Scenic Bike Ride: Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail + Erie Canal Path

Lock 30. To get from the Erie Canal Path to Macedon Canal Park, you have to walk across the lock gates - pretty cool! Macedon, New York.

Lock 30. To get from the Erie Canal Path to Macedon Canal Park, you have to walk across the lock gates – pretty cool!

Well, it’s that time of year again: time for the Big Birthday Bike Ride.  A few weekends ago, we loaded up all the bikes, drove down to the far southeast end of the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail (at Pannell Road).  This isn’t a very impressive starting point – it’s a tiny parking area (about big enough for two, possibly three, cars) next to a run-down farm market.  On the other hand, it’s also not too difficult to miss if you know what you’re looking for (see the picture).

 


 

The start of the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern trail at Pannell Road, Fairport, NY

The start of the trail at Pannell Road

The Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail is a Rails to Trails, so it’s fairly flat (though there is a steep grade or two (mostly downhill) that I would think would have been a bit steep for a trolley or a train).  The first section of the trail goes through a bit of a swamp; in the summer, this might be buggy if you were going too slowly, but on bikes in late April, it was just pleasant (if a bit drab, since the leaves weren’t out yet).

Early on the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail, Fairport, NY

Early on the trail – the sun didn’t come out ’til later

Cross Victor Road by going directly across.  On your left is Lollipop Farm, so we spotted a few horses in pens along the trail.  On the right were a few houses (just close enough to the trail to let you know you’re not in the wilderness anymore).  Note: you can park here at Victor Road; there are no more places to park until you reach the canal path.

Sign marking the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail near Fairport, New York

Sign marking the trail

At Palmyra Road, turn left along the sidewalk, and cross at the light.  Then cross Mason Road to find the continuation of the path (it’s more or less catty-corner from where you come out at the light).

On the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail southeast of Rochester, New York

On the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail

From here, the trail travels through forests and with occasional houses until it meets the canal path at mile 4.4.  The path goes over a major bridge – really cool – to get to the other side of the canal (I think the access ramps were one of my group member’s favorite parts of the entire ride).  We had gone from the Genesee River to Fairport a couple years ago, so we figured since we were near Fairport, we’d continue east along the Erie Canal Path through Palmyra and then over toward Newark (New York – not New Jersey).

The Rochester, Syracuse, & Eastern bridge over the Erie Canal near Fairport, New York

The bridge over the canal

So at the end of the access ramp, on the north side of the canal, we turned left and headed out along the canal.

 

At this point, there weren’t many (almost any) boats on the canal.  Later in the season, there can be quite a few which would make it more interesting.  The trail follows the canal closely – so close a slip could mean sliding down the bank into the water, no joke – but the water was brown and very uninviting.  The trail passes by a landfill (it doesn’t look too awful, but the stench is breathtaking).

This is how close you are to the Erie Canal along the path east of Fairport, New York

This is how close you are to the canal…

Just before Wayneport Road, the trail goes along a road through some houses.  It’s actually really sad, because the houses are pretty much dumps – condemned, unkempt, etc.  Some are ok, but others aren’t.  Cross the paved road, take and immediate right, and continue down the trail.

Erie Canal Path between Fairport and Macedon, New York

A little further along

We had a little issue crossing Canandaigua Road; they were doing major bridge work, so the trail was very nearly closed.  On the other hand, we got to watch a train go by, which was a high point for other members of the group!

Watching a train near the Erie Canal Path, Macedon, New York

Watching the train

We’d planned on eating lunch at Bullis Park (across the canal via Canandaigua Road – I used to play t-ball there so many years ago!), but with the bridge out, we had little choice but to continue.  We finally worked it out with the people who were with the van that we’d meet them at Macedon Canal Park for lunch.  (Cell phones.  What did we do in the days before cell phones?)

