Frederick Law Olmstead is considered to be the father of modern American landscape architecture. He likes giving urban dwellers a place to retreat into nature and solitude that feels miles away from the nearby city. New York City's Central Park is one of his best-known masterpieces. Olmstead also focused his talents on Rochester, New York, in the creation of Seneca Park, a 180-acre park that includes the Seneca Park Zoo. The Genesee Riverway Trail is part of Olmstead's vision for Seneca Park, and it offers visitors a great opportunity to see the park's beauty, including the Genesee River.
Park your car in the zoo parking lot—it's rarely full—and start your walk on the Genesee Riverway Trail on the side of the street that parallels the parking lot. From here, follow the trail northward as it follows the river. The trail has several wooden bridges that take you over small feeder creeks with tinkling waterfalls that lead to the river. There are mixed hardwoods and pine trees. Deer, turkey, and squirrels are plentiful. Listen for woodpeckers and cardinals. Coyote have been seen along these trails. There are small trail offshoots that will lead you down to the river's edge for fishing or a closer look to the water. Take care; its large and swift waters seem to claim at least one life a year.
The trail splits at a junction after about 1.25 miles. A right turn follows the smaller trail. Continue through the gate on the dirt path for the 3-mile loop. At the 1.66-mile mark, turn right onto a smaller path with small, square, purple trail markers. Follow this path a short way and veer to the right at any junction. Look for a gap in a chain link fence. Go through the gap and turn right. This fence marks the official Seneca Park boundary.
Continue on an old trolley track whose rails have long since been removed, a straight path with a gentle upward slope. The trolley trail leads to the zoo. Along the trolley path, a high wooden fence marks the first part of the zoo. Aromas and sounds are more prevalent here than sights—in particular, elephants, which smell like horses. Just past the fence, it may be possible to see a red panda that often hangs out in the top of an enclosure. Hikers may also hear African lions, mountain lions, wolves, or even sea lions. After the zoo, the parking lot is to the right, which completes the loop.
Seneca Park is beautiful in the summer. However, the warm months attract crowds. Trails are often littered and host various illicit activities. Be smart; avoid dusk and evenings. During the winter, however, the cold seems to attract those who simply want to enjoy the solitude, the trees, and fresh air. Dog walking is popular, ski tracks appear on mere inches of snow, and people are always in a good mood.