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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.
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Rail Trails and Other Bicycle Trails in Connecticut




Connecticut has one major paved rail trail, the Farmington Canal Trail, which extends from New Haven to Suffield at the Massachusetts border and beyond. The Farmington River Trail is a related trail that connects two sections of the Farmington River Trail.

The state has a series of shorter paved off-road trails, which are NOT rail trails. These include the 12 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 Greenway/Ansonia Riverwalk, built on a flood control dike, and a few other small trails in scattered locations across the state.



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

In western Connecticut, there are two shorter natural surface trails: the Pequonnock River Trail (which has some paved sections) extends about 12 miles through Trumbull, Monroe, Bridgeport, 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 2017) for those seeking a continuous, off-road route.



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


Trail information (free registration 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 “stacked lines” for the Menu on the left of the search box and click on “Bicycling” to see bicycle trails highlighted in green: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en



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 State Park Trail, and the Pequonnock River Trail: http://www.greenway.org/pdf/CT.pdf



Bike It or Hike It is a comprehensive website of bicycle trails in Connecticut and other states created by volunteers. This website includes all the details someone would need to know about a trail: http://bikeitorhikeit.org/index_listings.htm



The state of Connecticut has a document from 2015 listing trail projects planned, some of which are happening in 2017. The dates for these projects were projected at the time this document was prepared, and may not reflect what is actually happening: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/documents/dcommunications/press_release/5yr_ramp_up_plan--trails_10-26-2015.pdf



This Jan. 2017 article from the Connecticut Mirror gives an overview of the plans: https://ctmirror.org/2017/01/06/movement-to-complete-states-trails-gaining-momentum/



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.



The Farmington Valley Trails Council manages the canal trail in central and northern Connecticut, including Avon, Simsbury, and Farmington, plus the Farmington River Trail. Website: http://fchtrail.org/pages/default.asp  There are many parking lot and access points. Visit these websites for these details.

The Farmington Canal southern section (Cheshire, Hamden, and New Haven) is managed by the Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association. They both use the same website noted above.



The Farmington River Trail is a related trail that is 17 miles long (15 miles of which are paved), which extends from the junction of the Farmington Canal Trail at Red Oak Hill Road in Farmington to the junction of the canal trail at Routes 202 and 309 in Simsbury. The river trail is nearly continuous from Red Oak Hill Road to the junction of Routes 177 and 202 in Canton near the Avon border. A 2.4-mile long on road section connects to West Mountain Road in Simsbury. About 2 of the 3 miles in this final section are gravel woods trails (from West Mountain Road to Town Forest Road, and from Stratton Brook Road to Route 309 in Simsbury). These gravel sections are acceptable, even for a road bike. Information on the river trail may be found on the Farmington Valley Trails Council website.



Farmington Canal Trail Construction Status

From Farmington the canal trail continues north mostly uninterrupted to the Massachusetts border. In July 2017, a contractor installed a bridge over Route 6 in Farmington. The trail north of the bridge was complete, but not officially open at that point. The trail still needed to be constructed from Route 6 to the Plainville border.



About 4.6 miles of the trail are complete in Southington from the Cheshire line to Lazy Lane in Southington. Plans are underway to complete the remaining 2 miles of the trail in Southington.

The “trail” in Plainville is an active rail line, and plans are advancing to find a route through town that is as off-road as possible. This is the official website for the Gap Closure Study: http://www.gapclosurestudy.com/




As of fall 2017, the southern section of 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 the trail in Southington.

In April 2017, a contractor began work on the 0.7-mile section of the Cheshire trail from Cornwall Avenue to Routes 68/70 with completion expected for fall 2018. A press release about this portion of the trail is available here: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?A=1373&Q=591918

Until this section is completed, simply use Willow Street as a by-pass. Willow Street connects Cornwall Avenue directly to Routes 68/70 and is located about 100 feet east of the existing trail.



There are also plans to close the gap in New Haven: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/canal_trail_/



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





Airline State Park 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 State Park Trail state website with maps: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=479336&deepNav_GID=1650

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




Parking: 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.

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.



GPS track for a 39 mile out and back trip from East Hampton to the Willimantic River, done at a time 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

22 miles from Willimantic to Thompson.

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. Some sections have been improved with stone dust and the stone dust work is reportedly continuing over time.




Hop River State Park 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. This section is scheduled to receive stone dust, resolving this issue of the rough surface.




Parking: A good starting location is the trailhead at 180 Colonial Rd., Manchester, off I-84 Exit 63. There are other parking locations at the numerous trail crossings, with larger parking lot at Church Street in Vernon, and at Bolton Notch off Rt. 44 in Bolton.

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.


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Larkin State Park Trail

10.7 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. 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. Other sections have loose sand and gravel that are treacherous to bicycle. 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. The section between Route 67 and Curt Smith Road is washed out and is virtually unrideable. The better option is to use Route 67 to bypass this section. Most road crossings are at grade level and have little traffic on them. Steep crossings with loose rocks and sand that are best walked include Towantic Hill Road, Route 67, and Jeremy Swamp Road. 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. From Trumbull to Newtown, it is 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. There are about 2 miles in Bridgeport that are paved, but not connected to each other or the Trumbull section of the trail.

