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The Catharine Valley Trail travels for 12 miles between Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen and Smith Road north of Pine Valley. The trail follows segments of the abandoned Northern Central Railroad and Chemung Canal towpath, which once ran through the Finger Lakes. Today, the route mostly parallels State Route 14. You'll find on-road sections in Watkins Glen, where it really only gets going behind the high school, and in the Millport area. After the first couple of miles in the north, there is a section that is little more than a single track across a field. Eventually the trail will head farther south to Horseheads.
Trailheads from North to South are:
Marina Road in Watkins Glen: Turn east onto Fairgrounds Road from SR 14 (S. Franklin St.). Fairgrounds Road turns into Marina Road. The trailhead is about 0.3 mile in from SR 14. Watkins Glen High School is along the Catharine Valley Trail to the North.
Cook Street in Montour Falls: Follow Genesee Street south and turn east on W. South Street, then turn south onto Montour Street to the intersection of Cook Street. Turn east on Cook Street; the trailhead is on the south side of the street.
South Genesee Street in Montour Falls: There are two kiosks, one on each side of South Genesee Street in Montour Falls. The trailhead is about 0.25 mile from SR 14 south of Montour Falls, near the power transformer station.
Millport: There are three trailheads in Millport. The first one is on Maple Street; turn west on Crescent Street off SR 14 in the center of Millport then right onto Maple Street. There is a kiosk and limited parking at the end of Maple. To reach the second trailhead, from Crescent Street turn left on Maple Street to the end then left onto Morris Hill Road. There is limited parking. The third trailhead is at the post office on Burch Hill Road in Millport, 0.3 mile from the CVT overpass over SR 14. There is limited parking in the post office parking lot; use the spaces that are west of the flag pole just beyond the building.
Began in Watkins Glen. Rather than riding through town which is very crowded during the summer especially holiday weekends and race weekends, I parked at Watkins Glen High School where the trail runs right next to one of their parking lots. School is closed and the only other cars had bike racks on them also. It is a GREAT trail and you will love it but let me give you some pointers. The trail is NOT well marked. I made two errors and would have made more if I hadnt asked directions. The trail twice puts you onto city roads with no signs which way to go, in each case go left and look for signs. The trail is almost exclusively uphill from Watkins with a very long but gradual grade. Great ride, lots of shade, saw deer in my path and many small critters. Very few people. The end is not marked at all just turns to heavy stone and grass.
This was the first rail trail that I've covered, the first of many that I plan on doing. As many others did, I parked at the Millport post office and rode from south to north on this wonderful 12-mile long trail system, spending some time enjoying the views of Seneca Lake and downtown Watkins Glen. However, I would strongly recommend to first-time riders, or riders that are not used to doing a 25-mile loop ride all in one day - START AT WATKINS GLEN and work your way south to Millport. The reason I recommend this is because it would probably be a whole lot easier riding UP the 2% grade the whole way from Watkins Glen to Millport while you're still fresh. Once you make it to Millport and turn around to return to Watkin's Glen, it's mostly downhill the whole way and you can easily pedal along at whatever pace you're comfortable with. As stated, I made the mistake of starting from Millport, which was great for an easy ride the 12 miles to Watkins Glen, but after riding 12+ miles into and around Watkins Glen, I was pretty much spent for the 12 miles back UP HILL to Millport. It was do-able, however, and I loved the entire ride anyway, despite finishing with legs that were on fire and burning like I've never felt before... lol. No pain, no gain, right? Thanks for the beautiful ride through mostly wooded, shaded forests on this well-maintained packed gravel pathway!
Nice trail ride out and back from Watkins Glenn. Little disappointed at the end of the trail in Pine Valley. Trail just falls apart and not much to do there but turn around and head back to WG. Hopefully they will continue this down it the state park.
Parked my car at the Millport post office today and rode this beautiful trail down to Montour Falls, and then continued on to Watkins Glen at a small park near Seneca Lake. Officially this trail goes from the Mark Twain State park to the Watkins Glen State Park but the end points are not so well marked. After going from the post office down to the lake and then retiring to the post office I spent some time exploring the southern end until it faded out into the woods by Horseheads. A fun ride.
This is a great trail very well maintained and a pleasure to bike on compared to the roadside. No worries of traffic.
I rode from the Post Office parking in Millport all the way to Clute Park in Watkins Glen and back. A 23-mile loop. Here is the loop:
You can't go wrong hiking or biking this trail.
The parking area, free parking, is closest to the GPS location.
322 Main St, Montour Falls, NY 14865
To get to the trail, there are two ways, if you go North (suggested for first time, for a 7 mile bike ride-3.5 each way) , you will get a more scenic trail and go through a swamp area, by school, through a small town on then to the last attraction which is the lake (final point on the trail before you turn around).
To get to the trail, take the road in front of the big waterfall, from mainstreet, facing the waterfalls, TURN RIGHT until you get to a T in the road. Then turn RIGHT again and you will see a cross walk on the main highway. Carefully cross the street and you will see signs for the trail.
