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The towns of Allegany and Olean (OH-lee-an) sat at the hub of river, railroad, wagon road, and canal traffic during New York’s early history. It’s no wonder that today the area is home to a popular trail that connects the two towns.
The Allegheny River Valley Trail comprises a 5-mile main loop and a 1-mile cutoff around St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, and a 2-mile connector on paths and sidewalks into Olean. The entire 8 miles is paved, traveling along the wooded Allegheny River shoreline for about 3 miles, encircling the college campus, and passing through the industrial and retail center of Olean to a trailhead brewery.
The main loop trail dates back to the 1990s, when local businessman Joseph Higgins conceived a loop trail using the southern edge of a sprawling rail yard. He helped negotiate an agreement among the Town of Allegany, the City of Olean, and St. Bonaventure University. The extension through Olean was added later.
Starting at the trailhead near the tennis courts at St. Bonaventure University, take the trail to the left to reach the Allegheny River in about 0.25 mile. The river carried early settlers west and brought commerce to the region.
Oak, maple, ash, and cherry trees provide welcome shade in the summertime. At 1.2 miles, you’ll pass a mile-long trail on your left that offers a loop around the university and can serve as a shortcut back to the trailhead. On the main loop, you’ll cross a few bridges over small tributaries and experience short dips and climbs.
At 2 miles, you arrive at Gargoyle Park, which has parking, athletic fields, and restrooms. East and west of the park you’ll see earthen berms—all that’s left of a 368-acre oil tank facility that held some 300 tanks until the early 1940s. The 4.5-foot embankments surrounded each tank in case of fire or a rupture. Company owners created the park for tank farm workers and their families.
The trail turns away from the river at 3 miles and heads north along an unshaded utility right-of-way for about a mile to a trail fork. A right turn goes 2 miles through residential and retail areas of Olean on paths and sidewalks along Constitution Avenue, Wayne Street, and an active railroad line to the local campus of Jamestown Community College, where you’ll see a 1940s vintage Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station. The trail continues south along Olean Creek to a sidewalk on Adams Street that ends at Edwards Court.
A left turn at the previously mentioned fork follows the main loop. After crossing Constitution Avenue, you’ll pass a popular ice cream shop and travel within sight of the rail yard. You’ll return to the St. Bonaventure campus about a mile after the fork and arrive at your starting spot in about another 0.5 mile.
To reach the trailhead at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany from I-86/Southern Tier Expy., take Exit 24, and head south on W. 5 Mile Road. Go 0.4 mile, and turn left onto NY 417/W. State Road. Go 0.8 mile, and stay straight as the road becomes NY 417/Main St. Go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto S. Seventh St. Then go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto E. Union St. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right onto Bonaventure Road; look for parking on the right. The trail is adjacent to the parking lot.
To reach the trailhead in Olean from I-86/Southern Tier Expy., take Exit 26 and turn right onto NY 16/N. Union St. Ext. Go 0.6 mile, turn left onto Front St., and then go 1.2 miles. Turn right onto E. State St. Go 0.3 mile, turn left onto Fulton St., and then go 0.2 mile. Bear right onto Adams St. Go 0.1 mile to E. Greene St., and look for parking at Four Mile Brewing, which allows trail parking.
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