YOUR TRAIL: Let’s head to the shores of Lake Ontario and find out why their #TrailsRoc
This week we are going to visit Rochester, NY – A small city on the shores of Lake Ontario with a booming trail scene. (Full disclosure, this is where your author is from). Rochester offers incredible trails with a county park system that years ago invested in open spaces as well as numerous volunteer trail organizations that build, maintain, and advocate for the trails in the area. As the glaciers retreated from the last ice age, the area was left with some sections of town that are dead flat to others that have roller coasters and not a step of level ground and everything in between. With multiple running stores, even more event companies, outdoor media companies, and a vibrant food and music scene check out below what Rochester has to offer.
You need to run this trail: There are two that most people would point out locally. The first would be The Crescent Trail – Maintained by the Crescent Trail Association. With 37 miles of trails, the orange trail is the main branch running 18 miles end to end of rolling hills and creekside trails.
The Letchworth Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail would be the other. Roughly 25 miles of uninterrupted single track with a view of the incredible Genesee River Gorge. You won’t see many other people, and it truly feels like you are completely deep in the wilderness just 30 minutes from downtown Rochester.
Other noteworthy trails: Just a touch outside of the city is the Seneca Trail, a 14 mile trail- Visit the appliance graveyard and the spooky barn while you are out! Monroe County has 26 parks, almost every one of them has runnable trails. Mendon Ponds Park has trails for everyone – Durand Eastman Park runs on the shores of Lake Ontario and around a series of ponds and is must see in the fall. Check out the #TrailsRoc app for more options.
Best Race/Event: This is almost impossible to choose as the region has everything from short 5k trail races to 100 mile ultra events. We are partial to Many On The Genny, a 45 mile loop around the Gorge in Letchworth State park that raises funds for the Finger Lakes Trail Conference.
Honorable Mentions: Muddy Sneaker – The unofficial kick off to the trail running season for Rochester runners. A 20k with a killer 1 mile long uphill to the finish. You have creek crossings, big climbs, long descents, single track, logging roads and more. The event is one of the longest held races in the region and has a cult-like following. Get in fast, registration is limited.
The Most unique event: With so many to choose from again, it was hard to pick just one and the region is full of strange and unique events.
Ready Set Glow – A 5 mile trail race on Mountain Bike trails, raced in the dark with the trail lit by glow sticks and reflective flagging – Runners dress up for the event in glow in the dark and fun outfits.
Last Runner Standing – An elimination event on a 1 mile loop. Each loop runners must get faster to stay in (starting at 20 minutes for a mile, all the way down to 7). In total they will race for 26 miles. If there are multiple runners left on loop 26, the event turns into a 1 mile, untimed race. First one back wins.
Cast A Shadow 6 hour snowshoe relay – How long you get depends on what the groundhog does. If it sees it’s shadow, you may start a loop at 5:59:59. If it does not and only loops done BEFORE 6:00:00 count. There is a relay, a solo and even a “Little Rodent” for those who aren’t ready to go for 6 hours!
Trail Event Companies:
#TrailsRoc – A local 501c3 that puts on races, trail work days, and even has an app with all the local trails and it shows you in real time where you are and which way you are heading. Download it before coming to town!
Goose Adventure Racing- The OG of the local trail scene, Goose believes in the phrase “Roads Are Poison” . They host some of the most unique and well put on events in the region.
Robin Hood Racing – Closely tied to Rochester Running Company, Robin Hood racing is the newest kid on the block and they have revived or saved some of the best events as well as creating some amazing new events all while offering Unlimited Breadsticks. RHR also offers timing and other event services!
Yellow Jacket Racing – From the owners of Fleet Feet, YJR has been putting on high quality events in Rochester for years. They host a lot of road events but also the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon in Letchworth, which is a local favorite.
Rochester Orienteering Club – With a different take on the sport, they host meets year round. Sometimes they race on new courses and sometimes on permanent courses. You need a map, a compass, and a sense of adventure.
One-off events – These are too numerous to list individually. Events that folks put on as fundraisers, fatass, or “This spot didn’t have a race” style events – Come to town and meet local runners, often the only way to find out about these!
Best FKT to chase: This has to be the same as the best trail in the region. You are either going to chase down the FKT in Letchworth on the Finger Lakes Trail or The Crescent Trail Orange Route a touch closer to the city; both are challenging, rewarding, and pretty stiff records!
Local Trail Media:
Goat Factory Media – Ron Heerkens Jr. creates some of the most amazing trail documentaries (here is one with yours truly), in addition to being one of the best trail race photographers in the country. Check out his work, you won’t regret it.
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/gfmediaceo
Running Inside Out Podcast – Chris O’Brien spends time with local runners, not just the elites and pros to really get a feel for the local running scene.
Lodging: You can hit up some amazing Air B and B on waterfront property or you can book with many of the chain hotels at great rates. The Rochester area is full of unique and historic hotels and inns like the Canal Lamp Inn right on the historic Erie Canal where you can go for a paddle, run, or bike ride for hundreds of miles! No matter where you book, you won’t be more than 15 minutes from a great trail!
What to do instead of running? Come visit during the International Jazz fest – Relive your childhood at the Strong Museum of Play and Toy Hall of Fame– With water everywhere, you can boat, kayak, swim, relax and more Bay Creek Paddling allows you to rent anything to paddle while South Bay Marina has your motorized options -Are you a photo junkie? You need to get to the George Eastman house, the home of Kodak Founder George Eastman and probably the reason you are into photography in the first place. Do you like to enjoy the trails on 2 wheels? Rochester has some great mountain biking parks. Check out The Genesee Regional Off Road Cycling page aka GROC for the updates and locations on where to ride some dirt!
Good Eats N’ Drinks: Rochester is home to an odd feed staple called Garbage plates. They originated at a place called Nick Tahou Hots. If you want the original head there – If you want the best version, go to DogTown Hots, if the garbage plate isn’t your idea of fun, they also have amazing and unique versions of hot dogs.
Being from Buffalo, I know my way around a chicken wing. The best we have ever had are not in Buffalo though, they are here at Windjammers bar and grill up on the lake. The best part, they have beer for $1 and $2! Can’t beat that combination.
Are you more of a craft beer junkie? Rochester has 27.Count them, 27 Craft Breweries led by the Genesee Brew House at High Falls. Are you a foodie and want more than junk or bar food? Head to Good Luck Restaurant for some more high end dining.
Bringing it all together: It was really hard to narrow down just one trail, just one race, just one event company or just one place to eat and drink. This is why you really need to come to Rochester to check out the scene. Talk to the folks buildin’,fixin’ and running the trails. Sign up for a race, get a place to stay, and let the folks from #TrailsRoc know that you are coming into town – We are certain that you will fall in love with the trails, the town, and the people!
Don’t live in a trail town and want to build one, check some advice here: https://www.trailrunnermag.com/training/trail-tips-training/building-a-trail-town-from-scratch
Want your town highlighted? Suggestions can be sent to Eric at TrailsRoc@Gmail.com