Work began in April 2017 to close the gap in Trumbull by building culverts under the Route 25 ramps and connecting to the existing railroad bridge on the Merritt Parkway. This will connect the trail from Twin Brooks Park to the Quarry Road section built in 2014, leading to Beardsley Park in Bridgeport. The trail is expected to open in December 2017.


A video of the proposed route starting just past the crossing of the Route 25 ramps along White Plains Road en route to Rocky Hill Road shows what the trail will look like. The video shows what it will be like to pass through the culverts under the highway ramps and over the existing railroad bridge. The video ends at the existing Quarry Road segment in Trumbull. The video exaggerates the traffic volume on White Plains Road. http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/144-191-trail_video.avi



There is no word on when the work will begin to connect the trail from Tait Road to Twin Brooks Park in Trumbull. The proposal calls for building the trail through the shopping center adjacent to the Pequonnock River, including construction of a bridge over the river to Twin Brooks Park.

For now, users can use local roads to make the connection by taking Tait Road to Daniels Farm Road to Laurel Street to Gregory Place to Manor Drive. Neighborhood opposition stopped a plan to make this the permanent connection.

The official website has information on parking and access, but does not have a printed map or guide available: http://pequonnockrivertrail.org/about.html

An overview map with a trail description is available at: http://www.ctmetro.org/projects/transportation/pedestrians-bikes/housatonic-rail-trail/



The Bridgeport section is incomplete with no trail between Beardsley Park and Route 1, and no trail south of Fairfield Avenue. A 2015 study presented options for closing that gap, which would involve the use of public roads: http://www.bridgeportct.gov/filestorage/89019/89751/94961/103639/PRT_EXTENSION_ALIGNMENT_STUDY_-_Final_Report_DRAFT_2.pdf

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).

Trail Notes: The rail trail has a slight upward grade as you cycle north. There is 400 ft. of total climbing, or 20 ft. per mile. The trail is paved from Whitney Avenue in Trumbull to the Victorinox (Swiss Army) property in Monroe, and again along the entry road to Wolfe Park in Monroe. Most other parts have a hard packed stone dust surface suitable for a hybrid bicycle. The Newtown stretch has some roots to bounce over, but you can avoid them by turning back at the Monroe border. There are no stores on or adjacent to the trail, although there are many on nearby Rt. 25. Seasonal restrooms are available by the lake at Wolfe Park, and perhaps at Old Mine Park in Trumbull. The left fork at mile 3.95 merely loops out to busy Rt. 25 (Main St.).




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

12 miles

Paved, but with some steep hills and frequent highway noise

The trail runs for 12 miles from Forbes Street in East Hartford to Finley Street in Manchester. There are plans to connect the trail to the Hop River Trail at Bolton Notch, which would be another half mile. A partial on-road connection leads to the riverfront trails in East Hartford with plans to make this an off-road connection. This trail segment has supposedly been moved off-road, but I



Parking and Trail Access:

There is no official website for this trail, but good information is available here: http://bikeitorhikeit.org/charter_oak_greenway.htm



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 summer 2017. Website: http://www.nrvt-trail.com/



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.




Putnam Bridge Trail

The state has constructed a bike and pedestrian path along the Charter Oak Bridge on Route 15. The path is closed because it does not connect to any paths. The state has a report on the plans to finish that project. Link: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=3535&q=518198



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.






Quinnipiac Gorge Trail and the Hanover Pond Linear Trail, Meriden

Paved, 2.3 miles

These two connecting trails are part of a longer planned trail on an old railroad bed in Meriden, the former Meriden, Waterbury, and Connecticut River Railroad. Future sections will be slow to develop because they pass through fully developed areas where the railroad bed has been interrupted in places. The 1.3 mile Quinnipiac Gorge Trail is a scenic, shaded trail along the Quinnipiac River. The 1 mile long Hanover Pond Linear Trail passes by Hanover Pond and between two high schools and residential streets.

One parking area is on Oregon Road by the junction with Route 70, and is located where the two trails meet. Map at http://www.meridenlandtrust.com/Hanover_tri.pdf



Quinnipiac River Linear Trail, Wallingford

Paved, 2.1 miles

This trail parallels the Wilbur Cross Parkway, so road noise is a constant roar in your ears along the first section along the east side of the road, but lessens somewhat in the section north of the tunnel under the road, as the trail is located slightly further from the road. Park at the Community Lake parking lot located at 291 Hall Ave. (Rt. 150), Wallingford, off Route 15, Exit 65.

Overview information (without a map) at http://www.thequinnipiacriver.com/river-recreation/trails




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



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



Suggested Books:

Bike Paths of Connecticut and Rhode Island by Stuart Johnstone

This has good information about the paths in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Updates since this book was published in 2014 means that some information is outdated, but that is usually in the form of saying that a trail section does not exist, when in fact it may have been constructed. This book was not available on Amazon in Aug. 2017, but I purchased it at REI in Norwalk.

Check with the publisher directly for information:


The website as of Aug. 2017 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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