|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 Bicycle Trails in Connecticut
Revised, Aug. 6, 2019
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 2.5 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 Air Line 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 16 miles through Trumbull, Monroe, Bridgeport, and Newtown, and the Larkin State Trail extends 10.7 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 2018) for those seeking a continuous, off-road route.
The Shoreline Greenway Trail from New Haven to Madison is still being developed, so it is not a viable option (in 2018) 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. This information is far from complete and some of it is not accurate (such as saying the Air Line Trail North is too rough for bicyclists. Some parts are unfinished, but others have good stone dust):
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 (Air Line, 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 happened 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 Construction Status
The trail in Farmington is complete, thanks to the July 2017 installation of a new bridge over Route 6, which was dedicated in May 2018, work that included extending the trail from Red Oak Hill Road to Northwest Drive on the Farmington-Plainville border. From Farmington the canal trail continues north mostly uninterrupted to the Massachusetts border.
As of September 2018, the southern section of the trail is complete for 23 miles from Temple Street in New Haven to Lazy Lane in Southington. The section between Cornwall Avenue to Routes 68/70 in Cheshire opened on Sept. 9, 2018.
The only major gap remaining in the trail is from Lazy Lane in Southington to Northwest Drive on the Farmington-Plainville border, a gap of about 5 miles.
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 to Town Line Road on the Southington-Plainville border. In this article from Feb. 2018, it was reported that construction is estimated to start in spring 2019 and finish by spring 2020. Article: http://southingtonobserver.com/2018/02/08/southington-residents-speak-out-at-plainville-rail-trail-hearing/
In a Nov. 2018 email, the Southington director of public works said the trail is under design with no date set for design completion or construction. In its 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan, the state DOT indicated the project cost would be $3,281,000, and appeared to indicate this money was allocated for fiscal year 2019. The spreadsheet does not state if this is a wish list or if the money has actually been allocated.
The “trail” in Plainville is an active rail line, and the preferred alternative is a 5.3-mile route that is almost entirely off-road. If it followed the railroad bed, the trail would be about 3 miles in Plainville. In February 2018, the Plainville Town Council accepted the final report of the Gap Closure Study. The estimated price is $14.4 million with a projected five-year timeline for construction.
According to a Sept. 30 article in the Waterbury Republican American, the State Bond Commission approved $3.8 million to design this section. The project will be constructed in two phases: Phase One construction might start in 2022, extending from the current trail at Northwest Drive south to West Main Street. Phase Two construction might start in 2023-2024, and would extend from West Main Street to Town Line Road at the Southington border.
This is the official website for the Gap Closure Study: http://www.gapclosurestudy.com/
There are also plans to close the gap in New Haven: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/canal_trail_/
In its 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan, the state DOT indicated the project cost would be $7,493,277, and appeared to indicate $5,994,631 was allocated for fiscal year 2019. The spreadsheet does not state if this is a wish list or if the money has actually been allocated.
News media has reported occasional 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. I rode through there once, and had no problem, but caution is still advised.
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.
The CTfastrak multi-use path is a 5-mile long, 10-foot paved path that parallels the CTfastrak bus corridor, extending from the downtown New Britain station to the Newington Junction station. The path is separated from the busway by a fence. There is a brief on-road section at East Street in New Britain.
Parking is available at the starting point at the municipal parking garage at 35 Bank St., New Britain, one block away from the station at 335 Main St., New Britain, at the East Street station, 1360 East St., New Britain, and at the northern end of the path at Newington Junction Station, 120 Willard Ave., Newington.
Air Line State Park Trail
Air Line Trail South
East Hampton to Willimantic, stone dust suitable for a hybrid bicycle, 23.5 miles, with a 1-mile paved section in Willimantic where the Air Line Trail connects to the Hop River Trail.
Air Line State Park Trail state website with maps: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=479336&deepNav_GID=1650
Air Line Trail South brochure and map (some details are a bit outdated): http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/greenways/airlinetrailbrochure.pdf
Parking: There are small parking areas at most road crossings, usually good for about 5 cars.
Near the western end of the trail, the trailhead at 90 Smith St., East Hampton is an excellent starting location with room for about 15 cars.
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. There is room for 50 cars at this lot.
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.
At the eastern end of the Air Line Trail South is parking lot with 17 spaces (including two handicap-accessible spaces), located near the shopping center at 75 Bridge St., Willimantic. From Rt. 66 in Willimantic, head south on Rt. 32 (Bridge Street) and just after crossing the railroad tracks, turn right into the driveway where there is a small green sign for “Bike Path” and a larger sign for the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. Drive one-tenth of a mile and the parking is on the left.
Trail Notes: The trail is a mixture of a hard-packed stone dust surface along with natural dirt with loose rocks. There are some sections where the drainage ditch along the trail has filled with leaves and rocks, and during heavy rains, water floods across the trail, leaving ruts. A hybrid bicycle is well suited for this trail.
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.
The trail currently extends 3.7 miles west from the Smith St. trailhead, to within 1,500 feet of the new 0.7-mile section accessed from Depot Hill Road. The section in between is a running stream. Part of the trail to Main Street in East Hampton involves a boardwalk with switchbacks that is a bit tiresome for cyclists to navigate. The state maps for the rail trail, which were last updated in 2015, do not show the segment west of Main Street, as of Jan. 2019.
This Jan. 7, 2019, article discusses the latest trail projects: https://www.middletownpress.com/middletown/article/Portland-s-connection-to-26-mile-Airline-Trail-13514846.php#photo-15651595
GPS track for a 39 mile out and back trip from East Hampton to the Willimantic River, ridden 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.
Air Line Trail Portland and East Hampton
3 miles, stone dust surface
Portland opened its 2.3-mile section of the Air Line Trail in June 2018 with plans to extend west toward the Arrigoni Bridge. The trail extends from the Depot Hill Road on the Portland/East Hampton (Cobalt) border west to the YMCA Camp Ingersoll property.
There is a 0.7-mile section in East Hampton that currently can only be accessed from Depot Hill Rd.
Parking: There is a parking area for about 15 cars at 26 Depot Hill Rd., East Hampton (Cobalt). My car GPS did not recognize this address when I used East Hampton, but did recognize it when I used Cobalt.
Directions: From Middletown, take Rt. 66 East for 5 miles. Left on Depot Hill Rd. for 0.2 miles to the trailhead on the right. From the east, Rt. 2, Exit 13 to Rt. 66 East for 7.8 miles. Right on Depot Hill Rd. for 0.2 miles to the trailhead on the right.
There is a parking area at 82 Middle Haddam Rd. in Portland, which has room for about 10 cars. This parking area is 0.4 miles south of the trail. There is a switchback path that ascends steadily to the trail with a total elevation gain of about 30 feet.
Directions: From Middletown, take Rt. 66 East for 3 miles. Left on Middle Haddam Rd. for 0.4 miles to the trailhead on the left. From the east, Rt. 2, Exit 13 to Rt. 66 East for 9.5 miles. Right on Middle Haddam Rd for 0.2 miles to the trailhead on the left.
Trail Notes: The trail is a hard-packed stone dust surface with brief paved ramps at the road crossings where there is a slight hill at the intersection. The finished portion of the trail abruptly ends in the woods by the YMCA camp. The trail is a steady downhill from Depot Hill Road to the end by the YMCA camp, other than slight ups and downs at some road crossings. The change in elevation is from roughly 300 ft. at Depot Hill Rd. to 160 ft. by the YMCA camp. This section of the East Hampton trail has a mild 40 ft. rise in elevation from Depot Hill Rd. to where it ends.
There are two impressive stone arch bridges under the trail. One allows Great Hill Pond Brook to flow under the trail, and the other carries the trail over Middle Haddam Road. At 0.6 miles from Depot Hill Rd., turn right on the Yellow Trail into the Taylor Palmer Preserve. At the next trail junction in 0.1 miles, turn left on the Red Trail and walk 0.3 miles to the bridge. The trail crosses Middle Haddam Rd. 1.35 miles from Depot Hill Road. After crossing the bridge, there is a moderate slope on the right side down to the road. Walk down the slope to (carefully) view the bridge, as the sightlights are limited for drivers coming through the arch.
