The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail: An Assessment and User Profile of New York’s Longest Multi-Use Trail

Benefits studied:
Uses studied: ,
Place: Buffalo and Albany, and towns between


Across upstate New York, the 277-mile Erie Canalway Trail is associated with 1.6 million annual visits, only three percent of which come from outside the region. However, because those non-locals spend large amounts on lodging, the trail generates more than $55 million in spending annually.


This study is relevant for those interested in strategies to estimate trail use and user profiles across a long-distance trail. The results may also be of interest for trails with a largely local user base, but substantial potential for tourism and associated economic activity.


The Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) runs between Buffalo and Albany, New York (populations 258,703 and 98,566 in 2014). It passes through Rochester and Syracuse, as well as numerous small towns and rural areas.

Trail Type

The ECT is a 277-mile trail paralleling the Erie Canal, with primarily stone dust surface and some paved sections near urban areas. It is mostly non-motorized, but does allow snowmobiling on some segments. When the study was published, the trail was 75 percent complete. The remaining miles require users to divert onto roads to connect between segments.


The purpose of this study is to provide user profiles to help target marketing efforts, and to estimate economic impacts to support ongoing government and business investment in the trail and its promotion.

This study was funded by Parks & Trails New York (a non-profit), the New York State Canal Corporation, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.


  • The ECT has approximately 1.6 million visits per year.
  • Sixty-one percent of respondents use the trail at least once per week.
  • Sixty-nine percent are interested in riding at least 50 miles on the trail, suggesting a demand for multi-day organized rides or prepared itineraries. Non-local trail users are even more in favor of longer trips, with 89 percent expressing an interest in riding at least 50 miles.
  • Non-local visitors to the trail, who include at least one overnight stay during their visit, spend an average of $531.47 per trip.
  • Overnight visitors are 18 percent of all visits, but generate 84 percent of all spending. Non-local visits are 2.5 percent of all trail visits, but they generate 21 percent of all spending.
  • Non-local visitors generate approximately $55.8 million in new sales each year and 731 new jobs.


The researchers gathered data via intercept surveys of trail users, manual counts, and electronic counts. Trail users were asked about spending, frequency and distance of trail use, and demographics.

The authors use these data as inputs into the Money Generation Model 2 (MGM2), a regional economic model designed to estimate economic impact. Appropriately, the authors use only money spent by visitors from outside the 35 counties around the ECT



Scipione, P. 2014. The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail: An Assessment and User Profile of New York’s Longest Multi-Use Trail. Albany,  NY: Parks & Trails New York.