Genesee Riverway and Erie Canal Path: History via Bikes

The Broad Street Bridge that used to take the old Erie Canal across the Genesee River. I'm biking on the Genesee Riverway Trail. Rochester, New York

The Broad Street Bridge that used to take the old Erie Canal across the Genesee River. I’m biking on the Genesee Riverway Trail.

For some reason, I’ve never biked (or even hiked) the Erie Canal Path.  It really isn’t that far from where I live and I’ve driven across it more times than I can count.  But for some reason, it’s never been a destination.  That all changed a few weeks ago when we decided we wanted one last hoorah before the kids started school.  Our last bike ride went so well, we thought it would be fun to do another.  Two canal locks, a dam, Rochester’s signature bridge, and 18 miles (29 km) later, we were sure: it had been a wonderful ride.

 


 

Times Square Building, near where we began our ride, Rochester, New York

Times Square Building, near where we began our ride

I actually started by researching the Genesee Riverway Trail.  The problem was that between Charlotte (pronounced (for all you non-Rochesterians) shar-LOT) and downtown Rochester (which is pronounced by the natives “Roch-ster”) the trail disappeared to travel down many roads and to go through, as one reviewer put it, “diverse neighborhoods”.  That just wasn’t going to work for us.  Besides the fact that I don’t like driving through neighborhoods like that, I knew some of the younger group members wouldn’t be able to handle riding on the road.

 

The Broad Street Bridge - the lower deck once carried the old Erie Canal; the upper deck today carries city traffic. Genesee Riverway Trail, Rochester, New York.

The Broad Street Bridge – the lower deck once carried the old Erie Canal; the upper deck today carries city traffic.

So we decided we’d start at Broad Street, where the trail technically picks up again as a viable route, ride down to Genesee Valley Park, and take the Erie Canal Path from there as far as we wanted (Fairport seemed to be a good destination, since it would give us a (supposedly) 15 mile (25 km) ride).

 

The bed of the old Erie Canal inside the Broad Street Bridge, Rochester, New York.

The bed of the old Erie Canal inside the Broad Street Bridge. I suspect you could climb right in if you wanted to (which I didn’t at that moment).

We pulled over by the Blue Cross Arena early on Sunday.  There is free parking for short periods of time during the day, so for unloading the bikes it was the perfect place.  A couple group members who were more interested in hiking than biking had offered to drive the van around and meet us in various places along the way, then be our shuttle vehicle home (yea!)  Bikes on the sidewalk, we headed over toward the river and bumped down the steps where some local artists were painting murals on the side of the bridge.  (In case you’re curious, the trail actually goes around the other side of the Arena, thus avoiding all the sets of steps in this section.)

 

The dam in downtown Rochester, New York

The dam in downtown Rochester

We paused here.  This bridge used to take the Erie Canal across the Genesee River and today the bed of the canal under the car bridge still exists.  An opening takes you into the bed and signs explain what you’re seeing.  So cool!

 

Rochester's Signature Bridge from the Genesee Riverway Trail, Rochester, New York

Rochester’s Signature Bridge from the trail

We turned right, upriver, biking until we hit another set of steps just before the trail crosses Court Street.  Just after crossing Court St., the trail approaches and then passes a dam (pretty neat).  The trail takes a right to circumvent the hydroelectric buildings, but soon meets up with the river again, just in time to pass underneath I-490 and Rochester’s signature bridge!

 

Passing restaurants and high rises just out of downtown Rochester, New York, on the Genesee Riverway Trail

Passing restaurants and high rises just out of downtown

The Genesee Riverway Trail becomes very nice here, passing behind some riverside restaurants and high-rises.  Soon, though, it enters the trees on a gravel path.  Try to follow the signs, but honestly, they’re so misleading it’s better to follow a map.  When the trail splits, go straight to cross the Genesee River and enter the University of Rochester campus.

 

Crossing the Genesee River toward the University of Rochester on the Genesee Riverway Trail, Rochester, New York

Crossing the Genesee River toward the University of Rochester

Turn right, passing along the edge of the campus and a park-like setting for a mile (couple km) or so to the end of the Genesee Riverway Trail in Genesee Valley Park.  Don’t cross the bridge; instead, continue straight toward the stone bridge over the Erie Canal, then turn right to be on the Erie Canal Path.  Near where the canal and the river meet, it was cool to go up on the stone bridge and watch the river and canal go by.  The bridge over the Genesee is also interesting – nearby was a fair amount of dredging equipment.

 

Boats on the Erie Canal crossing the Genesee River, Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

Boats on the Erie Canal crossing the Genesee River – the funny thing is that we would keep up with the boat in the background, entering Fairport at the same time.

