Explore Upstate New York’s Industrial Heritage By Goat on The Keuka Outlet Trail

Do you like ruins? Even if you don’t, it’s a pretty good bet that your goat(s) would. Keuka Outlet Trail is a little bit of everything in that department. It runs along a 1800’s canal atop the old canal road. Hiking it you’ll pass factory ruins and dilapidated river locks. All of which are, joy of joys, explorable! Forget tour guides, protective fencing, and no trespassing signs, this place is a gold mine for urban explorers who happen to live in a very non-urban place. So bring your flashlight and your rope because until they get enough money to build those protective fences and no trespassing signs this place is going to be great!

Location: Keuka Outlet Trail running from Penn Yan to Dresden

Is it goat approved? Yes, it is a goat approved. The trail is horse/hiking/biking rated but fairly quiet till you are in Penn Yan proper, so you can generally go off leash most of the way.

How you get there: Google currently has the trail registered, but in terms of the hike you want to start at the Dresden end, at the parking lot off Seneca Street just off Hwy 14. This is the least crowded and easiest unloading spot.

Time for hike: This hike is a beast at 13.2 miles round trip. Get there early and plan to get back to the car at sun down. Make sure you bring a goat who is in good enough shape to do it. This is an out and back hike.

Best season to do this hike: Every season but winter. The trail is not plowed, (and the parking lot may not be either) so you can’t actually do this trail in the snow unless you have a snowmobile or you teach your caprine companion to ski.

Trails to Take

This trail has a lot of cool stuff to see on it, so content has been edited to fit in the allotted time.

Start off at the parking lot in Dresden, which is right before you cross over the railroad tracks on Seneca Street. On your way in on Seneca Street you may notice a seasonal ice cream parlor. The best part of this trail is that when you are done hiking you can buy really good ice cream at that road side stand on your way home. They do a dependable waffle cone for goat consumption as well.

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The trail is a true “green way” at this point!

Anyway, once you’ve parked and unloaded, the trail head is right there. The first section of trail runs along the river on the old canal road and tends to be grassy. You will pass under Hwy 14. The river edge along here contains old pieces of glass and ceramic that make it fun to beach comb, but anything of obvious historic value is considered property of the Keuka Trail organization.

You will continue along the trail until you reach your first big area of ruins. This place is great! There’s several old warehouses to explore, the first of two major canal locks, and this area also has toilet facilities that are unlocked sometimes. It does, however, also act as a group camping area for various organizations, so watch out for tents or boy scouts who might be too interested in your goats.

Exploring the ruins
Exploring the ruins

Once you’re done exploring, continue on the trail, which will become more gravel and less grass as you proceed. Other ruins and pieces of machinery are littered along the trail as you go along. Keep an eye out for ruins on the other side of the river as well, especially in early winter. Small side trails will also take you out into the woods to further walls, foundations, and other evidence of historical activity. Take a few of these, especially if you aren’t planning to do the whole trail in a single day.

Ridge Road bridge
Ridge Road bridge

You are a third of the way to the end when you cross over Ridge Road, which runs across a bridge over the river. If you continue on you’ll see more and more gravel in the trail, and shortly beyond this bridge is a dog that warrants some caution (see the “Be Warned!” section below). This area can be popular with trout fisherman during the season, who can be excellent sources of information about the trail and weather if your smart phone isn’t getting a signal.

There is a parking area (just a pull off on the side of the road) and a white sign with the trail’s name and rules posted. This is pretty close to the halfway point between Dresden and Penn Yan. You can also look for the old concrete railroad signs which list mileage in miles between the towns as numbers counting up or down depending on the direction you are coming from. Just past the parking area is a large section of old locks and waterfalls along with a nice picnic shelter. This is a good spot for lunch and a definite camera magnet.

The locks are goat toys more or less
The locks are goat toys more or less

Walk some more and you’ll get to the old mill site, which is best marked by the large brick ventilation chimney still standing at the site. See the “Be Warned!” section for more about this site. There is also some buildings across the river that are well worth your time here, and some old machinery and pulleys laying in the brush for those students of archaic factory design. Walk along the river some more and you’ll eventually reach a clearing with some brick buildings off to the left. Immediately after that you will cross Cherry Street and reach the small parking lot through which the trail continues. Once you’re over Cherry Street put the goats on leash because you are now in Penn Yan, and the number of trail users is going to skyrocket.

The mill's brick chimney
The mill’s brick chimney

You’ll cross under a train trestle, then pass a still functioning old mill and walk under a beautiful stone bridge. The trail becomes paved somewhere in here. The trail passes under another road, then crosses on a bridge over the river. You are almost at the end now! Watch for the sign after you cross the river commemorating (for some reason) a boat construction company site. If you want, you can walk all the way to the end of the trail, which continues at the other side of the park and boat ramp and goes through the trees to the baseball diamond on the other side. The baseball diamond is the “official” end of the trail. However, the last little bit through the park isn’t really worth it, though there are restrooms at the park.

Now, turn around and head back!

Boat factory sign
Boat factory sign
Water point markers as well as mileage markers for the no longer extant rail line are common
Water point markers as well as mileage markers for the no longer extant rail line are common
The trail becomes more gravel over time
The trail becomes more gravel over time
Ruins on opposite side of the river
Ruins on opposite side of the river
Clearing before Cherry Road
Clearing before Cherry Road
Functioning mill in Penn Yan
Functioning mill in Penn Yan
Old lock machinery
Old lock machinery

BE WARNED!

  1. There is (or perhaps now was) a dog about half way between Dresden and Penn Yan that runs loose during part of the day. It will attack goats, (and it has attacked mine). So bring a goat that stands up to dogs and don’t bring the dehorned timid hamburger on legs. Do not expect the owner to come to your rescue, (he’s well meaning but slow moving compared to the dog).
  2. The mill site with the large brick ventilation chimney is littered with broken glass that may damage goat hooves.
  3. The mill site has a section of concrete slabs sitting atop support beams. This means that the concrete ground you are walking on that looks solid can give way underneath you if the support beams have eroded. You could like die and stuff. So be careful.
  4. The rules of urban exploration apply: think conservatively, don’t assume any structure or surface is stable, and you are responsible for your own safety.
  5. Be prepared to pick up after your goat and leash it when the trail becomes paved in Penn Yan.
  6. Leave plenty of time in your trail plans for taking pictures. It’s a long trail with so many awesome things to photograph that time can get away from you.

In sum: Time flies when you and the goats are having fun.

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