New York State has opened the 750-mile Empire State Trail — along the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo plus a route from New York City to the Canadian border. Admittedly it’s not all trail, separated from traffic, but 75% of it is. It’s stunning what was done in four years: taking plans that were just on paper and building 180 miles of new trail that closed many gaps.
I’m ready to test out part of it. And since Amtrak has become a bit more bike-friendly, we’ve decided to take the train to Albany and pedal to New York City next month.
The first step is find those must-eat restaurants and cool historical sites along the route as well as some detours. What about bakeries? Breweries? Ice cream? A fabulous farm stand? Something more offbeat? Great ethnic food? Of course, there’s only so much you can eat, even when biking more than 200 miles in 4 1/2 days.
Here’s what I’ve got so far; I’m looking for tips from those who know the Hudson Valley well. The big caveat, of course, is what will have reopened by June.
We’ll be staying in hotels or similar; this is not a camping trip. Biking means traveling light, so I’m not looking for tips on cute shops.
Day 1: Get to Albany and then bike about 40 miles to hipster Hudson. I’ve got my eye on James Beard semifinalist Lil’ Deb Oasis for dinner. But what about breakfast if the hotel breakfast is still COVID-restricted pre-packaged items? Any must-sees in town? Thoughts on the brewery? I’m not wed on staying in Hudson; is there a laid-back spot near the Empire State Trail that we should consider?
We’re giving this ride an presidential theme, so one detour is to the Martin Van Buren Historical Site in Kinderhook.
Day 2: 55 miles all the way to New Paltz, with a late lunch in Kingston at Top Taste, another James Beard semifinalist. I’m being told I’ve got to somehow save room for “best milkshakes ever” at Boice Brothers Ice Cream a half-mile away. Am I going to gain weight despite all the biking??
So many cultural stops on the list already: Olana and the Hudson River School of landscape painting, Clermont and the amazing Livingston family, Montgomery Place Historic Estate. Will we be able to go inside, or are only the grounds — if that — open during COVID times? Where else should we stop?
I’m excited that it’s virtually all trail once we reach Kingston.
And then there’s New Paltz — is it really the Bushwick of the Hudson Valley? Right now we’re booked into a no-frills hotel, but that hostel could be a quirky alternative as long as we have a private room and bath. Oh, and a riverside drink and a bite at the old Gilded Otter, now Clemson Brewing Co.?
Day 3: Just to Poughkeepsie, but with a detour after the stunning views from the Walkway Over the Hudson to Hyde Park to tour FDR’s house (we went to Eleanor’s place on our last trip this way), then a few more miles to the Vanderbilt mansion if they are open. If the Culinary Institute is open, we’ll stop there for a meal. (It’s opening … slowly.) Another food suggestion?
Right now I’m figuring on only 33 miles or so with plenty of time for National Park sites. Or should we bike a bit further than Poughkeepsie? The answer is probably yes if all our tourist ideas are closed. Or is there something else we should stop for?
Here’s Dutchess County tourism’s brochure of suggested bike routes on and off the Empire State Trail.
Day 4: A 67-mile day to a hotel in Elmsford. What’s worth a stop? According to one tip we’ve received, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. And there’s a hotel not far from it. So no biking to one of the hotels on the road to the Tappan Zee Bridge/Mario Cuomo Bridge (though biking on the bridge itself sounds pretty cool. In the bike-ped lane, of course.) If we hadn’t made plans to meet someone there, the other tip we’ve received is to get Persian food at Shiraz a half-dozen blocks off the trail in Elmsford and closer to a pack of hotels. Sounds delish! Would have to get out of the bike clothes for sure.
Day 5: A short 28 miles into NYC. Do we pay homage to another president by going to the Teddy Roosevelt birthplace — if it’s open — or save it for a non-bike day? The easy alternative is pedaling past his teenage home at 6 W. 57th Street that’s now an office building.
UPDATE: Biked it! You can start reading about the trip here.