Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Willimantic, Connecticut were the state’s rail “hubs,” over a century ago. Most of the old railbed of from Hartford, Providence and Fishkill rairoad line that ran from Hartford to Willimantic has been converted into a 20-mile long Rails To Trails linear, multi-use recreation path
It's mostly a wide, level path with a crushed stone surface that gently curves and follows the Hop River through the Central Connecticut countryside. While much the Hop River State Park Trails offers a serene and wooded bicycling experience – the trees forming a canopy ovehead; at times you'll travel past modern day "burbs" and under concrete arched highway bridges. Ocassionally, old stone walls, appear beneath the dense cover of oak and spruce trees and wind through the woods indiciating that the entire area was once open farmland. At times you'll spot old telephone poles and remnants of railroad trestles.
The trail crosses the Hop River several times, past and through state parks and natural areas. You'll bicycle through narrow cool, moist and shady "gorges" blasted out of the local angled, gray schist. At times the high, sloping, raised railbeds, often several hundred feet wide at the base, tower above the land offering sweeping views of the Hop River Valley and streams tumbing over the boulders below.
The wildlife habitat is quite varied - a rafter of wild turkey may cross your path; you may startle a deer, and the list of our fine feathered friends that rustle in the underbrush, flit amongst the tree canopy, hop along the river rocks is too long to recount here.
Trail conditions vary seasonally, however all in all it's a pretty mountain bike ride that's not just for "locals". The trail endpoint in Willamantic is not really the "end". Bike over the newly contsructed trail bridge that leads over the Willamantic into Connecticut's Thread City.
The Hop River State Park Trail Bridge bridge now allows trail enthusiasts to continue into downtown Willamantic and it's connection with the northern portion of the Air Line Trail, or head west along the Air Line Rail Trail all the way into East Hampton., CT.
Mountain Bike Rails To Trails - Hop River State Park Trail
For a fairly continuous 12 mile route, the best place to begin your bike ride is at the Vernon Rails-to-Trails Park at the Manchester town line, on Church Street and head eastward. From the trail terminus in Manchester to the Vernon Town line, the surface is hard-packed dirt. The trail passes by Valley Falls Park and Hop River and Bolton Notch state parks.
The Rockville Spur consists of 4.1 miles of trail that splits from the Hop River Park Trail at Warren Ave and heads north towards historic downtown Rockville. This spur includes a ride over a footbridge that takes you over the Tankerhoosen River.
Vernon, Bolton, Andover, Coventry
Vernon to Burnap Brook Road, Andover: Bicyclists will enjoy long, scenic stretches that traverse parkland with few intersections. The trail has been improved with a solid, stone-dust surface, signage, bridges and parking lots.
Great for mountain bikes. Several new bridges along this stretch have been constructed by trail crews within the last few years. The trail parallels the Hop River just southeast of Bolton Notch. The river flows from its source at Bolton lake for 16 miles to the junction with the Willimantic River. Look for small waterfalls along the trail, especially near Burnap Brook Road at the confluence with Burnap Brook.
Several new bridges along this stretch have been constructed by trail crews within the last few years. The trail parallels the Hop River just southeast of Bolton Notch. The river flows from its source at Bolton lake for 16 miles to the junction with the Willimantic River.
Look for small waterfalls along the trail, especially near Burnap Brook Road at the confluence with Burnap Brook. This stretch is cool and very scenic.
Coventry, Willimantic River
Start this section at Flanders River Road, Columbia. It travels over the Hop River State Park Trail Bridge that crosses the Willimantic River in Windham. Connections from this point lead to downtown Willimantic.
Hop River State Park Trail Connections
National Greenway Trails
National East Coast Greenway (ECG)
The Hop River Trail, is a key link in the National East Coast Greenway trail system. It connects with the 5-mile Vernon Rail Trail north of Bolton Notch, CT. The Rockville Spur Trail meets the Hop River Park Trail at Warren Avenue and heads northwards into Rockville, CT.
Historic : Rails To Trails
Airline State Park Trail
The Air Line South connects with the Air Line North and the Hop River State Park Trails in downtown Willimantic.
Charter Oak Greenway
On road route constructed by CT DOT that parallels Route 384 in East Hartford and Manchester. The Charter Oak Greenway spans 16.6 mi. from Hungerford St., just north of Capitol Ave. (Hartford) to Hop River State Park Trail, just south of Bolton Notch. It's a key link for those who wish to commute to Hartford on foot, or especially by bicycle.
In Connecticut, the "Age of Rail" began in the 1840s. Back in the day, only 27 of Connecticut's 168 towns were without rail service – and every one of these was a small, rural, hill community like Goshen, Bethlehem, Voluntown, or Union. Today, railroad relicts remain on the land, inviting you to learn about this fascinating era of the American Industrial Revolution in Central Connecticut
The Hop River State Park Trail follows the route of the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill line from Hartford to Willimantic which was completed in 1849. Freight trains used the line through the 1960s. The last train ran on September 29, 1970.
Along the route, there are several Hop River Trailheads with parking.
Trail Start point: Colonial Rd. and Parker St. (Manchester) and Columbia Ave./CT 66 at the Willimantic River bridge (Willimantic)
Trail End point: Columbia Ave. / CT 66 at the Willimantic River bridge (Willimantic)
Connecticut Dept. Of Energy & Environmental Protection: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP