Trail Stories: Riding the Empire State Trail

Trail Stories: Riding the Empire State Trail

Starting in the heart of the City of Dreams, the Empire State Trail combines several bike trails to weave between skyscrapers and artful city parks as the bike trail makes its way out of the city to the gently rolling country side along the Hudson River Valley. We have carefully planned a 6-day Empire State Trail bike tour to highlight the best of New York State. Ride along with our photographer Jilly Burns as she recounts her experience on one of our recent trips from Manhattan to Albany.

Pedaling through Manhattan

As someone who has never been to New York City, I was picturing biking through dense traffic with choruses of honks and yells as I dodge cars, pedestrians, and flocks of city pigeons. Reality was far better than I could have expected. Pedaling through Manhattan has to be the best way to intimately experience one of the greatest cities on Earth.

Starting on Staten Island, we grabbed our bikes from the SAG vehicle and jumped on the ferry. Passing by the Statue of Liberty, we watched the skylines of Jersey City, Manhattan and Brooklyn draw closer as we voyaged across the New York Bay. After docking, the group walked our bikes out of the ferry terminal into Battery Park.

We got peeks of the towering buildings between windows of lush trees. It felt like a gentle introduction to an intimidating city. Soon enough, we were on the carefully protected Hudson Valley Greenway Trail that marks the beginning of the Empire State Trail. Heading north along the island’s west side, the trail features a whole boulevard of trees offering protection from traffic and each intersection had bike-specific traffic lights signaling when its safe to cross. Bikes truly have their own space to navigate safely through the city.

We took the tiniest of detours off the trail to reflect at the powerful 9/11 Memorial and Museum, grab lunch at the iconic Chelsea Market, and explore Little Island park.

Following lunch, we headed north along the eastern shore of the Hudson River up and out of the city. The trail slowly transitioned from a popular urban commuting route to the classic feeling of a familiar rail-trail. After a brief support stop in a large park, we continued to Tarrytown for the evening.


A Rainy Day (or two) in New York

Weather is the biggest uncontrollable factor when planning a vacation. We all hope for sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. But sometimes, it rains. Sometimes just for a part of a day, sometimes for a couple days in a row. However, rain doesn’t mean its all doom and gloom. Being prepared and having the right gear means a little bit of weather doesn’t ruin your vacation.

Although it rained for a couple days of our Empire State Trail experience, we made the best of it. A rainy day in New York is on brand for the city, which averages 47 inches of precipitation per year. The city doesn’t slow down for anything, and our bike tour didn’t either.  Our entire group layered up with protective waterproof shells and kept smiles on our faces.

On one of the rainy days of the trip, our guides went to Plan B and shuttled the group to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodome. The museum housed several hangars of aircrafts ranging from the very first hang gliders that inspired the Wright Brothers to war birds that fought in the skies above World War I. After the rain let up a bit, half of our group opted to do a shortened version of the day’s ride, while the others enjoyed exploring Kingston.


Small Towns, Big Personality

North of the city, the Empire State Trail starts to mellow out as it passes through several towns along the Hudson. It really felt like there is a regional emphasis on local identity and community. On the second day we pedaled the Walkway Over the Hudson and arrived in Kingston. Between the luxury of Hotel Kinsley and the local flare of eateries and shops, there was plenty to explore for the evening.

Another town we stop in along the way is Hudson. This town has many nicknames. The Un-Hamptons, New York’s Upstate Downtown, and Brooklyn North. Hudson has galleries, coffeehouses, and open-kitchen restaurants that attract all kinds of personalities that add to the artsy charm of the town. We love Hudson so much that we’ve decided to build in an active rest day in town with two nights at The Wick. The Wick is a boutique hotel beautifully designed in a historic candle factory.


Scenic Rail Trail Riding

The Empire State Trail perfectly blends the urban with the rural. From town to town, we passed through forests, farmlands, orchards and small hamlets. We pedaled along scenic lakes and reservoirs with the first traces of autumn colors dotting the overhanging trees. Passing over the Hudson multiple times, we were able to see sweeping views of the river and neighboring mountains.

With the Empire State Trail connecting several pre-existing rail-trails, there is a little bit of road riding to connect to the next trail. All of the rail-trails range from recently paved to crushed stone.

All-in-all the Empire State Trail bike tour is several complementary experiences wrapped up into a perfect package. We experienced the bustling center of America’s biggest city, and the contrasting countryside filled with quaint personality.



Wilderness Voyageurs operates fully supported, inn-to-inn bicycle tours across the United States, offering more rail-trail tours and biking destinations than any other U.S. based bike tour company. Call us at 800-272-4141 to chat with a trip specialist.