My Empire State Trail Bike Tour

Published on June 5, 2022

I spent most of 2020 sitting in an apartment in Birmingham, UK. This solitude gave me plenty of free time and a hunger for adventure. The internet fed me just what I needed…bike touring. More specifically, going on an Empire State Trail bike tour.

I stumbled onto Ryan Duzer’s YouTube channel and was inspired by his passion for traveling by bike. I even bought a Priority Apollo after hearing about Ryan’s partnership with Priority.

The YouTube algorithm must have recognized my interest and quickly started feeding me other channels like Path Less Pedaled, Rad Bike Adventure, and Rides of Japan.

With my interest piqued, I began planning my bike tour.

Mapping My Empire State Trail Bike Tour

I began planning my bike touring route along the Empire State Trail in late 2021 using Komoot. Komoot is an excellent tool for planning bike routes and staying on track in the field. I used it for a handful of day trips in 2021 and was confident it would work well for my trip.

NYS has complete GPX files of the Empire State Trail available to help you map your trip. I started with that GPX file and made modifications along the way in Komoot.

Ultimately, I planned to take seven days to make the trip.

After planning the timeline and route, I decided to pick memorial week 2022 as my timeframe. That allowed me to sneak an extra day between the trip and my return to work. The timing also helped me escape the summer heat.

With planning out of the way, let the trip begin!

Supporting Multi-Modal Transportation in Rochester

But wait! As part of my trip, my goal was to raise awareness and funds for Reconnect Rochester.

Reconnect Rochester is a local non-profit focused on helping Rochester develop a connected transportation network that meets all its citizens’ needs. They help Rochester by conducting educational programs, providing community advocacy, organizing guided bike rides, installing bus stop cubes, and more.

Their mission is critical to me as someone who lives in the city without a car. Car dependancy is bankrupting our cities, putting an unnecessary financial burden on many community members, and limiting our city’s potential. We CAN do better! Connected, pedestrian-friendly cities and towns are better for everyone.

Please take a minute to check out Reconnect Rochester’s website and consider supporting them with a donation. They are doing great work, and I would like to see it continue.

Day 1: Buffalo to Medina on my Empire State Trail Bike Tour

I started my first day outside the Tifft Nature Preserve bordering Lake Erie. My father dropped me off, and I began my trek through downtown Buffalo to Medina.

Empire State Trail Bike Tour along Niagara Street Bike Path

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Niagara St. bikeway on my route. The bikeway is an excellent piece of bike infrastructure that the city installed just a few years ago. Hopefully, the Niagara St. bikeway is just one of many pieces of bicycle infrastructure that we will see spring up in the future.

I arrived in Medina that afternoon and stayed at the Hart House Hotel on Main Street. The hotel shares a building with the Shirt Cafe and 810 Meadworks. I got a flight at 810 Meadworks and a pizza from Avanti’s to finish my day.

Day 2: Medina to Rochester

Empire State Trail Bike Tour Erie Canal Trail. Cycling along the canal.

The second day of my trip was smooth sailing. There was the threat of rain, so I left my hotel around 8 AM to get a quick start on the day. The path is part hard-packed gravel and part pavement.

I live in Rochester, so I stayed at my apartment instead of booking a hotel or campground.

Bike Rider at the Empire State Trailhead Rochester, NY

I made it to the trailhead dry as a bone and had a relaxing evening before my 65-mile segment the following day.

Day 3: Rochester to Savannah

I originally planned to stay at the Clyde Lock on day 3, but the operator told me I was not allowed to. Not to be defeated, I found a campground just a few more miles down the road called River’s Crossing Campground.

The campground had everything I needed, and the staff was very friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay again.

Camping at Rivers Crossing Campground on a Bike Tour
Sunset on a Bike Tour

Day 4: Savannah to Syracuse

Wetland's in Savannah, NY

On my way out of Savannah, I got lost and stumbled onto this patch of protected wetlands. It was a pretty sight, so I wasn’t too upset about losing my way. I quickly found my way back onto the trail and only rode a short 40 miles to Syracuse.

Bike on Bridge in Syracuse, NY

The bridge that leads you from the bike path to Downtown Syracuse gives you a fantastic view of Onondaga Lake.

I grabbed a beer and ate at Talking Cursive Brewing Company. One of the brewers happened to be at the bar, and he gave me a great recommendation on what to try.

Beer at Talking Cursive Brewing Company

I stayed at the Tru Hotel near the airport. My room was clean, and getting a hot shower in after a night of camping felt great.

Day 5: Syracuse to Utica

My original plan for day five was to stay at the Marcy Lock, but with rain in the forecast I decided to stay at a hotel just off the trail instead.

Beer at Bagg's Square Brewing in Utica, NY

I grabbed dinner and a beer at Bagg’s Square Brewing and chatted with another patron about work and safety.

Vintage painted sign on a brick building in Downtown Utica, NY

Day 6: Utica to Fort Plain

The Empire State Trail in Utica, NY

My second to last day was a beautiful ride. I camped at Lock 15 in Fort Plain, NY.

Camping spot at Lock 15 in Fort Plain, NY

I met a fellow bike tour enthusiast traveling from Buffalo to Albany. That was the only time we crossed paths, but I enjoyed our brief interaction and hearing about his other trips.

Unfortunately, there were no bathroom facilities at the lock. Fortunately, there was a Stewart’s less than a mile from where I camped.

Stewart's Shop in Fort Plain, NY

I paid Stewart’s a quick visit in the morning and grabbed a cup of coffee. This was the first Stewart’s I’d been to since I lived in the Adirondacks 8 years ago, and I had a ping of nostalgia.

Day 7: Fort Plain to Albany

My last day was also my longest day in the saddle on my bike tour. I rode almost 75 miles from Fort Plain to Albany. It was a pleasant trip that took me through some historical areas of Albany. Most of the ride took place on the Mohawk River Bike & Hike Trail and weaved along the river to downtown Albany.

I spent the night in a hotel and had dinner and a beer at The City Beer Hall. The Hall has a cool interior and a great tap list. They are the first bar I’ve seen carrying something from J Wakefield this far north.

Bicycle Tour Summary

Amtrak station with a bike in Albany, NY

My final leg of the journey was a train ride back home. I took the train from Albany back home to Rochester, NY. The train trip was only a few minutes longer than the drive would have taken and cheaper than a rental car + gas.

I would make this trip again in a heartbeat and encourage more people to trek. New York has a lot to offer in natural beauty and scenic small towns, but many don’t get out and experience it.

What I Would Do Differently on My Next Empire State Trail Bike Tour

  • Start applying sunscreen on day 1 (bike touring 101? 🤦)
  • Wear a bucket hat
  • Wear a long-sleeve merino wool base layer for UV protection
  • Bring casual over-shorts, not basketball shorts
  • Bring an ultralight backpack to carry food to the campsite
  • Consolidate charging cables
Meet the Author

Ethan Thompson is a Divisional Marketing Manager for a global safety company. He has worked in the digital marketing field for 13 years and loves the challenges the ever-changing field brings. When he isn't exploring new digital marketing tactics at his desk, he's out exploring Western New York. During the warmer months, he can often be seen riding his bike around the Empire State and sampling the local beer selection.