There are a lot of reasons why this trail is perfect for beginning backpackers and for teaching youngsters how to backpack.
1-Terrain: Chautauqua County has a “bumpy” landscape, but not a mountainous one. The trail traverses a couple of ravines which means steep down and steep up! But it’s brief. Most of the trail involves gentle inclines.
2-Leantos: If you are trying to minimize weight, what better way than to leave the tent at home. The leantos are well placed along the trail for an easy 3-day hike. We hiked from south to north: 7.5 miles the first day, 10 the second, and finished on Sunday with 6.5 miles. AND – the leantos are pretty accessible. If you want to start a group slowly with only a short walk to camp, there are back roads where you could park so that you have a much shorter hike.
3-Potable Water: There is no potable water at either terminus, but there is potable water at both of the leantos. We each needed to carry only one 32-oz bottle of water. We might have needed more if the weather had been hotter, though.
4-Well Maintained: The Chautauqua County Parks Department does an increcible job of keeping the trails in good shape. Our hike was the week after the leftovers of Hurricane Ike went through. We had to climb over a couple of fallen trees, but the worst of it had already been cleaned up. The leantos and privies are clean (not immaculate, mind you, but as clean as they need to be for camping!). The fire pits are in good shape with sturdy, built-in grates that are hinged and swing out of the way, or quickly into place. And, there are picnic tables!
We were lucky enough to have perfect weather on top of it all. I didn’t even take a raincoat!