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.

Empire State Trail in Manhattan.

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.

empire state trail

Empire State Trail on the Erie Canalway Trail.

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.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 3

  • pearwood : Jan 13th

    I would love to walk this end to end, but it would be an expensive undertaking due to limited places to camp along the way.

  • Tom : May 25th

    I cycled the from Battery Park to Poughkeepsie (101 miles) recently. Great ride. One warning to cyclists though – the worst part of the ride is on the Broadway bridge from Manhattan to Bronx. The sidewalk was closed so we were forced to ride with traffic. The bridge is steel grating with wide gaps. My son got two flats and I got one. Almost ruined the day.


What Do You Think?