The Black Diamond Trail

by Helen Heizyk

Growing up near Cass Park in Ithaca I made the trip from there to Taughannock Falls State Park by car many, many times. This past week I traveled the distance from the Park to Ithaca and back on my bike for the first time, along the Black Diamond Trail. This rail to trail was once used by the Black Diamond Express, a Lehigh Valley Railroad luxury passenger service that ran from New York to Buffalo from 1896 to 1959. The train was named for the railroad’s main cargo, anthracite coal.
The Black Diamond is a stone dust trail 8.4 miles long that passes through woodlands and alongside pastures on the western slope of Cayuga Lake, good for Biking, hiking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing.
Along the way you cross many country roads though we encountered very little traffic, cross over wooden bridges above gorges and waterfalls, and get an occasional glimpse of Cayuga Lake. The trail runs near a pasture at Glenwood Farms, a local 5th generation farm, where we were lucky enough to spot their Bison herd grazing near the fence line.
My sister-in-law, Susan, and I started our trip at the parking area above Taughannock Falls on Jacksonville Road where, with a short walk up a stone trail towards the North & South Rim Trails, you can walk over an old railroad trestle to get an amazing view of some waterfalls on the east side and the gorge that runs to Taughannock Falls on west side. After a short ride up a slight grade the trip to Cass Park is an easy ride down, unless they are doing trail work and you are forced to detour around one section as we were. With the exception of areas where we had to cross roads, and the last stretch heading down into Cass Park, the tree canopy provided shade over the trail keeping us cool. The trail ends near the Children’s Garden at Cass Park, a wonderful place to visit if you have some extra time! You will also find restroom facilities in the park.
At Cass Park, Susan and I turned and headed back up to Taughannock Falls State Park. While it is just a slight grade on the return trip, this senior was happy to take advantage of the pedal assist my new eBike provided. Back at the top we took a side trip down Falls Road to the Taughannock Falls Overlook and back, boosting our round-trip total to 20.2 miles. We made plans to do this again in the fall when the leaves begin to change color. It should be beautiful…. and I should be fully recovered by then 😊