Little Falls to Albany
Day 1 Little Falls to Canajoharie (20 Miles)
Little Falls is the starting point of your journey. Once in Little Falls, you may want to visit some special points of interest or even spend an extra day before heading east. After breakfast, begin your day at Historic Canal Place, a refurbished industrial area with two 19th-century stone mill buildings, original canal-side structures, antique and art galleries, shops, restaurants, a performing arts center, and the Little Falls Historical Museum.
Take a few pictures and listen to the falls - the original reason settlers were attracted to the area. Compared to the “Big Falls” miles downstream in Cohoes, these were considered the “Little Falls.” To this day, they are both a source of water power and scenic beauty.
Visit Cathedral Point on Moss Island and observe the turkey vultures and hawks soaring overhead, as you spend the day exploring a maze of deep chimney potholes, scoured in stone by the swirling waters. The largest ones, some 20-feet high and more than 10-feet wide, were formed thousands of years ago when this area was the outlet of a huge inland sea, leaving cathedral-like formations facing the river and geological features such as Profile Rock.
If one searches carefully, "Little Falls Diamonds" can be located along various outcroppings. Excellent examples of these unique quartz crystals are on display at the Little Falls Historical Society Museum. If you have a bit more time to spend, you can even do some of your own “diamond” mining at Crystal GroveDiamond Mine and Campground. Here the owner will supply all the tools you need to mine and has even been known to provide a dinner delivery to bicyclists staying at his campground.
Canal enthusiasts should spend the time to watch Lock 17 fill, knowing that at 40.5-feet high, it is the largest lock on the Enlarged Erie Canal, the highest lock in New York State, and only the first of many engineering wonders to be seen over the next three days.
When leaving Little Falls, cross over the bridge to the south side of the canal and catch the paved bike path heading east towards Lock 17. Continuing on this trail will bring you directly to the Herkimer Home State Historic Site, a Georgian-style mansion that was the home to the courageous Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer, who was wounded at the Battle of Oriskany. In this battle, the British were defeated and the victory was considered a turning point in the war. After the battle, Herkimer was carried home and his leg unskillfully amputated. Hours later, when Herkimer died reading from his Bible, he was immediately regarded as a martyr to the cause of American freedom, and his home became a shrine. Visitors will marvel at the grandness of this Georgian-style mansion that once stood on the colonial frontier. The site is now a National Historic Landmark dedicated to interpreting life in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War.
The trail will be stonedust from the Herkimer Home for approximately the next 13 miles. Along the way, make a quick one-mile round trip detour by taking Depot Road to Route 5S for a stop at the Indian Castle Church, a pre-Revolutionary War era church perched atop a hill overlooking the Mohawk Valley.
After about five miles, you will approach the Town of Minden, where you can see the newly restored Crouse Locks, a set of double locks from the old Erie Canal
Continue on towards Fort Plain, stopping on the way in the Village of St. Johnsville to see the Fort Klock Historic Restoration, a restored 1750 fur trading post, on the north side of the Canal. Once you get to the Village of Fort Plain, be sure to see the Fort Plain Museum, which commemorates the courage and resourcefulness of frontier women in the Mohawk Valley. On August 2, 1780, Fort Plain was attacked by British forces. A woman raised the alarm and the villagers fled to the fort. The men were away escorting supply boats and the fort was undefended. The women donned men's clothes and patrolled the walls of the fort en masse. The attackers were fooled into thinking the fort's garrison was present and they fled. The trail becomes paved again from Fort Plain until just past Canajoharie — approximately 4 miles.
The name “Canajoharie” is a transliteration of a Mohawk Indian word meaning “the pot that washes itself.” The name refers to a geologic pothole in the bed of the creek that empties into the Mohawk River in the village.
Note the quarried stone homes and commercial buildings within the village. Canajoharie quarries provided limestone for the locks of the Erie Canal as well as many of the fine homes throughout New York State. After the canal was built, quarried limestone was shipped to New York City to construct the Brooklyn Bridge.
