Hiking the Genesee & Surrounding Areas While Social Distancing
Regardless of what we were doing before this crisis and its mandatory social distancing, all our lives have been thrown off their normal tracks. Many of us have more discretionary time and many fewer outside resources such as libraries, gyms, museums, movies, etc. Walking is one of the few things we can do that is virus-safe and provides needed exercise. We at Genesee RiverWatch are a bit prejudiced and happen to believe that our river, with its beauty and history, is a great place to do those walks. Accordingly, we will post occasional website and Facebook suggestions for stretches of the river that you might want to explore. Keep an eye on this page for new routes.
As a rule, these areas will be less well known and should have very little traffic. However, if you do meet fellow travelers, please maintain a 6-foot distance, perhaps stepping off the trail until they go by.
Most of these routes are described as point-to-point. If you do them this way, you will want to leave a second car at the end point. You could also do them as out-and-back trips with a single car; possibly doing half the route one day and, starting from the other end, doing the other half on a second day.
Nothing says that you must walk. Many people bike these trails and, judging by the hoofprints, some ride horses.
#8 – Canadice Lake – West Lake Trail – 4.0 miles one-way
About 2 miles south of Hemlock village on State Route 15A turn east onto Purcell Hill Road. The North Trail Head is at a parking lot about 1 mile down Purcell Hill Road at the lake outlet. The South Trail Head is about 4 miles south of the outlet, down Canadice Lake Road (east side) where there is also ample parking. Both trail heads are marked by yellow vehicle barriers.
The trail is an old cottage access road dating to the mid-1800’s. [See Hike #7 and www.HemlockandCanadiceLakes.com for a summary of the area’s history and role in Rochester’s water supply.] It is well-maintained packed dirt and amply wide to allow for social distancing. Crossing streams are contained in culverts and do not require wading or rock hopping. Canadice Lake is always visible through a thin boundary of trees. The trees along the southern 1.5 miles of trail open up and the bank comes close water level, allowing more expansive views of the lake. The last .75 miles of the trail loops around the south end of the lake through a wetland full of birds and drowned trees. A DEC nature trail extends south off the main trail for several hundred yards into the wetland marsh with ducks and turtles.
Like Hemlock Lake, Canadice is part of the Rochester water supply. All the structures surrounding it were torn down in the late 1800’s and the surrounding land is a state forest. Boat motors are limited to 10hp and most boating is done by canoe and kayak. Thus, the lake is not much changed from its appearance when settlers first arrived in the 1790’s. As such, it is an often-underappreciated rarity in the crowded northeast. To fully appreciate this jewel, try to arrive early in the day.
#7 – Hemlock Lake – Old East Lake Road – 3.6 miles round trip
About 1 mile south of Hemlock village on State Route 15A turn west onto Rix Hill Road. Immediately turn south onto Old East Lake Road, passing the Hemlock Water Filtration Plant on your right. After about 1 mile, you will come to the boat launch and an ample parking area. With the advance of spring and warm weather, this route is no longer sparsely populated on the weekends. (Try weekdays and early mornings.) Nevertheless, as an old cottage road, it is easily wide enough to allow 6 foot+ distances between hikers. The trail is gravel and dirt, well-maintained and has no steep sections. You will have to cross small streams coming down the gullies to the east, but these are easy to step across in normal weather and may be dry in the summer. The end of the trail is marked by a larger gully and a stone bench just beyond.
In addition to wildlife, flowers and lake views, keep an eye out for old cottage basements. At one time, there were over 200 cottages and five hotels lining the lake. Seeking clean water to solve outbreaks of disease, in 1876 the City of Rochester built a pipeline connecting Hemlock Lake to the city system. Later, the City purchased the land surrounding both Hemlock and Canadice Lakes and, in 1895, began tearing down all these structures. In 2010 the City sold this property to the New York State Department of Conservation which has pledged to keep the lakes forever wild. Today they look much as they did in the 1790’s when white settlers first arrived. Regulations that limit boats to 17 feet and motors to 10hp help maintain a sense of solitude. For period photos, maps and histories; as well as additional trail descriptions go to: www.HemlockandCanadiceLakes.com
#6 – Mendon: Lehigh Valley Trails – Chamberlain Road to Quaker Meeting House Road – 1.7 miles
This route is just one of many that can be taken within the Honeoye Creek drainage that flows into the Genesee River. It is part of the 15-mile Lehigh Valley Trail system managed by Monroe County as a “linear” park. Built as part of the Rails to Trails initiative, the trail is level and designed for multi-use to accommodate hikers, bikers and horseback riders. For this route, park at either the Chamberlain Rd or Quaker Meeting House Road junction using the provided pullouts. Follow the 1.7-mile trail through a mixture of wetland, lowland hardwoods and upland hardwoods. In early spring, the tree frog known as “spring peepers” put on quite a show in this part of the Lehigh Valley Trail. Keep an eye and ear out for raptors, woodpeckers, owls, red-winged blackbirds and other songbirds. For a map and to find out more about the Lehigh Valley Trail, download the park brochure: https://www2.monroecounty.gov/files/parks/LVT%20Brochure%202017.pdf
#5 - Rochester: Genesee Riverway & Genesee Greenway Trails - Genesee Waterways Center to Paul Road - 2.4 miles
This route is not as remote and natural as many others in this series. However, it is completely paved, nearly flat and offers a “backyard view” of the large Monroe County, RG&E and Palmer Foods installations that line Scottsville Road. Park at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex just west of the river off Elmwood. Walk to the Waterways Center docks and turn right (south) to follow the Genesee Riverway Trail along the west bank of the river. Crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Erie Canal you have a great view of the Erie Canal-Genesee River Intersection. As you walk under Interstate 390, the Erie Canal Trail, Genesee Greenway Trail and the Genesee Riverway Trail diverge. Bear left along the river for the more scenic Riverway Trail. After you pass the Monroe County Fire Training Center, the Riverway Trail will turn right and join the Greenway Trail for the rest of the route. At 2.4 miles you will come to the Paul Road-Scottsville Road intersection. There is ample parking at the temporarily closed businesses in the area if you want to make this a one-way trip or you can walk back to the Waterways Center. On the return leg, staying on the Greenway Trail where it joins the Riverway results in the same walking distance and gives a different view of the Monroe County facilities.