The trail is well-made, its obvious it is a trail. There are also mile-markers and signs so that you can't miss it.
This is a great trail to start getting in shape again. It is flat, and easy to follow.
If you decide to go SOUTH---away from the late. Cross the street from the pizza restaurant and follow the signs to the trail head. (less scenic but longer trail)
This is a nice trail, with changing scenery and up-close views of waterfalls. The trail itself is hard-packed gravel. The section from the Millport Post Office (Burch Hill Rd.) to Smith Rd. is a bit looser. It is easily rideable with a hybrid.
If you're going to ride only part of this trail, I suggest the northernmost section. This section has the waterfalls and Seneca Lake. Some of the trail is on the road and is mostly well-marked. In Montour Falls, after viewing Shequaga Falls, finding the trail was a bit challenging. However, our missing the trail afforded us a view of another waterfall, Aunt Sarah's Falls, on Rte. 14. When you leave Shequaga Falls, turn around and go back down North Genessee St. The trail picks up right before the school parking lot on the right. If you miss it, you hit Rte.14. If you turn left on Rte. 14, Aunt Sarah's Falls are almost immediately on the left. You can then turn around, go down Rte.14 for about an eighth of a mile and the trail picks up on the left (at the crosswalk). If you take the trail into Watkins Glen, you'll reach Seneca Lake at the end.
If you start at the southern end, the Millport Post Office is easy to find and has some dedicated parking spaces for CVT riders. (Set your GPS to 3 Burch Hill Rd.). About a mile after you cross the bridge over the road, you come to a porta potty and a street. The next section of the trail (across the lawn) is closed so you have to continue up the road to the right. The CVT picks up in about a quarter mile.
This trails goes from woods, to waterfalls, to canals, to lakes. It's a quick ride so if you can do the whole trail, I recommend it.
Rode the Catharine Valley Rail Trail. It goes from the village of Watkins Glen, fairly close to the current end of the tracks, down to Horseheads. It parallels the Chemung Canal, part of which is still in water. There are a few bits of railroadiana on the way. A steel milepost, a few steel bridges. It departs from the railbed in a few places. In Montour Falls, the railroad went through the middle of an industrial plant, which is still in use and is currently fenced-off.
Don't miss Montour Falls. Quite beautiful and the subject of a famous painting. When you get back on the trail, notice the Montour Falls station right next to the former tracks.
Trail is in great shape. Park at the Watkins glen HS. Friendly groundskeepers. Maybe could use another sign in Montours Falls. Quite close to state park with 19 waterfalls. Trails a credit to those who maintain it.
This is the first time we've biked this trail. We live about 1 hour away in Vestal, NY. Since we were approaching the trail from route 17/86 in Horseheads, my wife and I thought we'd try starting from south of the southern trail head (Smith road). Google maps shows the trail continuing south from Smith road for quite a ways, and it does. We started at Huck Finn road and went north. That adds an extra mile or so to the 12 mile trail. But beware, the section between Huck Finn road and Smith road is unimproved, except for a quarter of a mile or so just north of Huck Finn road. A mountain bike is recommended. We parked in a grassy area on the north side of Huck Finn road, just across the bridge from the trail. Once you ride the trail to Smith Road and continue north, the trail is nice smooth, fine textured gravel. Excellent ride, I would give it five stars but as others commented, the trail is hard to follow in some parts because it is poorly marked, particularly in Montour Falls. Had to back-track a couple times. Also, as others commented, I would recommend starting at the north end. Watkins Glenn High School looks like the best parking area. If you head south from there and go all the way to Smith road, it's mostly gradual up hill, and nice down hill for the return trip. My wife and I made the full round trip from Huck Finn road to Seneca lake and back in about four hours, with lots of stops to rest and eat lunch. But it wasn't easy!
6-6-2015. Great trail, follow the other reviews leads and start in Watkins Glen and travel South, you'll work a bit this way early on but the ride back is a breeze ! Will definately do this one again. Great shot of the falls too !!
We were visiting from Toronto and wanted to enjoy a little hiking in the Finger Lakes area, so we started our week off with this. It's a really fantastic and easy wooded stroll. If you are looking for a little bit of Nature's Air-Conditioning on a hot day, check out this very gentle wooded stroll; great for both hiking and biking. It is a suitable hike for all ability levels. We accessed the trail from a parking lot in Millport, NY (near the Crescent Street and Maple Street intersection) and then we headed north from there. After hiking up about 3 miles and back, we took a short drive to Montour Falls and enjoyed a cappuccino at the Montour House Cafe (an incredible find for coffee lovers). (FYI - We noticed that there was parking provide for hikers at the Montour Falls access point (near the falls/Post Office) as well.
