Catherine Valley Trail: Bike from Watkins Glen to Horseheads

May 13, 2012 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Finger Lakes Summer

Trailhead at the base of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen

If you are riding a bike in the Watkins Glen region you can expect hills — lots of hills — unless you ride the Catherine Valley Trail.

The CVT is a converted canal towpath and railroad bed spanning from the edge of Seneca Lake in downtown Watkins Glen, heading south, to Millport. The plan is to eventually continue on through Mark Twain State Park, all the way to Horseheads (15 miles). A new section will open in May of 2012 connecting Millport through Pine Valley to the State Park.

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Montour Falls — a waterfall right in the center of town

This trail is a work in progress crossing through charming little towns like, Montour Falls, and also following alongside the Chemung River.

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Seneca Lake at Watkins Glen

I parked near the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen.  The trail is not terribly well-marked in some spots and I was glad I had a trail map. When I reached the high school, I took a wrong path and wound up lost. You need to follow left along the back of the baseball field, heading towards the marina.

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Beyond the first few miles, most of the trail looks like this, with woods dropping below on either side

Footprints Press has done a great job of mapping the trail and providing turn-by-turn directions.

The trail has become very popular. I rode it in March and even in early spring I passed 75 boy scouts, plus a constant stream of runners, bikers, and dog walkers.

Watkins Glen lost some of its original charm as a race town, but still has a few fun touches — like the street signs for the numbered streets.

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Riding along the canal

180 years ago, the Chemung Canal spanned 23 miles from Seneca Lake to Elmira — routing lumber, grain, whiskey, etc. The canal closed 20 years after the railroad was built on a parallel path. The railroad remained open well into the middle of the 20th century.

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Great riding farther than your legs can carry you

It took another 30+ years to raise money and connect land parcels to begin the trail that I was able to enjoy.

The trail is named after Catherine Montour, an Indian Chieftess, who was famous for her ability to negotiate (bi-lingual) between the French and Iroquois in the late 1700s.

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Trail map

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Entry filed under: Activities, Biking, Cross Country Skiing, Finger Lakes, Hiking, Seneca Lake, Waterfalls. Tags: , , , , , .

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