One of the nation's top regions for outdoor activity is the Finger Lakes, over 9,000 square miles of luscious scenery in fourteen New York counties surrounding eleven glacial lakes, the Erie Canal and part of Lake Ontario itself.
And one of the best ways to enjoy all this natural beauty is by bicycle.
The unique Finger Lakes biking experience encompasses wineries and vineyards; canyons and gorges; beautiful parks filled with waterfalls; routes specifically for those who love birds and other wildlife; and of course fantastic views of the lakes and valleys that make up the famous region.
While any time to bike the Finger Lakes region is worth the trip, Fall brings an especially beautiful ride - the region is known for some of the best fall foliage in the northeast.
Seasonally, it's all good and filled with amazing options:
• Check out Let's Go Hike and Bike
for with over 70 diverse hiking trails and biking routes.
• Unleash a wild side with the BadAss Bike Tours of Southern Finger Lakes
, a dozen longer routes (53 miles to 108 miles) for those that can take the heat, accept the challenge and do the extreme. Site has maps and turn-by-turn instructions.
• Participate in this summer's Bon Ton Roulet
(July 22 -28), often referred to as the "luxury" ride in the cycling industry. The fully supported tour takes cyclists from wide-open farm fields, past stunning overlooks of lakes, to cavernous water-carved gorges. Short (45 to 50 miles per day) and long (65-57 miles per day) route options are available.
• Bike along the Erie Canal Heritage Trail
, America's most famous and influential man-made waterway.
The Finger Lakes region is easily accessible from key hubs like New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto, making it an ideal getaway destination.
And it's filled with popular trails like these:
Erie Canal Trail
The historic Erie Canal Trail runs along the canal towpath with a mostly flat surface, as cyclists travel through quaint canal towns and villages. The Erie Canal and the villages along it are being rediscovered for their scenic beauty and rich role in the history of Colonial America, the American Revolution, commerce and women's rights. The trail will ultimately be a 524-mile continuous trail along New York's historic Erie, Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain canals. Today, the Erie Canalway Trail is more than three-fourths complete and when finished, the trail will be the nation's longest multiple-use trail. The pathway can be broken into smaller sections for biking including a seven-mile pass from Macedon to Fairport, New York.
Tour of the Bay
Cyclists will skirt the edges of Sodus Bay's majestic waters while passing by the site of the Sodus Shaker Community and the Chimney Bluffs Park. Formed centuries ago by glacier activity and molded by weather and age, this natural wonder is a must see. Continuing on to the Village of Wolcott, riders will marvel at its apple orchards, beautiful landscape and rural farmland. In addition, the route is peppered with marinas, boating services, shops, restaurants and farm markets.
Keuka Lake Outlet Trail
This historic trail follows the Keuka Outlet Stream and the abandoned Fall Brook Railroad which was built in 1884 to facilitate commerce between Keuka and Seneca Lakes. All along the Outlet Trail, signs of the former industrial age of the 1800's and 1900's are prevalent. Lining the trail are remnants of gristmills, sawmills, distilleries, stone canal locks and an abandoned bridge connecting the trail
Onondoga Lake Park
Known as "The Central Park of Central New York," Onondaga Lake Park, is the most popular park in Central New York. Cyclists can experience the best paved, vehicle free trails in the region with a legacy of history reflecting 500 years of community growth; great special events, sporting competitions and festivals. Seven miles of shoreline nooks and crannies provide tremendous options. Whether it's in-line skating, bicycling, walking or running, Onondaga Lake Park has four perfect trails: East Shore Recreation Trail, Shoreline Walking Trail, West Shore Trail (John Haley Memorial Trail), and Lakeland Trail. These trails encompass everything from wind-sheltered woodlands, active areas and those ideals for solitude and observation.
Genesee Valley Greenway
The Genesee Valley Greenway follows the historic transportation corridor of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and its successor, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Rochester Branch, abandoned in 1962. The Greenway includes a multi-use trail that begins at the Erie Canal Heritage Trail in Rochester, passes through five counties, and will be 90 miles when completed to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County. Fifty-six miles are currently open, taking users through scenic woodlands, river and stream valleys, rolling farmlands, steep gorges, and historic villages.
Cayuga Waterfront Trail
The first section of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail was completed in 2003 and winds in a two-mile loop in Cass Park, along the southwestern shore of beautiful Cayuga Lake with unusual geological features from glacial development. It is a popular urban multi-use trail enjoyed by many joggers, walkers, strollers, and cyclists throughout the seasons. The Cayuga Waterfront Trail is currently two-thirds of the way constructed with a new two-mile section furnished with benches, bike racks, mile markers, overlooks, additional landscaping, interpretive and directional signs, and other amenities.
If you're thinking about a biking vacation this summer or fall, keep the Finger Lakes in mind.