Posts Tagged ‘Pat McGee trail’

To fully enjoy the sights and smells that autumn in New York has to offer, try walking or biking along a multi-use trail. Take your time as you stroll or pedal your way through a canopy of bright fall foliage, breathing in the fresh air, and drawing in the scenery around you.

Multi-use trails such as rail and canal trails, greenways and bikeways are family friendly places to walk, run, or bike. Many are along historic railways or canal corridors and are mostly flat. Many of the trails are also located near scenic rivers and streams. One thing they have in common, however, is that they all offer a view of the beautiful foliage during the fall months.

Parks & Trails New York has put together a list of Ten Terrific Trails we recommend for fall.

To find a trail near you, use TrailFinder, Parks & Trails New York’s online guide to multi-use trails across New York State at www.ptny.org/trailfinder. TrailFinder can be used to search for trails in several ways—by trail name, by trail attributes such as length, surface, allowable uses, distance from a particular location, or by browsing the interactive map.

Parks & Trails New York is New York’s leading statewide advocate for parks and trails, dedicated since 1985 to improving our health, economy, and quality of life through the use and enjoyment of green space. Find out more about Parks & Trails New York by visiting www.ptny.org and our Facebook and Twitter sites.

Take Your Bike - Rochester available at www.footprintpress.com

Take Your Bike – Rochester available at http://www.footprintpress.com

Erie Canalway Trail – Between Albany and Buffalo more than 270 miles of Erie Canalway Trail provide the opportunity to experience quaint towns and a bounty of fall color along the state’s historic New York State Canal System.  The longest continuous stretch of trail begins in Lockport, about 10 miles east of Buffalo, and continues 100 miles to Lyons along the Erie Canal in western New York.  Other long stretches can be found in the 36-mile Old Erie Canal State Park between Dewitt and Rome in central New York and the more than 40 miles of trail between Little Falls and Amsterdam in eastern New York. When completed, the Erie Canalway Trail will provide 365 miles of multi-use trails along the canal, making it the longest intra-state trail in the country.

Genesee Valley Greenway
– In western New York, the Genesee Valley Greenway’s well-known “tunnel of green” turns to red and yellow as more than 60 miles of trail follows the Genesee River and the abandoned Genesee Valley Canal through woodlands, farmlands, and historic villages from Rochester to near the Pennsylvania border.  Within Letchworth State Park, the Genesee Valley Greenway affords sweeping views of the famous gorge and waterfalls of the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

Take Your Bike - Finger Lakes available at www.footprintpress.com

Take Your Bike – Finger Lakes available at http://www.footprintpress.com

Catharine Valley Trail – The hillsides resplendent with autumn color above Seneca Lake are a perfect backdrop to begin a visit to the Catharine Valley Trail in Watkins Glen.   The 10-mile trail follows abandoned railroad and canal towpath corridors through the 900-acre Queen Catharine Marsh, historic villages, and a heavily wooded, glacially carved valley Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes.

Pat McGee Trail – In the western Southern Tier, the relatively rural 12-mile Pat McGee Trail offers the opportunity to experience the colors of fall while passing through woods, wetlands, and open fields filled with rich a variety of plants, trees, and wildlife.

Cato-Fairhaven Trail – Ponds, wetlands, and old farm buildings add to the rural and agricultural charm of the 14-mile Cato-Fairhaven Trail.  Dense stands of sumac, beech, maple, and aspen trees provide plenty of fall color along this corridor near the shores of Lake Ontario in Central New York.

– What better place to experience autumn color than in the Adirondacks.  There are plenty of opportunities to be surrounded by the best of fall foliage from this 12-mile trail that connects the five mountain communities that give the trail its name – Thendara, Old Forge, Big Moose, Inlet, and Eagle Bay.

Catskill Scenic Trail
– The Catskill Scenic Trail follows the route of the former Ulster and Delaware railroad. Young and old will find this an easy and enjoyable route through the foothills of the Catskills.  The trail parallels the West Branch of the Delaware River for the entire route and offers many delightful fishing spots.

