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Shaped like a left-leaning V, the Ontario Pathways Rail Trail travels southeast from Canandaigua to Stanley, then shoots north to Phelps. The rural trail is the pride of an industrious community organization, Ontario Pathways, Inc., that purchased the unused railroad corridor and transformed it into a popular recreation destination. Just over 23 miles of the rail-trail are open, and twelve bridges have been redecked or rebuilt. One of the bridges at the Canandaigua end is enhanced with a decorative metal gate in the shape of the organization's logo and name. A similar gate is in place in Phelps.
For the first few miles in Canandaigua, an active rail line is separated from the trail by a thick, overgrown hedgerow. The trail's surface is single track, occasionally wider, of packed cinder ballast bordered by mowed grass and trees.
It's a wonderfully pleasant ride through the vast agricultural landscape of the Finger Lakes region, passing acres and acres of green cabbage, red cabbage, squash, celery, soybeans, corn and pumpkins. If you ride the trail often enough, you will witness the full cycle of America's produce being grown and harvested.
At the Orleans trailhead, along County Road 23, is a railroad water tower built in 1944. The wooden tank, which held 40,000 gallons, is one of a few of the remaining towers that serviced steam locomotives throughout the Northeast.
At this point, there is a break in the trail with a 0.9-mile road walk, where an access lane off State Route 488 rejoins the rail bed. South on the rail bed, it dead ends. Northward to Phelps, it roughly parallels Flint Creek with several bridges and waterfalls to State Route 96. There is a separate 1.8-mile section north of Phelps on Gifford Road. This is an out-and-back section with only one parking lot trailhead.
Be sure to budget enough time to explore the quaint town of Canandaigua, perched on the north shore of Canandaigua Lake, one of the smaller of New York's Finger Lakes. With loads of Victorian architecture and a population of fewer than 15,000, Canandaigua has the essence of a tiny resort town. From June through October you can tour historic neighborhoods and a hilltop cemetery in horse-drawn carriages. A replica 19th-century paddleboat offers dinner cruises. In town, local entertainment and art provide a counterpoint to gorgeous views across the lake and valley, dotted with produce farms and vineyards.
From I-90, exit onto NY 332 South into the town of Canandaigua. Turn left onto Ontario Street and travel one block to the municipal parking lot on the left.
To reach the Orleans trailhead from I-90, take Exit 43 to head south on NY 21/N. Main Street. Turn left to head east on NY 488. Turn right on Waddell Road/Railroad Avenue. A small parking lot is on the left, just before you reach County Road 23.
To reach the Phelps trailhead from I-90, take Exit 43 to head south on NY 21/N. Main Street. Turn left on NY 96; travel eastbound on NY 96 for 7.3 miles. In 0.3 miles after you pass by the NY 488 intersection, you'll see the large trail parking lot on your right.
See the trail map for additional options, such as the parking areas in Flint and Stanley.
The Ontario Pathway is exactly that; a pathway. It is a wide grassy path with a narrow-worn bike path. I was not expecting such a primitive trail. It is a beautiful trail that is under a canopy of trees that travels through lush farms. On our ride, the weather was great but the trail could be a problem in wet weather.
The Ontario Pathway seems to be lost in time. I felt I should have been riding a balloon tire Schwinn instead of my hybrid. It was a great experience but a little more strenuous that we expected.
Ran from the trail intersection and Freshour Rd to Canadaigua YMCA. Beautiful tree canopy made sun protection unnecessary. This portion of the trail was about 50/50 wide enough to run on the path vs. in the grass.
About 3/4 had a taste in the mouth manure smell. Not sure time of year, wind direction or weather its a common occurrence.
Anne and I biked this rail trail today and loved it. We arrived in Canandaigua just as thunderstorms were moving through, so visited the Dalai Java coffeeshop on Main Street for some coffee and lunch. Very nice. After the rain ended, we rode for about 8 miles round trip. The beginning little bit along the active train tracks is just okay, but it fairly quickly leaves the tracks and enters an enchanted green tunnel. The shrubs and trees arch over the trail to provide shade and a feeling of isolation in nature. Unfortunately we had to turn around between Smith and Freshour Roads, due to a tree across the trail. It could be cut with a hand saw, but I did not have one.
Thanks to the folks who created and maintain this gem.
April 17, 2017: After reading the reviews, I decided to ride my fat bike on this path since it was new territory to me. After riding the trail from Canandaigua southeast to Gorham & turning around after 11 miles at Old Mill Road, this rail trail can easily handle a hybrid bike. If you have knobby-er tires/GatorSkins, even better. Though our weather here in Update NY over the past two weeks has been rainy, there were some low lying spots with mud/standing water. These areas are totally do-able on a fat bike and I'd be able to navigate them on my hybrid too. I wouldn't call this rail trail rutty by no means. It's comparable to the Greenway or Lehigh Valley Rail Trails...bumps and ruts randomly, but not consistently along the path. Talking about scenic...farmlands, Ontario County Fairgrounds, rusty cars, backyard neighborhoods, light industrial, great spanning bridges going over rivers and streams...it's just an overall delight to experience. I would recommend OPRT for anyone training for long distance trail run/walk where you need flat distance over technical terrain, bikers looking to ride on hybrid, mt., or fat bike. I can't wait for my next adventure on the OPRT!
