If you are a native New Yorker, you may have encountered the fact that most people you will meet outside of New York have no idea what a treasure the state is. New York has 180 state parks, 7,600 lakes, and the largest publicly protected land area in the entire lower 48 states, The Adirondack Park. Nothing better captures New York’s natural beauty than the newly established Empire State Trail.
Empire State Trail Overview
In total, the Empire State trail spans over 750 miles and is the longest multi-use trail system in the United States. What began as a seemingly impossible project, after three years and 293 million dollars of state, local, and private funding; 350 miles of new trail had been created to connect a preexisting 400 miles of trails across the state. With the teamwork of a variety of state entities, local governments, and nonprofit entities like the New York State Canalway, the trail was completed in December of 2020. The Empire State Trail website says it all with one simple slogan, “The Empire State Trail connects New York’s extraordinary experiences, people, and places.”
A variety of state entities, local governments, and nonprofit entities like the New York State Canalway operate their respective local sections of the trail. Three main sections make up the Empire State Trail, including the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail, The Erie Canalway Trail, and the Champlain Valley Trail. Each section of the trail is unique in its geography, history, and experience.
The Hudson Valley Greenway trail is a roughly 200-mile trail through the heart of upstate New York. Starting in lower Manhattan, it meanders through the historic Hudson River Valley, and ends in the state capital in Albany.
The longest section of the Empire State Trail is the 340 mile Erie Canalway trail. Following the canal, the trail cuts through central and western New York’s many “port” towns that grew alongside the canal. The Erie Canalway ends at Canalside Park in Downtown Buffalo surrounded by great food and entertainment.
Going north from Albany the Champlain Valley Trail climbs and runs 187 miles along the edge of the Adirondack Park, and skates along the edge of Lake Champlain before ending at the New York border with Canada.
Trailheads are scattered along each section of the trail, marked by a circular green and yellow Empire State Trail sign. The trail’s website provides detailed maps and breakdowns of each section and its prospective trailheads. You can also obtain a free, hardcopy map. The Empire State Trail is ideal for day trips in your own backyard or longer bike touring and hiking trips. Whether you are an experienced cyclist, adventurer, or tourist, the Empire State Trail should be on your New York travel itinerary.