Lonely Planet Writer

Hike or bike from Canada to Key West with this east coast route

It's been a work-in-progress since the early 1990s but East Coast Greenway - a nearly 3000-mile paved bike trail that would extend from Canada to Florida - is celebrating new milestones all the time. Last year the park had a record 15 million visits and this year, it's hoped that visitors to the park can cycle or hike from New York to Boston as more local trails, signage and pathways are connected along the route.

Travel News - East Coast Greenway
EGC visitors in Key West, Florida. Image by East Coast Greenway

"We want to change how people interact with their community by cycling or walking to work and play,"said East Coast Greenway Alliance executive director Dennis Markatos-Soriano. "But we also want to establish it as a global destination, a park where people can enjoy the eastern United States." To date, 1000 miles have been added but existing routes and there are hopes that the entire route will have turn-by-turn signage by the end of 2020.

Travel News - East Coast Greenway
ECG riders in Washington DC. Image by East Coast Greenway

“We want people to connect to the nature and the culture around us and we want them to do it in a way that's safe and accessible," he explained. "Millions more people would live a more sustainable lifestyle if they had the infrastructure to do so. That's what we're building."

Joining the dots is a collaborative civic effort. The park has a support network of 100,000 people across 450 municipalities in 15 states who work alongside the East Coast Greenway Alliance's full-time staff to push for public investment in infrastructure for the greenways. In its first 25 years it attracted more than $1 billion in public investment but the return on investment is expected to be even greater with studies predicting gains from health and the environment to transportation and access benefits, economic gains, and increased property values along the greenway lines.

Travel News - East Coast Greenway
Last year the park celebrated a record 15 million visits. Image by East Coast Greenway

By the time the greenway is completed - from Calais on the Maine/Canada border to Key West in Florida - it's hoped the park will be America's most popular with 50 million visits per year. There's admittedly a long way to go but the ECGA is continuing to meet short-term goals. Last year 44 miles were added to the greenway and similar growth is expected this year. By 2020 it aims to have designated another 200 miles of paved paths along of the greenway as cycling and hiking become more popular with an end goal of 203o in sight.

"We want to connect from Canada to Key West, from the moose to the manatee. Culturally we're connecting people from the best blueberry pie to the best key lime pie," said Markatos-Soriano. "For people who visit the United States, it's a completely unique way to experience the country."

Travel News - East Coast Greenway
The route plans to snake through 450 towns in 15 states. Image by East Coast Greenway

To access information on East Coast Greenway routes or to get help from experts in planning a hiking or biking trip along its existing routes, including New York to Boston (the latest part of the greenway to be launched this year), see here.