Mountain laurel in bloom

Mountain laurel in bloom
Mountain laurel is in bloom at West Rock, as seen on the Gold Trail.

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Rail Trails in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Eastern New York

A scenic rock cut along the Hop River Trail, which extends from Manchester to Willimantic, is one of the appeals of this trail.
Rail Trails and Other Multi-Use Trails in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Eastern New York



Connecticut has one major paved rail trail, the Farmington Canal Trail, which extends from New Haven Suffield at the Massachusetts border and beyond. This trail passes close to West Rock as it parallels Dixwell Avenue and Whitney Avenue, both of which have portions that are Route 10. There are various parking lots along the trail. In Hamden, the larger parking lots are available at Brooksvale Park, and on Sherman Avenue.
 

The state has a series of shorter paved off-road trails, which are NOT rail trails. These include the 9.8 mile Charter Oak Greenway, which parallels I-84 and I-384; the 4.5 mile Windsor Locks State Park Trail, which follows a towpath along the Connecticut River; the Middlebury Greenway, which is essentially a 4.4-mile wide sidewalk paralleling Rt. 64; the Quinnebaug River Trail; the 2.2 mile Derby and Ansonia Greenway/Riverwalks, built on a flood control dike, and a few other small trails in scattered locations across the state.
All of these are suitable for bicycling and walking, and some may be suitable for cross-country skiing and horseback riding.



Connecticut has two major natural surface trails: the 50 mile Airline Trail and the 20 mile Hop River Trail, both in eastern Connecticut.

In western Connecticut, there are two shorter natural surface trails: the Housatonic Rail Trail extends 10 miles through Trumbull, Monroe and Newtown, and the Larkin State Trail extends 10 miles from Naugatuck to Southbury.
The Shoreline Greenway Trail from New Haven to Madison is still being developed, so it is not a viable option (in 2016) for those seeking a continuous, off-road route.



The Rails to Trails Conservancy is a central location for rail trail information:


Trail information (subscription required): http://www.traillink.com/



This is a list of Connecticut trails with suggestions for parking and access:




If you use Google maps, click on the bicycle icon to see trails:




Four state rail trails have information on the site the Connecticut Rail Trail Explorer (Airline, Hop River, Larkin, and Moosup Valley):




The East Coast Greenway Alliance has map that provides an overview of Connecticut’s trails that are used by the greenway, but excludes others, such as the Larkin Bridle Trail, and the Pequonnock River Trail: http://www.greenway.org/pdf/CT.pdf



Farmington Canal Trail

80 miles (with interruptions) from New Haven to Suffield

Paved

Connecticut has one main rail trail that is paved, which is the Farmington Canal Trail that runs from New Haven to Suffield Conn., for 80 miles with interruptions, and continuing in Southwick, Mass. for 6.4 miles to the Westfield, Mass. town line.



As of fall 2016, the trail is complete for 14 miles from Prospect Street in New Haven to Cornwall Avenue in Cheshire. Cheshire has also completed the section from Routes 68/70 to Jarvis Street. By late 2016, the section from Jarvis Street to the Southington trail is scheduled to be officially open, but people are already using it. Until the state completes the boardwalk from Cornwall Avenue to Routes 68-70, simply use Willow Street as a by-pass.

Some users have reported muggings on the trail in the Newhallville section of New Haven, so be careful when riding in New Haven where riding with a group is suggested. Other people have told me they have ridden through this area with no issue.



About 4 miles of the trail are complete in Southington from the Cheshire line to Curtiss Street in Southington. The “trail” in Plainville is an active rail line. The next town north of Plainville is Farmington where the trail continues north uninterrupted to the Massachusetts border.



These articles from September 2016 detail plans to complete the gap.






The Farmington Canal southern section info (Cheshire, Hamden, and New Haven):




The Farmington Valley Trails Council manages the trail in central and northern Connecticut, including Avon, Simsbury, and Farmington:


There are too many access points to mention, so visit these websites for details on parking and directions.