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park:  Drink in breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley fully decked out in autumn color from more than 200 feet above the middle of the river on the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.  The Walkway is the center piece of a 3.6-mile loop that links riverside parks, cultural attractions and historic points of interest on both the Poughkeepsie and Highland waterfronts.

North County Trailway  Following the bed of the former Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad, this paved trail winds more than 22 miles through the woodlands, parks, and suburbs of Westchester County.  Historic rail stations and a beautiful bridge across the New Croton Reservoir add to the appeal of the route.

Bethpage Bikeway – The 6.5–mile Bethpage Bikeway links Long Island’s Bethpage State Park with the South Shore at Massapequa.  From the Park, the trail passes through a mature forest cover along the Bethpage State Parkway before entering the mixed evergreens and deciduous forests of the Massapequa County Park and Preserve.  The park’s ponds, wetlands, and Massapequa Lake and Creek can all be experienced from the trail.

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by Brian Castner, Buffalo Spree

Western New York is blessed with an impressive railroad network, a legacy of yesteryear’s manufacturing might. And while a (perhaps surprisingly) large number of those lines still carry significant traffic, the many forgotten spidery branch lines that criss-cross and connect the rural portions of our region are ripe for reuse and repurpose. Long since abandoned by the rail carriers, they lie out of sight, hidden behind warehouses just off small village main streets or cutting across hilly country and the enveloping forest. A growing chorus of advocates around the country has a plan for these lines, one that encourages a healthy community and creates a public asset: multiuse trails. As a proposed rail-trail from Orchard Park to Springville along the old Erie-Cattaraugus Line gains traction, Western New Yorkers can enjoy two already established trails in the Southern Tier that showcase the potential: the Pat McGee Trail and Chautauqua Rail Trail.

Routes made out of right-of-ways have many railroad-related charms to recommend them: wild-grape-covered trestle bridges over creeks and streams. Relics of stone-pillar signage that once cued the conductor to blow the train engine’s whistle at road crossings. And, perhaps most importantly for the bike rider, a mild, comparatively gentle slope to peddle.

In the three warmest seasons I prefer biking rail-trails as the optimum method to take advantage of their unique attributes. The trail’s wide, nearly flat and straight-as-an-arrow profile makes it possible to cover a lot of territory on a bike and see large portions of the country it cuts through in a single day. It’s also easy to get around the small towns and villages you encounter on your route, making it feasible to add a lunch stop or antique store visit to your itinerary.

A quick word of warning about choice of bike when using these two trails. The surfaces are nearly entirely unpaved and instead consist of a mix of gravel, crushed stone, dirt, and grass. You’ll make slower time than when biking on asphalt, so plan accordingly. Also, a skinny-tire dedicated road bike will have significant trouble navigating the uneven surface; taking such a bike out on one of these paths will leave you frustrated and the bicycle potentially damaged. Instead, choose a fat-tire alternative: a hybrid or mountain bike. You don’t need the beefiest ride intended for hillside root staircases, but a hardy frame, wide tire, and a set of shocks will save you much heartache.

These routes are both great for taking in fall foliage, nestled as they are in prime color-watching country. But don’t forget, when the snow flies, you can still enjoy them via snowmobile, snowshoe, or cross-country ski.

Pat McGee Trail (12.2 miles one-way)

