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The Air Line State Park Trail winds nearly 55 miles from the northeast corner of Connecticut, where the state borders Massachusetts, down to East Hampton in the heart of the state. The pathway is nearly seamless, with only one major gap through Putnam. Over the state border, you can make a contiguous connection to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, which heads more than 20 miles east to Franklin, Massachusetts.
The rail-trail showcases the engineering behind the Air Line Railroad, laid down through this hilly region in 1873 as part of a direct route between Boston and New York. As the railroad’s name implies, the tracks ran flat and straight, like a line in the air. The Air Line employed the finest trains of the day, featuring the Pullman Palace Car, marketed as the White Train for its luxurious white-and-gold decor.
Northern Section: East Thompson to Thompson
If you begin your adventure on the trail’s northern end, note that parking is not available at the tip. Instead, find parking 0.5 mile farther at the intersection of New Road and Thompson Road in East Thompson. From there, you’ll head southwest on the trail. The trail feels completely secluded, as it has few entry points and no view of the roads or sound of traffic for miles.
A word of caution about the trail’s surface, however: The original ballast covers this 6-mile northern section and it becomes bumpy and rocky at various points. Riders often have to dismount due to the uneven nature of the ballast, so a fat-tire bicycle is highly recommended. The trail ends in the southern outskirts of Thompson, near the border of neighboring Putnam.
A gap of 7.5 miles lies between the northern and southern sections of the Air Line State Park Trail. Pick up the pathway again at the intersection of Averill Street and Railroad Street in Pomfret Center, a small village nestled within the larger Pomfret, one of the oldest towns in the state with its incorporation in 1713.
Southern Section: Pomfret Center to East Hampton
From Pomfret Center, you’ll follow the pathway just over 19 miles southwest to Willimantic, skirting Mashamoquet Brook State Park, Natchaug State Forest, and Goodwin State Forest, which offer numerous recreational options such as hiking and equestrian trails, camping, and wildlife viewing.
When you arrive in downtown Willimantic, you’ll find that the trail ends at Jillson Square Park, but with a short bit of on-road riding, you can pick up the trail again just south of the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Drive. Traveling west along the Willimantic River, you’ll see the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in 0.8 mile. For history buffs, its vintage locomotives and railroad buildings are well worth a visit. The museum is also adjacent to a juncture with the Hop River State Park Trail, a scenic route heading 20 miles northwest to Manchester. Both trails are part of the East Coast Greenway, which will connect communities along the Eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.
Heading southwest down the trail, you’ll arrive at a fork in Hebron after 8.3 miles. Keep right to stay on the main Air Line State Park Trail; the other option is a 3.5-mile spur to Colchester. Though the trail is primarily dirt here, this section offers many attractions that make it worthwhile. From the fork, it’s 1.4 miles to beautiful Grayville Falls Town Park, which offers waterfalls and wooded hikes. Nature abounds as you continue along the corridor, and you’ll have access to Raymond Brook Marsh and Salmon River State Forest.
Numerous bridges offer lovely views, including the Blackledge and Jere-my River crossings. When you reach the Bunk Hill Road trailhead parking, you can take an on-road side excursion of 1.4 miles to reach the Comstock Covered Bridge. Originally built in 1791, it’s one of the last remaining historical covered bridges in the state.
From the Bunk Hill trailhead, you’re only 3.6 miles from trail’s end, but there’s still more to see. You’ll cross the Rapallo and Lyman Viaducts, which were originally built in the 1870s and offer stunning views of the surrounding hills and forests. The trail ends in East Hampton, once known as Bell Town for the 30 bell-making companies that settled here.
On the western end of the trail, a 2.3-mile segment opened in the summer of 2018 in Portland. Known as the Portland Air Line State Trail, it starts on Depot Hill Road near Old Middletown Road and ends adjacent to the YMCA Camp Ingersoll. An additional short segment connecting this section to the rest of the trail in East Hampton is in the works and is expected to be completed in 2019.
With such a long trail, there are numerous parking locations; below are a few options.
To reach the northernmost parking area: Take I-395 to Exit 50, and head east on CT 200. In 0.6 mile, turn left onto CT 193 N, and go 1.6 miles. Turn right onto E. Thompson Road, and go 3.1 miles. Parking is available at the trailhead near the intersection of New Road and E. Thompson Road.
