Finger Lakes Loop

Trip Dates:
Jun 30, 2014 -- Jul 09, 2014
Syracuse, NY
Booking Status:

This tour takes in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York State. From the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, wineries along the lake shores, and rich Women’s Rights heritage of Seneca Falls, to the extensive network of state parks with beautiful campgrounds, it’s little wonder this part of New York is becoming widely recognized as a first-class bicycle-touring destination.

The Finger Lakes area is noted for its hilly terrain, but we’ve carefully designed the route and the daily mileages to make the trip enjoyable for riders with loaded bikes. Along the route, we’ll stop in many lakeside villages and small cities to enjoy snacks and lunches. We’ll camp primarily at state and local campgrounds and enjoy lakes, gorges, and waterfalls. There will be opportunities to tour the wineries and museums lining our route, and we’ve built in a layover day in Ithaca with a great variety of off-bike activities. Join us for what promises to be a fantastic loop ride!

Start Date: Jun 30, 2014 End Date: Jul 09, 2014
Start Location: Syracuse, NY End Location: Syracuse, NY
Total Days: 10 Riding Days: 8
Rest Days: 2 Miles: 367
Average Daily Mileage: 45.9 Surface: Paved
Riders: 14 Airport: Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)
Tour Leader: Alice Charkes , Sean Sweeney Meals: Shared cooking
Accommodations: Camping/Indoors Type: Self Contained
Physical Difficulty: Intermediate+ Level of Support: Self Contained
Cost: $1,069.00

Day 1

We’ll meet in the afternoon at the Downing International Hostel in a historic section of Syracuse that contains many turn-of-the-20th-century mansions. You can explore the downtown area and the historic Erie Canal museum, which describes how this area was at the leading edge of transportation technology in the 1800s. This provides great background, as we’ll have the chance to ride several portions of the Erie Canal towpath during our tour. Back at the hostel we’ll share our first meal together, discuss the trip details, and divvy up the group gear.

Day 2

Syracuse to Moravia, 50 miles. Departing Syracuse, we’ll quickly encounter the beautiful Onondaga Lake, sporting a shoreline bike path that will lead us out of the city and westward toward the quaint town of Skaneateles. Later in the day, we’ll ride our first portion of the Erie Canal towpath trail near Camillus. There’s a great lunch spot on the shore of Skaneateles Lake, a bona fide Finger Lake. For many years, Skaneateles Lake was the water supply for the city of Syracuse, known as one of the purest water sources in the world. After lunch, we’ll head along the west shore of the lake, gradually climbing and then enjoying a steep descent into the town of Moravia, where we’ll spend the night at Fillmore Glen State Park, named for U.S. President Millard Fillmore.

Day 3

Moravia to Seneca Falls, 43 miles. Today we head up the east shore of Owasco Lake, gradually climbing to earn views of the lake and valley, and then descending into the small city of Auburn. From there we’ll head west to Cayuga, the largest of the Finger Lakes. Taking the sleepy little River Road near the north end of Cayuga Lake, we’ll pass the Cayuga-Seneca lock, which connects to the Erie Canal waterway system. The town of Seneca Falls is a great lunch spot, with its small shops and park located directly along the canal. There is much to explore in the town, including the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the homes of several prominent 1800s women’s rights activists.

Day 4

Seneca Falls to Romulus, 42 miles. Today’s riding starts out quite flat as we hug the northwest shore of Cayuga Lake, but the terrain gradually turns to rolling hills. A short side trip will take us down to lake level along a very quiet stretch of road that features a well-known winery. We’ll then head west and surmount the ridge separating Cayuga Lake from Seneca Lake, our next destination. There’s an Air Force and Navy Veterans Museum on the Sampson State Park grounds that may be of interest to war-history buffs.

Day 5

Romulus to Bluff Point, 54 miles. We’ll start the day by enjoying several miles of car-free travel along roadways once used by a World War II naval training station. Today, weeds sprout from cracks in the pavement of the abandoned roads. Working our way along the shore of Seneca Lake, we’ll pass a large winery and tasting room, and head toward the city of Geneva. Stately homes and mansions line our path as we trace the western shore of Seneca Lake, making our way to the hamlet of Dresden. There we’ll ride on portions of the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail toward Penn Yan, which lies at the northernmost point of Keuka Lake. We’ll gradually climb the center of the Y, where we will enjoy a spectacular view of the southern portion of Keuka Lake located hundreds of feet below before descending to lake level.

