Canalway Trail traffic reaches new highs

he 524-mile Canalway Trail system is one of New York State’s premier outdoor destinations. The trail gives millions of New Yorkers in more than 200 canalside communities a dedicated place to walk, jog, and bike right from their doorsteps. Since 2005, Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation have been at the forefront of quantifying the trail’s popularity through annual Canalway Trail counts.

The Canalway Trail counts analyzed in the Who’s on the Trail reports give trail managers, municipalities, planners, and members of the public answers to four important questions: how many people are using the trail, who’s using the trail, when is use occurring, and how are people using the trail? Over the years, the answers to these questions have helped to justify millions of dollars in public investment for maintenance and construction across the Canalway Trail system.

The Canalway Trail counts have also been used to help assess the impact of trail usage on New York’s economy. According to PTNY’s 2014 Economic Impact Study of the Erie Canalway Trail, more than 1.6 million visits to the trail support more than 3,400 jobs and create $250 million in economic impact. Since then, subsequent Who’s on the Trail reports have demonstrated that the popularity of the Erie Canalway Trail remains high.

In 2017, PTNY measured usage at six locations along the Erie Canalway and Feeder Canal Trails. Counts along the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail measured usage at Pendleton (Niagara County), Spencerport (Monroe County), Camillus (Onondaga County), DeWitt (Onondaga County), and Niskayuna (Schenectady County). An additional count in Glens Falls (Warren County) measured usage along the seven-mile Feeder Canal Trail.


The 2017 Who’s on the Trail report reveals some impressive usage trends across the corridor. The counts ranged from just over 50,000 annual visits in Pendleton to more than 180,000 visits in Niskayuna. The Niskayuna figure is the second highest figure ever recorded using a full year’s worth of count data. Locations in DeWitt and Camillus also show strong usage levels, with more than 100,000 visits occurring during the 12-month count period. Usage at all locations is strongest on weekends and holidays, suggesting the trail is very popular for recreational activities. Peak usage for all locations occurs between June and September, though the busiest month varies by location.

The 2017 counts mark the first time that 12 months’ worth of count data could be analyzed across multiple locations. This large amount of data not only provides unprecedented insight into Canalway Trail usage, but it will also allow PTNY to make more accurate usage estimates in the future.

A full analysis of Canalway Trail usage in 2017 is available in the Who’s on the Trail report here.