Erie Canal Heritage Trail, a very scenic paved path that follows the old towpath of the Erie Canal. This 70-mile trail travels from Lockport to Palmyra along the Erie Canal and eventually will travel all the way to Albany. We also have many trails right in our own backyard, including the Akron Rail Trail, several trails along the Niagara Gorge, Riverwalk Bike Path, and the Ellicott Creek Bike Path, just to name a few.
Many of the trails, both nationwide and here in Western New York, would not exist without the efforts of not-for-profit and volunteer groups like the Rails to Trails Conservancy, which dedicate themselves to preserving former railroad corridors and recycling them into public trails. There are about 11,500 rail-trails in the United States today.
>If you go
Contact the following for maps and more information:
* Genesee Valley Greenway, (585) 658-2569, www.fogvg.org
* Finger Lakes Trail, (585) 658-9320, www.fingerlakestrail.org
* Mendon Ponds Park, (585) 256-4950, www.monroecounty.gov
* Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, (585) 234-7722, www.ontariopathways.org
* Victor Hiking Trails System, (585) 234-8226, www.victorhikingtrails.org
* Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, Friends of the Finger Lake Outlet, P.O. Box 231, Penn Yan, NY 14527
* Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, (800) 242-4569, www.tourchautauqua.com
* Chautauqua Rails to Trails, 269-3666, www2.cecomet.net/crtt/index.html
* Zoar Valley State Multiple Use Area, www.angelfire.com/pa2/STONEMANGUITARS/zoar.html. This Web site has lots of information and pictures of the Zoar Valley. Maps can be obtained from the Gowanda Chamber of Commerce, 532-2834, www.gowandachamber.org
* Rails to Trails Conservancy, (866) 202-9788, www.railtrails.org
* North Country Trail, (866)-HikeNCT, www.northcountrytrail.org
Here are some other sites pertaining to local hiking trails:
* www.wnyhikes.com/hiking-trails.htm is a good site with lots of local hiking resources and information on trails not mentioned in this article.
* www.footprintpress.com is a publisher featuring several books on hiking and biking in Western New York.