This page brought to you by the book FreeWheeling Easy in Western Pennsylvania. It cover 29 trail northeast of Pittsburgh. Order the book Chautauqua

Chautauqua Rails to Trails

Brocton to Sherman in Chautauqua County

The Chautauqua Rails to Trails system includes a collection of former railroads alignments, power line rights-of-way, and other corridors along the Niagara escarpment. The system has nine independently named segments, with recommended road routes for the gaps between them. Most of the trails are grass over dirt and gravel. There is one steep section an 8% grade (max ADA) in the Brocton to Prospect section as it climbs up the Niagara escarpment, and the road connections can also be hilly. Parts of this system (the main line from Brocton to Sherman, but not the Portage spur trail) are incorporated in the Pittsburgh to Erie Trail (page NE-16).

Chautauqua Rails to Trails

Location Brocton to Sherman, Chautauqua County NY

Trailheads Brocton, Prospect Station, Mayville, Sherman

Length, Surface 27.7 miles total (21.8 grass over dirt or cinders, 0.4 bike lane,
0.5 paved, 0.5 loose millings, 4.5 on road)

Character Little-used, rural, mostly shady, hilly

Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles, horses permitted, snowmobiles permitted

Amenities In towns

Driving time from Pittsburgh 2 hours 20 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes north

The trail system was developed chiefly as a hiking/biking system. However, Chautauqua County is in the lake-effect snow belt, and this trail system is used by snowmobiles in the winter. Conflicts among cross country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobiles are rare, and there is a good partnership established between the snowmobile clubs and the trail group. The trail surface and terrain will appeal more to mountain bikers than to bicycle tourists. The website describes the system as a collection of individually named trails, and we follow that structure, describing the trails from northeast to southwest.

We have not yet personally traveled all of these trails; we nevertheless include these descriptions because the system is part of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. The distances reported in the trail brochure differ from those on the website, and both differ from map measurements. We report observed distances for the parts we biked or drove and map measurements for the others.

Brocton Area Recreational Trail—1.3 miles. The trail starts at the end of School St in Brocton, by the elementary school. The first half-mile is paved, but as it crosses Highland Av the surface turns to loose road millings (2010) that did not compact well. It runs beside a vineyard as it approaches Webster Rd after another half-mile. The trail continues for a third of a mile to Ellicott Rd, with the surface changing to bumpy grass. This section is fairly level.

There is a 1.0-mile gap between the Brocton Area Recreation Trail and the Allison Wells Ney Trail. The road route connecting them follows Ellicott for 1.0 miles.

Allison Wells Ney Trail—4.1 miles. The trailhead is on Thayer Rd, just south of the crossing of Colt Rd. The trail extends northeast from here for about 0.7 miles, but dead-ends in the woods. From Thayer Rd the trail goes southwest on grass for 4.1 miles to a trailhead at Prospect Station Rd at Fish Rd. It gains 230 feet of elevation along the way as it angles up the Niagara escarpment, with some ups and downs where it crosses creeks. It continues, still on grass, southwest and then south as it loops around the end of a ridge. The trail gains another 75 feet before it emerges as two-track under the Niagara Mohawk power lines at Bliss Rd 2 miles later.

Laurie A Baer Trail—1.1 miles. This trail starts at Bliss Rd, across the road from the end of the Allison Wells Ney Trail. Remaining under the Niagara Mohawk lines as a two-track trail, it goes 1.1 miles to Plank Rd. It crosses Plank Rd and continues 2.2 miles to E Lake Rd (NY430) 100 feet east of the intersection with Honeysette Rd. A sign at the Bliss Rd end, complete with graph of elevation profile, says that there’s a 250-foot vertical ascent in the 1.1 miles to Plank Rd, but the sign is misleading (2010). The Niagara escarpment is steep, but the climb is on the Allison Wells Ney Trail, not here.

A 2.6-mile gap separates the Laurie A Baer Trail and the Village of Mayville Trail. The road route connecting them follows Plank and Honeysette Rds for 2.6 miles.

Village of Mayville Trail—1.2 miles. This trail begins 100 feet east of the intersection of Honeysette Rd with E Lake Rd (NY430), across the road from the Laurie A Baer Trail. It enters the woods as grassy dirt and becomes cinders as it enters Mayville alongside Lakeview Av. It becomes a bike lane along Water St before ending at the train station/museum/information center beside the lake after 1.2 miles. This trail is fairly level.

Nadine and Paul Webb Trail—1.9 miles. Continuing from the train station, this trail follows bike lanes for a third of a mile, then loops southwest and west for another mile and a half or so on rough dirt and grass to Sherman-Mayville Rd (NY430). It climbs 120 feet in these 1.9 miles.

Nancy B Diggs Trail—1.5 miles. This trail starts at Sherman-Mayville Rd (NY430), across the road from the end of the Nadine and Paul Webb Trail. It continues west on rough dirt and grass for 1.5 miles past a trailhead on Bentley Rd to Hannum Rd, where it ends. The trail climbs 120 feet, mostly in the first mile.

A 1.5-mile gap separates the Nancy B Diggs Trail and the Ralph C. Sheldon Jr Trail. The very hilly road route connecting them follows Hannum and Summerdale Rds.

Ralph C Sheldon Jr Trail—5.1 miles. This trail starts on Summerdale road, along the edge of Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, on dirt and grass. It goes 5.1 miles to Titus Rd. The endpoints are at nearly the same elevation, but there are a few good climbs and dips along the way.

