Participants in the Canalway Challenge can explore food and beverages offered in canal communities

Imagine traveling the length of the 363-mile Erie Canal from beginning to end, stopping along the way to sample the best of what the craft breweries and restaurants have to offer and provide fuel for the journey ahead.

Hunger and thirst may have gotten the better of me as I write this, but that’s what I first thought of when the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor announced its fall Canalway Challenge.

Places like the Twisted Rail Brewing Co. in Macedon, Mulconry's Irish Pub and Restaurant in the village of Fairport, Seven Story Brewing on one end of Pittsford and Lock 32 Brewing on the other are worth discovering (or rediscovering as the case may be).

Palmyra, Newark, Brockport, Spencerport — oh, the possibilities. And if you walk or bike on the journey, you can eat and drink what you’d like because the calories, in theory, will just melt away.

The challenge is an effort to get New Yorkers out and about to trace the steps where local, state and national history was made and log in miles along the state’s canals and Canalway Trail.

The Canalway Challenge is free, and registration is open to people of all ages and abilities. Participants set their own mileage goals and walk, run, cycle or paddle to achieve it.

Where does food and drink come in?

Canalway Challenge participants are encouraged to take up a quest to discover food and beverages along the way, as well as to explore historic sites, parks, and communities. Participants also can discover what’s “Hot on the Trail” while completing their journey.

Hot on the Trail adds a new element of discovery to the Canalway Challenge, while also supporting small businesses and attractions that have suffered from reduced visitation during the coronavirus pandemic, said Bob Radliff, executive director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, in a prepared statement.

“It’s a win-win for both visitors, and for small businesses and attractions that have reopened with safety protocols in place,” Radliff said.

From now through the end of October, Hot on the Trail participants are encouraged to visit sites in nine categories: food and beverage, museums and historic sites, nature preserves, state and national parks, canal structures, and communities. Those who list their favorite sites in each category will be entered to win a $50 gift card to the New York State Canal Store.

For more on how this works and to sign up for the Challenge, visit eriecanalway.org/explore/challenge for information.