Biking Along the Erie Canal

Geneseo, NY

The Erie Canal flows just south of Rochester as it makes its way “from Albany to Buffalo” (cue the old song).  There is a great biking/walking/running path the length of the canal along the old tow path.  On two recent days we drove north from Geneseo to one of the numerous parking areas along the canal to enjoy some bicycling.

Typical view of the Erie Canal

The majority of the trail in the Rochester area is nicely paved, but there are some areas that are gravel.

The first ride we took was toward the city of Rochester.  As we approached the city a detour on the path took us near the University of Rochester, so we took some time to ride around the campus.  The University  enrolls approximately 5,600 undergraduates and 4,600 graduate students.  With that many students we were surprised at the small size of the main athletic field pictured below.

It is a multi-use facility with seating only on one side.  But we think this school has the right philosophical mix of academics and athletics.  When we visit a college campus we always read its Wikipedia page and look at the list of notable graduates.  With most schools, the list is filled with athletes who went on to compete at the professional level.  But the list of notable graduates for UR does not include one single athlete.  But it does have a long list of successful science, medical, and engineering people including five Nobel Prize winners, eight Pulitzer Prize winners, and nearly one fourth of the scientists on the board advising NASA on the development of the replacement for the Hubble Telescope.  Not a bad list!

A few days later we returned to the same parking area and took a ride along the canal in the opposite direction, passing through the small towns of Pittsford and Fairport.  The canal was originally constructed in the early 19th century as a commercial transportation line from the Great Lakes to NYC.  Today it is mainly used by a wide variety of pleasure boats.  The boat pictured below is called a Lockmaster and can be rented for three, four, or seven days.

If you’re not up for a week on the canal piloting your own boat, a three hour cruise on a tour boat is available.  Below is the Colonial Belle on a canal cruise from nearby Fairport.

Not up for a cruise on a crowded boat?   Then the vessel pictured below might just be what you would like.

On the return ride through Pittsford we could hear music from a park bandstand on the other side of the canal.

As we entered the town we recognized the “Washington Post March” by John Philip Sousa.  Is this a classic American scene or what?  Riding a bicycle along a canal through a small town while listening to a Sousa march . . .

. . . and eating a little ice cream!

Our grandparents could have had the same experience a hundred years ago.  It doesn’t get any better than this ! ! !


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37 Responses to Biking Along the Erie Canal

  1. Deb says:

    And just how did we know the name of the march? It’s good to know that there are still some old fashioned, quaint places left in America.

  2. Laurel says:

    What a great bike path — and a very relaxing day. It looks like it would be fun to boat on the canal, too (but not on one of those crowded cruises). Discovering small towns in our travels is so much fun, isn’t it?

  3. pmbweaver says:

    I totally agree…what a wonderful way to spend the day. Music, bikes, ice cream…it can’t get any better than that…can it? Maybe a Starbucks thrown in there for good measure…hehe.

  4. Ah, more childhood memories…

  5. Nancy says:

    Lovely… I grew up in Pa. and never knew of all these places. THANK YOU for sharing!

  6. LuAnn says:

    Gotta have ice cream after a long bike ride, right? This looks like a lovely place, all the more better being in small town America instead of a bustling big city.

  7. Ingrid says:

    Looks like a great way to spend the day 🙂

  8. Both the boating and the biking look like a lot of fun!

  9. I agree, it doesn’t get any better than that! what a good life.
    We can’t seem to see anymore biking in our future with the route we are currently taking.

  10. Sherry says:

    Hats off to the Univ of Rochester for having their values in order. My daughter refused to even look at any college that had a football team. Amazing! I had no idea any of the canal systems were still usable. We just visited the Ohio and Erie which was pretty seriously filled in. Love the biking to Sousa and ice cream idea. Really does seem like a happier more sane time.

  11. thanks for this post. looks so similar to Spencerport.NY where we were last week. Same kind of bike path and band shell there. I grew up there. They still have the lift bridge too. (Abbotts too)
    Up the road is Bockport, then Lockport.
    Spencerport has a little museum with interesting items from when the mules pulled the boats along.
    I loved growing up in that village.

    • placestheygo says:

      Kelly, I saw you were in NY and thought about contacting you and Al but realized you were with family and a little busy. We’ll be in your area next winter. I have lots to do in Congress and Wickenburg. Maybe we can stop and say hi.

  12. cozybegone says:

    Anything that includes a bike trail gets me so excited….what a lovely day/trail!!!

  13. Jodee Gravel says:

    Interesting about the university’s illustrious alumni – we so rarely hear about academic achievement :-(. The East is like a foreign country to me and I am really enjoying seeing the area on your travels. We’re looking forward to getting to know it in the years to come.

    • placestheygo says:

      I agree, Jodee, we seem to know school based on their sports teams which is too bad.

      The east is so very different from the wide open space of the west and the incredible views. We can hardly wait for the end of July and our return.

  14. That lockmasters boat would be a unique vacation experience! Such a pretty setting for the trail.

  15. Gay says:

    I am envious…for some strange reason, I cant stay upright on a bike. I loved riding as a child, but I have a real problem looking where I am going now. Too many sites to see and down I go! I have never seen the Erie Canal…thanks! And what a great little town you rode thru!

    • placestheygo says:

      That’s interesting, Gay, because I was a little uneasy until John told me to look ahead as I rode, not down in front of my wheel, which I was doing. Boy did that help save the day. Give a try:)

      • Gay says:

        Great tip….BUT, unfortunately, after 21/2 years of lugging bikes around, Joe left them in Georgia! Will give it a try when we return…you will be happy to know the bike trails are finished in Moab…and they are wonderful….new tarmac along Hwy 128 and the Colorado River.

    • placestheygo says:

      That’s great news about the bike trail. We didn’t ride the last time because I wasn’t into biking. I discovered in FL that it was my bike that was turning me off. I got a new lighter weight bike that really fits me well and have the seat at the proper height. It is amazing that with those changes riding is SO much easier. Now I am looking forward to giving that trail a whirl!

  16. What a great day! The lock master boat looks like fun.

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