West Springfield PA to Brocton NY
The Great Lakes Seaway Trail is a National Scenic Byway, recognized for its unique landscape, scenic freshwater coastline, and historical significance. It follows roads for 518 miles through Pennsylvania and New York along the Great Lakes and the rivers that connect the lakes. Many (but not all) sections are suitable for bicycling. Our interest here is the 42-mile section of the trail between Presque Isle State Park and Brocton NY, because that segment includes two segments of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail (page NE-16): 1.8 miles from Presque Isle to Frontier Park and 37.7 miles from the east side of Erie to Brocton NY. The Bayfront Bikeway links these two segments. The Pennsylvania section is also part of PA Bike Route Z, and it’s mostly on the shoulder of US5 or AltUS5.
Location Erie PA to Brocton NY, Erie County PA and Chautauqua County NY
Trailheads Ridge Center, Lake Erie State Park
since it is mostly along roads, there are lots of places to park.
Length, Surface Erie to Pittsburgh Trail western section 1.7 miles,
eastern section 35.7 miles on-road shoulder
Character Auto traffic, urban to rural, sun, hilly,
uncrowded, wooded, shady, definite grade
Usage restrictions None
Amenities Rest rooms, water, food, camping, lodging, fishing
Driving time from Pittsburgh 2 hour 10 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes north
The first segment of the Seaway Trail begins at the corner of West 6th St and PA832 (the access road for Presque Isle State Park) as bike lanes on both sides of West 6th street. The lane width varies, but it’s typically about 4 feet. The trail runs through residential neighborhoods for 1.8 miles to Frontier Park. This is a main route into and out of the neighborhoods with a 25 mph speed limit and steady traffic.
At the corner of West 6th and Shawnee Sts the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail departs the Seaway Trail to take the traffic-free, more-scenic route through the park and the Erie Bayfront. The trail crosses Cherokee Dr on to a multiuse trail in Frontier Park. PA Bike Route Z also enters the park here. This is the start of the Bayfront Bikeway (page NE-35). The Great Lakes Seaway Trail continues on 6th St through town and intersects the Bayfront Bikeway 3.7 miles later.
The second segment of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail begins 3.7 miles later at the intersection of East 6th St and the Bayfront Bikeway. Here the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and PA Bike Route Z rejoin the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, going east on East 6th St with no bike lane. Two blocks later, this trail bears left on Alt US5 (E Lake Rd) and bike lanes begin. In 0.4 miles at Payne Av, E Lake Rd splits; a tree filled median separates the east and west travel with sidewalks on both sides. One mile later at Franklin Av, the east-bound bike route switches over to a sidepath on the lake (north) side of the street with somewhat confusing signage. The sidepath continues through suburban Erie for 0.9 mi to PA955, where the good asphalt road acquires bike-plus-parking lanes on both sides. The trail continues through increasingly suburban Erie for three more miles into agricultural areas and to a monastery, where the surface changes to older asphalt—still decent, but not as smooth.
In another two miles, the trail enters Niagara wine country as vineyards appear beside the trail. Five miles later the Penn Shore Winery beside the trail offers tastings. The shoulders here remain good and relatively free of debris, except for accumulations of gravel where dirt roads enter the highway. A mile past the winery the road goes from 2-lane to 4-lane as it approaches the intersection with PA89 (which goes to the town of North East and an I90 interchange). Three-quarters of a mile later it goes back to 2-lane and soon passes the Mazza Winery. The road becomes rougher but still has decent shoulders for bike lanes, still with occasional debris at dirt cross roads. Two and a half miles east of PA89 the road surface deteriorates. The road becomes asphalt-patched concrete with aging asphalt shoulders for two more miles through vineyards to the PA/NY state line.
At the state line, PA Bike Route Z ends and NY Bike Route 817 begins. The Seaway Trail from here to Brocton is a good asphalt road with nice shoulders. The terrain is gently rolling through vineyards with occasional businesses, campgrounds, and vacation cottages. There are occasional hills where the road dips to cross streams. A third trailside winery, Sparkling Ponds Winery, is half a mile east of the state line. Ten miles east of the state line, Portage Rd goes south toward Westfield and a lighthouse stands besides the road. The route continues along US5 east through rural wine and vacation country for 7.5 more miles to Pecor St, which leads toward Brocton. The Seaway Trail continues along US5, but our interest ends here.
The next segment to the north along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is the Presque Isle State Park Trail (page NE-21), connecting at the entrance to the park on the west side of Erie. The route turns left/north from the Seaway Trail on to Peninsula Dr (PA832) using the bike lanes for a mile. Bear in mind that the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail includes two sections of the Seaway Trail, using the Bayfront Bikeway (page NE-35) instead of the Seaway Trail through the Erie Bayfront.
The next segment to the south along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is the Chautauqua Rails to Trails System (page NE-41) near Brocton. The route involves shifting from the Seaway Trail to US20, then riding south on local roads. From the PA/NY state line, continue 17.3 miles on the Seaway Trail to Pecor St. Turn right/south on Pecor St and go about 3 miles via left/northeast on Fuller Rd, right/southwest on West Av, left/east busy US20 and right/south on School St to the trailhead.
The obvious route from the Seaway Trail to Brocton might appear to be County380, 2.3 miles east of Pecor St, but County380 has traffic, narrow ragged shoulders, and one-lane tunnels with poor sight lines controlled by signals that may not recognize bicycles.
Vicinity: Directions begin at the intersection of I79 and I90 south of Erie. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go north on I79
Tom Ridge Center at Presque Isle (western) trailhead: At the intersection of I79 and I80, go north on I79 to its end at Exit 183B. Follow the long curving ramp to the right to join PA5 (12th St). Go west on PA5 for a mile to PA832, then right/north on PA832. Go 0.7 miles to the park headquarters at the Tom Ridge Center on the right. Park here and bike using the bike lanes to go back one block south to 6th St. The bikeway goes left/east in bike lanes along 6th St.
Along US5: From the intersection of I79 and I90 go north on I79 for 5.2 miles to Exit 183A. Take the exit ramp to merge on to US5 east. Follow US5 east for about 11 miles to where the Great Lakes Seaway Trail joins US5. The trail is on US5 for about 41 miles to Pecor St. Pick a parking spot.
Rest rooms, water: In parks along the road.
Bike shop, rentals: In Erie, North East.
Restaurant, groceries: In towns along the road.
Camping, simple lodging: Campgrounds, motels, and other tourist lodging is abundant, especially in towns along the route.
Swimming, fishing: Beaches at many of the towns along the route. Fishing in Lake Erie and many tributaries. Fishing charters from many marinas.
Winter sports: None. This is a highway.
Wheelchair access: The trail is almost all on the shoulder of a 2-lane highway.
Seaway Trail, Inc.
Corner of Ray & Main St
PO Box 660
Sackets Harbor, NY 13685
Maps, guides, other references
USGS Topographic Maps: Swanville, Erie South, Erie North, Harbor Creek, North East, Ripley NY, Westfield NY. Brocton NY.
Text version of 06 Jul 2018 based on personal observation while biking Presque Isle to the Bayfront Bikeway 10/2015 and driving the adjacent road 8/2010. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 8/2010.