Lake effect snow from Lake Erie creates New York’s snowy secret, the great riding in Chautauqua County, the largest county in the state outside the northern region. The southwestern gateway to the Empire State is located on a glacier-manicured, 1,500-foot high plateau that holds the white gold when other areas are browned out in every direction.
Almost 450 miles of funded, mapped and marked trails are superbly maintained by a fleet of 23 large groomers operated by five local clubs. The trails cover open fields, unplowed roads, abandoned railroad beds, state forest lands and other twisty paths through the woods. And there’s also the ice of Chautauqua Lake, one of the largest in the state. Parking areas for trail access dot the county, or you can ride right from the door of many of the lodging establishments. Some trails hit high ground, offering scenic views of the countryside and even Lake Erie itself. Other trails lead to clubhouses and great pit stops situated throughout the county.
The County’s very unique Winter Trails Cell Phone Tour is an interactive, self-guided trip with 25 stops scattered across the county trail system. Each stop is indicated by a special sign that allows riders to access recorded audio and photographic information about the big county’s natural history and notable past events, and also features nearby businesses that cater to trail users, all with no charge other than standard time usage fees. Riders can begin at any point on the tour, and can access any number of stops. Visit rtpi.org/conservation/winter-trails-cell-phone-tour/ for more details.
And speaking of businesses, Chautauqua County has excellent lodging, dining, gas station and dealership support for snowmobiling, with businesses rolling out their red carpet for snow riders in a big way. Favorites include Webb’s Lake Resort in Mayville, Peak ‘n’ Peak Resort outside of Findley Lake, Pine Junction with their vintage sled event and famous “Horse Balls” desert that’s also near Findlay Lake, Sandy’s White Horse Inn in Cassadaga, and Tom’s Tavern in Maple Springs. If you’d like some assistance exploring the big county, contact Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Services at firstname.lastname@example.org for trail guides, rental sleds, trailering and sled recovery services.
Located roughly half way between Buffalo and Cleveland, access to Chautauqua County is easy via I-90 or I-86, or more locally with US Route 62. For more information, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau at tourchautauqua.com or facebook.com/Tour.Chautauqua or call 716/357-4569.
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