Cycle the Erie Canal – Trails in New York State

September 20, 2018 || Posted by: F. Calarco (NERO) –

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is located in upstate New York and spans 524 miles. Designated by U.S. Congress in 2000, the heritage corridor has a preservation and management plan the focuses on preserving the corridor’s valuable historic resources, promoting the corridor as a tourism destination and valuable place to live, as well as working with local communities and state partners, including non-profits like Parks & Trails New York.
Cyclists stop on a trail with flowers.
Cyclists come together on the Erie Canalway Trail during the 2018 Cycle the Erie Canal event.

Parks & Trails New York, 2018

Notbaly, the heritage corridor has worked with Parks & Trails New York to develop the annual Cycle the Erie Canal, a 400-mile journey from Buffalo to Albany. This past summer over 600 cyclists of all skill levels and ages, including families with children, participated in the event. Covering between 40 and 60 miles per day, this 8-day journey allowed cyclists to travel across the off-road, multi-use Erie Canalway Trail.

The event provided a variety of support for cyclists including luggage and tent transportation, food, as well as events and programming each night at the tent cities where participants rested before the next day of cycling. Additionally, the trip allowed for opportunities to learn about the port towns along the Erie Canal. Having the time to take things at their own pace, cyclists were able to stop and learn at different historical sites and museums along the way.

Jaimie Meerdink, Project Director of Parks & Trails New York, stated, “Biking is the vehicle that gets people to explore the corridor and the reason that people choose this ride…there are a lot of people that are history buffs or canal buffs interested in the history of upstate New York, or really just wanting to explore towns along the canal.”
Cyclists stop to look at a boat in the canal.
Cyclists on the 2018 Cycle the Erie Canal had many opportunities to learn about the diverse resources on the Erie Canal.

Parks & Trails New York, 2018

A major goal beyond this event for both Parks & Trails New York and the heritage corridor is to create accessible trails in New York, empower people to be able to use the trails independently, as well as showcase how the trails can be used to benefit communities.

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Assistant Director Andy Kitzmann elaborated, “It’s important to create a stimulus, energy, and enthusiasm for the value of the resources in the heritage corridor. We want to inspire the 3.2 million people who live here. It’s not just about bringing in people from other areas, but it’s about inspiring our local folks that this is a resource that’s worth protecting.”

The growing importance of trails and their potential for economic impact in New York State has not gone unnoticed; the New York State Canal Corporation and multiple governor’s offices have invested a great deal of funding and resources into closing the gaps of off-road, multi-use trails. As of 2018, the Erie Canalway Trail is 80% complete and is expected to be fully completed by 2020 as part of the statewide 750-mile Empire State Trail.
Map of trails in New York State including the Erie Canalway Trail, Hudson River Valley Greenway, and Champlain Canalway Trail.
New York is working to complete a fully connected, continuous off-road multi-use trail system throughout the state.

Canalway Trail Times, 2017

To learn more, listen to the NPS National Heritage Area Podcast Episode with Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor’s Assistant Director, Andy Kitzmann and Parks & Trails New York Project Director Jaimie Meerdink.

Last updated: October 15, 2018