A Hike-Bike-Paddle Paradise
in Rochester, N.Y.!
Scenic trails and waterways are teeming
with outdoor fun and adventure
"It's so green here!"
That's a common reaction from visitors from other parts of the country and the world when they come to Rochester, N.Y. and the surrounding region. True, the city of Rochester is an urban center rich with arts and culture, great food and drink, and attractions for the entire family. But if you're looking for outdoor fun - bring your bike, your hiking shoes, or your paddle. And schedule plenty of time here to enjoy your sport!
We've got more than 12,000 acres of parkland, over 100 miles of well-marked trails, and waterways ranging from rivers and lakes to the historic Erie Canal.
A good resource to finding trails in the Rochester area for both cyclists and hikers is the "Genesee-Finger Lakes Regions Trails Guide" compiled by the Genesee Region Trails Coalition. It lists 30 multi-use trails along with parks and other recreation areas.
Free wheeling! Bring your bike.
Bicycling Magazine named Rochester "One of the top bike-friendly cities in the U.S."
Why? Scenic trails, new bike lanes and well-maintained roadways attract cyclists here from all over the world. Municipal buses have bike racks. There are 45 lane miles of on-street bicycle facilities in the City of Rochester.
Cyclists come here for recreational, racing, tandem, recumbent, and mountain biking. They come from every U.S. state, every Canadian province and countries around the world to indulge their two-wheeling passion. Whether you bring your own bike or rent one, you'll find outstanding recreational, off-road and urban bike trails.
With its impressive array of recreational and off-road trails plus well-maintained highways, you may find yourself singing the praises of this bike-friendly community. Urban bike trails and most major streets have lanes that are wide enough to accommodate a bicyclist's needs, while state and county roads have paved shoulders, separated from lanes of motorized traffic by a white stripe.
Most local trails also provide smooth riding on surfaces ranging from stone dust (sedimentary rock) to asphalt. Another option is to travel rural roads with little traffic and picturesque villages providing good rest stops.
Leisurely rides & challenging competitions
Opportunities for beautifully scenic rides in the Rochester area are remarkable with recreational trails ranging from 1 mile (1.6 km) to more than 50 miles (80 km).
New York's world-renowned Erie Canal System is a perfect ride for the littlest cyclists on training wheels to grandparents out for a leisurely spin, with wide, flat, safe and open paths that run along the canal side through parks and villages.
Enjoy the views and cooling breezes of a ride along the shoreline of vast Lake Ontario -- one of America's five Great Lakes. If you're ambitious you may also want to follow the Genesee River south into Letchworth State Park, the "Grand Canyon of the East," with a 40-mile ride from Rochester using the scenic Riverview Trail and Genesee Valley Greenway.
If you enjoy pedaling with other biking enthusiasts, you'll find a warm welcome from members of local recreational, racing, tandem, recumbent and mountain biking clubs. Annual biking activities include nearly 20 major rides for charity, more than 300 club rides, and a series of weekly race-training rides.
The Rochester Bicycling Club is an excellent resource for rides - they schedule over 400 rides a year covering the greater Rochester area and the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York with a focus on fun, safety and fitness.
The Flower City Looking Good program from the City of Rochester offers many guided walking or bike tours - a chance to "Get out, Get fit & Enjoy the City."
Bike races in the Rochester area include the ultra-marathon QuadZilla - 4 consecutive 125-mile rides that start in Ithaca, loop through vineyards in the Finger Lakes, up and down steep climbs and choppy rollers, through Letchworth State Park into the countryside of Geneseo, past Fair Haven State Beach on Lake Ontario and back to Ithaca in 48 hours! These are also qualifying races for the major randonneur races in France and New England.
Rounding out the annual cycling season are the Cobb's Hill Cyclocross, Ellison Park Cyclocross, and the Webster Park Cyclocross races for riders of every ability and experience levels, from beginners to world-class professionals - run by Full Moon Vista bike shop in Rochester's South Wedge neighborhood.
In fact -- Rochester has great services for its cycling visitors. With many full-service, family-owned bicycle shops scattered throughout the greater Rochester area, cyclists will find a good range of parts and service options when needed. There are also plenty of lodging facilities, from bed & breakfast inns and family-operated motels to national hotel chains -- all ready to accommodate people who wouldn't think of traveling without their bikes!
Free and footloose! Bring your hiking shoes.
Long or short. Challenging or oh-so-easy. From leisurely strolls to "bring those trusty hiking boots,"- the Rochester area has great trails tailor-made for walking and hiking enthusiasts in every season. Do some urban hiking within the city itself. Hike and climb in some of the area's more natural environments. Nature trails within area parks are excellent for cross-country skiing or a snowshoe trek in winter, too.
While you lace up, let's start with the parks.
Highland Park - Hike one of the oldest arboretums in the U.S. Designed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Highland Park offers paved walkways meandering among hundreds of lilac bushes and other flowers, plus a natural path through the park's arboretum.
