The 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 and is a draw for visitors from around the world.
Since 2005, Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the New York State Canal Corporation (NYSCC) have been at the forefront of quantifying the trail’s popularity through annual Canalway Trail counts. Since 2019, the Who’s on the Trail report has included an estimate of the total number of visits to the full 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail and 90-mile Champlain Canalway Trail.
PTNY estimates that the Canalway Trail system as a whole saw over 3.3 million visits in 2021, including approximately 3.1 million visits to the Erie Canalway Trail and approximately 215,000 visits to the Champlain Canalway Trail. The methodology for the trail projections is based on an analysis completed by Alta Planning and Design in July 2018 to project total trail use upon the completion of the Empire State Trail in 2020. Previous year projections estimated that the Canalway Trail system saw 3.3 million visits in 2019 and over 4.2 million visits in 2020.
Use estimates are based on electronic and manual counts conducted by PTNY at ten locations along the Erie Canalway Trail in 2021. Electronic counters recorded usage at Tonawanda (Erie County), Pendleton (Niagara County), Brockport (Monroe County), Macedon (Wayne County), Canastota (Madison County), German Flatts and Little Falls (Herkimer County), Schoharie Crossing (Montgomery County), and Watervliet (Albany County). Four of the nine counters had been in place since 2020, so this report is able to show some changes in usage patterns between 2020 and 2021. Manual counts were also conducted at one location, in Rochester (Monroe County).
Visitation at all locations was strongest on weekends and holidays, suggesting the trail is very popular for recreational activities. Peak usage for all locations occured between June and September, though the busiest month varies by location.
The 2021 Who’s on the Trail report also includes, for the first time, information on those trail users who completed an end-to-end journey on the trail and registered as an official Erie Canalway Trail “End-to-Ender”. The “End-to-End” registration form includes various questions on trip characteristics, trip planning resources used, and demographic information for the registrant. This information provides a fuller picture of some of the trail users than the pure count information collected by the electronic counters.
To read the full report, visit www.ptny.org/trailcounts