A Thrillseeker’s Guide to the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region

Guest Blog By Mark Stevens

Attention all adventurers!  Whether it’s by land, air, or in our case, lake, we’ve got some high-energy, thrill-seeking fun for you! Whether you’re a long-time outdoor enthusiast or first-time braveheart, put your inhibitions aside, throw caution to the wind and let’s get moving!

As we hit the ground running, Chautauqua County is filled with exhilarating adventures for those on two feet and two wheels, starting with several hiking trails, thanks to the area’s scenic Rails to Trails system.

There are several great hiking and multi-use trails in the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region

Starting with the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail, where hikers can put foot to pavement on about 19 miles from Gerry to Arkwright. For those hoofing it on the opposite part of the county, head over to the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail. It spans about 24 miles and runs from Mayville south to Panama and the NY-PA border.

If you need a little help organizing your journey, Hike Your Own Hike, out of Ashville, is a New York State licensed and insured outdoor guide service. They offer three season outings with nature walks, camping, hiking, backpacking and flat-water paddling.  They serve beginners to experienced outdoorsman, youth to seniors.  For more information, you’re asked to call 602-451-1269.

For those wanting to put more of a spring in their step during the summer, Southern Tier Brewery has a thrill-seeking event on tap. It’s called the Four for Forty-Four Relay, held September 9 at the brewery in Lakewood.  Find a few teammates and belly up to the starting line on the brewery grounds.

Travel 44 miles through lakeside villages, parks, wine country and even Lucille Ball’s hometown. There are 11 planned relay points, with 12 total runs so each team member will run three legs. While this is a race for all levels, organizers say there are varied distances and challenges. Participants are also encouraged to define their team through tee shirts or costumes.

Once the relay is over, your next chartered course is the after-party at the brewery, complete with music, games, food and of course, beer!

Panama Rocks Scenic Park

For those wanting their thrill-seeking adventure to take them to new heights, climb Panama Rocks on Rock Hill Road off of Route 474. Complete with exquisitely formed rocks, we invite you to explore the half-mile ridge of 60-foot-high crevices, passageways and hidden caves.

Be at one with nature as you explore the jungle-like atmosphere complete with ferns, moss and a variety of trees interspersed between the formations. Each one is as unique as the other, complete with information about the history of each rock on display.

There are several guidelines to follow and strict rules for repelling. It is prohibited on holiday weekends, and down moss-covered cliffs. And while it is allowed other times of the year, you’re asked not to damage the plants.

Panama Rocks is just more than ancient formations. Have you ever had an ax to grind with someone? Well, here’s your chance. Axcellent Adventures at Panama Rocks is just that, a brand-new feature where coaches will teach you how to safely thrown an ax! It takes place in a safe throwing environment with fenced off lanes. Safety is a top priority, and as you can imagine there are a slew of safety rules that go along with this.

From running to rock climbing, it’s now time to throw a couple wheels under your feet on this adventure and go skateboarding.  Welcome to the bowl, at Jamestown Skate Products on Pine Street. The bowl is the only one of its kind and is open all year long. Whether you kick it up to full throttle or are just learning, the bowl is for you. There’s also an expanded street course behind it.

Those wanting their two wheels to have handlebars, can take part in a number of bike riding adventures all across the area. Starting with mountain biking at Long Point State Park. There are a number of races scheduled including King of the Point and Queen of the point, followed by a comprehensive skills clinic in late summer. Whether you’re a beginner or expert mountain biker, there are some nice climbs and flowy downhills.

In addition, another thrill-seeking trail, Harris Hill Extension in Harris Hill State Forest, is located just outside Gerry. It is roughly 15 miles of technical, tight, twisty and challenging single track. The course also hosts the 5th Annual “Harris Hill Hustle” mountain bike race. That event typically draws about 100 racers from all over the mid-Atlantic region.

Jacob Bodway, President of the Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association described biking as thrill-seeking because it “pushes you to your physical limits, allows you to explore remote nature and provides exhilaration on the downhills.” Jacob added people also get together on Thursday nights for group rides as part of the mountain bike social.

Sign up for the Tuesday Night Social Ride at Hollyloft Ski & Bike! Several different groups offer something for every ability

Looking to take a bike ride on Tuesday evening, then check out Hollyloft Ski and Bike in Jamestown, where on average, weather permitting, they have anywhere between 80 and 100 riders take part. The season typically runs April through September and caters to each level of biker from racers to recovering riders. The ride typically lasts about an hour and a half. After the ride, stick around for grilled hotdogs, snacks, music and sometimes a trip for ice cream. You’re asked to arrive 15 to 20 minutes early to sign up with your group.

