The Farmington Canal towpaths and Canal Lines (The former New Haven and Northampton Railroad Co) have become The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (over eighty miles) and Farmington River Trail (eighteen mile loop). This long distance recreational Greenway has been designated a Community Millennium Trail under the federal Millennium Trails Initiative. It stretches about 80.4 miles from New Haven, Connecticut to the Massachusetts border.. There are road crossings and also gaps that require detours around unconnected sections, the largest gap being a nine-mile stretch that runs from southern Farmington, through Plainville into northern Southington.
The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail passes through through urban, suburban and rural areas of Southern Connecticut and the Farmington Valley. The Farmington River trail passes the villages of Unionville and Collinsville and the towns of Burlington and Canton.
Farmington Greenway Trail Connections
While both trails have morphed into mostly paved commuter and recreational corridors, they connect and are adjacent to miles of fat tire mountain biking trails. The non-profit Winding Trails Recreation Association offers miles of dirt singletrack from beginner to advanced experiences as well as events like the FAT TIRE CLASSIC. These trails can be accessed near the Brickyard Trailhead via a spur off of Brickyard Road (mountain bikes required).
Farmington Greenway Trails
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail: Farmington to Simsbury
The following ride features a 9.6 mile uninterrupted section (19.2 miles round-trip) of the multi-use Farmington Canal Heritage Trail that runs from Farmington through Avon to Simsbury, Connecticut. It is an easy, flat ride and the perfect family friendly paved bicycle ride. This stretch of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail was one of the first sections to be paved. Any type of bike is suitable.
This picturesque trail delights with riverside views, historic buildings and canal era locks and aqueducts.
If you park at the Brick Yard Trailhead and ride back a mile across Rt.4 to the 400 ft. long, 85 ft. high steel bridge, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Farmington River and town of Farmington. There are benches at scenic spots along the way to rest and take a break. All trail users will enjoy the profusion of spring and summer wildflowers along the route. At mile 3, you can find restrooms at the Thompson Road Trailhead.
At Avon, the trail passes through a 50 ft. long, rounded arch tunnel (under Rt.44) that was built in 1912. Nearby are historic industrial buildings, houses, antique shops, art galleries and restaurants. Visible along the way are historic buildings, canal locks, iron bridges, stone arches and other reminders of earlier days.
After the tunnel, the trail winds along the river again, eventually passing by several small bogs where the trail crosses into Simsbury. From this point, trail users who wish to continue north on the trail must negotiate a 2 mile stretch of highway.
Farmington River Trail
The Farmington River Trail follows the path of the old “Canal Line” railroad. For the best of both worlds, you can access either the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail or the Farmington River Trail from the trailhead at Tunxis Meade Park in Farmington (about 2 miles south of the Brickyard trailhead).
Explore and try biking a section of both trails, or access the Farmington River Trail about 100 feet from the Brick Yard Trailhead. It loops to the west off the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway and travels from Farmington through Unionville, Burlington, Collinsville and Canton before re-connecting with the main trail in Simsbury. Most of the route is now paved. About 3.5 miles are surfaced with stone dust.
Passing through quiet, scenic and historic central Connecticut, the trail follows a trade route between central Massachusetts and the Long Island Sound first used by Native Americans. It also follows corridor of the defunct The Farmington Canal, also known as the New Haven and Northampton Canal. It was at one time, New England's longest canal. In 1822, it was proposed that a canal be dug for water transportation as a route to bypass the Connecticut River traffic through Hartford. The project began on July 4, 1825 and was completed in 1835.
The waterway stretched 87 miles from New Haven to Northampton, boasting 28 locks and three aqueducts. It was later replaced by the railroad in 1848. The railroad continued to operate until the 1980s, "when the railroad rights-of-way were abandoned". Railroad service was discontinued over most of the canal line and central New England by the late 1980s.
Locks 12 and 14
The Farmington Canal Lock No. 12 in Cheshire, Connecticut, and the Farmington Canal Lock No. 14 in Hamden, Connecticut are historical highlights along the trail.
The Farmington Canal State Park Trail forrms a portion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in the towns of Cheshire and Hamden. The developed section of the trail within the state park boundaries runs 5.5 miles south from Cornwall Street in Cheshire to Todd Street in Hamden and includes the historic restored Lock 12, located south of Brooksvale Road in Cheshire.
It is the "best-preserved relic of Connecticut's canal era. Here, a trailside museum featuring Lock 12 is restored and functioning, along with the lock keeper's house. The museum houses "tools and implements of the canal era and wares manufactured in Cheshire during that time. The museum is open on a limited basis - usually the first Sunday of every month and by appointment. Call ahead to check on times.
Lock 14 is still recognizable; and while much of the original stonework of the lock remains, the walls have collapsed, and the inside of lock 14 is dry. It's remains can be seen in the ditch next to the paved trail. The lock keeper's house is still standing, Built in 1828, it sits in front of what's left of Lock 14.
For more information:
Farmington Valley Trails Council, Inc.
Farmington Canal State Park