Seneca Park -A two-mile trail in Seneca Park offers dramatic views of the Genesee River along with wilderness areas to experience. Don't be alarmed if you hear a lion roar or the sound of elephants - this park also contains the Seneca Park Zoo.
Genesee Valley Park -- The Genesee Riverway Trail is a 3.4-mile hard-surface trail linking downtown Rochester and Genesee Valley Park, with splendid skyline vistas, heavily wooded areas, picnic spots, fishing docks, and more. Clearly marked with green signs, access points to this trail include downtown Rochester, South Avenue near Court Street, and within Genesee Valley Park.
The Genesee Riverway Trail - Go urban hiking within just a few blocks of downtown Rochester on wooded trails and walkways with stunning views, wooden viewing decks, a pedestrian bridge, and a canoe launch. There are overlook areas for the Genesee River's gorge and waterfalls along the Genesee Riverway Trail -- easily accessed from Maplewood Park Rose Garden.
Of course, all of the largest public parks in the Rochester area provide hiking trails as a recreational option.
Mendon Ponds Park - This is a huge park at 2,514 acres full of unique land formations left by retreating glaciers. Landmarks such as "kettles, kames and eskers" have given Mendon Ponds Park recognition on the National Registry of Natural Landmarks, and help make it a fascinating place to hike. Deep pine forests, marshlands, meadows and ponds guarantee your hike here will always be diverse no matter what the season. Snowshoeing and cross-country Nordic skiing are popular activities in winter.
Durand-Eastman Park - At Durand-Eastman Park (965 acres), trails through a hilly terrain sometimes give hikers a view of the park's 5,000 feet of Lake Ontario waterfront, too - an extra bonus!
Black Creek Park (1,500 acres) offers trails for hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Northampton Park (973 acres) adds the attraction of Springdale Farm - animals, gardens, and unique robotic milking parlor there are part of the fun of exploration.
Powder Mills Park (380 acres) includes a state fish hatchery and a meadow that blooms in May with thousands of daffodils.
Ellison Park (447 acres) contains a network of "hidden" trails providing walks of an hour or more through pristine forests that feel far removed from any trace of civilization.
To learn more about Monroe County's 12,000acres of parkland, visit www.monroecounty.gov/parks
Diverse and exciting trails
Nearby Perinton has been named a "Top 10 Trail Town" by the American Hiking Society for its impressive 40-mile system of hiking and nature trails
The Thomas Creek Wetland Walk, just outside the canal village of Fairport, is a treat for nature lovers with its elevated boardwalk, observation platform, and trails that are even accessible to people with disabilities.
The Rochester Museum & Science Center's Cumming Nature Center in Naples at the end of Canandaigua Lake is another excellent opportunity for guided and individual hikes and walks throughout the year. Choose the level hike you enjoy through this 900- acre nature preserve on groomed trails in spring, summer and fall. Or snow shoe and ski in winter in a gloriously pristine natural environment.
For more adventurous hikers, Genesee Valley Greenway is one of the premiere trails in the Northeast. It's a remarkable long-distance trail that will eventually span a 90-mile corridor following an historic transportation route first used as a canal (1840-1878) and later by trains (1880-1960s). Ultimately, it will become a multi-use, all-season trail passing through 5 counties, several villages and 17 townships from Lake Ontario in Rochester to the border of Pennsylvania in New York State's Southern Tier. Fifty miles of trails are accessible between Genesee Valley Park and Letchworth State Park, plus a few shorter sections in other areas.
Walk along the water
Who doesn't love wild, romantic waterfalls? Rochester's High Falls is a thundering 96 ft. (29+ meter) drop in the heart of downtown! Or view three spectacular waterfalls in Letchworth State Park. You'll find hundreds of waterfalls cascading in the ravines and gullies of the Finger Lakes - a hiker and climber's paradise.
New York's world-renowned Erie Canal System - Flat, safe and open paths run along the canal side through parks and villages for hikes and nature walks. The world-renowned Erie Canalway Trail offers 450 miles of wonderful views along old towpaths of the legendary waterway created to link Albany and Buffalo. With no motorized vehicles allowed, walkers, joggers, hikers and cyclists enjoy safe, easy traveling.
The Erie Canal Heritage Trail, part of the longer Canalway Trail, covers 70 miles between Fairport and Lockport. A promenade-style section of this trail through the Corn Hill neighborhood of Rochester also features interpretive signage of canal history along with benches for resting and docking for boats. (The promenade also has one of the best views of the Rochester city skyline.)
And for those who prefer a slower pace while enjoying the great outdoors, there are plenty of fascinating walking-tour routes around this historic city, too.
Free Flowing! Bring your paddle.
We don't want to brag (well, actually we do!) but Rochester is blessed with some of the most beautiful natural surroundings anywhere - and waterways of every kind: the magnificent inland sea of the Great Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, meandering creeks, the spectacular glacial Finger Lakes, the enchanting Erie Canal. Every one of them is perfect for rowing, sailing, canoeing or kayaking.
