Empire State Trail complete and open!

It’s finally here!

Nearly four years after Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a 750-mile trail between New York City and Canada and Albany and Buffalo, the dream is now a reality. The Empire State Trail, the longest multi-use trail network in the nation, is officially complete and open to the public.

The mega trail, a source of recreation, economic development and tourism, connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous statewide signed route. It is 75 per cent off-road to provide a safe and accessible route for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. Now, all New Yorkers and visitors can experience New York’s natural beauty, varied landscapes and historic heritage.

The amount of work completed over the past four years is a cause for celebration and congratulations are due to all those involved.

Erie Canalway Trail

One of the keystone projects of the Empire State Trail is the completion of an off-road route through the city of Syracuse. That route is now complete and features four main segments. The Honeywell Corporation built the westernmost of these segments, which connects Reed Webster Park in Camillus with the New York State Fairgrounds and passes by the historic Gere’s Lock.

The Loop the Lake Trail, which will eventually run along the entire perimeter of Onondaga Lake, runs between the State Fairgrounds and the Inner Harbor, passing over the rail line that had been a significant barrier. Now, a stunning bridge provides soaring views of the lake. In the Inner Harbor area, the trail runs via the existing Onondaga Creekwalk that winds into downtown.

Heading east out of the city, the innovative Elevating Erie project came up with the route which travels down the median of Erie Boulevard before following Towpath Road and a newly constructed bridge over the highway to connect with Old Erie Canal State Historic Park in DeWitt.

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In the Mohawk Valley, one of the worst stretches of on-road riding has now been replaced with a beautiful new trail, running east from Utica to Schuyler. Further east, new trail along the banks of the Mohawk River runs from Frankfort through Ilion to Mohawk, where it connects with a previously built trail running to Fort Herkimer. This trail connects with two additional new stretches, running from Fort Herkimer Church to Lock E-18, and on to Little Falls.

In Rotterdam Junction, one of the most complicated of trail gaps was closed by the construction of a tunnel and the upgrade of an existing underpass under two rail lines, allowing for a continuous off-road trail through this section, creating a seamless connection between the trail running east from Amsterdam and the one heading west from Schenectady.

Exciting work is happening along the Champlain Canal corridor as well. An extremely scenic section of the Canalway Trail system now boasts a new trail between Fort Edward and Fort Ann. In Fort Edward, the new trail intersects with the Feeder Canal Trail in Glens Falls, which connects with the Warren County Bikeway and serves as a gateway to Lake George and the Adirondacks.

Hudson Valley Greenway

The Empire State Trail creates a connection between the Canalway Trail system and New York City.

The new 36-mile Albany-Hudson Electric Trail runs from Rensselaer, across the river from the Erie Canalway Trail’s eastern terminus in Albany, south to Hudson. The $45 million trail follows the historic route of an electric trolley which operated from 1900 to 1929. The corridor is owned by National Grid, which authorized New York State to build a trail on the route.

From Hudson, the trail follows lightly used rural roads down to Kingston, where the new 1.5-mile Hudson River Brickyard Trail recently opened north of the city along the Hudson River Shoreline. South of Kingston, the trail continues onto the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which received extensive renovations to its surface earlier this year, thanks to work from the Open Space Institute. From here south, the route is almost entirely off-road.

In New Paltz, the trail leaves the Wallkill corridor and follows the Hudson Valley Rail Trail to Highland, where it connects to the breathtaking Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park to Poughkeepsie. On the other side of the bridge, the trail continues along the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail to Hopewell Junction.

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The newly constructed Maybrook Trailway begins in Hopewell Junction and runs south for 23 miles to Brewster along the Metro-North Railroad’s inactive "Beacon Line" corridor. Along the route, the trail winds through rural landscapes and wooded areas featuring seasonal waterfalls and crosses the Appalachian Trail.

From Brewster, the trail picks up the existing Putnam Trailway, which runs south through it’s namesake county before connecting to the Westchester North and South County Trails south to Yonkers, and the Putnam Greenway Trail running through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Finally, a short series of on-road connections brings the Empire State Trail to the Hudson River Greenway that runs along the west side of Manhattan down to the trail’s southern terminus at the Battery.

Interconnected statewide trail system a PTNY priority

With an interconnected trail system throughout New York long a goal of Parks & Trails New York and years of advocacy to close the gaps in the Erie Canalway Trail, we are thrilled to be celebrating the amazing accomplishment of the Empire State Trail.

When the Empire State Trail was first proposed, PTNY sprang into action to ensure it came to fruition. We led dozens of advocates, community leaders, and trail users in meetings with state legislators and decision makers to highlight how the proposed 750-mile Empire State Trail would benefit communities.

New York’s trail network has seen tremendous growth over the past 20 years, underscored by the Empire State Trail. Greenway trails have become popular core community amenities, drawing tens of millions of users statewide and encouraging residents and visitors alike to be more active. They have been especially popular and appreciated during the difficult COVID pandemic. Parks & Trails New York looks forward to building off the momentum of the Empire State Trail to lead efforts to develop a true statewide trail network, cementing New York's position as the nation's leader in multi-use trails.




About The Author

Dylan Carey

Dylan Carey is the Project Director for Parks & Trails New York