Sometimes I want to venture a little further from Ontario for a cycling weekend. When I mention this destination few cycling friends they do not seem to be aware of it, yet Chautauqua is only one hour from the border.
This region along Lake Eire and 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 and when not cycling be sure to visit, plan to take about 2 hours to see everything.
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.
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. 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 to Jamestown with more hills and views.
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 the same roads.
Scenic Hwy 20 features paved shoulders and little traffic with a number of wineries. Return along Hwy 5 which overlooks Lake Eire with almost no traffic and besides the vineyards had fields of sunflowers.
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. Some of these routes go through the Amish Country while others head up to the ski resort to the west.
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.
This region reminds me of the Finger Lakes which makes sense as it is only a little west of that area but cyclists don’t seem to visit it as much. As it is so close to Ontario visiting Chautauqua makes a perfect weekend getaway.