The 750 mile Empire State Path in New York is open and prepared for you
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Empire State Trail
Your next cycling adventure in New York could be sooner than you think. On December 31, New York State opened the Empire State Trail, an ambitious 750-mile trail project that connects hundreds of communities in 27 counties.
The trail network is divided into three sections: the Hudson Valley Greenway, the Erie Canalway Trail, and the Champlain Valley Trail. Taken together, the path system forms a lateral T that connects Manhattan to the north with the Canadian border at Rouses Point and leads from Albany west to Buffalo.
“There is no road like it in the nation – 750 miles of multi-purpose trail literally from Manhattan to the Canadian border, from Buffalo to Albany,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. “Not only does it provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and history of New York City, but it also provides a safe place for New Yorkers from all over the state to relax as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In 2017, Cuomo announced a commitment to complete the trail and invested $ 200 million in the trail system. According to Andy Beers, director of the Empire State Trail, this is the largest trail investment ever made in the US.
The network of trails consists of off-road sections made of stone dust (powdered stone suitable for racing bikes) and asphalt, as well as road sections (including asphalt) that are generally shoulders of roads with little traffic. There are approximately 75 percent off-road sections to 25 percent on-road sections. You can also find options for parking, camping, state parks, and attractions using the robust map system available online.
Not only does the Empire State Trail help people get outside, it is also beneficial for the economy. Current users of the two main routes – the Hudson Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway Trail – are already generating $ 274 million a year for the state’s economy. The trail is estimated to create 1,920 jobs. Once completed, the Empire State Trail will see more than 8.6 million visitors annually, according to the latest press release.
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Beers points out the tourist opportunities that exist along the way. Working with the New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA), Cuomo launched a virtual passport program that shows the 200 craft breweries in close proximity to the Empire State Trail. The Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, made available through the NYSBA’s New York Craft Beer App, will encourage New Yorkers to visit breweries within 10 miles of the Empire State Trail along the 750-mile route that spans the state .
At every brewery along the way, visitors can digitally check-in into the app and earn a stamp on the Think NY, Drink NY Passport and Empire State Trail Brewery Passport. Visitors earn points that can be used to earn rewards such as neck gaiters, shirts, backpacks, and more. When checking into 200 breweries and filling out the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, visitors will receive a branded cooler backpack and a T-shirt that says “I filled out the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport”.
In case breweries aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities within 10 miles of the way, such as picnic and camping sites, and cultural attractions like museums. In addition, hikers, cross-country skiers and shoemakers, to name just a few, can use the route.
“At this unprecedented and challenging time, this new partnership will make it even easier for New Yorkers to experience both the natural beauty of this great state and world-class craft beverages,” said Governor Cuomo in an October press release. “Tourism and recreation are the foundation of our local economy. As we near completion of the Empire State Trail by the end of this year, this program will both benefit local residents and stimulate economic activity in communities across the state.”
Winter may not be the best time to visit the Empire State Trail as sections outside of urban areas are not covered in snow. Beers thinks the months between May and October are ideal.
If you’re interested in a New York state bike tour but aren’t sure how to plan it, the Parks & Trails New York Organization, New York State’s premier statewide lawyer for parks and trails, has previously run 650 cyclists on an eight day, 400 mile journey along the Erie Canalway Trail. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 tour was virtual, but registration for 2021 is expected to start on March 1st.
In case you’re car-free on the trails or want to leave your vehicle at one point and pick it up later, there are Amtrak train stations in 20 cities along the nationwide route of the Empire State Trail. Station locations are indicated on the route map. On some Amtrak trains, bicycles can be rolled directly onto passenger cars for storage on special luggage racks. Bicycle transport can be reserved for a small fee. Just be aware that bike capacity is limited on each train. So plan as much in advance as possible.
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