The Finger Lakes Overnighter
62 Mi.(100 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Ride and Report
The Finger Lakes region of central New York state is known for its wineries and waterfalls. It’s often referred to as a four-season playground, attracting tourists and vacationers from all over. The Finger Lakes Overnighter aims to take full advantage of what the area has to offer, all packed into a logistically straightforward loop through the counties of Chemung, Schuyler, and Seneca, with a focus on exploring Finger Lakes National Forest.
The loop starts and finishes in the village of Watkins Glen, home to the popular Watkins Glen Gorge, and more importantly, Tobey’s Donut Shop. A short ride south on the Catherine Valley Rail Trail leads to Montour Falls, where you’ll find the first of three waterfalls along the route. After a few more miles of rail trail, riders are greeted with the only major climb of the route up to Terry Hill, before a leisurely descent into the small town of Odessa for a quick bite to eat or to pick up supplies for the night. The route skirts along Texas Hollow State Forest before entering Finger Lakes National Forest to form the northernmost section of the route.
This loop primarily follows gravel roads, but mixes in some paved sections, trail, and service roads for good measure. The entire route is rideable on almost any functional bike, but is best suited to gravel bikes and hardtail mountain bikes. If you’re looking for something a bit shorter, the northern tip of the route can easily be trimmed down on the go with little fuss.
Route Development: The Finger Lakes Overnighter is directly inspired by Jim DeWitt, who plotted out and rode the route with a group during the summer of 2019. I stumbled upon his blog post outlining the route while researching potential riding in the area.
- Approachable back road riding, perfect for beginners.
- Logistically simple. Easy to navigate, camp, and explore.
- Several waterfalls on or near the route. Great way to take a break from riding.
- The Finger Lakes region is diverse and incredibly beautiful.
- Catherine Valley Rail Trail makes for a great first morning.
- Ideal Bike: a gravel bike with some knobs on the tires would be perfect, although realistically the route could be ridden comfortably on whatever bike you have.
- When to go: spring and fall are the best times to ride in the Finger Lakes region. Cooler nights will also help keep the bugs at bay.
- Parking: We opted to park at the overflow parking area in Watkins Glen State Park, just up Walnut Rd., at the Park Office. Speak to the park attendants and pay a small fee.
- There is some wild camping in Texas Hollow State Forest. Check out the map above.
- The better camping option is either at Blueberry Patch Campground or the dispersed camping further up the road.
- Both options are first-come-first-served. No planning required!
- Resupply at Mini Mart in Odessa, the only real stop on route.
- Various ponds and streams in the National Forest, bring a filter or stove to boil.
- Watkins Glen has grocery stores and restaurants for before and after the ride. Check out Rooster Fish Brewing and Tobey’s Donut Shop.
Although the terrain is non-technical, there are two substantial climbs on the route that you’ll likely reach on the first day of riding. A longer first day is the best case scenario, taking time to stop to check out waterfalls, fuel up in Odessa, and get into the National Forest for the evening. Depending on how everyone is feeling, the northern loop can be trimmed down by crossing west on Searsburg Rd. or S Seneca Rd. to rejoin the route on Warner Corners Rd.
There are many hiking trails within Finger Lakes National Forest that are restricted to bikes, so stay on designated roads and paths. Bikes are permitted on the Interloken Trail between Seneca and Parmenter Roads, which the route follows. The small section along the No-Tan-Takto Trail crosses through pastures and can be muddy and rough. Some may walk this section.
Deckertown and Eagle Cliffs Falls are just off route, outside of the town of Montrose Falls. After Shequaga Falls, head East through town to Clawson Blvd, then take S Lhommeedieu St. to the other two falls. Rejoin the rail trail at S Genesee St.