#4 - Plex Neighborhood & University of Rochester: Genesee Riverway Trail – Ford Street to UR Pedestrian Bridge to Ford Street – 2.9 miles round trip
Park on the street near the west end of the Ford Street Bridge. (During the Coronavirus closure, the parking area at the Church of Love Faith Center is unused. At other times it will be busy with school activities.) Walk the Genesee Riverway Trail south past the long-abandoned Vacuum Oil building whose cleanup is a key to the revitalization of this area. (If you wish a shorter - 1.8 miles - trip, cross the river on the renovated Erie Lackawanna railroad bridge.) Continue down the west side of the river to the University of Rochester pedestrian bridge near the new Staybridge Suites hotel. Cross the river and walk north along the east side of the river, through the University campus, back to the Ford Street Bridge.
This trail, being in the City, will have more walkers using it than other suggestions in this series. You may want to try it out early in the morning. Be sure to maintain the 6-foot separation from other people.
#3 - Avon area: Genesee Greenway Trail - Route 20 to Lehigh Valley Trail - 6.4 miles
Park at the point where the Greenway Trail crosses Route 20, 1.4 miles west of the Genesee River bridge at Avon. (There is an excellent parking area here; however, there is no room for parking where the trail crosses Route 5 about .8 trail miles north.) Walk the trail 5.9 miles north to the intersection with the Lehigh Valley Trail at the old Wadsworth Junction railroad bridge. Turn west and walk .5 miles to the western terminus of the Lehigh Valley Trail. There is a small parking area here 2.6 miles south of Scottsville near the Casella Transfer Station.
The Greenway Trail follows the tow path of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) which became the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad in 1882 and, eventually, part of the Pennsylvania Railroad until it was abandoned in 1963. The old canal bed, scattered railroad ties and bridge foundations for intersecting railroads are features of the entire route. Keep an eye out for beaver who are very active along the northern end of this trail section.
#2 - Seneca Park: Genesee Riverway Trail - Trout Lake to O’Rorke Bridge – 3.3 miles
Take the Seneca Park Zoo access road past the Zoo parking area and down the hill to Trout Lake. Find the trail between the road and the cliff edge above the river. Follow the trail north to the O’Rorke Bridge. It is approximately 3.3 miles but there are many potentially interesting side excursions on trail branches and, in some areas, down to the river level. Part of the trail follows an abandoned rail line whose ballast stones, old ties and infrastructure are clearly evident. For great long views of the river, stop an the many overlooks, especially above the Turning Basin at Rattlesnake Point. You are at the halfway point when you pass through the fence gate at the north end of the Seneca Park property.
#1 - Scottsville Area: Lehigh Valley Trail to Scottsville Canawaugus Park or Route 253 – 3.0 or 4.0 miles
Park at the access lot on the east side of River Road, 2.6 miles south of Scottsville near the Casella Transfer Station. Walk about .5 miles east on the Lehigh Valley Trail to the intersection with the Genesee Valley Greenway at the Wadsworth Junction railroad bridge. Read the sign describing the Genesee Valley Canal and its successor railroads that ran on the same line as today’s Greenway Trail. Walk north up the trail about 2.5 miles to Canawaugus Park on Owatka Creek. Still have energy? Add an additional mile to route 253. The trails are mostly flat and well-groomed, though there may be muddy spots after a rain. There is parking for about 6 cars at the Lehigh Trail access point, a large parking lot at Canawaugus and room for 2-3 cars at the route 253 intersection.