This link is a PowerPoint of the trail plans in Portland: http://thejonahcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Portland-Air-Line-Trail-Update-Jan18.pdf
This link is an overview of the trail map, both existing and planned, from Cheshire to East Hampton. http://thejonahcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Air-Line-Trail-to-Farmington-Canal-Trail-connector-route.pdf
Portland section map: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/portland_alt__map.pdf
Portland section Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Air-Line-Trail-Portland-CT-1550889445177399/
Trail article: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-marteka-air-line-gaps-filled-0207-20160207-column.html
|The Air Line Trail passes over Middle Haddam Road in Portland on this beautifully-crafted stone arch bridge.|
Air Line Trail North
Willimantic to Thompson, natural surface, 22 miles
This trail is a mixture of an unimproved surface in some areas, and stone dust in other areas. Some sections have been improved with stone dust and the stone dust work is reportedly continuing over time. The 2.4-mile Veterans Greenway extending east from Willimantic is the only paved section of the trail.
There is a 7.5 gap in the trail from Wrights Crossing Road in Pomfret to Riverside Drive in Putnam. A road bypass of this section is shown on the trail maps available at the state website. The Scenic Bypass is 8.4 miles long, while the Putnam Bypass is 10.6 miles long.
Parking: One good parking area in the middle of this trail section is Pomfret Station, 13 Railroad Ave., Pomfret, a dead end road off Rt. 169, just north of the junction with Rt. 44. This paved parking area has 20 parking spaces, along with an information kiosk, and a portable toilet. There are also a few gravel parking spaces available at the trail crossing at Rt. 169.
In October 2018, I rode the 7.1-mile section from Pomfret Station to Old Griffin Road in Hampton, on the border of the Natchaug State Forest. This section has reasonably good stone dust, except in some areas where erosion has worn tracks in it, due to the drainage ditches that filled with debris, allowing water to flow over the trail. I rode a hybrid bicycle, which is a good choice for the trail; others on road bicycles also did okay.
The original railroad bridges and tunnels are missing along this section of the trail, so some approaches to road crossings are steep with loose sand and gravel, so it may be best to walk these short sections. At some crossings there is barely enough room to ride around the gate, so caution is advised. From Pomfret Station to Old Griffin Road is a noticeable incline, increasing from 400 ft. to 625 ft. of elevation gain. The good news is that the return trip to Pomfret is all downhill, excepting some of the road crossings.
An interesting extension to this ride is to follow the dirt woods roads through the forest off Old Griffin Road. Map: https://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/NatchaugTrailMap.pdf
GPS track of this ride: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/28733350
Unimproved Trail Section
In October 2018, I also rode northeast from Pomfret Center on my hybrid. The trail in this section is dramatically different than southeast of Route 169. The bridge across Route 169 is missing, so it is a steep descent from the parking lot to Rt. 169, and then a steep climb back up to the railroad bed over loose rocks. I highly recommend walking this descent and climb.
The trail is fairly passable from Rt. 169 to Needles Eye Road with a bumpy, narrow track and a few soft spots. One side of the original bridge abutment is visible on Needles Eye Road where the trail has a sharp descent to the road, and is best walked.
The trail deteriorates rapidly from Needles Eye Road to Wrights Crossing Road with many sections that have ankle-deep tire sucking mud that is difficult to ride through without getting stuck. The trail official ends on the state map at Wrights Crossing Road in Pomfret. I continued on the next half mile to Holmes Road, Pomfret Center where the tire-sucking mud sections increased, and the last few hundred feet to Holmes Road was under several inches of water. Someone had built a trail off to the south side on higher ground to get through the flooded section. Plant growth was much thicker in this area, which added to the challenge of using this section. Ride it at your own risk. The distance from Railroad Avenue to Holmes Road is 1.7 miles with minimal elevation changes.
At Holmes Road, I could not see the railroad bed heading north from that point. The path was faintly visible on the satellite view, extending to the Quinnebaug River and the Putnam River Trail at Kennedy Drive in Putnam. I imagine the trail is quite rough and probably impassable in this section.
