A 750-mile cycling and walking path from New York City up to the Canadian border, initially announced in 2017, is now open, despite the challenges the coronavirus pandemic posed during its final stages of completion. This might even count as a rare victory in 2020.
With U.S. bicycle sales across all categories—children’s bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, even accessories—up at least 75 percent this year (and that was back in April), the timing couldn’t be better for the arrival of the Empire State Trail. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged a $200 million investment back in 2017, with most of the funds going to the construction of 350 miles of new trails connecting and supplementing three main trail networks that already exist:
- The Hudson Valley Greenway Trail, which starts as a paved route at the southern tip of Manhattan, runs up the city’s west side along the Hudson River, and continues into the Hudson Valley up to Albany
- The unfinished Erie Canalway Trail, currently a 365-mile, off-road trail connecting Albany and Buffalo and much of it along—you guessed it—the Erie Canal
- The Champlain Valley Trail, an on- and off-road trail that runs from the Capital District in Albany up to Rouses Point, just shy of the Canadian border
“All told, these existing trails represent about 400 miles,” wrote Matt Villano for AFAR in 2017. “Cuomo’s plan would build the remaining 350 miles in three phases, ending in or around 2020. The state already owns most of the land for the new sections.”
“Most of the Empire State Trail route follows ‘rail-trails,’ which are repurposed historic railroad beds, and ‘canalway trails’ built adjacent to sections of the Erie and Champlain Canals. These trails are generally flat, with little change in elevation,” according to details provided by the state of New York.
And don’t be intimidated by the “off-road” portions, which are still 10- to 12-feet wide, paved asphalt or compacted stonedust. The on-road portions are better suited for more experienced riders who don’t mind being alongside car traffic; the longest of these stretches is 110 miles through the Champlain Valley, from Whitehall north to Rouses Point. Still, the entire Empire State Trail is friendly for all ages and abilities and is ADA compliant.
This is now the nation’s longest multiuse trail, although there’s a new hiking trail around the United States—the American Perimeter Trail—being scouted and mapped that would be 12,500 miles long if it comes to fruition. But the Empire State Trail has one more thing going for it: a “brewery passport” (via the New York Craft Beer App) that encourages riders to park for a pint at any of the 200+ breweries within 10 miles of the trail.
This article was originally published in November 2020. It was updated January 11, 2021, with new information. The Empire State Trail is open to all ages and abilities, and it is ADA compliant. Find out more at empiretrail.ny.gov.
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