To reach trailhead parking in Pomfret: Take US 44 to Pomfret (about 40 miles east of Hartford), and turn north to remain on US 44. In 0.6 mile turn left onto Railroad St., then immediately take a right onto Averill St. The trail parking lot is on your left.
To reach the Air Line State Park Trail in Willimantic: Take I-384 to US 6, and continue east on US 6 for 10.8 miles. Continue straight onto CT 66, and go 1.9 miles. Turn right onto Cards Mill Road. In 1 mile, turn left onto Baker Hill Road (which becomes Kingsley Road in Lebanon). In 0.6 mile, the Air Line State Park Trail crosses the road; park along the right side of the road.
To reach the southernmost parking location in East Hampton: Take CT 2 to Exit 13 and follow CT 66 south 4 miles. Turn left onto CT 196/Lakeview St. and drive 0.5 mile, then turn left onto Flanders Road and drive 0.25 mile. Turn right onto Smith St.; the trailhead is on the left.
In April 2018 the Windham Town Council approved $1,300,000 for rehabilitation on the Willimantic River bridge behind Mackeys. This would include 800 feet of trail. It was put out for bids due on July 26th. I haven't seen any work yet. There is still the bridge over the Hop River which looks to be in terrible shape and may never be repaired.
I just road the Airline Trail across the Willimantic River and then toward the newer ending at Mackie's Ag. Store near the Columbia town line. It was in fine shape. However, what I was looking for is evidence that the work on the Willimantic River bridge was started. I found nothing underway. I road to the easterly end of the Hop River Trail hoping that it was starting at that end. No such luck. Does anyone out there have any information on when this section will be started?
The Portland section does not connect up to the East Hampton section and the rest of the Air Line Trail. I found out today when I thought I was going to ride from Portland to the Air Line Trail North. I only rode 2 miles and the trail abruptly ended.
The Air LIne Trail South is now open through part of Portland. Parking is off of Middle Haddam Rd. in Portland.
After heavy rain on April 16th, the trail along the Willimantic River is temporarily flooded and impassable,
A note to everyone: The 1 mile section of the Airline Trail From Route 149 in Colchester to the Blackledge River bridge is now resurfaced. The trail is now finished from Alden's Crossing in East Hampton to South Brook Road in Hampton, where a 3.5 mile stretch of rough gravel slows you down, before the trail finishes in Promfret Station at Route 169. Get out and ride!!
Incredible ride but recommend a hybrid bike. Otherwise I will be back to do this one again and again!!!
I had a great time riding this trail last Sunday. I started in Pomfret from the old railroad station parking lot on Railroad Street.
I rode 7.5 miles, then reached a very long section which was covered in rocks that were sharp edged, about 1 1/2inches on a side. I took a break and enjoyed the view over the wetland area there. I was just able to ride over that rocky section on my cross bike, but it was a rough and uncomfortable ride. It went on for around three miles!!
I'm curious to know why this one section is prepared so differently from the rest of the trail.
I rated the Air Line trail a 4 of 5 stars. When I previewed my review, it showed more like 15 stars. Why is that?
Was searching high and low for a long trail like this for long runs. Went here for the first time this past weekend and it completely surpassed any expectations I had. Everyone was super friendly! The views were amazing. Will be even more beautiful in the fall. Can't wait to keep running here and bringing my dog along as well!
The Town of East Hampton and the State DEEP have added 1.3 miles of riding to the existing Airline Trail - South. It is hard to see the extension from the current ending on Route 196, but if you cross 196 and divert right and into the fire department parking lot you will find the new section. The new section goes to Alden's Crossing, a 1/2 mile from the intersection of Routes 16 and 66. The parking at the new ending is only marginal, 1-2 cars.
We recently rode from Beaver Hill Road to Old Griffin Road, a section North of Willimantic. Frankly this section was fairly rough, with a lot of loose gravel making for slow going...very different from the lower sections south of Willimantic that are largely cinder. Very rural, tree-lined, would be nice in the Fall. I'm not sure what the other North sections are like, I know there are some upgrades in progress in the various towns.
Trail Report - The section of the Airline Trail from the dirt parking lot on Route 149 to the Blackledge River is currently under construction, about 1and 1/2 miles. You can ride east but not to the west due the resurfacing work.
New Extension Route 196 in East Hampton to Alden's Crossing (1.6 miles), is about 1/2 done. It has the gravel bedding in place but not the stone dust riding surface. The drainage design is poor and there are 4 large wet areas and erosion spots. It is ride-able but not too scenic or any fun.
Was in East Hampton briefly yesterday - it looks as though work is now underway to extend the trail west from the center of East Hampton to Alden's Crossing. Grading had been done and there were new railings on the footbridge east of Alden's Crossing. The next segment will be from Alden's Crossing to the Portland town line, with Portland also beginning work to build out its portion of the trail.
Wonderful news, the bridge is in going north in Thompson,Ct it is in finally. Now you can walk only over the bridge. Soon in the spring you will be able to ride from Putnam to the Mass line.
I started at South Brook ST just west of Route 6. The surface of the trail was improved but with rough rocky gravel (1") on the surface. There was 3 1/2 miles of that, then it changed to a hard packed surface that was fun and easy to ride. I went the remaining 7 miles to Promfret Station, at the Route 169 crossing. From there it was back to the start, just over 11 miles. It was a very pretty ride except for the rough gravel at the start and end of my trip.
The remaining trail to Windham is in fine shape as I have done it on another trip. It is about 6 miles to the Route 6 crossing and another 2.5 to the Frog Bridge in Willimantic.
I hear that a sewer line is to be installed within the last 3 miles of the trail right-of-way in 2017 or 2018. That will complete the trail to the Quinnibaug River in Putnam.
8/27/16 Used my Framed Fat bike and started from East Hampton went out about 8.8 miles and eventually turned around, so roughly a 17mi jaunt … not sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me but is leaving from East Hampton slightly faster with gradual decline vs coming back?? Hard packed gravel just about all the way, hopped on the pavement for 2 minutes over by RT 2 then back on the trail.. I kicked things off around 6:45am and it was quite … by 8:30 there were runners and bikers out there…but never close to “crowded” by East Hampton some parts the trail must be several hundred feet level / above with the tree canopy, was really cool like you are traversing a “spine”. Hope to head back this weekend and see if we can squeeze out a few more miles :)
Looking at a few different maps, it seemed like I could start a ride from Putnam on the Putnam river trail, then pick up Airline after crossing the bridge across from Arch St. But after crossing the river, the improved trail ended quickly at a chain link fence. There was a couple of very rough looking, unimproved trails that could have been Airline, but I was not willing to risk it with no signage and a trail that looked ripe for poison ivy. After I ride back up the full Putnam river trail looking for another link to Airline, I headed back to the car. I decided to head to Pomfret Station to see what the trail looked like there. It was about a 10 min car ride from Putnam. This is where the quality, hard packed gravel trail begins. I only rode south for a mile and a half, being mentally warn out from the experience in Putnam then turned around. This trail was flat, with the exception of the road crossings where the trail rose to meet the crossing. Again, I only saw a very small section of the trail, so I need to go back...starting from Pomfret Center.
The surface of the northern sections of the trail are still being upgraded. Some are in fine shape. I biked the mile from Potter Road to Parker Road on both sides of Rt. 6 in Hampton. The section north of Rt. 6 was not great with gravel but the section south of Rt. 6 was terrible with large stones and I almost had to walk the bike. Youker
It is about 8 miles from Kingsley Road to Route 207. Add about a mile and a half if you start from the trail parking spot off Bridge Street in Willimantic. Pleasant Street in south Willimantic runs parallel to the river and going west runs into Kingsley Road and the trail parking spot. From Kingsley Road to Route 207 the trail is almost continual gentle up hill so if you have a shuttle start at Rt. 207 in the south. Its a great trail with a good pebble surface and mostly shaded. Youker
Both web sites have maps that show the connection in detail. Turn west off Bridge Street on gravel road to Rail Road Museum. You come to the parking area for the trail and the paved trail and sign board. It is .8 mile to the museum and the new bridge and connection to the Hop Trail. Youker
Did a recon of the trail connection on 6/26/16. Found very nice paved trail north of Bridge Street to the junction with the Hop River Trail at the east end of the newly decked river bridge. Nice explanation panel at the bridge, but the site could use finger boards.
Going east towards Willimantic, there is good trail until you get close to Bridge Street where it becomes paved driveway. There is parking there.
At Bridge St., you need to turn left across the railroad track and then right to get to the trail east. But, rather than use Main St. (Rte. 66) through the main business district, you can turn immediately right at the tracks and follow Riverside Drive along the north side of the railroad. This is a one way street back alley with parking along both sides, but leads to Main St. just east of the Frog Bridge. Walk bikes diagonally across the Main St. - Jackson St. intersection brings you to the beginning of the Airline going east. Much safer than Main St.
Recently rode the north section starting near Tuckie Rd in North Windham.
I went a couple of years ago it and was quite rough, washed out, and poorly marked, but with the recent extension of the South section over the Wilimantic river, there have also been MAJOR improvements to the section that used to be called "Airline North" Lots of resurfacing, drainage added, the dodgy looking bridge that looked like it was about to collapse on you is gone.
When I went there were a lot of horse hoof divots, so it was a bit bumpy in places. Still not something I would take a road bike on, but my hybrid with skinny tires and a front suspension handled it well.
They are calling the two sections connected now, but you do have to ride on busy Route 66 for about a mile through downtown Wilmantic, and its not terribly well marked yet. It's not the nicest neighborhood so some people might be a little uncomfortable.
The New extension over the river is really nice, paved, and nearly directly connecting to the Hop river trail.
The portions south will always be one of the best trails in CT. The Lyman viaduct is worth the ride alone. Does have some drainage issues here and there, so be alert especially in mini-canyons created for the railroad.
The bridge over the Willimantic River is open!! It is a beautiful bridge with cement decking.
My friend and I rode this trail in mid-January. While the scenery in the winter is pretty gray, the icicles dripping off the rocks are really cool. With its gradual ascent, the trail provides a decent workout on knobby tires. There were some wet spots and patches of loose gravel. I'd recommend mountain bike tires, or at least, hybrid tires. We started at the parking lot on Flanders Rd. in East Hampton. (The directions from the RTC map are spot on). We ended our ride at the bridge in Lebanon, as there was a sign prohibiting passage. We rode close to 40 miles. If you're looking to eat in town after your ride, I'd recommend Po's Rice and Spice on Main St. It's less than 5 minutes from Flanders Rd.
What a great first experience on a little slice of the trail. We walked about 6 miles with part of it an in and out. We started on Bull Hill road which I believe is in the middle section of the whole trail and headed "down mileage" from 3 to about .5. We then scooted off on to the red and orange county park wood-sy path and back on to the Airline back to Bull Hill road. My husband took the car from that point to meet me and my dog Harley at the River Road bridge. Wooded surroundings around us the whole way over a viaduct included. We saw quite a few of trail users including horseback riders, families with dogs, couples walking, bikes and dog walkers. We were dog walkers. Perfect experience.
Hubby and I rode this today for the first time. We though we were starting on the Colchester extension, turns out when we got home, it was part of the main trail.... Oops. I know we can download the trail map here, but when your out riding and want to be free of technology, a free standing info board would be nice, simply to see where you are. Will be riding again, now that we know
We walked today from Mackeys to the Willimantic River Bridge and it is in place. This part of the trail is paved and in perfect shape. It looks like all they have to do is finish the approaches and we will be able to connect to the southern end of the Air Line trail.
What a wonderful trail.We went from Pomfret Station and rode to Lewis Road. The trail is well maintained and perfect for a bike.We have rode all the way to Willimantic. The only rough part is in the Goodwin State Forest. They had just graded in the week before we used the trail.
The connecting trail between the Airline Trail and the Hop River Trail is almost done. I walked it today and it is beautiful and it is paved!! A tremendous amount of work was done here. Now, to get the decking on the bridge over the Willimantic River.
Work has started on the bridge over the Willimantic River! Maybe we'll have a direct route into Willimantic by Spring?
The trail is being improved daily. It has a new surface from Pomfret Station almost to Goodwin Forest.
It is a pity that some horse riders decided to canter their horses on the freshly laid trail form Covell Road to Pomfret Town Hall. :(
I have been riding the trail for a number of years and as others have mentioned the northern section improvements are really looking good. I positioned a car at the northern end in Thompson near the Mass line. I was driven to East Hampton and dropped off at that end. I used a Salsa Vaya which is an all road bike with 38mm, 1 1/2", 40 psi, tires which is just perfect for this trail. A cyclocross bike would be a good choice for a savvy rider also. Less experienced riders may want a mtb for a few sections. Conditions were really good, totally dry. There is about 4 mile asphalt section in Willimantic and about 8 miles on the road around Putnam. The ride ended up being around 57 miles on my bike computer. The direct route through Putnam is a bit shorter, but I wanted to avoid the traffic. It took just under 5 hours ride time, not counting a few breaks. I wasn't trying to break any records. All in all it was a great experience, with the exception of the Thompson section. This final section needs more work in my opinion, the surface is rough stone and there is much motorcycle and atv activity in the area. A mtb would be better for this section at the moment. I will be reporting these criminals to the DEP. There is also a bridge out but there is a way around it. If you are an experienced rider this is a great ride.
Yesterday I rode the Airline Trail North from Potter Rd. in the Goodwin State Forest to Rt 97. I am used to riding groomed, stone dusted rail tails. I understand that the trail is much better than it used to be, but the ride was not too pleasant--more for mountain bikes. From Potter Rd. to Station Rd. it is just a woods road---no grading or stone dust. From Station Rd. to Rt 97 it is graded, filled and sort of compacted. This section will be very nice when they stone dust it.
I rode this trail again, 2 weeks after I said there was only one section left to improve, and the improvements to that section were underway! The RT 6 underpass is now fixed so you can ride through with no water crossings. DEEP's intention is to have that section graded and toped off in the next week or so.
Dean from DEEP also said the Pomfret to Putnam trail is waiting on town planning for a sewer line through that section, else that would be underway too. He also said funding for the bridge over the Wilimantic River on Airline South was approved, so work on that should begin shortly. Now all we need in the Hop River link and they will all be connected!
Write your local officials and thank them for their support so these projects continue!
Today on the Airline Trail North I was riding on the unimproved section that runs under Route 6 and into the Goodwin State Forest. There was a DEEP person there and he told me that today they were starting the improvements to finish off this section. Also next week they would be finishing up the connector to the Airline Trail South and the Hop River Trail. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime--to be able to ride from East Hampton Center to the Goodwin State Forest!!
I’ve been riding the Airline North trail for about 7 years now, and have enjoyed watching it being reformed from a sometimes barely passible trail to an enjoyable ride through CT forests. This weekend I found that some vast improvements have been made. It is pretty much complete between Willimantic and Parker Rd, and from Route 97 to Pomfret. Lately the Route 97 to Station Rd section has been graded and filled, just awaiting a top dressing. NO MORE WATER HAZARDS! Station Rd to Potter Rd is unfinished but in good condition, leaving the only rough portion between Potter and Parker Rd, about a mile of narrow, rough, and wet terrain. With continuing work, this trail could be as good as, or in some cases better than, the Airline South portion. Lets hear it for DEEP/DPW!
I had heard that there was some work happening on the Air Line North of Putnam, Ct, so I decided to go check it out to see what was new since the last time I was there, probably 2-3 years ago. I learned that Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has published some great new maps of the trail which now show state park facilities (parking lots, signage, etc., (see the CT DEEP Web site for access to those maps) which are very handy in finding access points.
In summary -- a.) between Ct Rte 12 parking lot and a missing bridge 1.5 miles to the north, there has been a significant amount of work done clearing, grading and resurfacing and marking the trail, since my last visit. My best regards and thanks to CT DEEP and local DPW's! It is suitable for mountain bikes or fat bikes - the coarse gravel surface is pretty rough for road or cyclocross bikes. b.) Between Sand Dam Rd and the CT / Mass state line, same story. c.) Between Sand Dam Rd and a point 5 miles to the south (the missing bridge) the trail is as yet unimproved (new signage though) but passable. Best for walking or a fat bike.
Details below -
I parked at the State Park access point on CT route 12, 0.6 mi south of the intersection with CT route 193, north of Putnam. I immediately realized that some work has been done - this is a great parking spot for about a dozen cars, nicely graded and marked. The trail goes north from here. I rode down an access path to the trail and north from there. The surface was a bit disappointing - while the trail itself is nicely cleared, graded, and crowned to improve drainage, the gravel mixture (coarse crusher run?) made travel on my suspended cyclcross bike very rough and annoying. Maybe they will apply some stone dust in the future? In any case, a very nice trail, but for more enjoyment, I should have been on a mountain bike or fat bike.
At 0.6 miles north the trail descends to, and crosses CT route 193 (no parking here) and continues for about another 0.9 mi or so, including an interesting crossing above I-395 Exit 98 ramps via the old RR overpass until at a spot where a small bridge is completely missing. The trail is high on a fill here, so it would be a significant task to descend, cross the brook on foot and climb back up. Not worth it, so it was reverse direction and back to the car. This section of the trail has also obviously been nicely cleared, graded, and crowned to improve drainage - still with that coarse gravel, however.
I drove up to Sand Dam Road where there is parking for about 4 cars, and from here I rode south. From this crossing to the south, the trail is unimproved but passable on a dry day. Quite a bit of the original ballast still in place but there are long pleasant runs on hard packed double track also. I was fascinated to see magnificent old stone walls paralleling the trail deep in the woods very far from access. Heading south, I crossed under Ct Route 193 (no access here), under I-395, and navigated grade crossings at Lowell Davis and Sunset Hill Rds. (both had parking for a couple cars and signage) followed by crossing under CT route 200 (no access) and passing the CT DoT Maintenance Depot. I came to the end - the other side of that missing bridge mentioned above - about 5 miles south of Sand Dam Road. My cyclocross bike and I had had enough of the original ballast at this point so I rode back to the Sunset Hill Rd. crossing and took local paved roads to back north to the East Thompson crossing.
In East Thompson, improvements have obviously been made - there are new signs in place (including a nice display concerning the great train wreck) and parking for maybe a dozen or so cars. I rode north on the trail to go see the Mass /CT state line. This section of the trail has also obviously been nicely cleared, graded, and crowned to improve drainage - still with that coarse gravel, however - more of the same. The side trail to the Mass/CT/RI border marker ("The Triple Point") is now marked and after about another 0.1 on the Air Line there is gate across the trail, and on the other side the surface is less developed. I inferred that this was the CT /Mass state line at about 0.6 mi from East Thompson. Here I reversed direction, and returned to my car at Sand Dam Rd, 1.3 mi to the south, crossing through East Thompson and continuing another 0.7 on the same coarse gravel.
Set out this morning for what I thought would be an 8-9 mile walk, based on some rough estimates and brief conversations with someone familiar with this trail. Ended up being close to 12 miles.
DEEP has been busy this summer resurfacing a good portion of this stretch of the trail, with fresh crushed stone laid, and the surface nicely graded. All but the last few miles near Hampton have been redone.
Be sure to bring your bug spray! This section of the trail is almost completely in woods, and on a hot summer morning, the bugs nearly caused me to give up and make the call of shame to be picked up before my agreed upon time and location. Reapplying OFF every 1/2 hour barely made a difference.
Also make sure to bring a good supply of water, as there are no water sources at all. As I mentioned, this section is longer than I anticipated, and I was pretty dehydrated when I finished!
The walk was beautiful, though. I was really surprised at how few people I saw, but that was actually part of what made it such a good walk. Did see a few bicycles, dog walkers, and a couple on horseback. Everyone was friendly and courteous. I also saw some free range chickens, frogs, chipmunks, and even a deer right in the middle if the trail.
I will definitely do this section again, but probably not until the fall when the bugs won't be as much of a nuisance. And I'll be sure to bring an appropriate amount of water, now that I have a better idea of the mileage!
Started at the parking area just east of the footbridge on Kennedy drive. The entrance to the trail is starting to get a little overgrown... If I hadn't passed by before and known what to look for, it's easy to miss. Steep grade for about 50? Yards then you get to the clearly defined trail (about 2 yards across). Some nice big rocks to get settled in and arrange backpacks, water, start fitness tracking apps, etc.
From there it's all woods. Not cleared. Some washouts from the recent rain, fallen trees, overgrown trails. Hiking/walking only on this section. Lots of mud, but nothing impassable on foot with a good attitude and a good supply of water and bug spray.
Made it from the footbridge in Putnam to Pomfret station in less than an hour and a half, including stops for pictures and losing shoes to mud.
Added bonus... Apple Maps has this trail and I was able to get service at all times. The two times when I was unsure as to whether I was still on the trail or not were easily confirmed by checking Maps on my iPhone and looking for the DEEP orange tags that mark the trail. Great hike, will definitely do this one again!