At the end of August, Chautauqua County gears up for the annual Chautauqua Gran Fondo, complete with 20, 38, 40, and 60-mile scenic routes along majestic and picturesque Chautauqua Lake. It is a community event designed to promote health and well-being, drawing about 500 riders annually.

Along the way, you will visit places like Mayville, Bemus Point, and Midway State Park, as well as Ashville, Lakewood and Westfield. Money raised from the event has helped a number of charitable organizations and groups in the past including the Chautauqua County Veteran’s endowment fund, Western New York Kidney Connection and the Mental Health Association.

There is a small fee to participate, which includes refreshment stops, a picnic lunch and an after-party at Webb’s Captain’s Table.

Peek'n Peak Mountain Adventures

Zipline at Peek’n Peak’s Mountain Adventures Course

Now let’s really put some zip in this adventure and crank up the altitude. One of the premier places for thrill-seeking fun through the air is at Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer. As part of the Mountain Adventures area, the resort added an all new Soaring Eagle Zipline in 2017. Here, you’ll sit side by side and fly through the skies on a 1,400 foot zipline, reaching heights of 130 feet.

The next thrill-seeker is the Aerial Adventure Course, featuring 69 obstacles and 8 courses of varying difficulty. Get ready to climb up cargo nets, and ladders as part of this three-hour self-guided experience.

And last but not least the adventure also includes the Giant Dual Zipline, where you get to soar over the trees on side by side ziplines, as you enjoy the majestic view of the mountains and valleys cruising 2000 feet back to the ground!

George Kilbert, Digital Marketing Director for Peek-owned Scott Enterprises told me, “the attraction offers guests stunning views of the resort and surrounding valley.”

All three activities are included as part of the Peek’s new Explorer, Unlimited Access Pass. For more info, head over to www.pknpk.com

Soar above Chautauqua Lake with the AeroSoaring Club at Dart Airport - by: Joann Dahlbeck

Another thrill-seeking adventure, this one with no-strings attached is the AeroSoaring Club, based out of Dart Airport in Mayville, dedicated to the sport of gliding, soaring and sailplaning. To get started, you are required to take part in the introductory flight and lesson program.

The group has about a handful of gliders in the fleet and takes flight mainly on weekends, becoming one with the great outdoors from high above the ground.

Well, we’ve travelled on foot, with wheels and through the air. Now it’s time to dive into our final adventure on the water, starting with Chautauqua Lake. Two of the most popular adventures on the water is Kayaking, and Stand-up Paddle boarding, with Evergreen Outfitters in Mayville as one of your leading rental spots. Whether you’re an experienced paddler or just want to get your feet wet, Evergreen offers basic and intermediate lessons as well.

There are a number of events throughout the summer as well, including evening paddles on Chautauqua Lake, Cassadaga Lake, and Lake Erie. Set sail for a sight-seeing adventure that includes some of the area’s most intriguing water fowl and swans. Moonlight paddles across Chautauqua Lake, while enjoying breathtaking sunsets. And whether it’s a corporate outing or time with family and friends, Evergreen will personalize and tailor-fit an outing just for you.

With five amazing lakes and several waterways, there is no shortage of places to explore on a SUP or kayak. Head out on a guided excursion if you’re not sure where to begin!

For those looking for the same kind of fun, along Lake Erie, look no further than SUP Erie Adventures, along Sunset Bay in Irving. They too offer rentals, adventure tours, guided trips and lessons.

Either kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, you’re bound to enjoy a cruise along stunning sea-cliffs, wild river banks and beautiful, relaxing beaches. Explore and discover wildlife, like bald eagles, herons and more.

Also because of Chautauqua County’s varied coastline and ideal wind conditions, kiteboarding has really taken off as well. Lake Erie offers everything from mellow light winds for that easy glide, to big wind and fun surf. It is a rapidly growing sport open to people of all ages.

SUP Erie Adventure’s co-owner Christian Edie said, “the region’s real gem is the magnificent coast lines and waterways that offer world-class paddling and wind sport opportunities. It’s truly an adventure-seekers paradise.”

See the water from a new perspective on a parasailing tour of Lake Erie with High Tyde!

Last but not least, can’t forget the parasailers on Lake Erie.  For that, turn to High Tyde Ski School, Sunset Cruises and Parasailing. Navigate the open air between the water and the sky while draped on a colorful sail. Based out of Fredonia, High Tyde offers various thrill-seeking packages as well for those looking to go waterskiing, wakeboarding and water tubing as well.

So, there you have it, a thrill-seekers paradise, by foot, on wheels and through the air, all right here in Chautauqua County.

Originally from New England, Mark Stevens is a writer and journalist who lives in Jamestown, NY with his wife and three children. He enjoys travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Posted in Chautauqua Institution, Lakes, Nature and Environment, Outdoors and Recreation, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

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