Bike Trails To Explore Near the Amtrak Line

Every year, thousands of amateur and seasoned cyclists alike flock to New York State to traverse both challenging and leisurely bike trails and witness for themselves the multi-colored majesty of fall foliage. Now, planning bike trips has been made easier since Amtrak made the decision to expand its Carry-On bike program for select routes, including the popular Empire Service and Maple Leaf trains, as well as most Northeast Regional departures. Rather than have to drive to a “start” location or box or bag their bike to board, a majority of Amtrak passengers will now be allowed to store their full-size bikes on new bike racks located mere feet from their seats.
Regarding the recent amendment, Amtrak Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer Roger Harris said, “Bringing your bicycle onboard a train is part of the journey, as it allows our customers to explore the cities they are visiting. To coincide with the increased popularity of biking in this country, we also wanted to provide our customers with the option of bringing their bike on more trains.”
Here is what the bicycle looks like when it's in it its box. © Harvey Botzman 2020
Amtrak announces its new carry-on bicycle service. © Harvey Botzman 2020
The Carry-On program will utilize newly installed luggage racks that convert into bike racks to provide storage space for up to two bikes per departure. As long as the front wheel is removed prior to boarding, standard full-size bicycles may be carried on board and stored in designated racks upon reservations, which for most routes are $20 each way and non-refundable. Passengers interested in using the Carry-on bicycle system are encouraged to arrive at their Amtrak station 30 minutes before departure. 
 
Harvey Botzman, a life-long avid bicyclist and the author of four New York State bicycle guidebook, was thrilled by Amtrak’s move, which he has been working to solidify for the last forty years. As Director Emeritus of the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC) and a NYBC representative for the Amtrak/Adventure Cycling Association, Botzman appreciates the decision and understands what it makes possible for seasoned bikers across New York State and throughout the country.  
“Now you can do all sorts of things,” Botzman said. A weekend trip is now possible allowing you to go from New York City with your bike to Albany, right to the Mohawk Hudson Erie Canalway Trail, and then bike to Utica, and then return home, all in a weekend. Before people had to box their bicycles, but now they can just pay their $20 and put their bike on the hook. It’s that simple.” 
For your travel convenience, New York by Rail compiled a short yet comprehensive list of some of the best biking trails accessible near popular Amtrak stops. Now that bringing your bike on board is cheap, easy and hassle-free, there’s no excuse not to get out and explore beautiful New York State! 
The Walkway Over The Hudson extends to two longer trails at the end of either side. Photo courtesy of The Walkway Over The Hudson.

Walkway Over the Hudson and Connecting Trails 

Length: 1.6 miles 
Counties: Dutchess, Ulster 
Trail end points: William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail at 61 Parker Ave. (Poughkeepsie) and Hudson Valley Rail Trail at 87 Haviland Road (Highland)
Distance from Poughkeepsie Train Station: 1 mile
In the Lower Hudson Valley, bike from the Poughkeepsie train station to the historic Walkway Over the Hudson. The longest pedestrian bridge in the world at just over 1.6 miles, the Walkway runs parallel to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge and crosses the Hudson River, connecting towns Poughkeepsie and Highland. After taking in the breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley from over 200 feet up, choose between the Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the river’s west bank or the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail to the east. If you’re feeling really adventurous, do both!  
The William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail is a 13.1-mile trail shrouded in beautiful green landscapes and dense tree cover that links Poughkeepsie with smaller towns to the southeast. Traveling east from Poughkeepsie, the route passes popular fishing spots and runs through the communities of Arlington and LaGrangeville before skirting the eastern edge of Red Oaks Mill. 
In Wappingers, the trail follows along the Veterans Memorial Mile, which features signage honoring each of the five branches of the military and offers a quiet place honor those who have served.
The path continues through East Fishkill and eventually ends in Hopewell Junction near the Hopewell depot, home to a museum and historical photo gallery. 
On the other side of the Walkway bikers will arrive in Ulster County and find the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which stretches 7.1 miles under two spectacular stone-arch bridges and over Black Creek, a popular waterway for kayakers and canoeists. This rail trail follows the former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and connects towns Highland and Lloyd with lively New Paltz further down. 
Together, the Walkway Over the Hudson and its two connecting rail-trails form part of the Empire State Trail, a developing 750-mile trail network spanning the state from New York City to Canada and Buffalo to Albany. Upon its completion later this year, the Empire State Trail will make history as the longest multi-use trail in the country. 
Explore the Duchess Rail Trail here http://www.dutchessrailtrail.com and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail here https://hudsonvalleyrailtrail.net/index.php.

Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail

Length: 9 miles

County: Albany
Trail end points: NY 32/S. Pearl St. and Old S. Pearl St. (Albany) and Grove St., 190 feet east of S. Main St. (Voorheesville)
Distance from Albany-Rensselaer Station: 2.9 miles

Following the route of the former Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Railway, the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is a 9-mile, asphalt-surfaced scenic oasis for local residents and visiting adventurers. After starting just south of Albany the trail heads west and crosses under the I-87/New York State Thruway nearby the Hudson River. A mile from the start, you’ll cross an old railroad bridge over Normans Kill. From there it’s a 2.2 mile trek to Bethlehem Veterans Memorial Park, which includes several benches to rest and enjoy the peaceful setting. The trail passes within blocks of Delmar, a small hamlet rich in restaurants and shopping. After passing through Slingerlands, there’s 3.7 miles more to go before reaching the end of the trail in Voorheesville, where bikers will find a historic pavilion left over from the railway station that was once there.  Although much of the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail traverses many of Albany’s residential areas and outer suburbs, expect to find views of picturesque bridges, creeks and woodlands throughout, and perhaps even a deer, turkey, or bald eagles siting. 
Cyclists can access Albany from Rensselaer via the The Dunn Memorial Bridge II on the Albany County Rail Trail. Photo courtesy: Bill Claytor

Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail

Length: 36.7 miles
Counties: Albany, Schenectady 
Trail end points: Corning Preserve in downtown Albany to Rotterdam Junction
Distance from Schenectady Station: 5.4 miles 
Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail is a moderate, heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Albany, New York, that allows cyclists to view the beautiful foliage of the Mohawk Valley up-close and features a lake and a number of activities, accessible year-round. 
The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail extends from Albany to Rotterdam and makes up the eastern portion of the Erie Canalway Trail. Although most of the trail consists of paved bike paths and relatively flat terrain, expect to ride on roads for portions of the route before being guided back by signs to the path.  
This trail traverses through residential neighborhoods, woods, and fields, with a significant portion riding parallel to the Mohawk River, featuring excellent views of the river and several scenic parks along the way. Parts of the trail were built on old railroad beds and canal towpaths, so keep an eye out for remnants of the old Erie Canal and interesting landmarks like Lock 7 on the Mohawk River and an old train station building at Lions Park.
The park’s historic canal towpath stretches over 36 miles of land and water in Central New York. Photo courtesy of Madison County.

Old Erie Canal State Historic Park 

Length: 36 miles
County: Madison 
Trail end points: Butternut Creek in Dewitt to Rome Canalway Towpath 
Distance from Syracuse Station: 9.9 miles
Distance from Rome Station: 22.4 miles
For a full day of biking and trail blazing get off at Amtrak’s Syracuse or Rome Stations and visit the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, home to the longest and one of the only remaining portions of the original Erie Canal system dating back to 1817. The park’s historic canal towpath, once traversed by mules pulling packet boats, stretches over 36 miles of land and water in Central New York. The surrounding woodlands and wetlands offers plenty of opportunity for activities such as biking, hiking, canoeing, fishing and horseback riding. Reserve a picnic shelter beforehand at the Cedar Bay Picnic Areas or stop for a lunch break at any of the restaurants in Chittenango, Canastota, Wampsville, Oneida and Rome along the way. The Old Erie Canal State Historic Park  makes up one of the most beautiful sections of the iconic Erie Canalway Trail, a network of close to 300 miles of multi-use trails that span upstate New York and follows the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany.
 
Learn more about the different trails and sections that make up the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park at https://parks.ny.gov/parks/olderiecanal/maps.aspx and https://www.tourthetowpath.com.
This trail is perfect for all skill levels. Photo courtesy of Parks and Trails NY