A “must see” while in Canajoharie is the Arkell Museum. Formerly known as the Canajoharie Library and Art Museum, the building has recently undergone a major renovation and expansion to make room for one of the best small collections of American artists in New York State. Boasting more than 350 paintings, with 21 by Winslow Homer, the gallery also exhibits works by Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Cassatt and artists of the Hudson River School. Village resident State Senator James Arkell (co-founder of Arkell and Smith, a company that pioneered the development of the paper flour sack during the Civil War), began collecting American art in the mid-1800s. After inheriting his father’s collection, James’ son, Bartlett Arkell, founder of Beech-Nut Foods, built a library and an art gallery in the mid-1920s and during the next 25 years donated many works from his vast personal collection.
Just a few doors down Erie Blvd., you will find shopping and galleries that sell local art work. Until recently Canajoharie was home to the Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation, a producer of fine baby food that started in 1891 as the Imperial Packing Company. The company has since moved to another location in the surrounding town.
Cured ham and bacon were the company’s principal products before officially incorporating as the Beech Nut Packing Company in 1899. Central to the company’s success has been its dedication to industrial and product innovation. In 1900, it patented the first clear glass, vacuum packed jar that could stand the rigors of transportation. It was the first to introduce peanut butter to the American public, to remove refined sugar and chemically modified starch from baby food, and, in 1911, it introduced Beech-Nut chewing gum. There is an interesting display of artifacts related to the company’s history at the Arkell Museum.
Day 2 Canajoharie to Schenectady (38 Miles)
Just east of Lock 14 is the Palatine Bridge. The surrounding area was first settled in 1723 with the migration of 60 Palatine German families into the Schoharie and Western Mohawk Valleys. It is from these settlers that the bridge, the Village of Palatine Bridge and the Town of Palatine take their names. In 1803, a covered bridge was first built across the Mohawk River at this location. Since that time, several wooden bridges and a catwalk have succumbed to fire and flood, with the fifth version being the steel bridge in place today.
The opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820’s brought rapid growth to many canal towns as it allowed for the export of agricultural products to distant markets and brought industry in. Agriculture, predominantly dairy farming, remains as a major industry, with sheep, beef, field corn, fruits and vegetables also grown locally. As you begin your second day of biking, be sure to appreciate the peaceful beauty of the open agricultural fields still in existence.
The next 16 miles of stone dust trail will be some of the most scenic of your trip, as you travel alongside the only natural waterway through the Appalachian Mountain system between the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of Mexico. A bit east of Sprakers, a small section of the Adirondacks forces the Mohawk River to bend and narrow, creating the area known as “The Noses.” Here two steep escarpments face each other across the Mohawk River. Watch for vultures, hawks and the occasional bald eagle soaring on the updrafts created by winds deflecting off the cliffs.
Fonda & Auriesville
If you are interested in Native American heritage and the process of Sainthood within the Roman Catholic Church, take a detour into Fonda and visit the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha and Native American exhibit. Or, continue further down the trail to Auriesville to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs. Also known as the Auriesville Shrine, this major Roman Catholic pilgrimage site is built on the grounds of the Mohawk Native American Village of Ossernenon and offers a round church that seats 6,500, as well as garden paths designed for prayer and reflection.
Enthusiasts of canal structures will not want to miss the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Erie Canal as one of the 19th century's greatest commercial and engineering projects. The Visitor Center traces the impact of the Erie Canal on New York State and the nation. Many structures dating from the three eras of the canal's development, including the four-foot deep by 40-feet wide “Clinton’s Ditch” and enlarged and relocated canals built to accommodate travel by larger canal boats and cargo loads, are on site. The largest structure includes a portion of the 624-foot-long Schoharie Aqueduct, which carried the water of the Enlarged Erie Canal over Schoharie Creek. Construction of the aqueduct was begun in 1839, completed in 1841, and put into service in 1845. The aqueduct is now only partially intact -- all but the nine arches at the southwest end were demolished in 1915 to reduce impedance to stream flow. From this point east to Amsterdam, the trail is paved.