Airline Trail

Airline Trail South

20 miles from East Hampton to Willimantic, with a 1-mile paved section in Willimantic where the Airline Trail connects to the Hop River Trail.

Stone dust surface, suitable for a hybrid bicycle


Airline Trail South brochure and map (some details are a bit outdated): http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/greenways/airlinetrailbrochure.pdf



The trailhead at 90 Smith St., East Hampton is an excellent starting location. Directions: I-91 to Rt. 66 East to Rt. 16 East for 3 miles. Left on Smith St. for 0.9 miles, then right into the trailhead parking lot.
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Another good starting location is the Park and Ride (also known as a commuter parking lot) at Route 2, Exit 16, 29 Westchester Road (Rt. 149), Colchester.

If you start from this parking lot, and head east, it is 12.6 miles to the junction with the Hop River Trail and 13.6 miles to the end of the trail in Willimantic. An advantage of starting at Rt. 2 is that you do not have the steady uphill climb with 200 feet of elevation gain over 5 miles that you have when you start at the Smith Street trailhead.
 

Trail Notes: The trail is a mixture of a hard-packed stone dust surface along with natural dirt with loose rocks. A hybrid bicycle is well suited to this trail. The trail currently extends 0.65 miles west from the Smith St. trailhead, ending at Rt. 196 (Main St.). The route from East Hampton to Lebanon has about 700 ft. of elevation gain or 18 ft. of elevation gain per mile. The route is a steady descent from Smith St. to the Salmon River bridge, then a steady climb to Leonard Bridge Rd., and then a steady descent to the Willimantic River. All climbs are mild with about a 1 percent average grade.

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GPS track for a 39 mile out and back trip from East Hampton to the Willimantic River, ridden prior to the construction of the bridge over the river: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/545061314

GPS track for a 35 mile out and back trip, which includes riding to the end of the trail in Willimantic, and returning to the start before heading west and doing a return loop through the Salmon River State Forest, which allows riders to pass under the impressive stone bridge along River Road: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1219097004
Of course people can select their choice of distance to ride by turning around at any point.






Airline Trail North

Unimproved surface in most areas (excepting a 2.4 mile paved section east of Willimantic), a mountain bike is the best choice for this portion of the trail

22 miles from Willimantic to Thompson. Some sections have been improved with stone dust.




Hop River State Rail Trail

20 miles from Manchester to Willimantic

Stone dust surface in Vernon and Bolton; natural surface in other towns. The last half-mile in Willimantic is paved to the connection with the Airline Trail.

A hybrid bicycle is a suitable choice in Vernon and Bolton; a mountain bike is the best choice in towns from Andover to Willimantic.




A good starting location is the trailhead at 180 Colonial Rd., Manchester, off I-84 Exit 63.

Directions: I-84 East to Exit 63. Left on Rts. 30/83. Next right on Parker St. and go 0.9 miles. Left on Colonial Rd. IMMEDIATE left into parking lot. I-84 West to Exit 63. Right on Rt. 30 and go straight to merge with Rts. 30/83. Right on Parker St. for 0.9 miles. Left on Colonial Rd. IMMEDIATE left into parking lot.

Trail Notes: The trail is hard-packed stone dust from Taylor Rd. in Vernon to Burnap Brook Rd. in Andover. The rest of the trail is a dirt surface with loose rocks. This section of the trail has 900 ft. of climbing or 23 ft. per mile. The ride starts at 225 ft. of elevation and climbs to 630 ft. of elevation at mile seven, dropping to 245 ft. of elevation by 19.4 miles. On the return trip, the trail climbs from mile 24 to mile 32, and is downhill the rest of the way to the start. GPS overview at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/55067204.





Larkin State Park Trail

10 miles from Naugatuck to Southbury

Natural surface trail, a mountain bike is the best choice for this trail



Parking: The only good parking location for the trail is in Naugatuck. Start at the main parking area on Rt. 63 (820 Church St., Naugatuck, Conn). The parking lot holds 20 cars. The only other trail crossing with usable parking is on Riggs Street in Oxford where eight cars could be parked.

