Are You Up for the Canalway Challenge?

Bike, cycle, paddle, run, walk or hike: Free personal fitness challenge on the Erie Canal encourages families to get active

By Kyra Mancine

More than 80% of adults and children don’t meet the guidelines for aerobic physical activities each day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s time to make a dent in those numbers.

What better place to start than by exercising outdoors on the Erie Canal?

The Canalway Challenge is a free, personal fitness challenge that encourages people to get active, have fun and earn rewards along the way.

This fitness initiative is spearheaded by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, a group that works in partnership with the National Park Service and other partners to promote communities connected by the waterway.

Through October, participants are rewarded for logging miles on the New York State Canal System. Besides fostering fitness, the challenge is a great way for people of all ages and fitness levels to discover areas of the canal system they might not have visited or been aware of previously.

“Participating in this program has given me that extra push to move more,” said Kristine Rodriguez, a runner from Fairport. “I find myself walking and running longer distances, as well as exploring new-to-me routes like the canal path in Brockport.”

Here’s what you need to know

 How to get started —After you register online, you can start your journey anywhere on the canal, from Greece to Rochester, Henrietta to Pittsford or Fairport to Palmyra and beyond. Bike, cycle, paddle, run, walk or hike to get your miles in. You can join as an individual, family, group or organization.

Tracking mileage — Track miles using your fitness app or just manually record them. It’s on the honor system to accurately record your results online. There’s no set number of miles to do daily or weekly, or schedule to follow. Plan your own route and timetable. Badge distances are based on the four distinct regions of the Erie Canal and Canalway trail, and available in 15, 90, 180 and 360 mile increments.

What’s the significance of the first and last badge mileage numbers? — The first badge distance is in homage to the lyrics “15 miles on the Erie Canal” from the 1905 folk song “Low Bridge, Everybody Down” by Thomas S. Allen. This song commemorated when mule-powered barge traffic converted to steam power. Travelers on boats had to duck to fit underneath low bridges during their travels. The last badge of 360 miles covers the entire distance of the canal from Buffalo to Albany.

What can I earn? — Besides the certificate, finishers have the opportunity to earn a sticker, magnet, drawstring bag and the satisfaction of seeing their name on the finisher’s list. In addition, there are incentives and discounts for products and activities that you’ll learn about in your welcome email. There’s even a photo contest.

Challenge Support — Join the very active and encouraging Facebook group where challengers post photos and videos of their canal journey and the varied and diverse natural beauty they encounter along the way. It’s a great place to get encouragement, suggestions and share experiences.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CanlwayChallenge when you post on your own social media channels —

Sign Up For Canalway Challenge

To learn more about the Canalway Challenge free program and to sign up to participate, visit

Photo: Paddling is one way people can participate in the Canalview Challenge along the Erie Canal.