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Though mostly a continuous system of trails from Sherman north to Brocton, some segments of the Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails system go by other names (see below). All the trails are primarily grassy but some portions are gravel or crushed stone. As the experience can be challenging in some areas, mountain bikes are recommended.
The scenic Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails travel through woodlands, wetlands and meadows, where wildflowers abound in spring and wildlife year-round, including beaver, turkey and deer. In winter the trail is popular with both cross-country skiers and snowmobilers; however, the trailhead parking lots are not plowed, so users must park along side roads.
The trail has two on-road portions, which skirt part of a rail bed: 1.47 miles along Hannum and Summerdale roads (west of Lake Chautauqua); 0.92 mile along Titus and Kendrick roads (near the southern terminus in Sherman). In addition, there's a short break in the trail north of Colt Road (near Brocton), and the trail picks up again at Ellicott Road.
The different segments of the Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails are as follows:
The Alison Wells Ney segment runs between Fuller Street in Brocton and Bliss Road. The Laurie Baer segment travels along a Niagara Mohawk right of way between Bliss and Plank roads, crossing an original railroad bridge.
The Nadine and Paul Webb Nature Trail extends 1 mile between State Routes 430 and 394. The pleasant trail passes through a wooded area and scattered farmland, ending at the Mayville lakefront at the northern end of Chautauqua Lake. Begin at Boxcar Barney's, a local ice cream and hot dog emporium. This portion also crosses an original railroad bridge. A short segment at the southern terminus in Sherman is locally called the Sherman Village–French Creek Nature Trail.
The Portage Trail takes off from the rail-trail at the north end of Lake Chautauqua and heads northwest at a diagonal to Quillan Road, 3.86 miles. The trail was used by Native Americans to carry their canoes from Lake Erie to Lake Chautauqua. Later, French trappers buried lead plates along the route and to Pittsburgh. Next, the railroad came followed by a trolley line.
You can access the Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails at several places along its route. In Sherman, park off Franklin Street just south of E. Main Street. There is minimal parking along Titus and Hannum roads. The Diggs trailhead is on Bentley Road, 100 yards from Hannum Road.
You can also park in Mayville at the depot at SR 394/S. Erie/Water streets. In Brocton, the trailhead is at Prospect Station Road, though the trail begins at Bliss Road. Between Brocton and Mayville, you can park near Lawson and Prospect roads; Fish/Barnes at Prospect Station; at Colt and Thayer roads; and at Village DPW Garages on Highland Avenue in Brocton.
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