The Erie Canal Heritage Trail travels on the old towpath of the famous Erie Canal for 90 miles, from the trailhead in the town of Lockport (18 miles east of Niagara Falls), to Palmyra, New York. It is part of the New York State Canalway Trail System, a designated National Recreation Corridor, that will eventually stretch hundreds of miles from Buffalo to Albany, New York. In 1973, the old towpath on the north side of the canal was leveled from Lockport to Rochester, and re-surfaced. Known as the "upper long level", the crushed stone, gravel surface and flat terrain makes for easy cycling and a more relaxed ride so you can enjoy the great scenery and fascinating history of one of the most important historical and multi-use recreational resources in the United States.
If you are looking for a week-end get-away or a family bike trip along the canals and towpaths that shaped America, The Erie Canal Heritage Trail (western section) is the most developed. The bike route follows the shore of Lake Ontario and travels through a mix of rural countryside, historic canal communities and cosmopolitan urban areas. Towns all along the bike path have "rediscovered" their heritage, and offer an array of services, shops, restaurants, lodging and special cultural events. Other features, destinations and activities include newly created waterfront parks where you can bicycle along canal-side trails or park your houseboat to enjoy a day ashore, marvel at spectacular canal engineering feats (locks, aqueducts and old bridges) above and below ground, learn about the history of the canal at museums or by enjoying scenic, guided Erie Canal boat cruises or Train Excursions.
Lockport is a good place to begin your bicycle tour of the Erie Canal Heritage Trail (western section). The town derives its name from the famous "Flight of Five" locks. A 19th century engineering wonder, the locks were carved out of rock in 1825 to raise canal barge traffic 56 feet up the Niagara Escarpment to allow the boats to continue their westward journey to Lake Erie and beyond. Between 1908 and 1918, a new modern double lock system (Locks 34 & 35) was built to lift the boats up, and is still in operation today. The old flight-of-five locks are now used for overlow and can still be seen on the north side of the canal as a cascade of waterfalls. A series of interconnected walkways and stairs provide several up-close vantage points as well as overviews of the entire Lock Complex and its operation.
The Erie Canal Discovery Center: 24 Church Street, Lockport NY 14094 Phone: 716 439-0431
A new state-of-the-art interpretive center highlights the role Lockport, NY played in the history of the Erie Canal. If you need more information about the area, The Lockport Visitors' Center, also located here is the place to begin. From here it's a short bike ride or walk to the Lockport Locks and other nearby attractions.
Every Monday, Wednesday & Friday in July, 2007 (Except July 4) at 10am. enjoy a special guided walking tour of the Lockport Locks to learn about the amazing story of the locks that created a city and changed a nation. Tickets available at and tours depart from the Erie Canal Discovery Center.
Lockport Canal Museum: Richmond Avenue (at Locks 34-35)
Located at the base of the "lock stairs", between the original "Flight of Five" locks and double locks 34 and 34. The Lockport Canal Museum, depicts life on the canal via exhibits, photographs and other artifacts. The rennovated four story stone building was once the hydraulic power house that operated the city's locks and lift bridges.
From Lockport, the bike trail passes through the little hamlet Gasport where you can see the photogenic remains of several mills, including the Royalton Mill located north of town, off Slayton Settlement Road on the East Branch of the 18 Mile Creek.
About one mile south of Gasport, enjoy a picnic and hike through scenic wooded Royalton Ravine, along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Features include a swinging foot suspension bridge, the twenty five foot Royalton Falls and the ruins of the homestead where Belva Lockwood, the first woman ever to run for President of the United States was born.
Features nice views from the wide lift bridge on Main Street, boat docking facilities, several nice parks and picnic areas.
A lovely Canal village featuring historic mills, canal docks, waterfalls, the largest freight depot museum in the country, and Culvert Road, the only road which travels under the Erie Canal.
Medina Falls: a beautiful 40 ft. waterfall located on Oak Orchard Creek, is visible from the Erie Canal towpath just a few hundred feet upstream from the point where the creek flows under the canal.
Culvert Road: the only road which travels under the Erie Canal. The culvert was built to avoid the costs and time involved to build a bridge.
Medina Railroad Museum: Located in the old New York Central freight depot. Built in 1905, it is one of the largest, surviving wooden freight depots in the United States. Enjoy a 2 hour scenic round-trip train excursion for 34 miles through the scenic Erie Canal Heritage Corridor aboard vintage 1947 passenger coaches.
There is a newly developed Canalside Park with boat docking facilities, period street lamps, and benches. Historic downtown Albion features historic 19th century structures that surround the village square.
Once the Western terminus of the Erie Canal. Today, it is home to the State University of New York and much of it's Victorian era flavor can still be found along its Main Street. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it is lined with quaint shops and many historic buildings. Take the time for a walk along the Erie Canal Boardwalk which runs from Main Street and travels along the canal.
Palmyra: Exit 43 off I-90 (New York Thruway). Drive north on Rt.21 For 6 miles, west on Rt.31 for .75 miles to Aqueduct Park.
Brockport: Exit 47 (Leroy) off I-90 (New York Thruway). Drive east on I-490 for 4 miles to exit 2, then north on Rt.19 for 9 miles to Harvester Park.
Lockport: Exit 49 (DePew) off I-90 (New York Thruway). Drive north on Rt.78 for 15 miles. Turn right onto Rt.31 and head east 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Cold Springs Rd. and .5 mile to parking.
Other access points are near canal locks or lift bridges in Fairport, Pittsford, Henrietta, Rochester, Spencerport, Albion and Medina.
The New York State Canal System is one of the most important historical and recreational resources in the United States. The Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor covers over 500 miles in Upstate New York. It played a key role in the development of New York City as the leading center for commerce, finance and industry. It helped to open the west to settlement, transporting midwest agricultural and industrial products to domestic and international markets. The Canal continues in service today.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see New York Rail Trails
New York State Canal Corporation