After enjoying our coffees, we drove a tiny bit further north to take in the sights at Watkins Glen State Park. You can do it all in one day very easily. While Catherine Valley Trail didn't provide us with any surprises or terribly unique scenery, it was an utterly wonderful way to spend a warm day. It was a truly fantastic day and we hope to go back again some day.
This trail has everything I want from a trail. It has great sights, it's well taken care of, and it even has mile markers every quarter-mile throughout most of the trail! I loved hiking it because you could see streams and a mini-waterfall. This was the first trail I hiked because it's relatively flat and it's paved.
I chose a day of pending rain, but it didn't dampen my spirits, I enjoyed ride even with a light rain. I would however, like to see continuous mile markers, instead of starting over at each town, I like to keep time of my ride. Also some areas need better trail signs, it's easy to lose the trail when you have to leave the trail and go out on the highway and streets. I will ride this trail again, hopefully on a nice sunny day, and take a little more time to enjoy the deep gorges, plus there are waterfalls off the trail, a little hike involved. There are plenty of restrooms and kiosks along the trail, as well as benches.
My wife & I rode the off-road tandem on 09/14/2013, starting at the Watkins Glen High School parking lot, which is adjacent to the trail on the north end. We rode south, past Millport, to Smith Rd where there is a sign indicating construction further down the trail. Heading south out of Montour Falls is pretty much an uphill ride, not steep, but noticeably uphill. The return (for us) was a downhill treat. Because the surface is fine gravel/cinders/packed dirt, we couldn't coast very far - even with smooth centered tires.
There are two restrooms along the trail. One at Millport at the Morris Hill Rd trailhead and the other at the S. Genesee St trailhead, just south of Montour Falls. Warning: Bring your own TP. There are some ruts (due to rain runoff) that you need to watch out for. Well worth the trip.
Completed most of the Catherine Valley Trail today - Sunday, 14 October 2012. Traveled from Millport to Montour Falls. Slight downhill grade made the riding quite easy. Very scenic with fall colors; leaves covered much of the trail making the riding even nicer. The trail was in high use with lots of walkers, bikers, and a few runners. The warm weather, along with a beautiful Sunday afternoon, brought out the crowd. Mile markers about every 1/4 mile. A few well placed benches. Overall, the trail is in great shape and a perfect place for novice bikers. Going the opposite direction will be a bit more of a challenge.
We road this trail from Millport to Montour Falls on a 90 degree Memorial Day and I took a quick jaunt into Watkins Glen. The trail is mostly gravel, with some paved and some dirt sections. Best for a hybrid or mountain bike, but OK for a road bike but I would suggest slapping on some touring tires for the day.
The trail environment is simply stunning. The greater part of the ride is deeply forested on both sides, with Catherine Creek audible or visible. It was well shaded, a plus for a hot, muggy day. Montour Falls is a quaint little town with a dramatic waterfall smack dab in the middle - and other just north of town - and a fine little cafe. The jaunt into Watkins Glen runs adjacent to the creek for some stretches, and is pleasant enough but not as pretty as the southern part of the trail.
This trail is my favorite (although I live some two-hours away) in part because I grew up in this area, and it offers the most solitude as it appears to be little used by the local folks. The railroad that ran through here was used primarily to move coal from Williamsport PA to Sodus Point NY where it was shipped to Canada and other Great Lakes destinations. It also carried grapes and other fruit to the south, along with ice from Lake Ontario in years past. As a child lying in bed at night I used to listen to the freight trains rumbling up & down the valley and wonder what they were carrying and where they were going with it.
The trail starts in the North at the Seneca Lake pier in Watkins Glen, at about where the remaining active railroad ends, and where there is plenty of free parking. After a short ride through the village you enter the old railbed just south of the high school. You proceed on a scenic trip through through the Queen Catherine Marsh, the village of Montour Falls, and then on a long gradual uphill climb through the woods to the old canal hamlet of Millport. The trip from Millport through Pine Valley to Horseheads has a bit less of a remote feel (and less of a physical challenge) but a great ride nonetheless. By Spring 2011 the southern terminus at Mark Twain Park should be completed.
The natural Upstate NY scenery is terrific, and the close up views & sounds of the local semi-rural & small town culture are charming. Worth noting to many is that there are several park-benches, two composting Rest Rooms but no public water facilities along the way, so be sure to bring enough water with you if you are riding the whole trail. There are stores & restaurants in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, and Pine Valley.
We only rode this trail from the town of Montour Falls to Millport, which was the only portion of the trail that was open when we were there in May 2008. This was one of the very first rail-trails we've ridden, and even now that we've been spoiled by riding on hundreds of miles of mostly paved rail-trails in Ohio and Pennsylvania we still think that this is one of the prettiest trails we've been on!
At some points, the trail was on a high ridge with a big drop-off on one side and a mountain on the other. It had a few short, steep sections that provided a very interesting ride. Mostly, the trail climbed gradually towards Millport so that we had a much faster and easier ride back.
I'd also recommend stopping by the library in downtown Montour Falls to see their stained glass window; the whole building was charming.
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