Introducing the Chicago to New York City Bicycle Route!

May 18, 2017 - Jennifer Milyko is Adventure Cycling's Routes & Mapping Assistant Director.

Cyclists enjoying the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This week Adventure Cycling cartographers happily announce the release of the latest route in the Adventure Cycling Route Network: Chicago to New York City Bicycle Route (CNYC). With this new addition, our Route Network now measures 46,846 miles and provides a fourth way to cross the United States when combined with Bicycle Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago.

When we began researching this route in 2014, we considered our options. It seemed a given we’d want to include big cities like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, as well as Columbus, the hometown of our founders. But questions arose when we looked to build the route eastward from Pittsburgh.

Do we go directly across Pennsylvania using BicyclePA Route V? Or what about utilizing the unpaved Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and C&O Canal trails to the south? Which one would be more popular with cyclists? Is there any reason we shouldn’t do both?

Weighing the options

BicyclePA Route V feels like a more direct route, without many turns or diversions for the cyclist on a schedule to reach New York City. But the challenge of that routing lies in getting across the Allegheny Mountains with many short, steep hills.

On the other hand, the GAP and C&O rail trails have a maximum, train-friendly grade of only 1.5% over 235 miles. These trails are unpaved, however, and can get messy or slick in rainy conditions, keeping top speeds and daily average miles lower and more suited to the cyclist with some time on their hands.

The Chicago to New York City Bicycle route has six map sections, four for the main route, and two for the Philadelphia Alternate that takes you east from Pittsburgh.

Honestly, we wanted to please both the speedy and the meandering cyclist, so in the end, we opted to do both options. The Main Route follows a more northerly course across Pennsylvania, entering New York City from the north, while the Chicago to New York City Philadelphia Alternate follows the aforementioned popular off-road trails for nearly half its distance and approaches the city via the Jersey Shore and a short ferry ride.

Cyclists in a hurry and looking for the “shortest route” may see the main route as only a measly 12.6 miles less than the alternate route. But once you factor in the fact that the main route is entirely paved, it will clearly be the faster, “shortest” choice. 

Photo courtesy of Camp Chase Trail
A cycling mural found on the Camp Chase Trail running through Madison and Franklin counties of Ohio.

Overall, this is a trail-rich route using 30 trails over six states. In addition, some of the routing is shared with U.S. Bicycle Routes 35 and 50 in Indiana and Ohio. We also took advantage of the long-established BicyclePA Routes V, S, and J, as well as New York State Bicycle Route 9.

Photo by Michele Hedrick
Mile 55 on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) in Pennsylvania.

Riding the Options

This route, in conjunction with Bicycle Route 66, provides a way to bicycle from Los Angeles to New York City via Chicago, a route cyclists have requested.

Alternatively, by combining CNYC Sections 3 and 4 with both sections of the CNYC Philadelphia Alternate, an interesting 1,025-mile loop is formed.

In general, Amtrak service is abundant on much of the entire route including connections in Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. Think of those options!

The Adventure Cycling cartographers and everyone on staff at Adventure Cycling are pleased to share this exciting new route. If you are a Twitter user and want to share or learn from others via tweet, please include the hashtag #acaChi2NYC

Photo 1 Saara Snow | Photo 2 courtesy of Camp Chase Trail | Photo 3 Michele Hedrick


GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.


Eric Schultz July 17, 2018, 11:07 PM

Send me Info !!! PDF maps

Jennifer Hamelman July 18, 2018, 7:09 AM

Hi Eric,

You can see the general overview of the route on the Chicago to NYC description page on our website. Click on Detail for each section to see where they go.

You can buy the paper maps on the Cyclosource store or through our app, Bicycle Route Navigator.

I hope this helps.



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