Forget about driving—the forested foothills, plunging gorges, and pleasant pastures of the Southern Finger Lakes region are best admired on two wheels. The area has options for all sorts of cyclists, from rough-and-tumble singletrack seekers to road riders hungry for century circuits with jaw-dropping panoramas.
Here are a few of the best ways to experience New York’s idyllic wine country by bike.
Epic Road Rides
The country roads lacing the Southern Finger Lakes region provide cyclists the opportunity to piece together plenty of epic rides. Classic distance outings include the bucolic American Treasures Scenic Byway, a 50.9-mile ride bookended by Pinnacle State Park in Addison and Stony Brook State Park just outside Dansville.
Cyclists can also opt for a century circuit showcasing one of the region’s namesake lakes on the 100-mile ride, which is featured in the annual Tour de Keuka bike race. Another option is tackling the 57-mile lap around Keuka Lake, a trip that’s featured in the annual Great Finger Lakes Bike Tour.
Historic Rail Trails
The landmark canal towpaths and railroad beds crisscrossing the Finger Lakes region are today used to provide a different type of transportation. These rail trails are now a traffic-free way for cyclists to explore the area. History buffs will enjoy the 7-mile Keuka Outlet Trail running between Penn Yan and Dresden, linking Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake. Initially a lock-studded waterway dubbed the Crooked Lake Canal, the thoroughfare later became the route for the Fall Brook Railroad, which operated for almost a century, until 1974.
In Corning, the family-friendly Painted Post Trail takes cyclists on a 1.1-mile route peppered with playgrounds and shady picnic spots. For a longer haul, the Lackawanna Rail Trail runs for nearly nine miles between Elmira and Lowman, tracing the former route of the Lackawanna & Western Railroad.
While the Southern Finger Lakes region regularly draws serious cyclists, the area has plenty of adventures for riders of all skill levels. Seek out quirky and endearing pit stops on the 22.1-mile Cycling and Antiques Tour between Savona and Cooper’s Plains.
Sample the region’s charming towns and enticing wineries on the 36.1-mile Hammondsport Circle Tour, which includes the eastern edge of Keuka Lake. Meanwhile, families with budding bicyclists can tackle the Savona-Sonora-Sanford Lake Loop, a 12.1-mile excursion through a lake-dappled corner of Birdseye Hollow State Forest.
Organized Tours and Rentals
Take the stress out of trip planning and pedal the Southern Finger Lakes region on an organized tour. Adventure Cycling offers the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tour, an epic 10-day roll through the entire Finger Lakes region, beginning in Syracuse.
For a slightly shorter cycling safari, Wilderness Voyageurs offers the four-day Finger Lakes Bike & Wine Tour, showcasing Cayuga, Keuka, and Seneca lakes. The Carolina Tail Winds touring company has a six-day cycling trip through the Southern Finger Lakes region, featuring pit stops like Hammondsport, Watkins Glen, and Ithaca.
Local bike shops are also an invaluable resource for visiting riders. In the heart of Corning, on bustling Market Street, Corning Bike Works has been serving the community for more than three decades, offering repair services and a range of quality bikes and cycling gear. Just down the road in Bath, Wheels Unlimited has also been a community staple for more than 30 years, and the long-standing bike shop also offers full-service repairs, gear, rentals, and group rides.
The foothills and forests of the Southern Finger Lakes region are inundated with singletrack adventures just waiting for mountain bikers. Located in Caroline, the 5,266-acre Shindagin Hollow State Forest is threaded with more than 20 miles of trails catering to off-road riders, maintained by Cycle-CNY, a local club affiliated with the International Mountain Biking Association.
Nestled between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, the mammoth Finger Lakes National Forest is thick with options for fat-tire enthusiasts. The 16,212-acre protected area spreads over a geological anomaly known as the Hector Backbone, a north-south running ridgeline serving up fast-flowing singletrack and more leisurely rides, like the pastoral Backbone Trail. The Erwin Wildlife Management Area is another hub for off-road riding. The trails aren’t well marked here, but if you enjoy exploring on your bike, two main sets of doubletrack service roads have a good number of singletrack spurs to ride.
Meanwhile, off-road enthusiasts still easing into forest riding can explore one of the region’s glacier-sculpted gorges instead on the nearly 12-mile Catherine Valley Trail. The gravel track runs from Watkins Glen, at the southern end of Seneca Lake, to the hamlet of Pine Glen, tracing the route of the Old Chemung Barge Canal towpath.
Regional Cycling Clubs and Events
Cyclists craving camaraderie have plenty of options in the Southern Finger Lakes region. Competitive cyclists can join other riders in a host of annual events. Organized by the Southern Tier Bicycle Club, the Great Finger Lakes Bike Tour features a weekend of facilitated rides, with a range of options for cyclists of all abilities.
The region is also home to several annual charity rides. Supporting the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, the annual Tour de Keuka begins in Hammondsport and treats riders to stunning views of Keuka Lake, offering everything from century circuits to rides as short as 16 miles. For off-road riders, there’s the Highlander Cycle Tour. The annual charity event has offerings for mountain bikers and road riders, including several century circuits and “lite options” ranging from 16 miles to 40 miles.
For social butterflies, clubs like the Southern Tier Bicycle Club and the Finger Lakes Cycling Club provide the opportunity to engage with other riders while exploring the beautiful landscape of the Southern Finger Lakes region. At the northwestern end of Seneca Lake, the Geneva Bike Shop offers women-only rides from late May to late September.
No matter how you enjoy riding, you’ll find plenty of options in the Southern Finger Lakes region. So bring your bike—or rent one locally—and see the area in a whole new way.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated Media in partnership with Steuben County CVB.