In July, my husband and I decided to do an Erie Canal Bike Trail vacation combining two loves of mine – biking and photography. I knew the photographs were not going to be awe inspiring photos since I am shooting in broad daylight for a lot of the trip. But it was documentary photography which I have wanted to try. I also knew I would still get some landscape photography prints. While we have ridden the trail around our home, we have wanted to do a longer portion of the Erie Canal Trail.
Planning consisted of checking out parts of the trail that were on roads to see how many hills there were. Also mapping out the trip to see how far to go each day and where to stay. While I like the outdoors, camping was out of the question. And all of our clothes and supplies will be carried with us. So we researched hotels on where to stay closest to the trail.
Next, coordinating transportation to get to Buffalo and get our vehicle home was another item that needed to be figured out. Purchases consisted of panniers and trunk bags for each of us and I already had a front handlebar bag. Since I could not find a camera bag for my bike that worked for me, my trunk bag was made into a camera case with some of my backpacks padded dividers. This worked perfectly.
Planning the trip was actually fun. We researched and reviewed maps and compared them to where we could get hotels. A valuable resource was the Parks & Trails New York Cycling the Erie Canal Book. You can purchase the book here. Overall it proved to be a value resource. There is also a GPS app that you can use but we were afraid of limited availability so decided to go with print. I have heard others say they used the app successfully so you can pick what works for you.
By July, we were in pretty good “bike” shape. Weather permitting, I rode daily. I rode a minimum of 15 miles each day and at least once per week I did a 30 mile trip. My husband rode as often as he could and we did the long rides together most weekends.
By the time of our trip, 20 miles seemed like a normal ride and 30 miles was not strenuous. We rode at a comfortable pace. The trip was never meant to be a timed excursion, just fun!
Day 1 Buffalo to Lockport
On the hottest day of the year with temperatures in the mid 90’s and high humidity, we started at Canalside in Buffalo. Canalside is the waterfront revitalization in Buffalo. While it was pleasant, we did have some difficulty finding the start of the trail. Luckily our book came in handy right at the start and we were on our way. Our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren saw us off.
Unfortunately, while I’m sure there is great effort on the part of Buffalo Canalway Trail, we were lost only a few minutes into our trip. There were some random trail closings with no detour signs and no direction on where to go. We ended up on streets in Buffalo having no idea where we were. We tried a couple of times to get back on the trail only to meet with trail closure signs. Then we totally lost the trail.
Help from a Stranger
Luckily we saw a bike rider, and thought maybe he would know. It was easy to see we were trying to find the trail with our bikes loaded down as much as they were. This gentleman was a lifesaver. Not only did he know the area well, he gave us very detailed directions. We had to ride about another 3 miles to get back on the trail. Although he thought the trail was open where he directed us, he even gave us another option in case we had to go further to get to the open trail. After going under over passes and on several roads, we ended up back on the trail. A little stressful to say the least, but we made it.
Thank you to the stranger who gave us directions. I wish I had gotten your name to properly thank you.
The trail leaving Buffalo goes under the Peace Bridge that leads to Canada.
Leaving Buffalo, you begin to bike along the Niagara River. This is a beautiful area and I never knew there were so many houses right on the river. Lined with flowers the trail is very pretty. A lot of water sports taking place on the river as well. It is very scenic, pleasant and photographic.
Next came the Tonawanda areas. This is a beautiful ride along the Niagara River with plenty of sights to see and terrific trails. All of our problems getting through Buffalo were long forgotten at this point and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery through this part of the Canal Trail.
This rotating gear bridge was something that I had never seen before. Instead of a draw bridge, the bridge could rotate to the other side when necessary, leaving the canal open for boats. It is no longer in use.
Our first stay for the night was at Lockport Inn and Suites. We were inside checking in when a huge thunderstorm set in. We had deliberately made our first day a shorter trip for two reasons: 1) we weren’t sure how early we could get dropped off and 2) my husband’s sister and her husband live in Lockport so we planned dinner out with them. Lockport Inn and Suites is a place we had previously stayed several times. It is a family run hotel, always clean, and we have always had a pleasant stay. They were very accommodating with our bikes allowing us to bring them into the room. They also offered a locked place to keep them, but it was easier to bring them in the room since everything was attached to the bikes. And they still use keys! If you are ever in the Lockport area I highly recommend them. And they are also close to the trail!
35 miles down
Day 2 – Lockport to Brockport
Flight of Five
As soon as you get back on the trail in Lockport, you will go by the Flight of Five. These are locks 67-71. They are a staircase set of locks built to bring a canal boat over the Niagara Escarpment in five stages. This was built originally in the 1840s! Not only is it an ingenious idea, I am so impressed this was bulit so long ago. A new lock replacing the flight of five sits besides them. And while the original flight of five is no longer being used, the city of Lockport is undergoing a massive restoration project of the locks restoring them as close as possible to the original locks. It is truly an amazing sight to see.
In the above two pictures you can see three of the flight of five locks. The best viewpoint to get a picture of all 5 locks was from the middle of the canal. Since that wasn’t going to happen, this is the best I could do.
Above is my bike at the flight of five. It’s going to be another mid 90’s day with high humidity so we started early.
Leaving Lockport you start to run into beautiful farm country. And did I mention the Niagara region is also wine country? You will pass fields of grape vines and of course apples!
There are still several homes along the canal trail when first leaving Lockport. The canal is calm and pretty here.
The trail so far is flat and easy riding. Around towns and locks the trail becomes paved. Otherwise it is like below _ very fine crushed stone. The trails have been impeccable so far and I can’t stress enough how easy they are to ride on.
Remember that storm that we just missed yesterday? Here is some damage from it on the trail. But we got around it by walking the bikes through that little opening.
More farmlands, pleasant communities and peaceful riding along the canal trail for a lot of the day today.
The Medina Culvert is the only road in New York State to go under the Erie Canal. The Tunnel was built in 1823 as a cheaper solution than building a bridge across the canal. Below is the road that is underneath the canal.
The Erie Canal and bike trail is on top of this road. If you look in the picture below, you can see the road extending out from under the canal.
Past the culvert is more farm country and beautiful scenery.
Arriving in Brockport we made our way to Dollinger’s Inn and Suites – about a mile and a half away. They were another hotel very accommodating in providing a first floor room and allowing us to bring our bikes into the hotel room.
Day 2 44.5 miles
Day 3 Brockport to Fairport
Today is another shorter ride. Our daughter lives in Webster with her husband and 2 children. This helps tremendously since we will be able to wash our clothes. And of course having a short riding day so we can play with the Grandkids is always a plus.
The trail leaving Brockport is also beautiful. But it is another 95+ degree day and high humidity so we start early again.
We came across more murals. In an effort to preserve history, many canal communities have painted on buildings. This one is right on the bike trail painted on an overpass. It was difficult to take a picture of it since you can’t back up too far.
Going through the city of Rochester is a huge change from the scenic countryside. But trails were well marked and it was easy traveling.
In Genesee Valley Park, the Erie Canalway Trails meets up with two other trails: the Genesee Riverway Trail and the Genesee Valley Greenway. This is a huge beautiful park. There were a lot of bikers there.
Riding into Fairport:
Made it to Fairport!
Day 3: 36 miles
Day 4 Fairport to Weedsport
This is our longest biking day. Also there are some roads to ride on with today’s trip. But first coming into Newark we are greeted with some beautiful murals.
Newark is really pleasant. It was a great place to stop and take a break.
At the end of this park under the bridge is a series of incredible murals. It is very hard to take pictures of them unless you are in the water.
Mural in Lyons:
Probably one of my favorite farm scenes was on the road after leaving Clyde. It was about as picturesque as you can get.
About the halfway point on the Erie Canal – not the bike trail — the actual Erie Canal Trail.
This part of the trail is along the Old Erie Canal. The bike trail is narrower and the canal is stagnant water. But as you ride along, you come to a beautiful memorial right on the trail. Someone has put a lot of work and time into this. In addition to being beautiful, it is so large my pictures do not do it justice. Again, I can only backup so far.
After doing a little research, Bryan McNeill Place appeared to be an exceptional individual who, along with a lot of other interests, loved long distance running. He died at 39 and left a loving family. Rest in peace Bryan. While I never knew you, I can see you are remembered in this incredible memorial.
Camillus Erie Canal Park includes the seven mile stretch of the Erie Canal known as Camillus Landing. This part of the Canal crosses Nine Mile Creek over a 144 foot long aqueduct. It is a pretty area and there were a lot of people taking advantage of the trail in this area walking, biking, and running.
We stopped here for the night at our son and daughter in laws house. It was nice to have a short day with the mid 90’s weather and the longer bike ride yesterday.
Day 4: 18 miles
Day 5: Back to Rome
Leaving DeWitt there is another really scenic aqueduct complete with another farm scene. Living in upstate New York, I do admit I have a passion for red barns.
The trail got a little narrow here. So walking my bike over the aqueduct seemed more appropriate.
Day 5: 44 miles
So if you have read all the way through this, here is something very important. When you are on the road portions, look for these signs painted on the road.
They saved us more than once because they will point which direction to take.
We have taken the trail as far as Utica. And I’m sure we will ride all the way to Albany at some point. It is just logistics figuring out transportation. The ride was incredible and my husband still calls it one of our best vacations. Just so you know, we have travelled extensively. In addition, my sister-in-law from Lockport wants to do it next year so we may join her.
I particularly liked the trail from Tonawanda to Newark. The trail is nice, very well kept, really clean so thank you to all that carry in and carry out like we do. Also, the trail is predominately flat and easy riding. I will definitely do it again. By the way, we are in our early 60’s. If we can do this, many of you can too!! I hope you get to enjoy it as it is a really beautiful ride.
Total Mileage: 172.5
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Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Debbi is an award winning and published travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography. She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.
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