Trip K: Genesee Trail
A scenic road trip that traverses
the historic Genesee Valley of
western New York.
make a mistake in the Empire State!
Only the Genesee River completely
crosses the breadth of New York State. Its origin is in the Allegheny Hills
of northern Pennsylvania. On its northerly course to Lake Ontario, it passes
through many small towns (Wellsville, Belmont, Mt. Morris, Avon). Much of
its route is peaceful, flowing quietly in a broad flat valley. But in the
city of Rochester and in Letchworth State Park, the river plunges over a
total of six waterfalls and has carved out two very scenic gorges.
The Genesee Country is more than a river valley, however. There are neighboring
communities that you need to visit during this road trip: Pittsford on
the Erie Canal, Victor and the nearby Ganondagan State Historic Park, and
Geneseo, the college town perched high above the river.
The trip begins in the Flower City of Rochester, which, ironically, is
where the Genesee ends.
|You begin the
road trip in downtown Rochester on the Court Street Bridge. Here you
get a nice view of the Genesee River and the old canal aqueduct (now the Broad
St. Bridge). Beyond those Roman arches lie the three waterfalls within the
city limits. To get to them you drive down State Street to the High Falls
District. The best view of the falls is on the Pont de Rennes (Platt
St. bridge). Don't miss stopping at the visitor center to learn more about
Rochester as a milling center.
Drive north on State. It soons becomes Lake Ave. When you get to Driving
Park Ave., stop at Maplewood Park. You can enjoy the rose garden, and
there is a trail that takes you to the Lower Falls. You are now in
the middle of the Rochester gorge, created after the Ice Age.
If you continue up Lake Avenue to the mouth of the Genesee River, you will
be in Ontario Beach Park. Nearby is the famed Charlotte Lighthouse,
and the ferry terminal (to Toronto).
While in the park you should ride the classic carousel.
Double back toward downtown. When you reach Kodak Park, turn left onto Route
104. It soon becomes an expressway. Follow it through Irondequoit. Take I-590
south, and then I-490 east out to the canal town of Pittsford. Stop
here to stroll the canal at Northfield Commons. You can also take a boat ride
on the Sam Patch.
The Genesee River in downtown Rochester. The
Broad Street Bridge now cars auto traffic, but a century ago canal boats
came through here.
The Devil's Bathtub, a kettle pond in Mendon
Ponds County Park.
|Take Route 64
south out of Pittsford. After you pass underneath the Thruway watch for signs
leading you to Mendon Ponds Park. There are several little kettle ponds
and glacial hills that making for easy hiking or boating. Exit on the west
side on the park. Turn left on Route 65. this will lead you to the village
of Honeoye Falls. Yes, there is a small waterfall here. Turn left on
to East Street, which becomes Boughton Hill Road outside of town. Follow it
through some gentle farm country. When you are in the Town of Victor,
you will see signs for Ganondagan State Historic Park. Get out and
explore the site where Seneca people lived 300 years ago. For a small fee
you can tour the longhouse.
Turn left at the flashing light. Take Rte. 444 to the village of Bloomfield.
Here you pick up Rte. 5 & 20 west
|As in other parts of the state,
Route 20 is scenic. It goes over hills and down into valleys. You will pass
through old towns of Lima and Avon. Just past the business district
turn left on to Route 39 south. This road sits above the Genesee Valley,
giving you some nice views as you approach Geneseo. This pleasant college
town is worth exploring a little on foot.
When you leave town follow Route 20A. It will take you down into the valley
through Cuylerville and Leichester. Watch for signs taking you
to Letchworth State Park (Rte. 36).
The 17-mile drive through the park is one of the most spectacular in the
state. You will see two different gorges, a flood control dam, a little museum,
and three powerful waterfalls. You need to get out of the car and walk,
even if it is just a stroll around the Glen
Iris Inn. There are many places to picnic, and two swimming pools.
You exit the park at the south end and enter little Portageville.
Take Rte. 436 over the river and up a steep hill. You drive through quiet
farm lands until you descend into a valley in the hamlet of Oakland.
Here are the remains of five locks of the old Genesee Canal,
that you can explore on foot.
The Grand Canyon of the East: the great gorge
of Letchworth State Park.
In mid-May the lilacs of Highland Park put on
a fragrant and colorful display. The park is worth visiting at other times
of the year also.
Continue driving into the nearby village of Nunda, and turn left on
to Rte. 408 north. This road leads you to Mt. Morris, where you can
tour the dam. Outside of town you pick up I-390 north. Drive until you get
to the outskirts of Rochester, and exit on to East Henrietta Road. Soon it
becomes South Avenue, which leads you to Highland Park. Here you can
tour the famous lilacs. If plants are not in bloom visit the conservatory.
Also in the park is a monument to Frederick Douglass who lived here in the
Before ending your road trip stop at one of Rochester's outstanding museums,
the George Eastman House, the Strong Museum, or the Rochester
Museum and Science Center. They are easy to spot if you follow the Museum
Great places to go to see New York Geography up close
on the links below!