Hiking and biking are two great ways to experience nature at its best. There are many places that can only be reached overland by trails, and the health benefits of the two activities can't be beaten.
The Chautauqua County Parks Department is a good place to start for hiking and biking trails in the area. The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail stretches a total of 24 miles. It runs from the town of Harmony to the southside of the Chautauqua Gorge.
The Erlandson Overview Park is located not too far, on Oak Hill Road in Frewsburg, and includes a 1-mile loop trail while 19 miles of trails are available at the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail. It stretches from 28th Creek Road in Gerry to the Canadaway Creek in Arkwright.
Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails preserves abandoned rail corridors for conversion into safe off-road trails for recreational use: walking, running, hiking, bicycling, cross country skiing, bird watching — more than 170 species identified — and horseback riding. These trails, depicted in the map above, provide public access through scenic woodlands, wetlands and flowering meadows, offering trail users opportunities to observe the plants, animals and birds found in areas otherwise remote from highways and roads.
The Abe Mattison Millrace Park is another Chautauqua County Park which offers a small nature trail to visitors. It is located on Everett Street in Falconer. A playground is available.
The county also has a system of old, unused railroads that have been transformed into trails for recreational use. Known as Chautauqua Rails to Trials, a map and more information is available at www.chaurtt.org. There are several points of interest along the trails including a wetland for birdwatching, a ''Ghost Town'' in Summerdale, Chautauqua Gorge Park, an overlook at Lake Erie and the site of the 1872 Christmas Eve train wreck.
The YMCA Camp Onyahsa provides hiking opportunities for the whole family. They invite families to join them for the first Family Staycation Camp Aug. 22 to 24. It will feature hiking, fishing, sports, crafts, boating, campfires, entertainment and food.