Air Line Trail Portland
Portland opened its 2.3 mile section of the Air Line Trail in June 2018 with plans to extend west toward the Arrigoni Bridge and east toward East Hampton. The trail extends from the YMCA Camp Ingersoll property to Depot Hill Road. Information: http://thejonahcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Portland-Air-Line-Trail-Update-Jan18.pdf and http://thejonahcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Air-Line-Trail-to-Farmington-Canal-Trail-connector-route.pdf and https://www.facebook.com/Air-Line-Trail-Portland-CT-1550889445177399/
Hop River State Park Trail
Manchester to Willimantic, stone dust and natural surface, 20 miles
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 Air LineTrail.
A hybrid bicycle is a suitable choice along this trail, which has a stone dust 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. A new parking lot has been constructed on Route 66 in Willimantic, near the newly-decked bridge over the Willimantic River.
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 Kings Road in Coventry. 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.
The trail has a short interrupted section from Kings Road to Flanders Road in Columbia due to a closed and unsafe bridge over the Hop River. The Conn. DOT announced plans to rehabilitate this section of the trail, which includes replacing the bridge over the Hop River and doing other improvements to the section between Kings Road and Flanders Road. The work is expected to be completed in 2022. Until this work is completed, follow Kings Road to Flanders Road for an easy and low traffic connection to the final section from Flanders Road to the Air Line Trail.
As of early Aug. 2019, a contractor had installed a concrete deck on the existing railroad bridge over the Willimantic River. At that time, the trail still needed to be cleared and have a stone dust surface laid down from Flanders Road to the bridge. East of the bridge, the trail will be paved to the existing trail section that connects to the Air Line Trail. When opened this will directly connect the Hop River Trail to the Air Line Trail. Until that time, the connection must be made by taking Flanders Road to Route 66, which is a short distance.
GPS overview at http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/55067204
Larkin State Park Trail
Naugatuck to Southbury, 10.7 miles; natural surface; a mountain bike is the best choice for this trail
State website: www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?A=2716&Q=434808
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. The section between Jeremy Swamp Road and Kettletown Road gets little use and is likely to be overgrown with tall weeds in warm weather.
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.
Map and GPX file athttp://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/90110959
Pequonnock River Trail (formerly known as the Housatonic Rail Trail)
Bridgeport, Trumbull, Monroe, and Newtown, paved and stone dust, 16 miles
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 long-standing section of trail extends for 10.6 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.
In December 2017, the gap in Trumbull narrowed with construction of a connection from Twin Brooks Park via Rocky Hill Road to the Quarry Road section built in 2014, which leads to Beardsley Park in Bridgeport. From Tait Road in Trumbull to Crown Street, Bridgeport, at the south end of Beardsley Park is 4 miles.
Overview of the new Trumbull section: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/144-191-pi-handout.pdf
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.
Trumbull’s Plan of Conservation and Development from 2014 shows a rough map of the connection on page 35 (page 41 of the PDF) and some additional suggestions to enhance the trail on pages 82-84 (page 88-90 of the PDF):
In its 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan, the state DOT indicated the project cost for the final phase of the Trumbull section would be $1,545,600, and appeared to indicate $1,236,480 was allocated for fiscal year 2019. The spreadsheet does not state this explicitly.
There are about 1.25 miles of trail along Housatonic Avenue in Bridgeport from Water Street to North Avenue that are paved, but is not connected to the Beardsley Park section of the trail, which now connections to the southern Trumbull section of the trail. This section is essentially a wide sidewalk.
Plans for the 3-mile Bridgeport section of trail to connect Beardsley Park to Seaside Park, include a mixture of off-road trail, bike lanes, and shared lanes, using the Housatonic Avenue section as the link. In this fully developed area, off-road options are limited. The city expects construction to start in summer 2019 and last for six to nine months. Plans are available on the city website at: http://www.bridgeportct.gov/planning/PRT
In its 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan, the state DOT indicated the project cost for the final phase of the Bridgeport section would be $1,545,600, and appeared to indicate $1,236,480 was allocated for fiscal year 2019. The spreadsheet does not explicitly state the money is actually available.
Parking: The southern trailhead for the long-standing section of the trail 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. When I used this area in September 2018, I had to park about a tenth of a mile past the trailhead, there were so many cars parked along the road.
