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New York is famed for a lot of things: the excitement and culture of New York City, the symbolic Statue of Liberty, the natural beauty of the Catskills, Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes. But another wonderful thing the state has going for it is its amazing bike trails; here are a few of our favorites.
When the Erie Canal first opened in 1825, the waterway was deemed the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Today, nearly 280 miles of pathway, known as the Erie Canalway Trail, follow the canal's route between Albany and Buffalo. On the trail's west end, be sure to stop in Lockport, an aptly named place with dozens of canal locks to view. For those interested in learning about the trail's canal history, two of the many museums along the route are standouts: the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse and the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Chittenango. On the eastern end, the Mohawk Valley section of the trail is one of its most picturesque with the Adirondacks to the north and the Catskills to the south. Dozens of other highlights can be found along this scenic and historical trail—it's truly one for the bucket list!
The creation of the Walkway Over the Hudson turned a once derelict railroad bridge into a stunning, sky-high public park. The Walkway—the longest pedestrian bridge in the world—emerges from the forested hillsides and over the rooftops of the old riverfront town of Poughkeepsie, crosses the Hudson River 200 feet below and touches down in the hamlet of Highland on the other side, traveling just shy of a mile and a half all told. Rail-trails join the Walkway and spin out in either direction: the Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the west bank and Dutchess County Rail Trail to the east. Together, they form a seamless 18-mile paved pathway capturing the beauty of New York’s Hudson Valley, a lush sanctuary between the bustling metropolis of New York City and Albany.
In western New York, the Genesee Valley Greenway offers the perfect get-away-from-it-all experience. Beginning in Rochester, the trail meanders nearly 70 miles southwest, though note that there are two gaps in the corridor towards its southern end. The unpaved pathway is perfect for mountain biking, hiking, or horseback riding. While on the trail, you'll enjoy views of hardwood forests, wetlands and pastoral landscapes, sometimes with long stretches beside the Genesee River. The route is also dotted with old stone locks and culverts, remnants of the former Genesee Valley Canal, but, for many, the highlight of the trail is the impressive gorge and waterfalls in Letchworth State Park.
Just north of New York City, the paved, 22-mile North County Trailway provides an easy outdoor escape for city slickers. The southern end of the trail begins near the suburb of Tarrytown and heads north, meandering through rockcuts and wooded hills and along lake shorelines. Highlights include the Kitchawan Preserve with its miles of hiking trails to explore; it's also popular with birders, particularly in the spring when migrating birds (and butterflies) are plentiful. Nearby, you'll enjoy a "wow" moment when you spot the beautiful truss bridge (circa 1931) spanning the New Croton Reservoir.
The Heritage Trail, also known as the Orange Heritage Trail, offers a window onto New York's rural side with views of corn and wheat fields along its 15 miles. Interesting highlights include Crane Park (also called Airplane Park), where you'll see an old Saber fighter jet, and the Chester Depot Museum, housed in a stone-façade train station. The wooded hillsides, which look especially splendid in the fall, also enrich the experience.
The South County Trailway begins in Yonkers and extends northward nearly 15 miles through the Hudson Valley region. The paved pathway starts at the northern edge of Van Cortlandt Park and soon heads into Tibbetts Brook Park, a popular recreational spot in the warmer months with a sprayground and pool. The northern end of the trail offers views of the tree-lined Saw Mill River, and railroad history lovers can keep an eye out for the markers placed at the locations of former train stations; nearly two dozen stations once stood along this route.
Connecting two scenic natural gems—Massapequa Preserve and Bethpage State Park—the Bethpage Bikeway is one of the best rides on Long Island. Unfurling for just over a dozen miles, the paved pathway provides a pleasant pedal along wooded Massapequa Creek and a haven for wildlife; keep a lookout for swans, turtles, rabbits, chipmunks and other wildlife.
Beginning at the southern tip of Seneca Lake—one of New York's famed Finger Lakes—the Catharine Valley Trail follows an old railroad bed and a canal towpath for 12 miles. The Catharine Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, near the trail's start, offers hiking and fishing opportunities, as well as a birding hotspot. The crushed-stone pathway continues south through a serene, wooded valley.
The Putnam Trailway begins in Brewster, not far from New York's border with Connecticut, and winds its way east and south, skirting a handful of lakes and other waterways. Paved and just shy of 12 miles, the rail-trail offers an easy foray into nature. Much of the trail runs through woodlands with abundant birds and other wildlife.
In the heart of New York's Finger Lakes region, the Keuka Outlet Trail spans the 7 miles between Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake, and is bookended by the charming villages of Penn Yan and Dresden. Bicyclists will enjoy the country air as they pass produce farms and vineyards, and history buffs will wonder at the remains of 19th-century mills, dams and stone walls which can be found along the corridor. Lush vegetation and rushing waterfalls complete the pretty picture. A short section on the western end of the trail is paved, but the majority of the pathway is crushed stone and dirt.
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