A 0.9-mile gap separates the Ralph C Sheldon Jr Trail and the Sherman Recreational Trail. The road route connecting them follows Titus and Kendrick Rds for 0.9 miles.

Sherman Recreational Trail—0.9 miles. Where Kendrick Rd meets Park St, this trail continues south as a decent two-track trail. When it reaches French Ck it turns west toward town. The 0.9-mile trail has a slight descent along French Ck.

Portage Trail—3.0 miles. This spur trail goes northwest from Mayville for 3 miles. The trail brochure and website show it beginning in Mayville, but the trail actually starts on E Chautauqua St, just west of Lakeview Av across the street from the clinic. It goes northwest for about 3 miles to Quillian Rd.

This table summarizes the trails:

Trail segment



Brocton Area Recreational

1.3 mi

0.5 mi paved, 0.5 mi loose millings, 0.3 mi bumpy grass

gap (road route)

1.0 mi

via Ellicott, Thayer, Colt Rds

Allison Wells Ney Trail

4.1 mi

Laurie A Baer Trail

1.1 mi

gap (road route)

2.6 mi

via Plank Rd/Country Touring Rd 29, Honeysette

Village of Mayville Trail

1.2 mi

1.1 mi grass, dirt, cinders, 0.1 mi bike lane

Nadine and Paul Webb Trail

1.9 mi

1.6 mi on grass and cinders, 0.3 mi bike lane

Nancy B Diggs Trail

1.5 mi

1.5 mi on dirt and grass

gap (road route)

1.5 mi

via Hannum, Summerdale Rds

Ralph C Sheldon Jr Trail

5.1 mi

gap (road route)

0.9 mi

via Titus, Kendrick Rds

Sherman Recreational Trail

0.9 mi

Portage Trail

3.0 mi

Spur trail

Extensions of the ride

The next segment to the north along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is the Great Lakes Seaway Trail (page NE-29). The route involves going north from Brocton to US 5. The direct route involving busy US20 is described below in Access Points. A more rural route is described in the Extensions of the Ride section on page NE-31

The next segment to the south along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is the Corry Junction Greenway Trail (page NE-47) near Clymer, NY. The route is on the road for 12 miles, following NY76 and NY474. From the end of the trail in Sherman, turn left on Franklin St, which is NY76. Go 6.1 miles and continue on NY474. Go 5.4 miles on NY474 to Mohawk St. Turn left on Mohawk St, go half a mile, turn left on Knowlton Rd, and start looking for the trail within a quarter of a mile on the right. Be advised that this route is very hilly and on a main road.

Access points

Vicinity: Directions begin headed east on I90 from Erie. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, head north on I79. At exit 178A near Erie PA take the exit for Interstate 90 toward Buffalo NY.

Brocton (northern) trailhead: From the intersection of I79 and I90 go east for 35 miles to Exit 60 in New York. Take the exit ramp to the “T” intersection with NY394/Portage Rd. Turn left/south and go 1.3 miles to US20. Turn left/east and go 7.7 miles to School St. Just before the school on the right, turn right/south and go 0.2 miles to the school parking lot. The trail entrance is located 0.1 miles farther at the end of School Rd. Turn left on the asphalt trail.

Prospect Station trailhead: From the intersection of I79 and I90 go northeast on I90 for 22.5 miles and take Exit 45 for US20 towards State Line. Follow US20 for 13.4 miles, through Westfield and turn left/east on Prospect Rd. Go 1.5 miles and continue straight as Prospect changes name to Finley Rd. Go anther 0.9 miles and turn right/southeast on Prospect Station Rd. Go 0.6 miles and bear left/east and cross the trail and immediately turn into the trailhead parking.

Mayville Depot: From the intersection of I79 and I90 go 15 miles to Exit 37. Merge on to Interstate I86/Southern Tier Expy and go 16 miles to Exit 6. Take the exit ramp to the intersection with NY76/Osborme Rd. Turn left/north towards Sherman and go about half a mile to the intersection with NY430. Turn right/east on NY430 and go 9 miles to NY394, S Erie St. Turn right on NY394 and go about half a mile to trailhead parking at the train station/information center on the left.

Sherman (southern) trailhead: From the intersection of I79 and I90 go 14 miles to Exit 37. Merge on to Interstate I86/Southern Tier Expy and go 16 miles to exit 6. Take the exit ramp to the intersection with NY76/Osborme Rd. Turn left/north towards Sherman and go about half a mile to the trail parking lot on the right. The “T” intersection with NY430/Main St, is about 150 feet too far.

Other trailheads: The trail crosses roads every few miles, most of which have some parking available. Consult the trail brochure mentioned below to locate these points.


Rest rooms, water: None.

Bike shop, rentals: None near the trail.

Restaurant, groceries: Some in the small towns along the trail.

Camping, simple lodging: None along the trail. Some available around Lake Chautauqua.

Swimming, fishing: None observed.

Winter sports: Snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow biking.

Wheelchair access: Very rough trail surface.

Trail organization

Chautauqua Rails to Trails
PO Box 151
Mayville, NY 14757

Maps, guides, other references

Trail brochure, Chautauqua Rails to Trails Trail Guide.

USGS Topographic Maps: Brocton NY, Hartfield NY, Westfield NY, Chautauqua NY, Sherman NY.


Text version of 23 Jul 2018 based on information from trail manager Mar 2018, incomplete observations, including biking Brocton trail and visual checks of trailheads 8/2010, trail brochure 8/2010. Trail website 7/2018, Google Maps 7/2018. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 8/2010.