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Old 05-30-11, 04:22 PM   #1
northerntier
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Favorite parts of the erie canal for a family tour?

My family wants to do a little 3-day tour w/ me on the erie canal. I have the PDFs for littleFalls - Albany and Syracuse to LittleFalls, and have two books on the way.

However, do any of you have strong opinions about the best sections for the canal?

What about the Pittsford - Buffalo leg? That might be fun, as then we could bike up to the falls the next day.

Thank in advance,
pete
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Old 05-30-11, 05:18 PM   #2
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When you say "family", I don't know if you have teens riding their own bikes, youngsters in child seats or a trail-a-bike? Are they all experienced cyclist and willing participants?

I don't know where you're coming from, but it may be possible to use Amtrak for part of the trip, either getting there or returning to your start point on the trail. Note that only a few trains (perhaps just the Lake Shore Limited) on this route have baggage cars, and few stations have baggage service - check the timetable.

I would avoid the immediate area around Albany and Troy, as the trail sometimes uses city streets and navigation can be difficult as signage is poor/inconsistent. I haven't cycled the western section of the trail, but on one of my first long tours took Amtrak to Buffalo and rode to Niagara Falls my first day - there had been a youth hostel there, but this eas a quarter of a century ago. At the time I rode north on the US side with no problems, but don't know what it's like now. There was a delightful parkway on the Canadian side, which I took back to Buffalo to start my ride to Philly.

In 2005 I took Amtrak to Rochester and biked back to Albany, before catching the Boston section of the LSS. I can't send PMs, but if you provide your email address I'll send that trip report, although it is generally east of what you're proposing.
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Old 05-30-11, 07:52 PM   #3
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Hope this works....the section from Palmyra west to Lockport is as relaxing as you can get. It might be boring to some but I never tire of that kind of riding. There is a great place to camp right on the banks at Holley, with free water, bathrooms, tables and SHOWERS. Similar is available at Middleport but not as beautiful.
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Old 05-30-11, 11:54 PM   #4
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Hope this works....the section from Palmyra west to Lockport is as relaxing as you can get. It might be boring to some but I never tire of that kind of riding. There is a great place to camp right on the banks at Holley, with free water, bathrooms, tables and SHOWERS. Similar is available at Middleport but not as beautiful.
That sounds pretty good. "Family" means 14yo daughter and wife, the latter of which is not really a fan of biking, though she did insist on doing a metric century last fall just to prove she could.

I'd think 35 miles/day would be about right.
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Old 05-31-11, 12:16 AM   #5
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I don't know if this is one of the books you ordered (seems likely), but I just found this note in my tour report:

"The “Cycling the Erie Canal” guide I was using showed the route crossing the canal here to Tyre road on the far side, but there was no street named that and no signs for the trail. This is the major failing of the book, in that there often isn’t enough detail for urban areas or there are no signs to support the route shown in the book, which apparently isn’t official. They will often show the eventual name of a road, but not what it’s signed as where you need to turn onto it. On the plus side, it has a spiral binding and (just barely) fits into the map pocket of my handlebar bag, so was generally easy to navigate from while riding."
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Old 05-31-11, 07:57 AM   #6
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At the time I rode north on the US side with no problems, but don't know what it's like now. There was a delightful parkway on the Canadian side, which I took back to Buffalo to start my ride to Philly.
Just an FYI - if considering jumping the US-Canada border now, you will need proof of citizenship to re-entry the US.

Excerpt from Homeland Security's website:
  • U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry are required to have documents that comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), most commonly a U.S. passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST, or an enhanced driver's license. See the complete list of WHTI-compliant documents.
I have to agree that the Niagara Parkway is delightful. I rode sections of it in the 1970's as a kid. The entire length of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side, is on my list of rides to do within the next couple of years. Much of it is now paralleled with a paved path...locals can drive quite fast on the upper river section of the parkway. They are interspersed with lumbering RV's. But the river is beautiful.
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Old 05-31-11, 08:26 AM   #7
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I've only ridden the trail from Buffalo to Syracuse. In my opinion, the western portion of the trail is the best. From Weedsport east to Camillus (outskirts of Syracuse) the trail is like singletrack and used for horses, so it is very rough. From Camillus east to Syracuse, you have to use city streets, some are high traffic with no shoulder.

All off road portions of the trail west of Weedsport are either paved or wide smooth packed gravel. The trail is continuous and paved from Pittsford all the way past Rochester. West of Rochester, the canal path is smooth packed gravel and there are long continuous sections not heavily traveled and in rural areas. It is nice scenery, and the on road sections generally are low traffic with wide shoulders.

Many of the canal locks have parks that allow free camping. Some have free showers for bikers and boaters, some only have portable toilets. Cayuga Lake state park is also not too far south of the canal and has camping, showers, and a sandy beach to swim in the lake. To get to the Cayuga Lake park, you travel through some beautiful areas of either the Montezuma wildlife refuge or Amish farmland south of Clyde.

You can see my weekend trips on the canal path here and here.
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Old 05-31-11, 11:09 AM   #8
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We rode the western Erie canal on our tandem last summer (the eastern this upcoming July). We left from Lockport and rode east to Newark. I understand that there is work to extend the trail further to Lyons but I don't know the completion date for that. We rode 38, 30, 27 miles in three days, so it was an easy pace. In Pittsford we rented a car from Enterprise and shuttled our van from Lockport to Newark (legal overnight parking near town hall) so it would be waiting for us at the end. It was also nice to have a car while in the Rochester area for the evening.

Here's a navigation tip, the PTNY group rides the entire canal in mid July so if you ride west to east after their ride you can followed their road markings, this is useful if there are trail closures and last minute detours.

Things to do: In Lockport there is a boat ride through the locks and the "caves" (water tunnel) that you can tour. In Rochester you can visit the falls and the city (the rental car was handy). Between Lockport and Rochester there is lots of open space (farms) and small towns along the canal.

Here is a journal of our trip at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ErieCanalWest2010.
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