Rode this just recently from Canandaigua to Phelps/Rt 96. Beautiful scenery and very rural. We rode it on a week day and did not see any other cyclists for the full 19 miles. Definitely a mountain bike trail due to the tree roots in some sections.
I picked this ride based on the reviews and the fact that it was not paved and not packed crushed stone. We were looking for a little more terrain on our ride and this one sounded promising. It passed with flying colors. We decided to start in Stanley and went towards Phelps - this section was about 5 miles one way and stopped at the water tower. We biked this with our nine year old and it was a good turning point. It made the total trip about 10 miles.
It was shaded and well kept (a couple areas could use the hedge trimmers, but all in all not bad). We all rode our mountain bikes. In my opinion this is not the type of trail for hybrids and road bikes (not paved and not crushed stone). The section we rode is rooty and we found many large wood chuck holes so watch out, but this is right up our alley as we are inspiring our nine year old to like mountain biking when she gets older and stronger.
The trail is completely grass covered with a worn single track lane. The bugs were not that bad today as it was windy, but still wear spray. The trail was very beautiful country farm land and peaceful. We only saw two groups out during our ride. Well worth the drive from Corning, NY to experience something different and ride the beautiful countryside. You will not have any regrets as long as you bring bug spray, have a mountain bike and understand this is not a paved/crushed stone typical rail trail. Enjoy!
I rode the first 7 miles, starting at the Canandaigua end in Oct. 15 on a hybrid. My husband had a hard tail Mt. bike. As others have stated, the roots made for a rough and tiring ride. As we live close by and really enjoyed the trail, we bought full suspension Mt. bikes soon after. We went back to the 7 mi. point and did another section. The new bikes made for a much more enjoyable ride. We can't wait to continue our exploration in the spring as winter has finally arrived.
This is a mountain bike trail. I rode this a few days before Christmas 2015 and enjoy this trail very much. The Phelps-Stanley section is better than Stanley-Canandaigua section. Flint Creek is adjacent for most of the Phelps section giving to good photos during high water...and check out the RR water tower in Orleans! I thought the Stanley-Canandaigua section was less scenic and a little rougher. I turned off onto Freshour Rd. and went to Shortsville and back to Phelps. Very enjoyable.
Rode this in September on a touring bike with 38" tires. I did a section from Charlton Rd to Smith Rd outside Canandaigua. It was pretty bumpy due to lots of roots, some rocks, and long sections overgrown with grass. This is noticeably downhill and I sometimes could get up some pretty good speed, but had to be ready to slam on the brakes for big roots. Some parts are so enclosed by trees that it looks like you are going into a green tunnel. Very pretty but not good if you're in a hurry. Wider tires a must. Would be great for XC skiing!
Grassy, bumpy, and rooty. Very uncomfortable, even with a shock. The grass masks the holes and roots. The farm views are few, except at road crossings, due to the thick hedgerows on either side of the trail. I meant to go to Canandaigua too, but the trail surface was too daunting.
This trail seems to be built primarily for bikes, however if you enjoy more of a trail run this one is nice. Half mile markers along the trail help to track mileage. Pleasant run, well maintained trail.
This trail is great for hiking and true mountain bikes, but not great for those who want to enjoy the views while trail riding. There were several deep slopes that went directly into busy roads and the entrance ways were so narrow you could not ride through. Many roots in sections and were difficult to see until you were right on them due to the changing light (sun to shade).
The trail was everything we had hoped for. We rode from Canandaigua to the southern turning point and back and could not have been happier. Single track, wide grassy areas and cindered sections made for an interesting and not too challenging ride. The trail was well marked and well maintained. A great experience and highly recommended trail ride...
Rode a portion of this trail on Saturday, July 23. We had a difficult time finding access to it at the northern end. The directions weren't clear and the roads weren't marked well. The entrances around the gates are very narrow. In fact, I caught my light on the edge of one and took a fall down the edge of a ravine! Next time we'll try the Canandagua section.
Fall 2009 Two of us rode this trail in September 2009 and found it to be an excellent experience. Much of the trail is singletrack, with long sections of wide smooth cinder. The trail is well marked with quality bridges over the creeks and busy roads. Very narrow gates at the road intersections to keep out ATVs make for careful passage (I broke my mirror). In a few sections there are well marked detours around private property allowing for a ride of the entire 20+ miles.
There is now a parking lot in Stanley where the east-west and north-south sections of the trail meet. I rode north 2.5 miles to a bridge that was closed. Then I came back and rode west for about 4 miles. The only reason I stopped there is that the surface is grass all the way and I was getting pretty tired.
The scenery is nice and the trail is away from main roads and very quiet. It's a nice trail. I recommend a mountain bike because the surface is mostly grass and a little bumpy at times.
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