Bike-riding along Oneida County’s Rich Path of History

By Michele DeBella

Cyclists at Fort StanwixFollowing Mohawk Valley’s Path Through History is a wonderful way to experience the sites that were integral in shaping the region. Now, history buffs can hop on their bicycles, fire up their smartphones and Bike Thru History with pre-determined or individually-tailored routes. It’s one of the most exciting ways to take in the history and landscape that have put Oneida County on the map as a tourist destination.  

Central New York was the site of many nation-shaping events. Major battles of the Revolutionary War were fought here. In Rome, ground was broken for the Erie Canal, which led to an increase in trade and a stimulated economy. And in the 20th century, the region was a major manufacturing hub which fueled further growth and drew more settlers to the area.

There are more than 30 Bike Thru History trails spread throughout the Mohawk Valley; nine of them guide bikers to the historical landmarks of Oneida County. The trails vary in distance and difficulty and are designed to appeal to a wide range of history lovers and cyclists alike. So, grab your bike and find a route that appeals to you. In the meantime, here are some tour highlights.

For a leisurely start, try the 2.6-mile Tour of Rome Sites. This will take cyclists to the Fort Stanwix National Monument, the 16-acre National Historic Site famous for holding its ground during a pivotal 1777 siege by British troops. Cycle forward in time to the next unique stop—a restored H.P. Sears Oil Co. Service Station circa 1929. End at the Rome Historical Society to explore more of the city’s important contributions.

More avid bikers may want to take the 45-mile Oriskany Battlefield tour. This includes the Rome sites, plus the Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site, the grounds where one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War took place. After taking in Oriskany’s history, take the scenic route to the Steuben Memorial State Historic Site in Remsen, which is the final resting place of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben, father of the Continental Army.

Beach lovers will want to follow the 26-mile Sylvan Beach route. Start at Carello’s Landmark Carousel, an attraction built in 1896 and still working today, alongside other vintage and modern rides at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. The tour then takes you out to Camden and back through McConnellsville, where via the rolling countryside you’ll be able to tour the Harden Furniture Factory, which has been in the Harden family for five generations. Finish the loop back at the lake-front at the 75-foot tall Verona Beach Lighthouse. 

Some highlights of other tours include the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Saranac/F.X. Matt Brewery, and Root Glen—Hamilton College’s gorgeous public garden. Mohawk Valley’s Bike Thru History has to be one of the most active and entertaining ways to learn about or brush up on your Oneida County history.

If there isn’t a bike route tailored exactly to your preferences, use the website’s My Path feature to design your own itinerary. Bikers can also use Ride with GPS, a mobile app that provides easy, turn-by-turn directions and topographic details about your chosen route.

Hop on your bicycle for a spin through history. The Bike Thru History routes will satisfy the curious inner-student and the outdoor adventurer in you. Along the way, take in the scenic countryside and learn about the vital role Oneida County has played in the growth of New York State.