If you love spending recreational time surrounded by water, Rochester is ready with a wonderful variety of easily accessible waterways -- ranging from scenic and peaceful to exciting and surprising. So while sailboats and motorboats primarily claim the waves of Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay, the allure of Rochester's rivers, inlets, coves, and canal belongs to those seeking premier paddling territory.
Gliding along the Genesee River toward Rochester in a canoe or kayak brings a thrilling sight when the city's skyline suddenly springs into view and the pulse of an urban area mingles with the quiet lapping of oars dipping into the river. Within sight of the skyline, the river's wildlife share the water - egrets, herons, turtles, ducks and more float peaceably near paddlers.
Don't miss docking for awhile at Corn Hill Landing on the Genesee to enjoy a meal, indulge a taste for great ice cream, or explore a few of Rochester's nearby historic sites.
The Erie Canal - 21st century style
If you paddle in the other direction, you'll find where the Erie Canal flows into the Genesee River.
Today the Canal is a well-maintained recreational paradise rivaling any canal in the world for beauty and ease of travel.
Along this historic waterway, paddlers will discover charming homes and private gardens, stretches of complete quiet and undeveloped vistas, birds, waterfowl, native wildlife, parks, and picturesque canal-side villages like Pittsford, Fairport, Spencerport and Brockport. Each of these canal ports exudes its own special charm while providing helpful services and amenities for visitors traveling a water-filled "road."
Kayak or canoe - going through a lock is an experience you won't forget. The locks are controlled by friendly lockmasters ready to answer questions or just chat as you float gently up or down inside the lock onto your next discovery.
Maybe a quiet paddle isn't your speed. Like more active fun? Check out the Lock 32 Whitewater Park off Clover Street in Pittsford. One of just three whitewater courses in the country when it opened in 2000; Lock 32's 700-foot-long course has Class II rapids, well-defined squirt lines, two waves and two holes that enable vertical mores (cartwheels), front flips (loops) and other tricks.
Or go white water rafting through "The Grand Canyon of the East" as the Genesee River gathers full force through magnificent Letchworth State Park.
Lakes and creeks galore
A Seneca legend says that The Great Spirit laid his hands upon the earth in blessing and left the 11 Finger Lakes strung like jewels south of Rochester. These are pure, sparkling glacial lakes full of opportunities to enjoy canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, fishing, and birding.
At Ellison Park, canoe and kayak outfitters such as the BayCreek Paddling Center offer rentals and even shuttle rides into the heart of the park so that paddlers can enjoy a carefree mosey down Irondequoit Creek. It's a trip that can take an hour or two; or turn it into a longer excursion with stops for a swim in the creek, a picnic on the shore, and plenty of time to watch sunbathing turtles, nesting swans and other creatures that make their home in this wetland area. To learn more about the history of this naturally beautiful place, sign up for a Back to Nature Kayak (or Canoe) Tour and "float through time" while watching for the birds, mammals and fish that populate this peaceful oasis.
Genesee Waterways Center (GWC), headquartered in Genesee Valley Park, is a not-for-profit organization that promotes canoeing, kayaking, rowing and sculling on the many waterways of the Genesee Region. It offers recreational facilities and classes for all ages and levels of ability, with 600 feet of accessible docks serving as an entry point to both waterways and trails. GWC also provides rentals of canoes and flat water kayaks and hosts a variety of community events throughout the year, including regattas, canoe & kayak races, and a whitewater kayaking festival.
Get on the water and compete!
Lockapalooza is a celebration of Rochester's whitewater kayaking community. The annual event is held by the Genesee Waterways Center at the Lock 32 Whitewater Park in August - two days of activities and competitions for kayakers, plus plenty of action to entertain spectators: organized competitions include slalom racing, boatercross and a freestyle rodeo.
GWC also holds two other race events in spring and summer - the Armond Bassett Canoe and Kayak Race and the annual Rochester River Challenge.
The Rochester River Challenge "is an inclusive community and Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports event celebrating the sport of outrigger canoeing." It's a full-day affair attracting paddlers to the Genesee River to compete in 400m sprint races, run by a local non-profit organization, Cape Ability Outrigger Ohana, which specializes in providing outrigger canoeing opportunities for individuals of all abilities.
If you're a triathlete, you might enjoy competing in the 2-day SMP River Challenge Duathlon & Paddle Triathlon. The paddle portion is kayak only. You can bring your own or rent one from the GWC.
And finally -- the Head of the Genesee Regatta is two days of rowing and sculling races on the Genesee River each October for scholastic, collegiate, masters and corporate crews. Those coming to participate in or watch this well-established event (celebrating its 26th anniversary in 2014) -- can also enjoy a range of other water-related activities during the city's annual Rochester River Romance celebration taking place the same weekend.
Let's face it -- Rochester's waterways and trails are a goldmine of discoveries for those who love to hike, bike or paddle! Whatever your favorite outdoor recreation may be, we invite you to explore and enjoy this versatile destination. We're always ready to go the distance when it comes to active fun!