Erica’s Top 10 Things to Do while Biking the Canalway Trail

This fall, we are excited to welcome back Erica, PTNY’s Arthur V. Savage Fellow, after her epic cross-country journey by bike. As part of her 3,000 mile adventure from Maine to Montana, she crossed through New York on the Empire State Trail, taking the Champlain Canalway Trail from Whitehall to Albany and the Erie Canalway Trail to Buffalo. From north to south and east to west, she shares some of the highlights from along the way.


1. Enjoy the Village of Whitehall

We spent a night in the Village of Whitehall. This sweet town had a beautiful waterfront park, with views of the Skene Manor overlooking the town and new amenities installed with the opening of the Empire State Trail. We were also excited to find multiple Bike Friendly businesses, including Putorti’s Broadway Market, where we were able to chow down on ice cream and stock up on provisions.


2. Check out the Sights in Albany

We of course had to stop in Albany, the state’s capital! We stopped by the Capitol, said hello to Nipper (Albany’s twenty-eight-foot tall, four-ton steel and fiberglass canine mascot) and biked the waterfront.


3. Camp at a Lock

What better way to experience the canal than by camping right on it? Camping at the locks is such a unique experience and is not to be missed! Make sure to contact the locktender before setting up camp though – you can find more information about camping along the canal here.


4. Cool Off in Canajoharie

We stopped in at the Arkell Museum (also a Bike Friendly business!) and asked the friendly librarians for recommendations in the area. They pointed us toward the Boiling Pot, an almost perfectly round swimming hole. We had to climb straight up a hill to get there, but man was it worth it! Use caution though, as flash floods from upstream have been known to rush down the river.


5. Recharge at Green Lakes State Park

After being on our bikes all day, it was such a relief to set up camp and take a walk in the woods, following paths through old-growth forest and around bright turquoise lakes.

Even though it was a beautiful summer night, we didn’t have to worry about reserving a campsite here because Green Lakes State Park always keeps a few sites in their back pocket for bicyclists!


6. Soak in Syracuse

We were blown away by how fun it was to ride the new cycle track in the middle of Erie Blvd. coming into Syracuse from the east! We stopped in at the Erie Canal Museum (also a BFNY) for a bit of history before continuing on through the city. Syracuse had some of the best urban cycling we had seen, from the scenic Creekwalk with tons of public art to the picturesque Loop the Lake trail. We just wish we had had more time to explore rather than just passing through!


7. Poke around Palmyra

We had a lovely time poking around Palmyra and learning about the local history, including checking out the site where the Book of Mormon was first published. The town itself was picturesque and we enjoyed a strong coffee and homemade baked goods (including multiple cookies, a brownie and a gluten-free muffin to keep us going) at Bike Friendly Cafe Aqueduct.


8. Hit up a diner in Medina

On our sixth day, we woke up to dark clouds and twisting winds, indications of a storm rolling in. We managed to make it to Medina just in time for the rain to pour down and us to run into a diner before getting too wet! It seems as if quite a few other cyclists had the same idea, from the number of bikes leaning against the building outside. One of these groups of fellow bikers even offered to pay for our breakfast — thank you, kind strangers!

9. Check out the Flight of Five in Lockport

We caught Lockport on a pristine June day, just before a big thunderstorm was due to roll through. It was so much fun riding the trail that brought us right up to the famed “Flight of Five” locks. We spent more time than we probably should have running up and down the stairs and watching the tour boats go up and down through the locks.


10. Explore Buffalo

Buffalo was full of surprises! We took a full rest day here after a week of riding the trail, and were glad we did because there was so much to see. From Olmstead’s Delaware Park and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, to the laidback waterfront and historic Buffalo Central Station, we tracked all over the city on our bikes.


Ready to plan your own adventure?

Think these spots are cool? These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the interesting, striking and fun sites you’ll visit on the Erie Canalway Trail. Having ridden most of the way across the United States at this point (read the article about her entire trip here), Erica can say that the ECT was easily one of her favorite parts. In addition to the obvious factors like the history, scenery and quality of the trail, all the trip planning resources available made it easy to map out her adventure. And with the option of camping at most locks and the knowledge that there were cute towns located at frequent intervals, she felt like she didn’t have to have every detail worked out ahead of time, but could be spontaneous and just enjoy the journey.

Want to know more about her trip on the Erie Canalway Trail or interested in planning your own and need a little help? Feel free to reach out to her at eschneider@ptny.org.

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