Directions: Take Rt. 8 to Exit 28. Turn left at the end of the exit and then left again to Rt. 68 West. Follow to Rt. 63 North. Turn right on Rt. 63 North and go 1 mile. Look for sign “Larkin State Bridle Trail” (the former name of the trail). The parking lot is on the left. From I-84, Exit 17, take Rt. 63 South. Just past Waterbury/Naugatuck line, lot is on right side.
Trail Notes: Due to the varying trail surfaces, a mountain bike with suspension is recommended on the Larkin Trail. A hybrid with its narrower, harder tires is likely to give an uncomfortably bouncy ride. From Rt. 63 heading toward Naugatuck, the trail is moderately to slightly uphill until about mile 5.7 (near Christian St.), and then is moderately to slightly downhill toward the end in Southbury. The route has 1,000 feet of total elevation gain or 50 ft. of climbing per mile. The trail is entirely unpaved with a surface that is cinder or hard-packed dirt. Some trail sections have a washboard surface created by the horses’ hooves digging up the trail. The section between Longmeadow Rd., and Towantic Hill Rd. is privately owned and unmaintained. There is usually water running across about a 0.2-mile section in this section of the trail. Most road crossings are at grade level and have little traffic on them. Some crossings have a moderate climb with slippery traction. Steep and busy crossings are noted. To reach a store, from the trail at mile 8.20, turn left on Rt. 188 and descend to Rt. 67.




Pequonnock River Trail (formerly known as the Housatonic Rail Trail)
This trail extends for 10 miles in Trumbull, Monroe and Newtown. About 2 miles in Bridgeport that are paved, but not connected to each other or the Trumbull section of the trail.
From Trumbull to Newtown, a natural surface trail with some short paved sections and some on-road sections totaling 3.2 miles of pavement and 6.8 miles of stone dust.
Parking: The southern trailhead is on Tait Road, off Route 127 (Church Hill Road) in Trumbull. This is a combination of a small parking lot and street parking, much of which is likely to be crowded with other users.
Directions to the Tait Road parking lot: Rt. 25 North to Exit 9. Left at end of ramp onto Daniels Farm Rd. and down the hill into Trumbull Center. Right at the light onto Church Hill Rd. (Rt. 127) Bear right onto Tait Rd. by the Helen Plumb Building. From Rt. 25 South, left onto Park Street, and right onto Daniels Farm Rd. and follow as above.
There is about 8 parking spaces available at the trail crossing at Whitney Avenue in Trumbull.
Anyone may park in the dirt parking lot at the junction of Pepper Street and Cutlers Farm Road in Monroe.
Parking at Indian Ledge Park off Whitney Avenue, and Old Mine Park, off Monroe Turnpike (Route 111) in Trumbull is limited to Trumbull residents with an annual Trumbull parking sticker. If you do not have this sticker and you park in either park, expect to find a $25 ticket on your window, left by the friendly Trumbull park ranger.
Monroe residents with an annual pass may park at Wolfe Park, Great Hollow Lake area, 285 Cutlers Farm Road, Monroe. This parking may be available to non-residents in the off-season (Labor Day to Memorial Day).




Shoreline Greenway Trail

New Haven (Lighthouse Point), East Haven, Branford, Guilford, and Madison (Hammonasset Beach State Park), 25 miles

Natural surface, requiring use of a hybrid bicycle; only portions of the trail are complete in each town, so you cannot complete a continuous ride







Charter Oak Greenway

East Hartford, Manchester and Bolton

9.8 miles

Paved, but with some steep hills and frequent highway noise

The trail runs for 9.8 miles from Forbes Street in East Hartford to Bolton, including a one-half-mile section using local roads.

Parking and Trail Access:

From I-384 eastbound (note greenway on right side), take exit 3 (Route 83). Turn right onto Route 83-North. Turn right at light onto Charter Oak Street. Turn right at next light into parking lot at Charter Oak Field. From I-384 westbound, take exit 3. Turn right at end of ramp onto Charter Oak Street. As above.



Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail

4.5 miles, Paved, Windsor Locks and Suffield

This trail along the Windsor Locks canal looks like a rail trail, but is actually the former towpath for the canal. The trail may be closed at certain times to protect nesting birds.

State website:


Middlebury Greenway

Paved, 4.4 miles, Middlebury

This path parallels Route 64 in Middlebury and resembles a wide sidewalk.




Norwalk River Valley Trail

Paved, about 3 miles, Norwalk

Gravel, about 4 miles, Wilton

This trail along the Route 7 corridor will eventually be 38 miles long when completed, connecting Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury, passing through Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding along the way. Only portions have been built as of fall 2016.




Quinnebaug River Trail

4 miles, Killingly




Sue Grossman Still River Greenway

Torrington and Winsted

2.9 miles

Paved

This rail trail runs parallel to Rt. 8 and Winsted Road.




Valley Greenway, aka, Derby Greenway and Ansonia Riverwalk

Paved, 2.2 miles, Derby and Ansonia

This “greenway” is built on top of a flood control dike along the Naugatuck River. Due to its location, the trail has no shade, and no protection from the wind and rain.



Rhode Island Rail Trails



Rhode Island has a number of excellent rail trails. Maps and other information at the official state website: http://www.dot.ri.gov/community/bikeri/index.php



Rail Trails in New York near Connecticut



Parks and Trails New York is a non-profit advocacy group for parks and trails, which has an overview of rail trails and other trails in New York State: http://www.ptny.org/greenways/



The North County Trailway, South County Trailway and Putnam Trailway all follow the same right of way.



North County Trailway

22 miles, Westchester, N.Y.

Paved, Eastview in the Town of Mt. Pleasant, to Baldwin Place in Somers. It continues north into Carmel in Putnam County for 7.5 miles as the Putnam Trailway.





South County Trailway

14 miles, Eastview to the Bronx County line, Westchester, N.Y.

Paved




Putnam Trailway, Putnam County, New York

12 miles from the Westchester border to Brewster Village









New York City bicycle maps are available at http://www.nycbikemaps.com/maps/

This includes the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 24-mile paved, mostly off-road route around Manhattan: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemaps.shtml





Dutchess Rail Trail

Dutchess County, N.Y.

Paved: 13 miles from Hopewell Junction, N.Y. to the Walkway Across the Hudson



The Dutchess Rail Trail official site with a map, and information from Rails to Trails:





Walkway Across the Hudson

Dutchess and Ulster Counties, N.Y.

Paved, 1.3 miles from Poughkeepsie to Lloyd (Highland), N.Y.



The Walkway Over the Hudson official site, the New York Parks full brochure with the map, and the Rails to Trails site: http://www.walkway.org/







Hudson Valley Rail Trail

Ulster County, N.Y.

Paved, 2.5 miles from the Walkway Across the Hudson to Tony Williams Park in Lloyd

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail official site, the direct link to the full brochure with a map, and a link from Rails to Trails: http://www.hudsonvalleyrailtrail.net/





Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Dutchess County and Columbia County, N.Y.

Paved: 10.7 miles from Wassaic, N.Y. to Millerton, N.Y., and 3.7 miles from Undermountain Road to Copake Falls, N.Y.

These sections do not connect.




Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

Ulster County, N.Y. (west of the Hudson River)

24 miles from Gardiner to south of Kingston, N.Y.

Gravel surface, requiring the use of a hybrid or mountain bike



Suggested Books:

Bike Paths of Connecticut and Rhode Island by Stuart Johnstone

This book was not available on Amazon as of July, 2016, but I purchased it at REI in Norwalk.

Check with the publisher directly for information:


The website as of July 2016 listed the older edition of the book called Bike Paths of Connecticut. DO NOT buy this 2004 version (that does not have Rhode Island), as the paths have changed so much since 2004 that this book is completely out of date.



Mountain Biking Connecticut by Stuart Johnstone

Although published in 2000, this book is still fairly relevant, although incomplete as it lacks current mountain biking areas like Trout Brook Valley in Easton/Weston, and does include Brooksvale Park in Hamden where mountain biking was banned around 2012 or so.

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