Biking the Ontario Pathways

Old trestle abutment from a second trestle over the creek just south of Phelps Junction along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Old trestle abutment from a second trestle over the creek just south of Phelps Junction along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail

Every year I like to take a bike ride on a rails-to-trails or canal path in celebration of my birthday.  It’s a nice time of year and everyone is ready to get out and enjoy the nice weather.  Well, this year didn’t work so well – between the fact that it rained every single weekend, travel, graduations, parties, and the like (did I mention the weather?), we were booked pretty much to September.  But we squeezed in not one trail, but two, in the middle of June – part of the Ontario Pathways between Canandaigua, NY and Phelps, and the very beautiful Keuka Outlet Trail between Penn Yan and Dresden.  So this week I’ll talk about my trek along the Ontario Pathways, and another week we’ll get to explore the Keuka Outlet Trail.

Quick Stats for the Ontario Pathways

Round Trip Length: 12.4 miles Trail Type: Shuttle Elevation Change: 332ft. Fees: None

 


 

Goose Street Trailhead for the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Goose Street Trailhead

We started from Goose Street, because I really wanted to do the Keuka Outlet Trail, but knew if I did the entire of the Ontario Pathways my group would be ready to call it a day after just one trail.  Starting at Goose Street would allow us a 12 mile trail before we loaded up the bikes and went down to Penn Yan.

Annual Honesty flowers along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Annual Honesty flowers along the trail

The trail started out pretty much flat through the forest with fields on either side of that.  Besides a nice, high bridge that was once a trestle, the trail is pretty straightforward down to Stanley Junction at mile 2.0.

Views from a pretty epic bridge not far from Goose Street along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Views from a pretty epic bridge not far from Goose Street

Stanley Junction was once a major train intersection, a place where trains were repaired and where crews could stay between train assignments.  About 200 railroad employees lived full-time in Stanley in 1900, and a 24 hour restaurant served the employees.  Today, there is little there except a parking area, a few houses, and a grain elevator or two.

The trails at Stanley Junction. You'll come out to the left of the kiosk, an leave to the right. Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

The trails at Stanley Junction. You’ll come out to the left of the kiosk, an leave to the right.

The trail makes a sharp left turn here, basically turning back on itself.  That is really what it looks like, though soon it turns north.

The Ontario Pathways Rail Trail north of Stanley Junction, New York

The trail north of Stanley Junction

Keep going as the trail passes a junk heap and some garages / public works area (the junk heap, I’d guess, is the locals’ way of saying they don’t like the trail – just a guess).  Then it keeps going through the forest, fields, etc.  From the smell, I think some of those fields are fertilized the natural way – with what my great-grandfather called a “Honey Wagon”.

Watching a tractor work the fields along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Watching a tractor work the fields

Before reaching Orleans, the trail will also pass the place where a trolley passed under the railroad.  I would have loved to look around a little, but the bugs were so bad I barely stopped to take a picture of the sign.

What the railroad and trolley line used to look like along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail in New York

What the railroad and trolley line used to look like

You’ll know you’re in Orleans when you see the big wooden water tower.  It’s a relic of the past, but it’s been fairly well-maintained (or restored).  I think I once read a Hardy Boys book about a water tower like this one.  We spent a good few minutes looking around at it.

The old wooden water tower in Orleans along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

The old water tower in Orleans

Here you’ll have to take to city streets for nearly a mile.  The best I can guess, one property owner along the trail won’t give rights for the trail to go through their property.  So for 0.1 mile of non-navigable land (the trail goes up to the property on both sides), go up the street past the water tower, turn right on the “highway”, and bike or walk uphill until the trail takes off again, on the right near Summer Beam Bookshop.

Another bridge along the Ontario Pathways Rails to Trails, New York

Another bridge

From here on out, the trail is easy to follow, but the next exciting thing may be the nicest part of the whole trail.  About a mile from the end of the trail (about 11 miles from Goose Street) is a small old trestle.  It’s pretty evident from nearby abutments that there was another trestle here at one time, as well as this one, and some small waterfalls tumble nearby.  You then follow the river the rest of the way to the parking area in Phelps, 12.4 miles from Goose Street.  Pretty nice ending, right?

Waterfalls along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail near Phelps Junction, New York

Waterfalls along the trail near Phelps Junction

A few random facts:

  • The trail was once part of the Sodus Point & Southern Railroad.
  • The train line was built in the 1860s and completed in 1873. The last shipment of coal was transported on the line in 1967.
  • The railroad was constructed to carry coal from Pennsylvania to the Great Lakes and Canada – in the years surrounding 1911, five million tons of coal were transported on the SP&S each year.
  • On the return trip, trains carried ice cut from Sodus Bay, grain from Seneca Castle, locally grown apples, cherries, potatoes, cabbages, onions, beets, and spinach, and products from the canneries in Newark.
  • The last passenger train used the line in 1935.
There is a second waterfall along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail (you'll have to go off-trail to find it) before Phelps Junction, New York

There is a second waterfall along the trail (you’ll have to go off-trail to find it) before Phelps Junction