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, Old Mine Park, off Monroe Turnpike (Route 111), and Twin Brook Park, off White Plains Road (Rt. 127) 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).
There are two commuter parking lots located near the trail. One lot is located on Broadway Road, Trumbull, off Main Street (Route 111), just south of the junction with Route 25. From the parking lot, follow Route 111 North and the trail is a few hundred feet past Route 25. Another lot is located on White Plains Road (Route 127), Trumbull, just north of the Merritt Parkway overpass. From this lot, turn left on White Plains Road and the trail is in about 0.4 miles.
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.).-->
Great Hollow Lake is a natural rest stop along the trail that has seasonal restrooms available. Be aware that the park has an overly aggressive ranger with whistle at the ready who patrols the park on a golf cart like it is a private fiefdom. If you ride on any sidewalk marked with a “No Bikes” sign or park your bicycles anywhere but the bicycle racks, he will bark at you to move the bicycle to the bicycle rack.
Map and GPX track: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/383394625
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, paved, 11.8 miles from Simmons Road, East Hartford to Bolton Notch, Bolton, plus 2 miles of paths by Rentschler Field
Paved, but with some steep hills and frequent highway noise
The Charter Oak Greenway is not a rail trail, but is a dedicated multi-use path, primarily along Interstate 384 in Manchester and Bolton and I-84 in East Hartford. The Bolton section officially opened in December 2018, where it intersects the Hop River State Rail Trail.
Parking and Trail Access:
East Hartford:Veterans Memorial Park, off Sunset Ridge Road, East Hartford, accessed by taking Silver Lane to Ridgewood Rd. to Sunset Ridge Rd.
Manchester:Manchester Community College, Bidwell Street; Charter Oak Park, off Charter Oak Street, and Mt. Nebo Park off Spring St. A short spur off the trail leads to parking on Camp Meeting Road near Porter St.
Bolton:the greenway loops past a Park and Ride lot off Morancy Street, reached from Rt. 44; Bolton Notch State Park on Rt. 44 in Bolton near the transition to I-384 at the junction with the Hop River State Park Trail.
There is no official website for the greenway, but good information is available here: http://bikeitorhikeit.org/charter_oak_greenway.htm
Road Noise, Pavement Conditions, Elevation Gain, etc.
The trail is far from enjoyable due to the highway noise, which can be deafeningly loud in places where the trail is right next to the highway, separated only by an open fence. When it moves above the highway, away from it, or behind a noise barrier, the road drops to a tolerable level, but the drone is still there. Sometimes there is the odd sensation of pedaling in one direction, while the traffic to the RIGHT of trail is moving in the other direction, making it feel like bicycle and motor vehicles alike are on the wrong side of the road (or cycling in England).
Although the trail is closed to motor vehicles, there are safety concerns when connecting two sections of trail via a road, or when the trail crosses highway on and off-ramps. In these road crossings, it would be all too easy for a cyclist to be struck by a turning car, which has limited sight lines at turns.
I have no knowledge of any trail crime, and have had no issues the handful of times I have cycled on the trail, but some parts of the trail are uncomfortably isolated, out of view of highway or street, with no easy to way avoid a situation if a trail user is bothered by someone with bad intent.
The older sections in Manchester have cracks across the entire trail, some of which are wide, and result in jarring bumps when crossing them on a bicycle. The new section from Manchester to Bolton was smoothly paved in 2019, as was the rehabilitated section in East Hartford from Forbes St. to Simmons Rd. The older section was also overgrown with trees and vines, narrowing the trail too much. There are also sections which have zero shade and do not appear they will ever have shade since the state has not planted trees along it. The flowers along the new Manchester-Bolton section were beautiful in July 2019.
On my return trip from Bolton to Manchester Community College, I took the road and found that more enjoyable than the trail. I had a reasonable shoulder in most locations. I was further away from the drone of the highway. Intersections were predictable with good sightlines, as compared to the trail. Best of all, it was downhill all the way back.
From the trail off Hartford Road in Manchester, just past House Rd., the trail is a steady climb with some steep hills (and a few mild descents along the way), rising in elevation from about 110 ft. to 660 ft. in about 6 miles. From Simmons Road in East Hartford to Hartford Road, the trail has about 200 ft. of elevation gain, most of that near Veterans Memorial Park in East Hartford.
