Escape From New York on the Empire State Trail
City-dwellers know that it always takes a little extra effort to commune with nature, but the problem has become more acute during the pandemic. In New York City, the trains, busses, and carpools that outdoorsy folks used to rely on to leave the city became unsafe or even non-existent when lockdowns began. Enter the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile, multi-use trail spanning from Manhattan to Canada and Albany to Buffalo, that promises to give New Yorkers a safe way to leave their ever-shrinking pandemic bubbles.
The trail officially opened on New Year’s Eve and connects a network of existing trails along railways and canals. While multi-day use of the trail is best suited for bikepacking over hiking, it’s a feat of urban planning and design that will give New Yorkers across the state a new way to connect with some of the state’s most treasured public lands.
80 Miles From Manhattan to the AT
The route crosses the Appalachian Trail 80 miles north of Manhattan. While this section of trail doesn’t include any official trail-side camping options, intrepid New Yorkers could feasibly bike the distance in a day, or make a weekend of it staying in off-trail lodging in one of the many towns and villages along the way. Andy Beers, Director of the Empire State Trail, hopes that private campgrounds along this section of trail will appear as demand from multi-day adventurers grows. For those seeking an end-to-end bikepacking experience, he recommends the section of trail from Albany to Buffalo that follows the Erie Canal.
Cycle the Erie Canal
Spanning 400 miles from Albany to Buffalo, the Erie Canalway Trail is now officially part of the Empire State Trail. With ample trail-side camping, cyclists can go end to end in about 8 days, passing through canal locks, small villages, and farmlands. Parks & Trails New York, the non-profit that supports the Erie Canalway Trail offers guidebooks, example itineraries, and even a fully-supported annual trip for those looking to make the trek in a group.
Choose Your Own Adventure
While the Empire State Trail isn’t ideal for a thru-hike, it’s beauty lies in the choose-your-own-adventure possibilities. New Yorkers can take a stroll from town to town in the Hudson Valley, bike from Manhattan to Canada, or even cycle to the AT for a backpacking trip. Find out more about the trail, including an interactive map complete with camping, parking, and elevation information for every section of the trail, on their website.
All images, including featured image, via Empire State Trail.
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