Empire State Trail Here We Come

In January 2016, Governor Cuomo announced an historic commitment to complete and connect the Empire State Trail. The ultimate goal is to ensure that this 750-mile trail is completed by 2020, closing the gaps, and connecting it to the Erie Canalway Trail. This initiative will create the longest multi-use trail in the nation, connecting New York City with the Canadian Border and Albany with Buffalo. The completion of the trail will bring substantial health, economic, and environmental benefits to millions of New Yorkers.

Are you getting excited about the opportunity of heading out to these historic trails? PTNY is excited too. In anticipation of this historic milestone for New York State, we have put together some tips and resources to help with planning your upcoming bike trips on the trail.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip to a trailside museum or Canal community, or even a multi-day Buffalo to Albany adventure, here are some important tips to keep in mind…

1. Plan it out

Use PTNY's interactive Canalway Trail map, Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook, or Interactive TrailFinder Map to scout out out a segment of trail that works for you. Important considerations are trail surface, amount of road riding necessary, and terrain. The most common surface you’ll find is compacted stone dust, but you’ll also see some paved sections. When dry, stone dust provides a similar ride to pavement. When wet, stone dust may provide more rolling resistance than pavement. Besides stone dust and paved off-road trail sections, on-road connections make up some of the trail network as it crosses New York State.


PTNY's interactive TrailFinder Map is your one-stop place for information about more than 100 multi-use trails in New York State...


The interactive Erie Canalway Trail map should be your first stop for information about the ECT


…and both maps are optimized for use on your smartphone – great resources on or off the trail!

Other things to look for when planning a trip are availability of parking and location of trail-side amenities and services. If you’d like to do a one-day “out and back” (a trip where you ride one way to a destination, then back to your origin) then it might be best to find a location where there are places to eat, bathrooms, or a museum at your turnaround spot. And you probably want these services close at hand, so you don’t have to ride miles out of your way. Fortunately, you can find options for these through the guide and interactive maps.

For multi-day trips, you’ll want to look for lodging or camping accommodations near the end of your day’s ride. Again, there are many good choices in the guide and maps.

2. Check your gear

Your bike should be in good mechanical condition and comfortable to ride. You may need to visit your local bike shop to make adjustments. Most Erie Canalway Trail riders use hybrid bikes because of their comfort and versatility, but touring bikes, cyclocross bikes, and gravel grinders are also good options. Tandems, recumbents, and trikes are also welcome.

Due to the varying surfaces you can encounter on the trails, it is important to think about your tires. We recommend tires with puncture protection, 28-42mm wide for 700c wheels and 1.3- 1.6” wide for 26” wheels. If you ride a road bike, we suggest the widest tires the frame will accommodate for a smooth ride. For mountain bikes, we suggest non-aggressive tires or “slicks” to reduce rolling resistance. Trike riders should know that small portions of the Erie Canalway Trail are single track. If you have questions about your tires, ask at your local bike shop.

See PTNY’s Cycle the Erie Canal Rider Handbook for other gear suggestions and considerations.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected

Beyond ensuring that you are prepared for unforeseen events relating to your bike, the most challenging and unpredictable element in cycling may be the weather. You never know when you’re going to get wet, so be prepared. A good, waterproof rain jacket is an essential item for any but the shortest of rides.

4. Be prepared for the unexpected... Part 2

A flexible attitude can be more important than any piece of equipment you bring to the trails. That’s because many of the wonderful aspects of trail riding are discovering things that you didn’t expect. We’re talking about wildlife, great views, quirky trail-side shops and attractions. You will see that each community, along the trails, has its own interesting history, and you are as likely to hear about it in a neighborhood diner as the local historical society. If you are riding along the Erie Canal, you’ll see great Canal infrastructure on display as you ride along both historic and modern sections – lift gates, locks, abandoned walls, and more… So, take time to take it all in, and don’t worry about hitting everything on your list in one go-around.


Historic canal infrastructure

5. Consider a group ride

Group rides are a great way to get into cycling. We regularly highlight group rides on the Erie Canalway Trail through the Trail Facebook page. Some good examples of group rides for a range of rider abilities are Tuesdays on the Towpath in the Syracuse area and the weekly trail ride that heads out from Bike Barn in Cohoes in the Capital Region. Of course, the grand daddy of all organized rides is PTNY’s annual Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour, which covers the entire, 360-mile trail in eight days – fully-supported.

6. Share your story

If you’ve completed the full Erie Canalway Trail, either in one trip or over several trips, you are an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Ender! Register online to be included in the annual End-to-End Honor Roll, and to receive your free End-to-Ender certificate and decal. Registering as an End-to-Ender will also enter you in a raffle for an LL Bean gift card.


We’d also encourage you to connect with other trail users through social media. The official Erie Canalway Trail Facebook page is the place to start. We post stories and pictures of trail users. We also provide up-to-date information on trail closures and happenings along the Canal corridor. You may also be able to connect with other trail users that you met on your trip.


Use the PTNY hashtag #NYTrailTales to share your trail stories and enthusiasm for New York trails!

Well, we're feeling inspired. How about you? And most of the tips listed above apply to any multi-use trail, not just the Erie Canalway Trail and the Empire State Trail.

See you on a trail this summer!