Named after the popular and long-serving Assemblywoman and Senator, this trail follows the 160-year-old Erie Railroad line, connecting Salamanca to Cattaraugus via Little Valley roughly halfway in between. For my latest trek I started at the southernmost trailhead, a parking area on the outskirts of Salamanca along US Route 353, and peddled up to the Cattaraugus trailhead and back—about a half-day trip.
The southern portion of the path is a continuous incline, gaining 200 feet of elevation between Salamanca and Little Valley. To my eventually weary legs, I swore the trail was a geographical impossibility: uphill both ways. In reality, it crests north of Little Valley before dropping down into the village of Cattaraugus. That simple unnamed ridge contains unexpected significance: It is the north/south Continental Divide. Rain falling south of the ridge flows into the Allegheny River, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Rain on the north end of the trail flows into Cattaraugus Creek, Lake Erie, the St. Lawrence, and ultimately the Atlantic.
Fortunately, the stewards of the trail have placed markers to flag that curiosity, and much else besides. Each habitat—scrub marshes, progressive forests, mixed sugar maple and beech—is well explained and documented for the ecologically minded. But if simple scenery is all you are after, you won’t be disappointed either. The path crosses and follows Little Valley Creek up the dale, past cornfields and forested hills, marshes, and ponds. While not wilderness, the trail has its share of wildlife; I scared up a covey of grouse that flushed in front of me as I peddled through. Pause in Little Valley to visit the alpaca farm or have lunch at the park pavilions along the trail. Or stop for a moment and enjoy the hill-meets-water view along Linlyco Lake, formed when a dollop of discarded glacier ice sunk into the ground where it was left behind when the primary sheets retreated ten thousand years ago.

Chautauqua Rail Trail (28.5 miles one-way)

The Pat McGee Trail is a good warmup for the longer, steeper, and more grueling Chautauqua line. The reward and payoff of the latter is also greater, however, as the trail cuts through terrain most only see while driving past on the New York State Thruway: the bluffs overlooking Lake Erie, rolling Southern Tier uplands, and grape-vine-saturated wine country.
If you plan on doing an out-and-back trek I recommend starting on the north end, at the trailhead and parking area on Thayer Road just outside of Brocton. That way you tackle the 12-mile climb up the ridge first, gaining 750 feet in elevation on your way up to Mayville on Chautauqua Lake. While huffing and puffing up the one long switchback, be sure to stop and look around once in a while. The stands of maple and aspen create a faux railroad tunnel that alternates red, orange, and gold, and when the canopy breaks it does so to reveal views of descending vineyards and Lake Erie beyond. As the path winds past and through farmers’ fields and cow pens I was reminded of similar rights-of-way in England, rural but properly civilized, good food and drink never too far away, hopping from one pasture to the next.
Reward yourself for finishing the long climb by stopping in the waterside village of Mayville, at the top of the bluffs and at the midpoint of the trail. Here the path runs past quaint summer cabins fronting the north shore of Chautauqua Lake, eventually leading to the old rail depot that serves as headquarters for the nonprofit Chautauqua Rails to Trails group that owns and maintains the path. Take a break here to catch a quick history lesson or a bite to eat at one of a number of restaurants that look out over the lake.
If riding through wine country without even a taste is driving you crazy, take a short 3.5-mile side trek south from Mayville along the west shore of the lake to visit the new Mazza Chautauqua Cellars. To get there, follow State Route 394 (a dedicated bike route with larger shoulders) south and make a right on Chautauqua Stedman Road.
If you are tackling the whole rail trail, however, you are only halfway done, as the path continues to the west and south, eventually connecting to the village of Sherman. In order to skirt the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, the route must join Hannum Road for a mile section and then turn south on Summerdale Road for an even briefer bit before becoming dedicated rail-trail once again. Bird lovers will want to complete the entire route to Sherman to stop at trailside wetlands where 175 winged species have been noted. (I, on the other hand, can’t pass by a gorge or river without a quick peek.) Continue on Hannum Road into the state forest to visit an oft-overlooked slate bottom canyon spectacularly carved by Chautauqua Creek.

Brian Castner writes about the outdoors for Spree. More information on the trails discussed here can be

Take Your Bike - Genesee Valley

found at www.enchantedmountains.com/trails/pat-mcgee-trail, www.chaurtt.org, and www.ecattrail.org.

For other bike trails in Western NY, pick up a copy of Take Your Bike – Family Rides in the Finger Lakes & Genesee Valley Region.

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