Start planning your Empire State Trail adventure.
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Three cyclists over a bridge on the Empire State Trail
Credit: Darren McGee/Courtesy of New York State Parks

Imagine hopping on your bike and riding from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Canadian border. It's more than possible thanks to the Empire State Trail, which connects Manhattan to Albany before splitting into two routes — one that leads north to Canada and one that heads west to Buffalo and Lake Erie. With 750 miles of paved and packed off-road trail, the Empire State Trail is the longest multi-use state trail in the country and was completed at the end of 2020.

Two people walking along the Empire Trail in Plattsburgh, NY, Clinton County, Adirondacks Region
Credit: Darren McGee/Courtesy of New York State Parks

And while taking on the entire 750-mile journey is doable — though best attempted by bicycle — most visitors are day-trippers who come to walk, run, and bike a short section. The path is not steep and is ADA-accessible, making it ideal for people of all ages and abilities (and leashed pups).

The Empire State Trail is broken into three sections. Hikers and bikers departing from New York City will follow the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail, which goes from lower NYC to Albany. In Albany, the trail splits into two continuations of the Empire State Trail: the Champlain Valley Trail and the Erie Canalway Trail. The former heads from Albany to the Canadian border, terminating in the village of Rouses Point, while the latter connects Albany to Buffalo and Lake Erie. Both traverse through upstate New York's charming towns and villages, and along the route, travelers can visit many of the hundreds of historic sites and museums located near the trail. Wineries, distilleries, and breweries are also prevalent along both routes.

Travelers looking for a multi-day summer excursion will find campgrounds on or near the trail, as well as hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and quaint, historic inns that welcome Empire State Trail hikers and bikers.

Certain sections are more rural and don't have direct access to lodging, food, and water. If you're attempting a large portion of the trail on a bike, these stretches won't be an issue. However, if you're hiking, it's best to stick to sections that will take you through charming towns and close to must-try restaurants and boutique hotels.

So, which route is right for you this summer? Hikers and bikers looking to stay closer to NYC might explore Maybrook Trailway, a 23-mile stretch of rail trail that brings you to a pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River. Drive to the trail and then spend the night in the inviting Hudson Valley town of Beacon, New York. Opt for the Erie Canal Trailway if you're keen on exploring the Finger Lakes; you'll hike through Syracuse — the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is right off the trail — before trekking not far from wine country, where you can take a driving detour from the trail to visit the wineries, small towns, and picturesque inns lining Seneca and Cayuga lakes.

Two runners on the Empire State Trail in Buffalo Harbor
Credit: Darren McGee/Courtesy of New York State Parks

Work on the Empire State Trail was completed at the end of 2020 with the goal of connecting "New York's extraordinary experiences, people, and places," per the trail's website. The entire trail is free and open to the public.