Ontario Pathways – Great Place for a Bicycle Picnic

by Sue Freeman

The countryside between our Finger Lakes is aglow in a lush green this time of year. Vegetation grows abundantly, watered by the spring rains and nourished by the summer sun. Anyone who has tended a trail knows this intimately. It can be a challenge keeping the foliage trimmed and the pathway open for users. But, it’s worth the effort when you see people of all sizes, ages and backgrounds using your trail.

I’m sure that’s how the volunteers at Ontario Pathways feel. They have reason to be proud of their green tunnel that arches southeast from Canandaigua to Stanley, then turns abruptly and continues northeast to Phelps. This past winter, before the growing season began in earnest, they renovated a bridge to carry bikers and hikers over the busy Routes 5 & 20 roadway. Previous to this, the bridge was impassable and necessitated a 0.8-mile detour along busy Routes 5 & 20 and County Road 20. Now you can sail along, staying high above the roads on the old rail bed and newly re-decked bridge. With the Flint Bridge in place, you can travel 15.6 miles on trail in a single direction, or turn around at the end and ride back for a full 31-mile trek.

The Ontario Pathways trail is a rail-trail, composed of two rail beds that were purchased from Penn Central Corporation in 1993. Trains last thundered over this terrain in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes hit and destroyed many of the rails and railroad structures. Since then the volunteers of Ontario Pathways have worked tirelessly to overcome local landowner objections and build their rail-trail. Fourteen years later the trail is valued as an asset to the communities through which it passes. It’s enjoyed by tourists and locals year round.

Many people hike segments of Ontario Pathways but my preferred method of travel is by bicycle. Being a rail-trail, the terrain is relatively flat. Much of the surface from Canandaigua to Stanley is packed dirt or cinder, making an easy biking trail for any bicycle except those with skinny road tires. The segment from Stanley to Phelps, being mowed grass, is a bit more of a challenge to pedal. But, as more people use this newly opened section, a packed dirt track will develop.

Rail-trails like this are particularly well suited to families with small children. You get to bike away from the threat of cars. Road crossings are well marked and generally cross little used roads. Visit Ontario pathways and make it an all-day outing by taking along a picnic lunch. The picnic can serve a triple purpose of providing fuel for the pedaling, insuring a lengthy rest break, and providing a fun diversion from your normal routine. The volunteers who put so much effort into building and maintaining this trail will be glad to see you using it.

For maps and details, grab a copy of the “Take Your Bike” guidebook or visit www.ontariopathways.org.

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