Story and photos by Lauren Chamberlain
If you have spent any time in the Finger Lakes Region and you have not ventured to the Keuka Outlet Trail, you are missing out. This gorgeous trail runs approximately 6.8 miles and acts as a bridge between Keuka and Seneca Lakes . If you want to learn more about the trail’s unique qualities and history, check out this Life in the Finger Lakes article by Gabrielle L. Wheeler.
While I was captivated by the trail’s history and significance to the region, I wanted to reflect more on my first complete experience with the trail. I am now a senior at Keuka College, just a stone’s throw away from Penn Yan. Yet, I have never spent any prolonged time appreciating this trail. My first experience was two-fold. I started in the summer in Penn Yan and ended in Autumn in Dresden.
Taking full advantage of the late season warmth during Labor Day weekend, my mom and I decided to dust off our bikes and tackle this trail. When we initially made this plan, we wanted to bike the entire length and back again. This might be the point where I need to express that I, at the ripe age of twenty-one, had not biked any amount for a good handful of years. But, there I was, on a 90° day in September planning to bike on uneven terrain for nearly 14 miles.
As one could likely guess, we decided the trip would be best split into two. Not only due to the near record-breaking late season heat, but the reality that I – not my fifty-five-year-old mother – was woefully unprepared for such an excursion. So, we biked just around half of the trail and back. This included our roughly 4 mile trek to Seneca Mill and Falls.
I was not expecting this to be as grand as it was. I felt so grounded standing in the sunrays listening to the constant rush of the falls and looking at the wildflowers in bloom.
We never intended for so much time to pass. But life happened and school picked up and the next time we were able to finish, the world looked so different. I loved noticing the stark difference in just a month between the sweltering September sun, the vibrant, rich green foliage to the damp October chill, the vivid hues of leaves that decorated the ground below my feet.
From this end, we traveled the other half and marveled upon another grand landmark, Cascade Mill Falls located about two miles from where the trail opening is on Seneca Street in Dresden. This waterfall is just over 1 mile from Seneca Mill Falls and thus ended my full exploration of the decades old trail unifying Penn Yan to Dresden and Keuka to Seneca Lake.
It was almost comical the difference between the two visits. The first half was nearly oppressive, even though we went out early in the morning and finished before the heat peaked. The second was a gray, dreary day with drizzling rain and brief moments of sun. Ironically, I spent the first trip hoping a single cloud would offer some relief, while on the other, I was praying for the sun to peek through the clouds just a little longer.
This trip highlighted one of my favorite aspects of New York and the Finger Lakes Region – the changing seasons. The transformation from summer to autumn is my favorite and the Finger Lakes arguably has some of the most breathtaking views of this snapshot of change every year.
This was a lovely experience. Whether you like the summer heat, or the cool of autumn, this trail is a wonderful way to get outside, reconnect with nature and learn the history of the region. The Keuka Outlet Trail will fulfill all your needs.