Dredging equipment at the confluence of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal along the Genesee Riverway Trail, Rochester, New York

Dredging equipment at the confluence of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal

We decided we’d go along the canal path to Lock 32 Park and meet up again with our drivers for lunch (we were traveling pretty light with only water and a few snacks since we knew we’d be seeing the van again often).  The Erie Canal is pretty similar most of the way along: trees on the left, canal on the right, and occasional overpasses so you can just ride along without having to cross roads.

 

Approaching Lock 33 - the Lock Keeper's House. Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

Approaching Lock 33 – the Lock Keeper’s House

At 8.1 miles (13.0 km), we arrived at Lock 33, which for some reason wasn’t on my map.  We arrived just as our drivers did, since they’d gone to get gas on the way (gotta love BJ’s!).  We also arrived just as one boat was leaving the lock and another was getting ready to go through.  Cool!  What a better way to eat spam than to do it while watching the water levels go down, down, down right next to you!  (Actually, the water gets so low that you can’t see the boat at all once it’s half way down!)

 

A boat in Lock 33, Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

A boat in Lock 33

 

The sign detailing Lock 33, Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

The sign detailing Lock 33

 

The lock doors at Lock 33, Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

The lock doors at Lock 33

We continued on to Lock 32 almost 1.5 miles (2.4 km) later, just as a packet boat (tour) was getting ready to go down.  This park has an observation tower, so you could see the boat the entire time (which was really neat).  I highly recommend it if you a boat is going through (which is pretty likely on a summer Sunday afternoon).

 

Approaching Lock 32 on the Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

Approaching Lock 32

 

A packet boat in Lock 32. Gotta love that observation platform! Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York.

A packet boat in Lock 32. Gotta love that observation platform!

 

Sign detailing Lock 32 on the Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

Sign detailing Lock 32

 

The packet boat leaving Lock 32, Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York.

The packet boat leaving Lock 32

From here, it was a short jaunt over to Pittsford.  This is where things get a little dicey.  You can either follow the pedestrian sign and walk your bike along the canal, or you can follow the bike sign and ride your bike along a not-too-busy street to the other side of the quaint section (lots of shops and little restaurants here).  We walked our bikes, but I think I’d ride the road next time since the sidewalk was really quite crowded and it was troublesome to get the bikes through at times (not to mention the sea gulls and pigeons that were in the path!)

 

The Erie Canal Path after Lock 32, Rochester, New York

The path after Lock 32

 

The old train bridge over the Erie Canal Path before Pittsford, New York

The old train bridge before Pittsford

 

A grain elevator in Pittsford that's been turned into office space, Erie Canal Path, New York

A grain elevator in Pittsford that’s been turned into office space

 

The Erie Canal Path in Pittsford, New York

The path in Pittsford

After this, the tone of the trail changes.  There were many more people on the trail and many more boats on the canal, but the scenery was also different.  Instead of forests and fields, there were more houses and docks.  It’s all nice, just a bit different.

 

Happily back on the trail and able to ride! Erie Canal Path, Pittsford, New York.

Happily back on the trail and able to ride!

I hadn’t expected the trail between Pittsford and Fairport to be quite as long as it was.  It wasn’t a hard ride, just longer than I thought.  Arriving, though, it was great to see our drivers swinging on a yellow porch swing in Perinton Park.  We chatted with them for a while, filled our water bottles, used the restrooms, then remounted our bikes for the last push to Fairport.  The van was parked in a free public parking area on the corner of Liftbridge Lane E and Water Street (off of Rt. 250).  As it turned out, this was right next to the railroad line.  As we loaded up the bikes, a total of three trains went past!  Wow!  Half the group couldn’t have been happier, but at least some of the others were none too keen to be that close to a moving train!

 

Entering Fairport, New York on the Erie Canal Path

Entering Fairport

The bottom line?   Both the Genesee Riverway Trail and the Erie Canal Path are nice and peaceful.  I can’t wait to do the Charlotte end of the Riverway Trail and I suspect we’ll do more of the canal path, too!

 

There are several sets of

There are several sets of “guard locks” along the canal that keep the water from getting too high or low

Trail Length: From Broad Street to Fairport, 18.8 miles (30.25 km)

Elevation Change: About 100 ft. (30 m) downhill (662 ft. (201 m) to 566 ft. (172 m))

Fees: None

 

Trail ★★★★★

Road ★★★★★

Signs ★★★★★

Scenery ★★★☆☆

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

 

Key GPS Coordinates:

If some of the coordinates seem to be missing, I think the GPS must have eaten a few of them for a midnight snack.  Here are the ones that I still have.

15 Minute Parking: 43.15467N / -077.61143W (43° 9′ 16.812″ / -77° 36′ 41.1474″) (590 ft. (180 m))

Trail beginning (downtown Rochester): 43.15458N / -077.61073W (43° 9′ 16.488″ / -77° 36′ 38.628″) (662 ft. (201 m), 0.0 miles)

Dam overlook: 43.15274N / -077.60968W (43° 9′ 9.864″ / -77° 36′ 34.8474″) (626 ft. (190 m), 0.2 miles, 0.3 km)

Genesee Riverway / Erie Canal Path Junction: 43.121494N / -077.639777W (43° 7′ 17.3778″ / -77° 38′ 23.1966″) (561 ft. (171 m), 3.2 miles, 3.7 km)

Packet boat on the Erie Canal, Pittsford, New York.

Packet boat on the canal

Guard Lock 1: 43.11701N / -077.63280W (43° 7′ 1.236″ / -77° 37′ 58.08″) (544 ft. (165 m), 4.5 miles, 7.2 km)

Lock 33 Park: 43.09607N / -077.56939W (43° 5′ 45.8514″ / -77° 34′ 9.8034″) (525 ft. (160 m), 8.1 miles, 13.0 km)

Lock 32 Park: 43.09146N / -077.54547W (43° 5′ 29.2554″ / -77° 32′ 43.6914″) (480 ft. (156 m), 9.5 miles, 15.25)

Lock 32 Observation Deck: 43.09130N / -077.54487W (43° 5′ 28.6794″ / -77° 32′ 41.532″) (493 ft. (150 m), 9.7 miles, 15.6)

Guard Lock 4: 43.07970N / -077.50130W (43° 4′ 46.92″ / -77° 30′ 4.68″) (468 ft. (142 m), 12.6 miles, 20.25 km)

Bushnell Basin: 43.06277N / -077.47755W (43° 3′ 45.972″ / -77° 28′ 39.1794″) (472 ft. (144 m), 14.4 miles, 23.1 km)

Guard Lock 5: 43.06843N / -077.46892W (43° 4′ 6.3474″ / -77° 28′ 8.1114″) (471 ft. (143 m), 15.1 miles, 24.3 km)

Perinton Park: 43.10072N / -077.45633W (43° 6′ 2.592″ / -77° 27′ 22.7874″) (466 ft. (142 m), 17.5 miles, 28.1)

End – Fairport Parking: 43.10184N / -077.43938W (43° 6′ 6.624″ / -77° 26′ 21.7674″) (478 ft. (145 m), 18.8 miles, 30.25 km)

 

Riding near Pittsford, New York on the Erie Canal Path

Riding near Pittsford

The gpx file for the Genesee Riverway and the Erie Canal Path can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download File size: 149.7 KB Downloaded 25 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

 

Getting to the Genesee Riverway Beginning:

 

From I-490W, take Exit 14 toward Broad Street / Plymouth Ave.  Merge onto Washington Street.  Cross Spring Street, then turn right onto W Broad Street.  Drive 0.3 miles.  You can park beside the Blue Cross Arena on the uphill toward the bridge over the Genesee for a limited amount of time (15 minutes) at certain times of the day (Sunday morning was fine).

 

I think the lock doors at Lock 32 don't seal tight! Erie Canal Path, Rochester, New York

I think the lock doors at Lock 32 don’t seal tight!

From I-490E, take Exit 15 toward the Inner Loop and South Avenue; stay in the left lane to merge onto the Inner Loop.  Almost immediately, take the exit for NY 31 / Monroe Ave.  Merge onto Howell Street, then take a sharp left onto Chestnut Street / NY 31W.  After 0.2 miles, turn left onto Woodbury Blvd (staying on NY 31); 0.1 miles later, take the first right into Clinton Ave S.  Drive 0.2 miles.  Take the second left onto E Broad Street (again, this is NY 31).  Drive 0.3 miles.  The place we began is just over the bridge on the opposite side of the street.

 

Visual map of our route from Downtown Rochester, New York (upper left) down the Genesee Riverway to the Erie Canal Path (far left) and then along the canal path to Fairport (far right)

Visual map of our route from Downtown Rochester (upper left) down the Genesee Riverway to the Erie Canal Path (far left) and then along the canal path to Fairport (far right)

This Week’s Featured Product!

Want to explore the Erie Canal a little deeper?  This book covers the canal way, as well as the nearby attractions (including historical) that can be seen.

 

 

 

Partly Cloudy

Saturday

Sat May 27

10%

Partly Cloudy
Cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. High 68F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.

Mostly Cloudy

Sunday

Sun May 28

20%

Mostly Cloudy
A mix of clouds and sun early, then becoming cloudy later in the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 78F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph.

Chance of a Thunderstorm

Monday

Mon May 29

60%

Chance of a Thunderstorm
Scattered thunderstorms in the morning, then partly cloudy late. High around 75F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

Chance of Rain

Tuesday

Tue May 30

50%

Chance of Rain
Rain showers early with some sunshine later in the day. Thunder possible. High 72F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

Chance of Rain

Wednesday

Wed May 31

40%

Chance of Rain
Showers in the morning, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. High 68F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 40%.