The Erie Canalway Trail
Experience one of the best cycling trails in America
Beautiful waterfront scenery, fascinating history and quaint towns and villages create a one-of-a-kind ride along the Erie Canalway Trail. Part of a National Heritage Corridor, the Erie Canal is the world famous inland waterway that opened the United States frontier to settlement and commerce, transforming a nation. Today, villages along the canal are being rediscovered for their small town charm, local artisans and enduring role in American history.
Running west to east, between the cities of Buffalo and Albany in upstate New York, the 360-mile trail also travels through the cities of Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Utica, and Schenectady.
Following historic canal and rail corridors, the Erie Canalway Trail is mostly flat and off-road, making it is an enjoyable ride for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Where the trail is not yet complete, there are a few steeper on-road grades and hills (climbs greater than 400 feet), mostly in the Mohawk River Valley.
From an afternoon to a full week of cycling, the Erie Canalway Trail offers endless adventures.
Mostly flat and off-road, the Erie Canalway Trail includes various surfaces. The most common is stone dust, although there are several paved sections and a few natural segments.
- Stone dust (composed of crushed limestone) is hard like pavement and universally accessible when compacted and dry. However, use caution if the stone dust surface has been newly installed or is wet as it can grab the narrow wheels of wheelchairs and touring and racing bicycles.
- Asphalt sections are similar to the surface of most paved roads.
- Natural surfaces are typically an old towpath or rail corridor cleared of trees and brush. The trail along these natural segments may be rutted and lined with roots.
Wide tires are recommended for all types of bicycles. Hybrid or mountain bikes, with non-knobby tires, are also encouraged.
Weather and Seasonal Use
For cyclists and walkers, May through September offers the best weather for an extended trip on the Erie Canalway Trail. June, July, and August tend to be the sunniest and driest months. Summer precipitation often means short but powerful thunderstorms with heavy rain. Spring and fall rain showers tend to be lighter, but last longer.
In the winter months, snowfall makes cross-country skiing a very popular option. The western and central portions of the trail corridor get the most average snowfall:
- Buffalo & Rochester: 91 inches
- Syracuse: 115 inches
- Albany: 64 inches.
Some sections of the Canalway Trail also permit snowmobiling use. Always be familiar with the regulations of the section of the trail you are using. The chart below shows basic seasonal weather data averaged for the whole corridor.
Getting to the Trail
There are several ways to access the Erie Canalway Trail:
- Car: The New York State Thruway (I-90) roughly parallels the canal and is the primary artery for automotive travel through the region.
- Air: Four international airports serve the corridor. In addition, private airfields and small public airports are located along the corridor within a modest bicycle ride of the Erie Canalway Trail.
- Train: Nine Amtrak stations provide rail service along a route that generally parallels that of the canal and offers links to New York City, Toronto, Montreal, Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston. However, only certain trains allow a boxed bike and not all stations have baggage facilities. There usually is an additional fee for a boxed bike based on weight.
- Bus: Long-distance bus lines serve most of the larger cities along the route. Greyhound and Trailways are the two main ticketing companies.
Parking & Transportation
The Erie Canalway Trail is easy to access, featuring many trailheads with formal parking. Most of these areas are identified on our interactive map. Many of the locks and lift bridges operated by the New York State Canal Corporation also have parking areas. If you don’t see signs indicating designated parking at these locations, be sure to check with lock attendants.
Cities and villages usually offer designated parking areas. However, these areas are frequently limited to short-term parking. Be sure to check posted regulations before setting out on your trip. In large cities, paid parking lots close to the trail route are often the most convenient and secure options; many of these are also identified on the interactive map. If you plan to stay overnight at hotels or bed & breakfasts, ask to use their parking facilities.
Larger urban and suburban regions offer regional transit systems that can be used to reach trail access points. Many of these are equipped to carry bicycles as well as pedestrians. Check the transit systems’ websites for details.
Many trailheads present no major barriers to persons with disabilities and are intentionally designed to be universally accessible for those using wheelchairs. These trailheads are indicated with a special symbol on the interactive map.