Onondaga Creekwalk

Length: 4.8 miles
County: Onondaga 
Trail end points: Onondaga Lake to Kirk Park
Distance from Syracuse Station: 1.8 miles
For those looking for an all-skill level, moderately trafficked out and back trail, ride your bike the short distance from the Syracuse station to the Onondaga Creekwalk, a trail best visited from March until October. The original section of the Creekwalk, which runs from Onondaga Lake to Amory Square, was expanded in July 2020 (a project 10 years in the making) and now stretches all the way to Kirk Park, adding a necessary natural attraction to the city’s Southside. The 13-foot wide asphalt trail goes west on Walton Street downtown through the business corridor along West Street and crosses Onondaga Street to run parallel with Onondaga Creek. At the trail’s south end check out the stonework of the new Onondaga Creek Overlook before heading north to ride through an old section of the trail recently cleared of decades of overgrowth. Continue on to pass below busy South Avenue and emerge at the fountains at Lower Onondaga Park. For cyclists’ convenience, the Onondaga Creekwalk is lined with lights as well as benches outfitted with bike racks and safety features. 
Start your ride in the north at Ontario Beach Park, where the trail juts out into Lake Ontario along a pier with panoramic views. Photo courtesy of Visit Rochester.
Start your ride in the north at Ontario Beach Park, where the trail juts out into Lake Ontario along a pier with panoramic views. Photo courtesy of Visit Rochester.
Here you can see some of the beautiful views offered on the Genesee Riverway Trail.
Photo courtesy of Visit Rochester.
Here you can see some of the beautiful views offered on the Genesee Riverway Trail. Photo courtesy of Visit Rochester.

Genesee Riverway Trail 

Length: 24 miles
County: Monroe
Trail end points: Ontario Beach Park to Genesee Valley Park
Distance from Rochester Station: 2.8 miles 
Unload your bike at the Rochester Station and ride to the nearby Genesee Riverway Trail, an off-road, multi-use trail that follows the north-south course along the Genesee River from the Erie Canal to downtown and Lake Ontario, offering bikers access to the river’s scenic gorge, three waterfalls, eight pedestrian bridges and eleven parks. 
Start your ride in the north at Ontario Beach Park, where the trail juts out into Lake Ontario along a pier with panoramic views. On the way to meet the Genesee River you’ll pass the park’s historical— and still operating— 1905 carousel, followed by the a short trek between riverside docks and a rail line. Soon you’ll find Turning Point Park, where a winding boardwalk transports bikers across the swampy Genesee River Turning Basin, which leads back into a rail-trail further south that parallels the roadway, transitioning briefly to sidewalks and bike lanes. As you continue on, the river will glimpse in and out of sight until finally you’ll reach the first waterfall at Lower Falls Park, which delivers spectacular views and helpful signage. Continue south to cross the Middle Falls via an active hydroelectric dam, placing you on the eastern side of the river, or stay on the western side and follow the former rail-trail as it passes through industrial parts of the city before coming onto the charming High Falls District, one of Rochester’s oldest neighborhoods. From there, bikers can stop for a filling meal or a cold beer in downtown Rochester before having to decide which side of the river to stick to: the eastern route passes through the University of Rochester and eventually deposits on the Erie Canalway Trail, while the western side continues a short distance to the trail’s end at at the Genesee Valley Greenway near Greater Rochester International Airport. 
Explore the Genesee Riverway Trail here: https://www.cityofrochester.gov/grt/  
Cheektowaga Historic Rails to Trail is a short, flat asphalt ride allows bikers to explore the Western New York town’s interesting railroad history. Photo by Russ Nelson.

Cheektowaga Historic Rails to Trails 

Length: 2.3 miles
County: Erie 
Trail end points: Union Rd. and Hurd St. & Medina St.
Distance from Buffalo-Depew Station: 2.2 miles 
Further east is the notable Cheektowaga Historic Rails to Trails pathway, located just a short bike ride away from Buffalo’s Depew Station. This short, flat asphalt ride allows bikers to explore the Western New York town’s interesting railroad history, as 1.5 miles of the trail runs next to an active rail line on the site of the former Lehigh Valley Railroad, which once hauled coal from Pennsylvania up to Buffalo and Lake Erie. 
The Cheektowaga Historic Rails to Trails begins along Union Road and runs east across a pedestrian bridge to cross the road, paralleling the active railroad bridge. The trail heads west through a tree-lined corridor behind residential neighborhoods before emerging to pass under the interstate, eventually returning to more shady and pleasant terrain. Bikers can use the surrounding neighborhood’s short access paths to check out the area’s sites, including nearby Raymond Park, home to a soccer field, playground, and other recreational amenities. After the break, get back on the main trail to get a great view of the Norfolk Southern yard before continuing alongside the old rail corridor and on past Wrazen Park. Overall, an ideal trek for history buffs and those looking for an easy, leisurely ride. 

