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Family Biking at Allegany State Park, NY – Red House Area

Trip score: 6 out of 7. Everyone loved the park and the biking. The weather was too cool for swimming but perfect for biking. We will definitely go again!

With our large crew of very young cyclists, we’re always on the lookout for easy biking trails to try out. When we heard about some paved biking trails at a state park just an hour away from home, we had to check it out for ourselves.

The trails did not disappoint, and we can’t wait for a chance to get back there and explore some more of the trails, as there are apparently extensive young-cyclist-friendly biking trails through the park.

With five kids, we bring a lot of bikes. For this trip, we had six cyclists and one passenger, as the two-and-a-half-year-old still rides in the bike trailer.

We don’t yet have a large bike rack or hitch (it’s on the wishlist!), so it was a challenge to figure out the puzzle pieces of getting all the bikes in or on the car.

We finally did manage to fit all seven people and six bikes plus a trailer in or on our mini-van.

The final arrangement was to put the three largest bikes on the tailgate bike rack, the trailer and the smallest bike in the trunk area (along with helmets, lunch, and swimming gear), and the two medium-sized bikes crammed in between the seats in the seating area.

We certainly wouldn’t want to travel much farther than an hour away in that configuration, and if we want to try to go camping and bring our bikes along, we’ll have to rethink our packing/transportation strategy. It’s all part of the adventure!

Wish list item: A bigger bike rack to fit all the bikes on the outside of the car.

Red House Administration Building

We headed for the Red House area of Allegany State Park, because we had heard that that’s where the nicest, easiest loop for biking was.

On our first arrival at the park, we stopped at the Administration Building, a beautiful, historic Tudor-style building.

Our main reason for stopping there was that we weren’t sure where to hop on the biking trail, and we needed to get our bearings. But we ended up spending a surprising amount of time poking around there.

Turns out there’s a little natural history-type museum with taxidermy specimens of lots of local wildlife, which the kids really enjoyed, especially identifying lots of birds we see in nature from a distance but never up close.

The building also has a gift shop, a cafe, beautiful indoor and outdoor seating, and picnic areas. We sat on the Adirondack chairs on the patio for about 20 minutes enjoying a snack of goldfish, enjoying the sunshine and peaceful views of the lake out front.

We also got directions from the information desk about where to get onto the biking path. We found out that you can access the bike path from pretty much any point around the lake, including right at the Administration Building.

We decided to drive down to the beach area so we could end our bike ride at the beach with a swim. This was absolutely the right choice so that we wouldn’t have to pack up the bikes to drive to a different location during our day’s outing.

The Bike Ride

We unpacked the bikes and set off right away to try out the biking loop around the lake. We headed around the lake in a counterclockwise direction, with the first major landmark being a gorgeous covered bridge.

Heading this way also turned out to be the right decision, as there were a couple of steep-ish places on the trail that were downhill going in this direction. Yes, you do have to make up the elevation change one way or another to end up back at the same place, but the uphill sections that direction were more gradual.

The kids wore their Camelbak hydration packs, so everyone was kept well-hydrated on the ride, and the snack had staved off hunger pangs, even though it was getting past the lunch hour.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how long the ride would take or even if we would make it all the way around the lake with our youngest riders. The loop trail around the lake is billed as 3.1 miles, but I didn’t know what to expect in terms of steep sections, etc.

The uncertainty led us to decide that the two youngest (2.5 and 4) would ride in the bike trailer. With the three kids (ages 6, 8, and 9), we cruised past the beautiful scenery at a moderate pace and made it all the way around the lake in about half an hour or less.

I was very impressed with the quality of the trail. The pavement was in good condition, and there was plenty of room on the trail to pass hikers or other bikers coming in the other direction. There were a few places where it seemed like we were heading off away from the lake, but the trail did inevitably turn back in the right direction.

Signage was minimal, and a few places had us guessing which was the right trail, but overall it wasn’t too hard to figure out where to go. Best of all, it was an easy and safe place for the kids to bike without having to worry at all about vehicle traffic.

Picnic at the Beach

After completing our loop around the lake, everyone was starving, so we pulled out our picnic lunch. We weren’t precisely at the beach, but we were at the beach parking lot. We found a nice shady picnic table, and set up our new Genesis Jetboil camping stove.

I personally would have opted for a simple picnic lunch, such as peanut butter sandwiches or even turkey sandwiches, but for some incomprehensible reason, these are never a big hit with the kids.

So, I thought we’d try out a simple cooked lunch—quesadillas!

Tortillas and shredded cheese cooked up quickly and with minimal mess on the stove, and along with sides of baby carrots, sliced peppers, apples, and salami, everyone had a filling and tasty lunch. I think I found our new favorite picnic lunch food!

After lunch, the kids probably would have opted for a dip at the beach right away, but since our primary reason for this trip was the biking, the parents decided we should do one more loop around the lake.

Bike Ride Round 2

Now that we knew the lay of the land, we felt confident in letting the 4-year-old (who’s been working hard on his two-wheel biking skills all summer) take his own wheels around the lake.

Even though he had to push his bike up a couple of the steep-ish places, Luke really enjoyed the chance to see the sights from his own bike, and have the satisfaction of completing the ride on his own.

He did slow down the big girls just a bit, but they were patient with the slower pace.

I actually enjoyed the second time around more than I did the first, as I felt I could admire the scenery more, knowing where the twists and turns in the trail were. It’s a beautiful, serene place. Nothing stunning or spectacular, just sweet and peaceful.

Playground and Swimming at Red House Beach

We lured the kids to do a second loop around the lake with the reward of spending some time at the big playground right next to the beach.

They spent some time on the low zipline, climbed on the jungle gyms and ropes, slid down the slides and all around had a fun time. After that, everyone wanted to check out the beach.

The beach has what looks like sand from a distance, but closer inspection reveals it to be more like very fine gravel. Not the kind of stuff you’re going to build a sand castle with, but perfect for scooping around with a shovel if you’re about age 5 and under.

A few signs warned about potentially harmful algae blooms, but quite a few risk tolerant families were braving the water anyway.

The weather on our visit to the park was perfect for biking. It was about 72 degrees, with a light breeze. What is perfect weather for a bike ride is too cold for swimming, in my opinion. The kids didn’t agree, however. Any weather is swimming weather when you’re 8. Or 6.

So the kids got suited up and swam in the chilly-but-not-frigid lake. The breeze, however, was enough to chill everyone right down as soon as they got in the water. They drip-dried and shivered all the way back to the car where they were more than happy to get back into dry clothes and a warm car.


Everyone agreed that the biking was great and that they wanted to come back on a warmer day to try the swimming again. We also want to explore more bike trails, and some of the other areas of the park for hiking and camping.

I’ll be sure to update on any further adventures at Allegany State Park.