Login | December 15, 2019

Erie Canalway Trail Part 2

Pete’s World

Published: July 1, 2019

Last week I talked about an amazingly long cycling trail - the Erie Canalway Trail - that spans the length of New York State, running from Buffalo to Albany.

I was so taken aback by a trail that long and that close to home, my girlfriend and I decided to check it out. And rather than doing a thru ride - riding the whole trail in one fell swoop - we opted to do just under half the trail with out-and-back rides. Later this year we’ll explore the western half of the trail employing the same out-and-back strategy.

So in today’s column I’d like to review a portion of the trail that’s called the “Best 100 Miles,” the portion from North Tonawanda (Buffalo), the western terminus, to Lyons, a town 50 miles east of Rochester.

Now if you don’t have the time to ride the Canalway thru, consider my out-and-back strategy, which entails basing yourself out of the same town for two days. As such you’d do a ride west one day and east the next day - or visa versa. Then you drive east and repeat the process again.

And that strategy makes Lockport, New York a super starting point from which to begin the trail.

We found Lockport to be a pretty cool little lock town what with its canal visitor’s center and its massive working locks. The trail east to North Tonawanda is completely paved and an easy ride, while the trail east to Albion is just a tad tougher because of the crushed limestone surface - analogous to the Cuyahoga Valley’s towpath. Both rides make for a good day in the saddle.

And don’t forget to finish up one of those cycling days at the New York Beer Project, a great microbrew-restaurant that’s five miles south of downtown Lockport. Their ice-cold German Chocolate Stout was the perfect ending to a great ride.

Our next stop on the “Best 100 Miles” was in Brockport, which exudes a cool college-town vibe courtesy of Brockport State University of New York. From Brockport you can cycle back to Albion for your western ride, and to Rochester for your eastern ride.

Both directions are almost exclusively on crushed limestone, and both directions traverse some very scenic farm country. The eastern trek will take you through larger towns like Spencerport and Rochester. Of the two rides, I’d have to say Brockport east is my pick because of the larger towns and the recreational boat traffic going to and fro Rochester.

A great post-ride watering hole in Brockport is the 58 Main BBQ & Brew. Sit out on the patio, listen to live music, and enjoy some great Empire State barbecue.

Our final stop was in South Rochester, where there’s a wonderful confluence of several cycling trails, the Erie Canalway, the Genesee Valley Greenway, the Genesee Riverway Trail, and the Lehigh Valley Trail.

But rather than doing the west/east thing as we’d done at the previous two stops, we chose instead to ride the Canalway east to Newark for the first ride, then cycle south on the Genesee Valley Greenway for the second ride. And honestly, these two rides were easily my favorites of the trip.

The ride east on the Canalway out of Rochester is the absolute best of the “Best 100 Miles,” this because of the trendy canal towns - Pittsford and Fairport - the bustling recreational boat traffic, and the multitude of picturesque stretches of countryside. Heck, make a long day of this ride with a lunch stop in either of the aforementioned towns.

And for that second ride? Well, if you like riding a bit on the wild side, then hop on the Genesee Valley Greenway, a meandering swath of double track that can be accessed right off the Canalway.

The Genesee Valley Greenway is 90 miles long and runs north/south along the old beds of the Genesee Valley Canal/ Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch. It’s primitive, it’s remote, it’s unpopulated…and I just loved it. The majority of the trail is straight and level, consisting of cinders, gravel and mowed grass, and it passes through woodlands and wetlands, along river and stream valleys, and past rolling farmlands, steep gorges, and historic villages. It was an awesome and memorable day of riding.

Hey, enough of me gabbing…get out to New York State's Erie Canalway. You won’t be disappointed.