The Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail succinctly captures the Finger Lakes experience — minus the iconic gorges and waterfalls. It is a microcosm of a drive along a wine trail beside the sinuous Finger Lakes, but rather than taking it in at 50 mph, the pace along the Cayuga-Seneca Trail is more leisurely. The corridor is lined with trees and features a broad, level, stone-dust trail that is a pleasure to ride, walk, or run. Free of obstructions, the path allows you to take in the sights, sounds, and, for better or worse, smells of the pastoral landscape.
The trail follows an old railroad bed beside a canal that links the two largest Finger Lakes while connecting picturesque villages along the way — or at least it will when complete. Presently, 5.2 of the eventual 19 miles are finished and open to the public. Through the trees and between the wetlands, travelers find boaters and paddlers cruising the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and sprawling agricultural fields. There in a nutshell, so to speak, is the Finger Lakes region: lakes, canals, biking and hiking trails, flat-water paddling, leisurely boating, wildlife marshes, and quiet woodlands all surrounded by agricultural fields.
The eventual plan is to connect Seneca Lake State Park to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. At that point, the trail would connect with the roughly 300 mile-long Erie Canalway Trail and provide a truly extensive off-road corridor. Presently the off-road portion starts at 96A in Fayette near Seneca Lake State Park and follows an abandoned railroad corridor to the Village of Waterloo — roughly 5 miles. Plans to connect to Seneca Lake State Park are being finalized and will include construction of a tunnel under 96A and a direct connection to the 2.5-mile Lakefront Trail. This new alternative route will avoid a more circuitous route that follows high traffic roads to connect to the state park. Linking communities with alternative off-road travel opportunities encourages safe use by novices and children while adding tourism value and boosting local businesses.
Current access to the eastern end of the trail is available near the DOT building near Lock #4 in Waterloo. The western end can be accessed by parking at Seneca Lake State park (fees apply and presently a circuitous route must be used to connect to the trail) or at the Bishop Nature Preserve, owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. The preserve has a large gravel parking area off West River Road and a newly constructed stone dust path that connects directly with the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail.