Norwottuck Rail-Trail (Mass Central Section)

Trail Map

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Stretching east from Northampton, the 10-mile Mass Central Section of the Norwottuck Rail-Trail connects the towns of Northampton, Hadley and Amherst. Part of the Connecticut River Greenway State Park, the route takes in a variety of landscapes, from rural farmland to residential neighborhoods and light industrial districts.

You'll set out across New England's longest river, the Connecticut, on a magnificent 1,492-foot iron bridge. (Head west to pick up the Francis P. Ryan Section of the Norwottuck Rail-Trail. Pay attention to the detour signs, which guide you to a safe track crossing until an underpass can be built.) This span parallels Calvin Coolidge Bridge, named for the mayor of Northampton who would become the country's 30th president. Once you're across the river, look for Mount Holyoke rising in the distance. Approaching Hadley, the trail parallels State Route 9 through farmland. In town, you'll pass the former Hadley railroad station and wind through historic Hadley Commons, where farm animals once grazed.

About 3 miles along, you'll reach a bicycle and inline skate rental shop beside an ice cream and smoothie bar. Nearby is the Hampshire Mall; shoppers will delight in direct bicycle access to the stores. After the mall, the trail continues until the Belchertown trailhead, at which point you come to State Route 116. Here you'll have an opportunity to hop off the trail for a short trek north into Amherst, home to the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College.

Just shy of downtown, a connector trail leads to the 2-mile UMass bikeway, a student commuter path. The onward Norwottuck Rail-Trail crosses beneath SR 116 to the Station Road trailhead and Amherst College on the left. Station Road used to mark the end of the trail, but today an extension stretches another mile east along an active rail corridor. Along the way, two trestle bridges carry you over Mill River and East Street, and you will find connecting trails to the Southeast Street access point and parking lot, as well as to hiking trails.

The trail's final stretch skirts wetlands and ponds that promise excellent bird-watching. Along this section you can access the Caroline Arnold Walking Trail, which has a bird-blind.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the Northampton trailhead at Elwell State Park, take Interstate 91 to Exit 19 and continue straight from the ramp onto Damon Road. After about a block, turn right into the trailhead parking lot at Elwell State Park.

Amherst offers a choice of parking locations: near the town common and town hall, within easy reach of the Belchertown trailhead at State Route 116. To reach trailhead parking at Southeast Street and Mill Lane, follow State Route 9 to Southeast Street. Turn right and proceed about a mile.

The Station Road trailhead lies 1 mile farther east; follow Southeast Street to Station Road and turn left into the parking lot.


Brian's Review

   November, 2015 by thedirtybirdman

This is a great trail. I ride this about 2-3 times a month and it simply beautiful. the pavement is great and there is many places to take breaks and enjoy the view. read more

AWSOME trail!

   September, 2015 by dc54

We rode from Belchertown to Northhampton and back. It's a wonderful trail, paved, smooth and well marked. There are several bridges and tunnels along the way including the old railroad trestle across the Connecticut river. Spent a few hours hanging in more

Extraordinary Ride

   August, 2015 by rbsullivanjr

I rode this trail 28 Aug 2015, and it was an amazingly wonderful ride. I started in Belchertown. The first mile or so of the trail is older surface, but still very smooth. There were a few minor depressions, no root bumps. But after the first mile, at more