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Riding and camping solo

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Missbaltimore from Baltimore on 7/19/2020 12:00:11 PM:
Hi everyone—I’m thinking of riding the full length from Buffalo to Albany and camping each night. I’m looking for input about how many others I might encounter? Any idea how many people ride multi-day on the trail? And do many people camp? I read the suggestion about camping on canal land and that it’s generally accepted but is that because the tents are few and far between? I ask as someone who has ridden the GAP and C&O Canal trails (as a woman by myself) and found myself more comfortable with others nearby— not just for socializing but also security. I’ve spent a couple of uncomfortable nights as the only person in a designated camp site. If there are no designated camp sites I imagine it could be even more unsettling.

Mike S from Greece, NY on 7/19/2020 6:21:56 PM:
There is tenting allowed behind the Lyons FD (which is right next to the canal). They used to allow access to restrooms\showers but not now because of COVID19.

wnybubba from Bflo-Roc on 7/21/2020 1:10:02 AM:
Hi. In June I did just what you are setting out to do, and add to that, I just completed the GAP two days ago.

Relative to your questions... The Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) is a lot different than the GAP. You are very much more in communities as opposed to the very rural GAP (after PGH anyhow). There are no designated campgrounds. The Canalway Corporation does list some Locks as hiker/biker/paddler friendly, however, having had conversations with them... none really officially exist. Some Locks are better for camping than others, but really most could easily host an overnight camp.

I stayed one evening on a large lawn just off the trail with "approval/agreeable thought" from a neighbor, another on an owners lawn next to the trail (with permission) and at Locks on others days -- at that time the Canal had not opened so things were rather unmanned.

It's hard to give you actual help b/c I don't know how many daily miles you are planning. Post some thoughts on your itinerary and I'll try to help.

Now, about other through riders... again, not the same. There are riders out doing the trail, but certainly not in the numbers as you see in the GAP (at least not on my experience). And, because there are no common campgrounds, there are not gatherings of riders. I totally understand where you are coming from, but do not plan on the same experience.

Admittedly, I had somewhat of a renegade, male attitude about camping. I felt if I found a space that could work -- I'd go for it. As it turned out I pretty much had permission (before or after) and most times had a picnic table next to or close-by.

Suggestion I saw and used was that I made a sign stating "Thru Hiking ECT" added my name, hometown AND Cell phone number so if someone had issue they could call me and ask me rather than shake my tent, etc.

I'd be glad to email or phone chat with you. You can send an email to my gmail account --

Dave from Durban, South Africa on 7/22/2020 9:25:44 AM:
I finished the C&O and GAP yesterday, driving to Erie tomorrow and then ride to Buffalo and down the Albany. Will be camping too most of the way, so all information is appreciated. Oherwise I'll wing it and see what appears at the end of each day.

wnybubba from Bflo - Roc on 7/22/2020 11:35:53 AM:
Dave from Durban -- Is that you are bike riding from Erie? If so that should add some adventure. Staying near the Lake Erie shore would eliminate hills!

In that you posted on the current thread, you have relative information in the post above. Again, as I mentioned to missbaltimore... not knowing how many miles you average on a daily basis it is hard to provide more detailed information. Throw out some ideas or email me and I'll see if I can give you some more targeted suggestions for camping, etc.

From the standpoint of you having just finished both C&O and GAP, I think you will find the ECT to be a fun adventure. The trail is in very nice shape. Some older paved surfaces along the way need some attention because of bulging tree roots, but many are marked to alert riders. [I was surprised that more of this wasn't done on the GAP where necessary.] There are some sections of road travel, but most are limited distances. Canalway signage is much better than Empire State Trail signage for directional purposes. The Empire State Trail is a new initiative to link trails across the state and my experience was that signage was just there to announce the trail rather than give directions.

Using Google Maps in Bike mode will solve any questions if unsure of route. It will also get you to Canal Locks which are not always right on the trail. Simply put in "Lock 32" as the destination and Google Maps understands.

As far as camping, there are many options. Locks are always an option and certainly can accommodate tent camping, but few, if any, have facilities available. Much of the western portion of the Canalway travels through more rural settings so picking a spot either right along the trail or at trailheads or crossings are options if you are self-sufficient. Much of the Canalway trail has mowed grass on either side of the trail corridor that could nicely handle an overnight camp. On my trip I figured that this was easily an option if I didn't find another decent space [however, that was never the case].

The Canalway travels through many small towns and developed areas so you are never far from supplies or facilities -- this is different from the GAP. Currently, most of the state is functioning in the COVID-19 environment with some limitations. Restaurants are at least open for takeout and most are also open for inside dining at a 25 or 50 percent occupancy. Restroom facilities are available in stores and restaurants and there are some scattered along the trail when in a town or hamlet.

The interactive maps here and on the PTNY site are useful

Here is the official Canalway Corp page on camping:

There is a thread further down on this forum about trail routing around Lyons and Savannah that you should read - the trail is not marked well and there is an option of routes.

Lastly, know that as you get closer to Albany that you are in more developed cities and townships. I had great luck with staying at Locks in this area and Lock E2 in Waterford is great to set as a destination before Albany if it works for your schedule. It has a nice park-like area with picnic tables blocks away from a small business section with stores and restaurants. You are then approximately 10 miles out of Albany.

Best of luck with the ride. Enjoy and stay safe.

Missbaltimore from Baltimore on 7/22/2020 12:07:31 PM:
I just learned that Maryland has been added to the list of states restricted from traveling to NY and required to quarantine for 14 days. That puts a crimp in the plans. ??

wnybubba from Bflo - Roc on 7/22/2020 1:01:33 PM:
Hmmm... just don't gather with others. Isn't that quarantine? And, as best I know, it's a self-imposed quarantine. Maybe get tested just before coming so you have proof.

Anonymous on 7/23/2020 11:07:19 AM:
I was looking into this issue as it will affect me too, and as a result, I canceled my hotel reservation for my bike ride in New Jersey this month. I may have to cancel my hotels and rental car reservations for the Erie Canal ride in September.

I found NJ's advisory, which is linked here:

A quarantine means a person stays indoors during the duration of the quarantine, except in order to get food, etc.

Even if one gets tested for COVID, s/he must self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering New Jersey. Although the self-quarantine is merely "advised," compliance is expected.

New York may have a different advisory.

wnybubba from Bflo - Roc on 7/24/2020 11:54:32 AM:
The difference here may be camping vs hotel stays. missbaltimore was camping solo hence my suggestion that one can effectively "quarantine" while biking and camping. Let's hope that we are all smart enough to know if we have been exposed or, worse yet, have symptoms of the virus. If a rider is smart and takes precautions pre-ride I'd feel comfortable that one could follow through with plans and safely bike the Canalway.

John W. from Pittsburgh, PA on 7/29/2020 4:09:54 PM:
WNYBubba - How was your GAP trip?

wnybubba from Bflo - Roc on 8/4/2020 2:25:43 PM:
@John W. from Pittsburgh, PA
I posted a trip report on the GAP Forum

John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 8/4/2020 9:52:40 PM:
Thank you! What a great trip you had!