Charter Oak Greenway Connecting Trails
The trail can be confusing to follow as signage is not always clear, and the trail criss-crosses highways. The trail is marked with green “Bike Route” signs and also with small rectangular multi-colored “East Coast Greenway” signs mounted below other signs. At times the trail uses road bridges to cross from one side of the highway to the other, and these connections are not always clear. There are various side trails to connect the trail to the road, and these are not always marked clearly as a side trail.
In East Hartford, just east of the I-84/I-384 merge, there are two junctions: one heads north under both highways to Wickham Park in Manchester, and continues to Burnham St. in Manchester where it ends. From Burnham St. a cyclist can cross the Connecticut River to Windsor Meadows State Park via the bike path across the Bissell Bridge, which carries I-291 across the river. At Burnham St., turn left, then make a quick right on Chappell St. for 2.4 miles. At the T-intersection, turn left on Main Street, and go 0.4 miles. Just before the highway overpass, turn right onto the bike path to access the bridge.
The other junction in East Hartford, just east of the I-84/I-384 merge, is a short spur up a VERY steep hill to Veterans Memorial Park, off Sunset Ridge Dr. I pity anyone who parks there and the final leg of their journey is a heart-pumping hill. Those remaining on the main trail also have to climb a steep hill when heading east from Forbes St. The hill rises about 100 feet in half a mile.
When passing through Manchester Community College, there are two paths when coming off Hillstown Road. One is a scenic loop through the woods, while the other is a short-cut that follows Great Path (the college entry road). Between the two sets of solar panels, there is a short spur that connects out to Founders Drive North and the parking lot near Great Path Academy.
On the eastern side of the Manchester Community College campus, there is a half-mile on-road section consisting of Bidwell Street and Hartford Road. From the campus entrance on Bidwell Street, turn left and go under I-384 for 0.2 miles. Turn right on Hartford Road and go 0.3 miles. Just past House Drive on the left and a car wash on the right, turn right to enter the trail’s off-road section.
In Charter Oak Park, Manchester, there is a spur that connects south under I-384 to Mt. Nebo Park. Near Gardner Street is a spur that connects to West Gardner Street. The final connection is a short spur to a parking area on Camp Meeting Road, near the red bridge that carries the greenway over the road.
Connecting the Dedicated Trail to the Connecticut River Trails
At the west end, the dedicated trail briefly ends at Simmons Road in East Hartford. Following Simmons Road south from the trail by the highway, the trail follows the road with cyclists riding on the shoulder, guided by “Share the Road” signs. Crossing Silver Lane, the trail continues onto the Rentschler Field property where it essentially becomes a wide sidewalk and also dead ends in three locations: two at gates to the Pratt and Whitney plant, and one at a fence by grassy parking for Rentschler Field. There is NO connection to any other roads through this area.
To reach the path along the Connecticut River in East Hartford, there are two options and both involve riding in traffic. From Simmons Road, a cyclist can turn right on Clement Road, and then right again onto Silver Lane (which has a narrow shoulder and a steady flow of traffic). Follow Silver Lane for half a mile, then turn left at the light onto Mercer Ave. Go 0.4 miles, then turn right on Sisson St., and follow that 0.5 miles to the end. Turn left on Main St. at the light, and go 0.2 miles to Willow St. Turn right on Willow St. and follow that under the Rt. 2 overpass to Riverside Dr. Turn left on Riverside Dr., then make a quick right to enter the paved path to the river.
The other option is to follow the East Coast Greenway signs, which involves much more road riding with traffic. At Forbes St., turn left and follow Forbes St. 1.8 miles and then turn right Brewer St. Follow Brewer St. for 1.4 miles and turn right on Main St. for 0.7 miles. Turn left on Willow St. and follow that under the Rt. 2 overpass to Riverside Dr. Turn left on Riverside Dr., then make a quick right to enter the paved path to the river.
Moosup Valley State Park Trail
Plainfield and Sterling, Varied surface from stone dust to rough, 4.8 miles
I have never used this trail, as it is a long drive for me to reach it.
