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Explore the Erie Canal with the Canalway Challenge

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2020-07-21 13:40:00

Both the Erie Canal itself and the towpath that runs alongside it have become recreational treasures throughout the Upstate New York. The canal itself has long been a popular place for kayakers to paddle, and the multi-use Erie Canalway Trail, built on the towpaths that once allowed mules to pull canal boats, offers more than 360 miles worth of trails for walking or cycling, from the Capital Region through Central New York and out to Western New York. Summer has always been the perfect time to explore the canal and the trail, but this year, the appeal is even greater with the introduction of the Canalway Challenge.

The premise is simple: first, you choose a mileage goal and sign up on the Canalway Challenge website. Then you can either paddle the canal, or walk, hike, run or cycle along the trail, and keep track of your mileage with at fitness app or the official Canalway Challenge log. When you reach your goal, you upload a photo as proof, and you’ll receive official prizes: a certificate of completion, a gear bag, and a magnet and sticker to show that you’ve done it.

You can choose from several mileage goals, and you don’t have to complete the whole challenge in one outing. The 15 mile goal is great for beginners or families with young kids. Those who want a more moderate challenge can strive to reach the 90 mile goal. The next level up is 180 miles, half the distance of the Canalway Trail. And some of the most dedicated cyclists, paddlers and hikers strive for “End to Ender” status, reserved for those who complete the entire Canalway Trail, from Albany to Buffalo (or Buffalo to Albany). The challenge divides the trail into four distinct sections, each 90 miles apiece: one section runs from Albany to Little Falls; the next runs from Little Falls to Syracuse; then Syracuse to Rochester; and finally Rochester to Buffalo. The miles you log in any area count toward you total mileage goal, but you only earn End to Ender status if you complete all four of them.

The options are endless, whether you’re on the water paddling or back on land cycling, running or hiking. Some just go out for an afternoon, while others make the bike path a mode of transportation in itself, opting to ride from one canalside village to another or to spend an entire week or more traversing the state along the bike path’s entire route. The trail and the canal itself pass through peaceful natural settings, beautiful waterfront scenery, and charming, historic small towns, making this a unique experience that can’t quite be replicated anywhere else. Canal parks offer historic information, picnic areas, walking trails, and an up-close view of locks, dams and lift bridges in action; they can be found in most of the towns situated along the canal. These are ideal spots to stop and rest, enjoy a sunny afternoon, and take in the fresh air and pretty views.

So whether you want to explore by land or by water, make sure to add the Canalway Challenge to your summer to-do list and enjoy all the Erie Canal has to offer!

Erie Canal and trail aerial view photo credit Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Cycling along the Erie Canal photo credit Russ Nelson
Canalway Challenge map photo credit Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Paddling on the Erie Canal photo credit Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

posted at: 2020-07-21 13:40:00, last updated: 2021-04-06 16:42:50

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