I went cycling in Chautauqua, located in western New York State just south of Lake Eire. Not as well known for cycling as the neighboring Finger Lakes Region, yet the local authorities do publish a map and list numerous routes on their website.
This is a perfect getaway destination for a long weekend as this region along the New York/Pennsylvania border features plenty of wineries, fruit farms, hiking, fishing, music festivals and of course quiet country roads for cycling. Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown which is the largest town and when not cycling be sure to visit and plan to take about 2 hours to see everything.
Our plan was to stay in one of the many campgrounds in the area and do some daily bike trips.
Cycling Around Chautauqua Lake
Our first cycling ride was 42 miles around the lake of the same name which provided some great scenery and plenty of the exercise. Unexpected were the numerous hills we encountered enroute although they were a moderate grade.
We started in Jamestown at the south end of the lake heading west on Hwy 394 along the paved shoulders and signed bike route. The traffic was lightened up a bit after we crossed Interstate 86. At this point there is also a ferry across the lake if you want to shorten the route by about half.
We left the route to cycle on the bike paths through the famous Chautauqua Institution which features grand homes from the 1890’s and equally grand gardens. During the summer major entertainers visit including the Beach Boys and Amy Grant. You may wish to sign up for a class including topics like yoga, photography, culinary arts.
Back on main route we continued to Mayville at the top end of the lake to enjoy our lunch in the park and we noted that other cyclists had the same idea. After lunch it was a right turn on Hwy 430, again with paved shoulders for the journey along the east side of the lake. At Long Point State Park we turned right heading downhill before going left on the Lakeview Road flanked by elegant homes and into the summer resort of Bemus Point. Onward towards Jamestown ascending a ridge which offered more views of the lake before completing the ride.
Bike Ride in America’s Grape Country
Concord grapes grow in abundance along the shores of Lake Eire and most of the grape juice in the US is produced here, Welch’s factory is in Westfield which is where we headed out. The official route is 88 miles including a section of Pennsylvania but you can easily shorten or extend the route using Highways 20 and 5 and any of the numerous cross roads.
Scenic Hwy 20 features paved shoulders and little traffic with a number of wineries around the town of Westfield. You can return along Hwy 5 which overlooks Lake Eire with almost no traffic and was gently rolling. We came across a field of sunflowers where plenty of people had stopped to take pictures.
Allegheny River Trail
Others at the campground where we were staying recommended this Pennsylvania route so we took a one hour plus drive through the mountains to Oil City. This is a 32 mile rail trail (one direction) plus additional side routes to other towns if you are looking for a longer ride.
Cycling along the east side of the wide Allegheny River this paved bike path (except ½ mile section) goes through a forested region surrounded by mountains. There are picnic tables and washrooms along the way. The highlight for many is the two long and dark tunnels (bring bike lights).
Chautauqua County itself features 10 additional hilly and scenic bike routes, and you can order the bike map for free. Many of the other cycling routes go through the nearby Amish Country while others head up to the ski resort to the west. Also to the east there were a number of more challenging routes into some hilly countryside.
There is plenty of accommodation options including camping, B & B, motels. We rented a trailer at one of the campgrounds which along with some grocery shopping in Jamestown made for a very inexpensive stay.
Click link to check out other bicycle touring destinations in the US. This region reminds me of the Finger Lakes which makes sense as it is only a little west of that area.Chautauqua makes a perfect weekend cycling getaway.
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