Run, Hike and Bike the Enchanted Mountains

By Alicia Dziak

Labor Day weekend has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the end of summer, and it definitely doesn’t mean the end of outdoor fun in Western New York!

Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of all the region has to offer — whether it’s hiking, biking or just enjoying the sights of the Enchanted Mountains, you’ll find an array of opportunities to discover the great outdoors.

Is the laid-back nature of hiking your thing? If so, you’re in luck! With miles of trails spanning a variety of terrain, the region has something for everyone.

Head to Allegany State Park (ASP) for your choice of 18 hiking trails through New York’s largest state park. Rolling hills, forests, history, giant rock formations — you’ll find it all at ASP! Trail maps, found at both the Red House and Quaker rental offices, mark trail distances and level of difficulty, and don’t be shy about asking questions to find your ideal hike.

Right along Route 219, heading south from Ellicottville, is McCarty Hill State Forest, which covers over 6,000 acres in the towns of Mansfield, Little Valley, Great Valley and Ellicottville. Part of the state forest borders both HoliMont and Holiday Valley, and trails connect with miles of hiking trails within the ski resorts.

Joining up with McCarty State Forest is Little Rock City, one of three “rock cities” in the area — the two others are Rock City Park in Olean (www.rockcitypark.com) and Thunder Rocks in ASP (located off ASP 2 between Red House and Quaker areas). These areas boast large rock formations that create street-like walkways below, great for a mostly shady and awe-inspiring hike. For directions to Little Rock City, visit www.dec.ny.gov/lands/77184.html. If you’d prefer to go with a group, a guided hike to Little Rock City will be offered on Sept. 27. For more information about the guided hike, visit www.FingerLakesTrail.org.

Another must-see for adventurous hikers is Zoar Valley, encompassing almost 3,000 acres in Gowanda featuring cliffs overlooking a gorge and waterfalls flowing into rushing whitewater. Directions to the various parking areas and trails can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36931.html.

If hiking at a more leisurely pace is more your style, Griffis Sculpture Park is the perfect spot. Located between Ellicottville and Springville, a few miles off Route 219, the largest park of its kind in the country features a variety of hiking trails, and offers visitors numerous sculptures to check out and take in. For more information, visit www.griffispark.org.

Do you like to see the trails at a faster pace, like on a mountain bike? The area’s numerous mountain biking trails offer beautiful scenery and challenging terrain. More details can be found at www.wnymba.org.

Looking to satisfy your competitive side? Races of all kinds await throughout fall.

On Sept. 27, the XTERRA ASP comes to Allegany State Park. The triathlon races (two distances plus a relay) include a swim through the lake, and bike and run portions along cross-country trails on the Red House side of the park, and promise to challenge any hard-core athlete. For more information, please visit www.score-this.com or email info@score-this.com.

Fall Festival weekend brings not only fun and entertainment to Ellicottville, but also chances to bike and run.

On Sat., Oct. 11, the Fall Festival 5K Run kicks off from Holiday Valley. After burning some calories and enjoying the fall foliage along the way, attendees will enjoy a post-race party at the Mountain Sports Center. For more information, visit www.heartrateup.com.

On Sunday, Oct. 12, the Fall Festival Mountain Bike Race will be held at Holiday Valley. Geared toward cyclists of all levels, the bike race promises to get your legs moving and your heart pumping. For more information, visit www.holidayvalley.com.

Keep the spirit of Halloween going with the EVL Half (a half marathon), 5K run and kids’ race on Nov. 1. The races, beginning on Monroe Street right in the village, invite runners to wear costumes — a great chance to get creative and have some fun while getting in a run. For more information, visit www.evlhalf.com.

Fall in the Enchanted Mountains is a sight to behold, and what better way to enjoy it than on foot or by bike, taking it in as you use those muscles. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors before the snow flies!