The state plans to spend $2.65 million to resurface the trail, which would take place in 2021.
Construction information: https://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?A=2135&Q=607124
Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail
Windsor Locks and Suffield, paved, 4.5 miles
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.
Middlebury, paved, 4.4 miles
This former trolley line converted to a multi-use path parallels Route 64 in Middlebury and resembles a wide sidewalk. Traffic noise is loud along most of this trail, which is often less than 50 feet from the busy state road. In a few sections, the trail gets away from the road for a few hundred feet and the silence is much appreciated. There are scenic highlights along the way, including several town parks, and across the street views of Quassy Amusement Park and Lake Quassapaug.
The trail extends from Quassapaug Field, just west of Christian Street at the south end of Lake Quassapaug to Route 63 by Woodside Avenue. Parking is available at several locations along the trail, including Quassapaug Field at the western end of the trail, and slightly north of the trail at Memorial Middle School, Memorial Drive, Middlebury, (during non-school hours) at the eastern end of the trail. The trail passes numerous stores, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop and eat.
Unlike a rail trail, there are definitely hills on this trail. Cycling west to east, my GPS recorded 280 feet of elevation gain and 540 feet of descending. Of course, the numbers should be reversed when traveling east to west. Most of that descent (or climb) is concentrated in the 3-mile section from slightly west of Rt. 188 to Rt. 63 with a 300-foot drop from Rt. 188 to Rt. 63.
This page is from 2001 when the trail was not finished, so some details are outdated, but the map is accurate: http://www.ct.gov/dot/LIB/dot/documents/dbikes/088.pdf
The Trail Link page is the best place for trail information:
Norwalk River Valley Trail
Norwalk, paved, 2.6 miles, and Wilton, gravel, 5.7 miles
This trail along the Route 7 corridor will eventually be 37 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 2018 with construction expected to take another 10 to 15 years. Website: http://www.nrvt-trail.com/
Quinnebaug River Trail
Killingly, 4 miles,
Sue Grossman Still River Greenway
Torrington and Winsted, paved, 2.9 miles
This rail trail runs parallel to Rt. 8 and Winsted Road.
Trail map: http://www.torringtonct.org/Public_Documents/TorringtonCT_Engineering/Published%20Maps/Sue%20Grossman%20Greenway.pdf
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
Naugatuck Valley Greenway
The Naugatuck Valley Greenway is a proposed 44-mile multi-purpose trail along the Naugatuck River from Derby to Torrington. There is a 1.1-mile section in Naugatuck from River Street to Maple Street. There is a half-mile section in Beacon Falls along North Main Street. Watertown has a 0.3 mile section.
Construction progress information at http://naugatuckriver.net/index.php/greenway/construction-progress/
Greenway plans may be read at http://nvcogct.org/content/2010-nrg-routing-studies
Valley Greenway, aka, Derby Greenway and Ansonia Riverwalk
Derby and Ansonia, paved, 2.5 miles, paved
Part of the Naugatuck Valley Greenway, 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
Map and brochure of the first trail section: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/wallingford/alt/RecTrails_WA3_Alt_6-2-16.pdf
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
Westchester, N.Y., paved, 22 miles
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
Westchester, N.Y., Eastview to the Bronx County line, paved, 14 miles
Putnam Trailway, Putnam County, New York
From the Westchester border to Brewster Village, paved, 12 miles
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.
Hopewell Junction, N.Y. to the Walkway Across the Hudson, paved, 13 miles
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.
Poughkeepsie to Lloyd (Highland), N.Y., paved, 1.3 miles
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.
From the Walkway Across the Hudson to Tony Williams Park in Lloyd, N.Y., paved, 2.5 miles
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.
10.7 miles from Wassaic, N.Y. to Millerton, N.Y., and 3.7 miles from Undermountain Road to Copake Falls, N.Y., paved
These sections do not connect.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
Ulster County, N.Y. (west of the Hudson River)
Gardiner to south of Kingston, N.Y., 24 miles
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
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 online when I have checked, but I purchased it at REI in Norwalk.
Check with the publisher directly for information:
The website as of May 2018 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 older edition 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.