Known as the “Rug City,” Amsterdam is a city with a rich industrial history thanks in no small part to its hillside location above the Mohawk River. Take a meal break in Amsterdam and check out the Walter Elwood Museum, which is a display of Elwood’s collection of more than 25,000 artifacts representing multicultural, Victorian, and natural histories and the Mohawk Valley’s Industrial Heritage. To reach the museum, you will need to cross the river by heading north on Route 30. Stay to the right and follow Route 30 & 67 (Church Street). The museum is less than mile - after you cross the river. Between Amsterdam and Rotterdam Junction, there is a five-mile on-road section of trail.
Before ending your day in Schenectady, be sure to make one final stop in Rotterdam Junction at the Schenectady County Historical Society's Mabee Farm Historic Site, a 1700 Dutch Colonial stone farmhouse, owned by the same family for nearly 300 years, and a re-created Dutch-style barn. It is the oldest remaining Dutch farmhouse in the Mohawk Valley.
Schenectady is a city rich in history and accomplishment. Here, Thomas Edison founded what would become the General Electric Company, George Westinghouse invented the rotary engine and air brakes and the American Locomotive Works once made virtually every steam and diesel locomotive in the country.
The area that is now Schenectady was once the land of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Nation. When Dutch settlers arrived in the Hudson Valley in the middle of the 17th century, the Mohawk called the settlement at Fort Orange "Schau-naugh-ta-da", meaning "over the pine plains." Eventually, this word entered the lexicon of the Dutch settlers, and came to be known as the area at the bend in the Mohawk River where the city lies today.
Schenectady is home to Union College, the first American college with a unified campus plan. The first buildings were completed in 1814, following the design of French architect Joseph Jacques Rameé. The Union campus features Jackson's Garden, with eight acres of formal gardens and woodlands, Mandeville Gallery, and the unique 16-sided Nott Memorial building.
Proctors Theatre is the major arts venue in Schenectady. Built in 1926 as a vaudeville/ movie theater and home to "Goldie," a Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, it was refurbished and is now used for live stage events. Proctors was also the site of one of the first public television demonstrations at which an image from a studio at the GE plant, a mile away, was projected. Plan to catch a show during your stay – the architecture alone is worth the price of admission.
As you bike Schenectady, you will pass directly through the Stockade Historic District, New York State's first National Register Historic District, designated in 1965 and home to Schenectady's most important 17th, 18th and 19th century figures. More than 100 architectural landmarks survive virtually intact. Dutch Colonial, English Colonial, Federal, Georgian, Queen Anne and other Victorian styles, dating from c. 1690 to 1930, are all well represented. The stockade neighborhood consists of private homes, apartments and professional offices where a high-density, slow paced, urban character prevails. The Stockade survived because of two events. A fire in 1819 destroyed the warehousing and business district that stretched between Washington Avenue and the Binnekill. Shortly thereafter, the Erie Canal was built along what is now Erie Boulevard. This isolated the Stockade; future business development took place east of the newly built canal. Thus the Stockade was insulated from the repeated redevelopment that marks the history of nearly all of America’s city centers.
The bike route is on-street from Schenectady Community College through the Stockade area to North Jay Street where the paved trail resumes.
Day 3 Schenectady to Albany (30 Miles)
Leaving Schenectady, the ride will be slightly uphill for the next two miles, deviating briefly from the river to circumvent the GE Research and Development Facility. At Blatnick Park, you will turn again towards the river and descend down a short, steep segment until you ride along the water again.
The next several miles will provide lovely views of both the river and surrounding woodlands before entering the City of Cohoes. In Cohoes take an on-road detour to see Cohoes Falls and Harmony Mills, the Flight of Locks and Visitor Center in Waterford, and Peebles Island State Park. For route detail, consult PTNY's Cycling the Erie Canalway Trail guidebook or interactive map.
Steeped in history, culture and aesthetic appeal, the 70-foot-high Cohoes Falls are a local gem awaiting rediscovery as a tourism and recreation venue. It is best viewed from the corner of School and Cataract Streets.
In the mid 19th century, the falls generated power for Harmony Mills, a cotton textile factory located along the western banks of the river. The original worker housing, built by the Harmony Company and now converted into luxury condos, gives a glimpse of what life was like during the Industrial Revolution in Cohoes. In 1866, during construction of Harmony Mill #3, a nearly intact skeleton of a mastodon was discovered in a deep peat deposit in a crevice on the cliff overlooking the Mohawk River. That mastodon is now a permanent exhibit at the New York State Museum at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
The Falls hold a sacred significance for the Iroquois and Algonquin people and have direct relevance to the origins of our American Constitution. The People of the Long House (Iroquois) and the Mohawk Nation believe this location is where the “Peacemaker” survived a fall from a tree into the torrents and thus brought the Good Message to the Mohawks at a time when they were at war with other Nations. The Mohawks accepted this Message of Peace and the Iroquois Confederacy was formed under the Great Law of Peace. The Great Law of Peace was used as a model by the drafters of the American Constitution and was acknowledged by the U.S. Senate on September 16, 1987.
In Waterford, where the Erie Canal and Mohawk River meet the Champlain Canal and Hudson River, you will find an engineering triumph called the Waterford Flight. Flight Lock Road takes you along the path of the Flight, which includes five locks that form the largest lifts, yet in the shortest distance, of any system in the world! Traveling through Locks Two through Six, boats rise more than 500 feet in elevation in less than an hour and a half, bypassing the Cohoes Falls just to the south. Flight Lock Road also leads to a boat launch and park area, which serves as an access to Crescent Lake, a favorite area for recreational boating, water skiing, and fishing. The so-called Lake is actually a pool of the Mohawk River, above the Cohoes Falls.
At Lock 6 Park, the observation deck provides a good view of this engineering marvel, a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the New Yorkers who designed and constructed the Barge Canal. Located adjacent to Erie Lock 2 are the Waterford Sidecut and Lock 2 Park, a popular place for waterfront festivals such as the Tugboat Roundup and Canal Fest.
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Visitor Center is located at Peebles Island State Park at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Buildings that formerly housed Cluett Peabody Shirt and Collar Manufacturers now provide space for offices and the State’s conservation laboratories. Within the park are the remains of the Matton Shipyard, which built wooden Canal boats and steel tugboats, as well as Revolutionary War earthworks constructed to halt the British advance on Albany.
Follow the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail signs and Canalway Trail blazers to navigate the on-street route through Cohoes and along the Hudson River into Albany. Immediately after leaving Cohoes, gaze across the Hudson River to the hills of Troy where meatpacker Sam Wilson, more commonly known as “Uncle Sam,” is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Also in Troy is the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, an acoustical wonder that is famous for having as perfect an environment for orchestra and chamber music as exists anywhere in the world.
You will end your bike trip at the Albany Riverfront Park at the Corning Preserve-Jennings Landing, home to a 1,000-seat amphitheater, a visitor’s center, a boat launch, and many festivals throughout the year.
The Hudson Riverway Pedestrian Bridge will get you into downtown Albany, where a host of historical and cultural opportunities await. Start with The Empire State Plaza, which includes the New York State Museum, The State Capitol Building, the Corning Tower, The State Performing Arts Center, more commonly known as “The Egg,” and an important collection of 20th century artwork and sculptures.
If you arrive early enough and want to get out on the water, opportunities exist with the Captain JP Cruises or Dutch Apple Cruises. Or, if Navy ships are more your style, take a tour of the Destroyer U.S.S. Slater, docked at the port of Albany. The Slater is the only Cannon Class Destroyer Escort remaining afloat in the United States, with the only original battle armament and configuration.
Parks & Trails New York's Cycling the Erie Canalway Trail guidebook is a great resource to complement this itinerary. Click on the button below to learn how you can take it with you on your next trip.
Another handy trip planning tool is our Erie Canalway Trail interactive map. It offers the locations of bike shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions conveniently accessible right from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. It can also alert you to any detours along the route to make sure you spend less time getting lost and more time enjoying the trail.