Round Trip Trail Length: I did a shuttle from Goose Street to Phelps for a 12.4 mile ride.  The entire trail (shuttle) is a little over 23 miles long

Net Elevation Change: 332ft. – you’re going downhill 99% of the trail

Facilities: You might find a port-a-potti at some trailheads

Fees: None

Trail Notes: Don’t miss the old water tower in Orleans or the waterfalls / bridge at the Phelps Junction end of the trail.  Bring bug repellant if you’re going to be walking or riding slow (or if you want to explore).  The smells along this trail range from wildflowers to the crops growing beside the trail to freshly turned earth to freshly fertilized or sprayed fields to…  The trail is mostly dirt track or occasionally gravel.  Watch out for tree roots – someone had spray painted them orange or white to come back later and remove them, but I’m not sure when they’ll finish.

Grassy section of the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Grassy section of the trail

Trail ★★★☆☆

Road ★★★★☆

Signs ★★★★☆

Scenery ★★☆☆☆

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

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Crossing another bridge on the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail, New York

Crossing another bridge

Key GPS Coordinates for the Ontario Pathways

Goose Street Trail Crossing: 42.8456667°N, -077.1255139°W (42°50’44.40″N, -77° 7’31.85″W / 42°50.74000’N, -077°07.53083’W) (940ft.) (0.0)

Stanley Junction (big turn): 42.8251111°N, -077.1009278°W (42°49’30.40″N, -77° 6’3.34″W / 42°49.50667’N, -077°06.05567’W) (926ft.) (2.0)

Water tower: 42.9188972°N, -077.1131861°W (42°55’8.03″N, -77° 6’47.47″W / 42°55.13383’N, -077°06.79117’W) (747ft.) (8.9)

Regain Trail: 42.9308111°N, -077.1099389°W (42°55’50.92″N, -77° 6’35.78″W / 42°55.84867’N, -077°06.59633’W) (720ft.) (9.8)

Phelps Junction (trail end): 42.9612139°N, -077.0912917°W (42°57’40.37″N, -77° 5’28.65″W / 42°57.67283’N, -077°05.47750’W) (608ft.) (12.4)

Preparing for a bike ride

Well, that’s one way to make sure everyone has their gear…

The gpx file for the Ontario Pathways from Goose Street to Phelps Junction 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 GPX File size: 94.9 KB Downloaded 3 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!)

Views from yet another bridge along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail

Views from yet another bridge

Getting to the Ontario Pathways

Note: there really isn’t any place to park except in Canandaigua, Stanley Junction, Orleans, and Phelps Junction.  They even request you not to park at Goose Street, though that doesn’t stop trail crews, and I’m sure they could have cared less that we parked long enough to unload the bikes.

Did I mention that something the Ontario Pathways does well is having plenty of bridges? New York

Did I mention that something the Ontario Pathways does well is having plenty of bridges?

To get to the Goose Street access, from I-90, take Exit 43 toward Palmyra.  At the bottom of the ramp, turn south (right).  After 0.1 miles, turn left on the first cross street onto NY-96S.  Drive 5.7 miles and then turn right on Bankert Road; continue straight 2.9 miles, when the road merges onto NY-488S for 0.7 miles (during this time, you’ll be on the road section of the trail).  Turn left on County Road 20; after 4 miles, turn right on US-20W (are you confused yet?).  Only 0.7 miles later, turn left onto Goose Street for 1.1 miles to where the trail crosses the road.

Rivets on one of the old trestles on the Ontario Pathways Rails to Trails, New York

Rivets on one of the old trestles

To get to the Phelps Junction Trailhead, take Exit 43 from I-90 toward Palmyra.  At the bottom of the ramp, turn south (right).  Stay on NY-96S 7.3 miles to the trailhead.  Or take Exit 42 toward Lyons; at the bottom of the ramp turn right (south).  Merge right onto the ramp for NY-96N; arrive at the trailhead 6 miles later, on left.

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

 

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my bike ride along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail from Goose street to Phelps Junction, New York

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my bike ride along the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail from Goose street to Phelps Junction

This Week’s Featured Product!

Looking for even more rails-to-trails in New York?  Check out this book, which lists all the ones I’ve ever heard of in my own local area, plus a whole lot more!

 

Rail-Trails Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York (Paperback)


List Price: $18.95 USD
New From: $10.00 USD In Stock
Used from: $4.94 USD In Stock

 

 

Snow Showers

Thursday

Thu Dec 14

40%

Snow Showers
Mostly cloudy with snow showers around in the morning. High 16F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 40%.

Snow Showers

Friday

Fri Dec 15

40%

Snow Showers
Cloudy skies with afternoon snow showers. High 26F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 40%.

Partly Cloudy

Saturday

Sat Dec 16

20%

Partly Cloudy
Partly cloudy skies. A few flurries or snow showers possible. High around 25F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.

Partly Cloudy

Sunday

Sun Dec 17

10%

Partly Cloudy
Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. High near 30F. Winds light and variable.

Chance of Rain

Monday

Mon Dec 18

60%

Chance of Rain
Overcast with rain showers at times. Temps nearly steady in the mid to upper 30s. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.