Approaching Lock 30 and Macedon Canal Park on the Erie Canal Path, New York

Approaching Lock 30 and Macedon Canal Park

This turned out to be a lovely place to eat.  From the trail, cross Lock 30 (literally walking across the lock gates – don’t worry, there’s railings and it’s oh-so-cool!).  You can then access the park proper as well as a portable restroom and a short trail (the Butterfly Trail) that talks about the canal in its earlier days.

Current Erie Canal from Macedon Canal Park, New York

Current Erie Canal from Macedon Canal Park

The nearby waterway was part of the Expanded Erie Canal, but now carries water around the locks.  You can also look out at the New Erie (really, Barge) Canal.  It’s quite nice.

The Expanded Erie Canal at Macedon Canal Park, New York

The Expanded Erie Canal channel at Macedon Canal Park

We chose to eat at the picnic tables next to the canal path.  One of the good things about the canal path is that nearly all the road crossings (at least to the west of Pal-Mac Aqueduct County Park) have places to park.

Crossing the lock doors at Lock 30. Macedon Canal Park, New York

Crossing the lock doors. This was such a highlight for me!

After lunch, we continued on our way toward Palmyra.  At the very next road crossing (O’Neil Road), you’ll have to cross the canal via the bridge and take the path down the southern side of the canal.  It’s not hard, just needs to be done.  (I also highly recommend taking a side-trek to the Lock 60 Historic Site, about 0.4 miles away along Quaker Road, where you can walk through the lock chambers of one of the original Erie Canal Locks, widened and enlarged later.)  Between this and Yellow Mills Road is actually an interesting section (though not my favorite).  On one side is the canal, and on the other (about 10 feet of grass away) is a fairly busy road.  It certainly adds excitement to life!

Crossing the canal to get to the section of the Erie Canal Path through Macedon, New York

Crossing the canal to get to the section through Macedon

After Yellow Mills Road, the Erie Canal Path veers into Pal-Mac Aqueduct County Park.  This was actually a really cool place, as well, though we didn’t spend much time exploring it or Lock 29, which is in the park.  There are a few nice waterfalls created by water diversion, etc.  When you come out in the park (after crossing the bridge) head across the road toward the other pedestrian bridge.  You actually want to go under the bridge to continue on the path, so what exactly the pedestrian bridge is for I don’t know.  But it is fairly impressive.

Water gushes from beneath one of the lock buildings at Lock 29 along the Eire Canal Path, Palmyra, New York

Water gushes from beneath one of the lock buildings at Lock 29

The trail crosses a few roads (you’re in the middle of Palmyra here, so while there are trees and swamps, there are also plenty of houses), then comes to Division Street.  Here, again, you’ll have to recross the canal and pick up the path on the northern side.

The scenery begins to improve along the Erie Canal Path east of Palmyra, New York

The scenery begins to improve east of Palmyra

From here, the scenery really begins to improve.  For one thing, you’re heading out of Palmyra Proper, so the woods begin to get wild again.  You’re not as close to the canal as sometimes, but that’s ok.  The further you go, the more the trail rolls until it is high above the canal (which at this point looks like a major river).  After crossing Rt. 21 and before Galloway Road, you’ll cross Ganargua Creek – twice – and be able to see a spillway from the canal into the creek.  That in itself is worth the ride!

A very bad picture of the spillway at Ganargua Creek along the Erie Canal Path east of Palmyra, New York

A very bad picture of the spillway at Ganargua Creek

The trail continues to be fairly wild, but the canal widens to very wide river status, especially after E Palmyra Port Gibson Road.  (Apparently, this section is called “The Wide Waters”, but I didn’t know that at the time).  It’s an extremely pleasant place to ride.

