Bicycling the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway lets you engage more deeply with the landscape. The 87-mile trip need not be done in one or even two days. Break the trip up into multiple legs to give you time to experience all the things that make the Byway a worthy destination. Stop at roadside stands for special local treats, dip your toes in the lake to cool off at the local and state parks, indulge in an ice cream sundae (yup, even on your bike you can do our Sundae Drive), sip a glass of Cayuga Lake’s splendid wine at the end of your ride as you sit on the porch of a beautiful bed and breakfast bathed in the warmth of the setting sun.
We want you to be as safe as possible when cycling the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. Proper bicycle safety equipment is a priority. First and foremost, always wear your helmet. A rear-view mirror and blinking lights on the front and rear of your bike are strongly recommended. Also, wear bright-colored clothing (neon yellow, orange, or green.)
You will be riding on New York State highways for nearly the entire trip – you’ll have an off-road option through the city of Ithaca, we’ll get to that below. The majority of the State highways that make up the Byway do have wide shoulders.
What’s it like to ride the Byway?
The glacial-landscape surrounding Cayuga Lake does create a bit of a challenge for bicycling the Byway. That’s why we recommend doing the trip over multiple days. The north end of the Byway has gentle grades. At the south end, the grades are steep.
There are a few websites that provide insight into riding the Byway. We’ve provided a link to one here. https://ridewithgps.com/routes/5243760
Off-Road Cycling Opportunities through Ithaca
You have two options to bicycle through the city of Ithaca. Why the need to take another route rather than N.Y.S. Route 13? Well, the short stretch of N.Y.S. Route 13 from the intersection with N.Y.S. Route 34 to the intersection with N.Y.S. Route 96 is off limits to bicycle traffic. This section of the State Highway is a 4-lane, divided high-traffic highway.
Your alternate-route options include either a trip through the city of Ithaca on city streets or an off-road trail. The City of Ithaca has designated some streets as bicycle boulevards. If you don’t want to ride into the city, take the off-road Cayuga Waterfront Trail. The Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council publishes a map and guide to bicycling through the Ithaca area. We clipped a portion of the 2020 Ithaca & Tompkins County Bike Map showing the city route. Click here to print the map.
If you would like to get a copy of the guide, contact the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council. It is a valuable map to add to your bicycling time in Tompkins County.
Now, on to the off-road opportunities. The Cayuga Waterfront Trail (CWT) is a great option to cycling with vehicle traffic. The CWT travels through waterfront parks, past the Ithaca Farmers Market and through the west end of Ithaca, all along the waterfront. The trail is 5.5 miles long. For more information about the CWT, visit their website.
If you like the off-road option, you can continue north out of the city of Ithaca on the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Black Diamond Trail. The trail follows the old Lehigh Valley Railroad line that ran between the cities of Ithaca and Geneva. The trail takes its name from the famous engine that hauled the train between its destinations.
The 8.4-mile Black Diamond Trail is a nice option to the first stretch of N.Y.S. Route 89 as you leave Ithaca heading north. This section of Route 89 can have more traffic during the busy summer months and road shoulders are narrow past the lakefront-cottage area. The trail runs from the City of Ithaca’s Cass Park to Taughannock Falls State Park. Click on this link to get a map of the trail Black Diamond Trail.
There are inherent risks and dangers in participation in the activities associated with the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, and participation in said activity and use of any equipment related to such activities may result in injury, illness or death and/or damage to personal property. Other participants, accidents, forces of nature or other causes may cause these risks and dangers. Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway Inc. assumes no liability for injuries or damages that may arise from participation in activities on the Scenic Byway.