Niagara River Recreational Trail

Length: 35 miles
County: Niagara
Trail end points: Old Fort Erie parking lot in Fort Erie to Nelson Street parking lot in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Distance from Niagara Falls Station: 12.7 miles

Any cyclist looking for a leisurely ride through idyllic country scenery should spend at least a day on the Niagara Riverfront Trail, a flat-paved multi-use trail that follows the Niagara River from Fort Erie and Lake Erie north to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lake Ontario, passing Niagara Falls in between. As part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route, the Niagara River Recreational Trail allows bikers to access and explore various loops and routes. The trail divides into four equally scenic sections, each of which take approximately 1-2 hours at an easy pace: Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queenston; Queenston to the Whirlpool Aero Car; Chippawa to Black Creek; and Black Creek to Fort Erie. To diverge of the main path, follow the southern end’s Friendship Trail, a 17-mile trek that runs east-west along the former Grand Trunk Railway between Fort Erie and Port Colborne, or keep north to connect to the Waterfront Trail. Both the Friendship and Waterfront Trails are connected via the Welland Canal Trail, another easy, flat-paved path that spans 29 miles and follows the Welland Canal, an amazing man-made wonder that connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario.  

Currently, Amtrak travel across the Canadian border has been halted due to COVID-19. To stay up to date regarding the border’s reopening and learn more about the Niagara River Recreational Trail visit the Niagara Fall’s tourism website: https://www.niagarafallstourism.com/play/outdoor-recreation/the-niagara-river-recreation-trail/

Helpful Information About Bringing Your Bike on Amtrak in New York State

By Harvey Botzman

Not all trains permit regular bikes on board, though most allow folding ones. A collapsible bike counts as one of your two carry-ons. It must be smaller than 34″ x 15″ x 48″ when folded. If you don’t have a true folding bike, your bike needs to weigh 50 pounds or less with a maximum tire width of two inches. You can check it in a bike box (available for $15.00 at most staffed stations) or a bike container on the Lakeshore Limited for $10.00. Sorry, no recumbents, tandems or any bikes that do not meet standard bike dimensions and fit in a bike box.

“Carry-On Bicycle Service” is now available on all Empire Service and Maple Leaf trains traversing New York State. All Amtrak trains traveling from New York City to Niagara Falls, NY have a bicycle rack in each passenger coach. The bicyclist can now embark and alight at any station along this route.

The new bicycle racks in the Empire Service & Maple Leaf passenger coaches allow the bicyclist to roll/carry their bicycle into the passenger coach and hang their bike on the bike rack. No box or bag required. Bicyclists and their bicycles will be traveling together. These new bicycle racks are now in all northeastern route passenger coaches (except Acela) as well as on the Empire Service & Maple Leaf trains. When the north/south bound Adirondack & Ethan Allen trains return to service they will have a bicycle rack in each passenger coach.

To reserve your seat and bicycle rack go to: https://www.amtrak.com/home.html

1. Place your departing & destination stations, date departing/returning, and number of passengers in the boxes on the 1st screen of the Amtrak web site. Click “Find Trains.”

2. A second screen pops up and gives you a choice of trains. You choose the time you want to depart (Train number/name) AND the price you want to pay for your coach or business class seat. Click 1st “Add to Cart.” AND 2nd “Continue.”

3. The “Traveler” information screen appears asking for your name, email address, & telephone number; Amtrak Guest Rewards number, & other information. Fill in the boxes. Click “Continue.”

4. Finally, the “Customize Your Trip” screen pops up! This screen is where you reserve a bicycle rack. This screen tells you how many racks are still available on the train you have chosen to ride and the total fee.

a. If have chosen a round trip reservation, Amtrak’s booking program assumes you will need a bicycle rack for traveling in both directions of your trip. If you need a bicycle rack on only one segment of your round trip then you will have to change the number of bike racks to “1” otherwise the program will automatically add the fee for two bicycle racks.

b. The Carry-On Bicycle Service bicycle rack reservation fee (for Empire Service, Maple Leaf, and Lake Shore Limited trains) is $20.00 each separate time you travel by train and reserve a bicycle rack. If you need a rack on a different train you will have to pay another bicycle rack fee.

c. The Carry-On Bicycle Service/Checked Trainside Bicycle Service bicycle carriage fee is not refundable.

For more Amtrak bicycle carriage information: https://www.newyorkbyrail.com/sports-gear-on-amtrak-bicycles/

Further Information Regarding Travel
Amtrak has taken several initiatives to ensure the safety of its passengers. They have committed to requiring face masks for all passengers, converting the cafe car to takeout only, adding social distance signage, and much more.
Learn More Information Here