The best cycling trails in Buffalo
The perfect pandemic sport
When the pandemic hit last March and the world shut down, gyms were no exception.
As someone who frequented the gym multiple times a week, I found myself sitting in my house without the energy to move, even from the couch. It turns out home workouts aren’t really my thing. I just like lounging around at home too much and find no motivation to get up and exercise when my bed is 15 feet away.
So, after I lost most of my muscle during an embarrassingly long time of not working out (I’m talking months), I decided it was time to find a way to exercise again. My mental health was desperately missing those extra endorphins, and I swear my body was starting to creak from lack of movement.
After figuring out that running is tortuous and hurts my shins too much, I decided to try out cycling. I scoured Facebook Marketplace and its sketchier comrade, Craigslist, for a couple of weeks until I found a hybrid bike for $130 — And pro tip: meet somewhere public when buying an item from a stranger and definitely don’t go alone. You don’t know anything about this person. People are usually nice, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Cycling is great exercise and a low-impact sport compared to running, so your joints will thank you. It’s also a wonderful way to see beautiful sites.
But what’s the catch? If you’re a cycling newbie or distrusting of drivers, cycling on the road is terrifying. The good news: Buffalo actually has more protected cycling trails than you might think. I use a bike rack that attaches to the trunk of my car to drive my bike to trails so I don’t have to venture on the road.
I’ve explored a number of Buffalo cycling trails so you can get out and bike safely, too, before the weather makes it impossible. Though if you get warm gear, you can cycle all the way into winter. Just make sure you’re cycling these trails in daylight and remember that cycling with someone is safer than cycling alone.
Here are my top trail recommendations:
Delaware Park Loop
One of my favorite trails in Buffalo is the Delaware Park loop. Delaware Park is in a centralized location in Buffalo, so chances are you’re not too far from it. There is plenty of parking around the park, and it’s very pretty. The path is wide, so there is space for everyone. It’s frequented by all sorts of activity-lovers: joggers, cyclists and even roller skaters. It’s a short loop, clocking in at 1.8 miles, so if you’re looking for a long ride this isn’t the trail for you.
But it’s great for training. There’s a point of elevation referred to as “The Climb” by cyclists that your legs will definitely feel. Turn on some tunes and race around the loop a few times for an excellent workout.
Parking: There are plenty of parking lots and spaces around the edge of the park.
Traffic: The park can get busy, especially on the weekends, but the trail is wide enough to provide space for everyone.
Elevation: The loop gets up to 45 feet in elevation, with most of this being along “The Climb.”
UB Bike Path (aka Ellicott Creek Trailway)
This scenic path runs through UB’s North Campus, making it easily accessible for on-campus students. It hosts some gorgeous views. It’s well-paved, making for a smooth ride, and passes along Ellicott Creek. The trail is fairly short at 5.7 miles, and a handful of turns and dips make for a fun ride.
The UB Bike Path also runs by the Amherst Memorial Hill Grove, a moving memorial park that is worth a stop on your ride. The path isn’t as wide as the Delaware Park path, so you can expect to be ringing your bike bell for walkers to move out of the way, but don’t let it deter you from trying out this beautiful trail.
Parking: There is a lot of parking in the area, but I recommend parking in the UB Bike Path parking lot, as you can enter the trail right from this lot.
Traffic: This trail gets crowded, so I recommend riding during the week and avoiding weekends.
Elevation: The trail has an elevation of 55 feet, but it’s more dispersed compared to the Delaware Park Loop, so it’s less difficult.
The Shoreline Trail
The Shoreline Trail is great if you want to rack up some more serious mileage. Clocking in at 21.7 miles (and not a loop), you can ride a total of 42 miles by doing this trail.
This trail is gorgeous, as it borders Lake Erie in the southern portion and Niagara River in the northern portion. The downside to this trail? Parts of it run through more industrial areas and are not as beautiful as the parts that run along the water. But, it’s paved and flat and makes for a solid ride away from street traffic.
Parking: The trail is long, so parking depends on where you want to start. I’ve parked at Black Rock Canal Park when only doing five miles in and five miles out, but you’ll want to start further south near Canalside if you’re planning on a longer ride.
Traffic: I’ve only ridden this trail twice, but it’s been fairly empty both times.
Elevation: 355 feet but this is over 21.7 miles, and the trail is actually flat and easy most of the way.
Independent Health Wellness Trail
The Independent Health Wellness Trail is a beautiful three-mile trail that follows along the Outer Harbor, featuring gorgeous waterfront views. As implied by its name, this trail is sponsored by Independent Health, a Western New York health insurance company. Independent Health has mile-markers and encouraging signs along the trail, making it especially motivating. It’s a fairly easy ride with not too much elevation, though it’s enough to get your heart pumping. It can also get windy by the water, which *seriously* increases the difficulty of cycling. While not a particularly long trail, it borders other trails that follow the Outer Harbor. This includes a portion of the Empire State Trail, an uncompleted trail that will run through the entire state of New York when completed. So if you head down to the Outer Harbor for some cycling, you’re sure to have plenty of trail space to keep you busy.
Parking: There is a lot of parking in this area, both in lots and on the street.
Traffic: It’s lively by the harbor, but as long as you have your bike bell handy you’ll be able to whizz by anyone in your way.
Elevation: 30 feet with some flat segments and some inclined segments.
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