Day 6

Bluff Point to Watkins Glen, 46 miles. Today we will pass through the picturesque village of Hammondsport, located at the southern end of Keuka Lake. Sometimes referred to as “the cradle of aviation,” Hammondsport was the hometown of early aircraft engine designer Glenn Curtiss, who teamed up with the Wright brothers to build some of the earliest aircraft engines. We might take time to tour the aviation museum in the village, where we’ll learn that Curtiss was also a motorcycle and bicycle enthusiast. Also nearby are several wineries offering tours and tastings. Soon we’ll head out of town on quiet roads and loop around two of the least known and smallest Finger Lakes: Waneta and Lamoka. We will have a challenging climb up and over the ridge before enjoying a spectacular downhill into the town of Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake. Watkins Glen became world famous as the site where Grand Prix auto racing took place through the streets of the village until a new hillside road race course was built in 1952. We will spend the night at one of the campgrounds in Watkins Glen.

Day 7

Watkins Glen to Ithaca, 44 miles. Today we’ll enjoy a section of the new Catherine Valley Rail-Trail before heading up into the beautiful hillsides. Heading east, we’ll ride through the tiny town of Odessa and past compact Cayuta Lake, before gradually climbing the ridge toward the much larger Cayuga Lake. Spectacular views of the longest Finger Lake and the city of Ithaca are ours to enjoy before we make the exhilarating 900-foot descent into the city. We’ll climb partway back uphill on a gracefully designed street lined with gingerbread-cottage houses, gardens, and a set of switchbacks rivaling San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street. Cornell University sits atop the hill, and we’ll call indoor accommodations close to campus our home for two nights.

Day 8

Layover day, Ithaca. Spend the day resting on the college campus and enjoying the public art museum, or swimming and hiking amid the gorges and waterfalls at nearby parks. Downtown Ithaca boasts a farmers’ market, lake cruises, a winery, and a variety of cafes and restaurants located on or near the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall. Can’t stand to be off your bike for a full day? A 10-mile ride will take you to Taughannock Falls State Park and a waterfall reportedly taller than Niagara Falls.

Day 9

Ithaca to Fabius, 51 miles. Today’s riding follows some of the creeks that feed Cayuga Lake. Our route is surrounded by state forest land units with names like Donahue Woods, Peague Hill, Kettleball, and Morgan Hill. We’ll get to test our finely tuned bodies on the final climb of the trip as we approach our campsite at Highland Forest.

Day 10

Fabius to Syracuse, 38 miles. After packing our gear onto our bikes for the last time this trip, we’ll enjoy a day of riding that’s almost entirely downhill. From the upscale village of Cazenovia, situated on the shore of Cazenovia Lake, we’ll ride past Chittenango Falls. The falls drop into a valley that, thousands of years ago, was one of the Finger Lakes until its northern end gave way, permitting the lake to empty out. Soon we’ll arrive in the town of Chittenango, which played an important role in the development of the Erie Canal as many of the wooden canal boats were built and repaired here. We’ll have no problem finding a nice restaurant to host our final lunch together. After that, we’ll ride a section of the old Erie Canal towpath trail before returning to Syracuse and the end of our terrific 10-day tour.

"I enjoyed the friendship of the other riders and the professionalism of the leaders"

2013 Tour Participant

"The rides were sufficiently challenging to provide a sense of accomplishment while reserving some energy for hiking, swimming, or other activities."

2012 Tour Participant

"The group size was perfect for getting to know people well and having an opportunity to learn from seasoned riders, combining to make me feel comfortable as a new touring cyclist."

2012 Tour Participant

"I felt like the leadership on this trip was exceptional! Though we had some weather and a wide range of cycling abilities, we were really able to come together as a group."

2013 Tour Participant

Photo by Bonnie Gustin