Blossoms along the

Blossoms along the “Wide Waters”

We finally ended, 22.7 miles from our starting point, at Harder Canal Park just past Whitbeck Road.  At the moment, if you look on Google Maps, the parking area is on the west side of Whitbeck Road; now that area is completely closed to the public (it’s owned by Dolomite, I think), so our drivers had to turn down W Shore Blvd for a few hundred feet to park in the spacious, very nice parking area.  From here, views toward a farm in Newark are quite nice.  And you could always choose to go a bit further… maybe I will next time 🙂

The farm from Harder Canal Park along the Erie Canal Path, Newark, New York

The farm from Harder Canal Park

Trail Length: We did it as a shuttle, so only went 22.7 miles.  Round trip would be 45.4 miles.  Only doing the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail would be 9 miles RT, or 4.5 with a shuttle vehicle (turn right (west) on the canal path and there’s a parking area close by).

Highest Elevation: 526 ft.

Lowest Elevation: 423 ft.

Net Elevation Loss: 103 ft. – We definitely did this the right way – it was mostly downhill!

Facilities: There are restrooms or picnic tables occasionally, especially in Macedon Canal Park and Pal-Mac Aqueduct County Park.

Fees: None

Our ending point: Harder Canal Park along the Erie Canal, Newark, New York

Our ending point: Harder Canal Park

Trail ★★★★★

Road ★★★★★

Signs ★★★★☆

Scenery ★★☆☆☆

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Marsh flowers along the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail, Fairport, New York

Marsh flowers along the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail

Key GPS Coordinates for the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail and the Erie Canal Path to Harder Canal Park:

Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail Beginning (Pannell Road): 43.05845N / -077.37557W (43° 3′ 30.42″ / -77° 22′ 32.0514″) 590ft. (0.0)

Erie Canal Trail Junction: 43.09499N / -077.42912W (43° 5′ 41.964″ / -77° 25′ 44.8314″) 480ft. (4.4)

Lock 30: 43.07313N / -077.30127W (43° 4′ 23.2674″ / -77° 18′ 4.572″) 465ft. (11.5; left 12.8)

Harder Canal Park (end): 43.05265N / -077.12659W (43° 3′ 9.5394″ / -77° 7′ 35.7234″) 452ft. (24.0 – so really 22.7)

 

The gpx file for the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail and the Erie Canal Path to Harder Canal Park 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: 176.1 KB Downloaded 10 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!)

An old Erie Canal mooring in Macedon Canal Park, New York

An old Erie Canal mooring in Macedon Canal Park

Getting to the Pannell Road Trailhead for the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail:

From I-90: Take Exit 45 onto I-490W.  Take the first exit (Exit 29) and turn right onto US-96 toward Victor.  After 0.5 miles, turn right onto High Street for 0.2 miles, then turn left onto Valentown Road for 2.0 miles.  Take another left onto Victor Egypt Road.  After 0.5 miles, the road will change names to Victor Road; continue straight for another 0.8 miles.  Turn right onto Wilkinson Road for 0.7 miles, then left onto Pannell Road for 1.0 miles to the trailhead, on left across the road from an old silo.

Approaching Lock 29 and Pal-Mac Aqueduct Park near Palmyra, New York

Approaching Lock 29 and Pal-Mac Aqueduct Park near Palmyra

From Fairport: Drive south on S Main Street (US-250S) 1.5 miles.  Turn left onto NY-31E for 3.3 miles, then right onto Pannell Circle.  After 0.2 miles, turn right onto Pannell Road for 0.3 miles to the trailhead, on right just after Chase Farm Market and across the road from an old silo.

 

From Macedon: Drive southwest on NY-31W / W Main Street 3.8 miles.  Turn right onto Pannell Circle.  After 0.2 miles, turn right onto Pannell Road for 0.3 miles to the trailhead, on right just after Chase Farm Market and across the road from an old silo.

Visual trail map of my ride on the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail, then east on the Erie Canal Path between Fairport and Newark, New York

Visual trail map of my ride on the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail, then east on the Erie Canal Path between Fairport and Newark, New York

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2 thoughts on “Scenic Bike Ride: Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trail + Erie Canal Path

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