Though New York City has its share of bike loops, protected paths, and riverside rides, many cyclists choose to venture just past the city for miles of smooth pavement and a breath of fresh air.
There are a number of popular day rides heading out of Manhattan and the Bronx for those looking to get as much mileage in as they can before heading back to the five boroughs for dinner. Many cyclists cross the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey and get on right on New York State Bike Route 9 before circling back.
Route 9 is a 345 mile-long signed state bike route joining Manhattan and Montreal, boasting historic sites and nature’s best along the way. Quebec’s unwavering French heritage marks the route’s finish line, successfully bridging two (or three) countries via a network of state highways, local infrastructure, and trails.
New York State’s Bike Routes Viewer Tool is an interactive map resource that shows Route 9’s trajectory from north to south. While every bike tour requires some room for improvisation and surprises, this guide is meant to help you plan your ride as best as possible and know what to expect as you take on New York State.
After you’ve checked off your gear list, secured the right bike, and brushed up on basic repairs, it’s time to decide where you’ll be spending your overnights. Though unexpected circumstances can always arise, it’s a good idea to have an itinerary ready so you’re not left without a hotel room or campsite to spend the night at.
If you’re planning to stay indoors, call hotels and motels on the route to make reservations or check if there will be a room available around your expected arrival day. You might also want to make sure you can keep your bike in the room with you; ask in advance. There are a number of motels, inns, bed and breakfasts and even a hostel or two along the route, especially in the Adirondack region.
If you’re going to be camping, make reservations at the campgrounds you plan to stay at; sites fill up fast, especially on summer weekends. Since you’ll be keeping your bike outside, bring a lock. If you’re new to traveling this way, check out this guide to bike camping for a head start. Black bears are common in Adirondack Park, so bring a bear bag just in case. Keep an eye on the forecast, which can change suddenly in the High Peaks. If there’s a chance of extreme weather, there’s no shame in taking a rest day and spending a dry night indoors before getting back on the bike.
Try to keep consistent daily mileage in mind as you plan where to stop; know your limits.
Your pre-tour training can be as simple as taking day rides to find an average daily speed you’re comfortable with.
Riding out of the city can be challenging, especially if you’ll be leaving from an outer borough. Morning rush hour is always busy, and you don’t want to be dodging in and out of traffic with a loaded up bike. If your trip is time sensitive, and you want to save yourself a day or two, the Metro North is a lifesaver for cyclists who want to start their ride minus the urban stress.
A commuter rail line serving the Tri-State Area, Metro North has five main lines leading out of the city and spanning three states. The best part is that every train takes bikes, provided you get the right ticket before boarding. For the purposes of a tour to the Canadian border, hop on the green Hudson Line at 125th Street in Manhattan, and be in Poughkeepsie or any of the towns preceding it before lunchtime (Use this map to plan ahead) The riverside views are incredible from the moving train, and a few hours on the Hudson Line will save you miles of pedaling. It’s not cheating, it’s creative!
If you are starting in New York City, you’ll first head west over the Hudson River, using the George Washington Bridge bike path to ride into New Jersey. You’ll only be in the state for a few miles- the New York border picks up again just north of the bridge. A sharp right will take you along the Palisades Parkway and Route 9W, following the river’s west bank until you reach another water crossing at Bear Mountain Bridge.
Thirty miles past your starting point in Manhattan, you’ll find Nyack, New York, a village sitting right on the Hudson. This is a great spot to have lunch or stay the night if you’re keeping your daily mileage under fifty. The town is extremely popular with day tripping cyclists from the city, so expect plenty of drinks, dining, and entertainment for weekend crowds. Bear Mountain Bridge is only twenty miles past Nyack, at the edge of Bear Mountain State Park. The bridge will take you back to the right side of the river, where you’ll be following Route 9D north. Don’t miss a slight detour to Cold Spring, where a cozy main street awaits leading to a river landing awaits.
From there, you’ll veer away from the water and slightly inland before passing through the village of Wappingers Falls and then Poughkeepsie, one of the larger cities you’ll roll through on your way to Canada. After stocking up on snacks and sleep, you’ll keep close to the river, before pedaling into New York’s capital and bidding the Hudson Valley goodbye.
Albany’s industrial past defines the city’s landmarks, and its small downtown has seen new businesses and arts initiatives. From Albany, it’s a straight shot north through Schuylerville, Fort Ann and Whitehall, where you’ll be right up against the Vermont border. Just before historic Ticonderoga, catch a glimpse of Lake Champlain’s narrows before the full view near Crown Point, where you can settle in for the night at Crown Point Campground. In Ticonderoga, learn about the town’s role in the American Revolution before continuing along, lakeside. You’ll be altering between the shore and inland riding all the way up to Rouses Point on the Canadian border, so bring a swimsuit! Located just north of Port Kent, Ausable Point Campground is another perfect place to pitch a tent, with waterfront sites, a sandy beach and views of Vermont.
Riding up the Lake Champlain shoreline, you’ll find daily ferry service to Vermont from both Essex, New York and Palttsburgh. If you’re pining for a detour, catch a ferry from Essex to Charlotte, Vermont, where you can join a Vermont State Bike Route and ride straight to Burlington, a worthwhile stop on any visit to the Green Mountain State. The ferry from Plattsburgh drops you off on Grand Isle, where you can circle the small island via a lakefront loop, or ride over into Burlington via the city’s north side. The ferry at Port Kent travels directly to Burlington but is closed in 2021, with plans to reopen next season.
Plattsburgh is the next large stop, with a college-town atmosphere and city beach hugging one of Lake Champlain’s many bays. Rouses Point won’t be far off, marking the end of the American leg of your journey. Documents in hand, cross the border into Quebec and breathe a sigh of relief; from here, you’re only one long day’s ride away from Montreal.
The region’s Route Verte is a twenty-five year old route network servicing Quebec cyclists; the system’s Route 2 will take you from Rouses Point to Montreal on bike-safe roads, surrounded by pasture and greenery. Diverse and well-maintained, Route Verte might have you back in Canada before you know it to explore the rest of Quebec. Use Route Verte’s interactive map to visualize your way into Montreal; it even includes lodging options for those looking for an overnight before reaching the city.
If you have the time and energy, your trip doesn’t have to end there. New York’s interconnected bike route system means that you can head back south and catch a totally different route at Rouses Point. NYS Bike Route 11 winds across the state’s northern half to Syracuse, where you can choose from a number of paths in any direction. Bike Route 5, for example, leads west to Niagara Falls or east, where you can rejoin good old Route 9 in Albany..
Remember that even though you will be using established routes, you’ll still be sharing the road with vehicles. Traffic increases around larger towns, tourist destinations and lake access points, so stay alert.
Most of all, enjoy this stunning route either out of NY City heading north or from Montreal across the border to New York.