I have run all and biked most of the Airline Trail North and South and it is a great place to be during any season. I have really enjoyed watching the trail improve over the years, and am excited by the improvements around Willimantic. Here is a link to my overall running map that shows the trail work arounds required to go end to end. At last viewing the Putnam end is still a place one would have to drag tones bike.
Also here is a write up of the day I ran the South section end to end then biked back. Lots of fun!
My wife and I biked the eastern section from Route 207, northeastward to the trail's end at the bridge remains just west of Willamantic. We then biked back and rode down the Colchester spur to get sandwiches, and then up again and back onto the main trail back to the parking lot on Route 207.
We did the ride on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late July on our hybrids. We were surprised at how few cyclists and pedestrians we encountered. We enjoyed the experience immensely. It is a great trail. It is well maintained in most sections. It traverses very pretty and seemingly sparsely settled countryside, both wooded and open. Road intersections are few and most of those roads are very low volume. We had intended to ride the entire trail, but we just ran out of time. We will return soon, earlier in the day, to ride the entire trail, including the western section.
The Colchester spur was slightly less enjoyable than the main trail, but still well worth riding. It's a bit narrower in places than the main trail and is perhaps a bit less scenic overall. Colchester has a very nice town green and places to get sandwiches to enjoy on that green.
Towards the eastern end of the main trail, the surface is noticably rougher due to horse traffic.
This is one of the very best unpaved trails we've ridden in New England, and we can't wait to return to ride the rest of it.
I spoke with the Town Engineer in Windham and looked that the construction plans for this project. Funding is holding up the bidding process. If CT DOT provides the funding in Oct. 2014, the project will be bid in November and work done over the spring and summer of 2015.
Along with the Willy River bridge the project will include a trail from Route 6 on the Columbia/Windham line to 150 yard short of Bridge ST (RT 32). This will almost link the Airline Trail with the Hop River Trail, about 1/2 mile and two bridges are missing. I was told that CT DOT has an engineering study underway to replace the two missing bridges.
Once the Willy River and trail are done in 2015, riders will be able to cross Bridge ST, follow River St along the tracks to the Frog Bridge. There they can cross RT 6 and be at the start of the Airline Trail-North.
Lastly, Windham Public Works has a deal with Chaplin to lay down a gravel base and stone dust surface from RT 203 to the Chaplin/Hampton line. Work could be done in the fall of 2014.
WOW! If I have it right by the spring of 2016 riders will be able to start in East Hampton and go all the way to the Goodwin State Forest, about 30 miles of riding. Let it be so.
UPDATE: While I was out riding this section again, 6.5 miles, I ran into the 2 DEEP workers who are putting the final grade on the trail. Their goal to finish the final grade and put a processed stone gravel base with a top dressing of stone dust by 2015.
The missing bridge, 3/4 mile north of RT 193 still needs a DOT condition inspection and an engineered design, before construction can start. That puts completion off until 2016.
This trail is still a decent ride with just a little extra work to get around the missing bridge. Stay patient and it will come.
The DEEP workers also noted that there is work going on the Pomfret section of the trail. I have not been out he for a while. Can someone pass on a report?
This web site states that it's about 20 miles. This is a little deceiving. I started in E. Thompson, CT and rode the trail West. It took me to the north side of Putnam for only about 7 miles. Overall, it's smoother than the MA section of the trail; which I did last week, although the first 1.25 miles weren't great (deep railroad stone and not smooth). But after that it's really good.
It appears that a lot of work is being done on the trail making it pretty wide and quite smooth. I liked this part of it. There was one small section where there isn't a bridge so I had to follow a smaller trail down and over a stream and then back up.
Now that I know this trail "restarts" in Putnam, I'm going to try that one, too. I'm going to start at the Price Chopper (251 Kennedy Dr, Putnam, CT 06260).
There is parking in East Hampton at the end of the trail but the official site doesnt mention it for some reason. Its off RT 196 & Main St. Nice sign for the trail. Parking for 20 & handicapped & a plug in for electric cars. Ice cream & restaurant just accross the street. Short steep uphill on packed stone to 1st bridge, best to walk across. The trail s rel. flat with good to fair sections, some washouts on 8/1/14. Gates are well marked for road crossings. Just keep following, kiosks along the way. Once you hit the Park & Ride lot, leave lot turn RIGHT go uohill under highway and look on Right for access, loose gravel, narrow bridge. You are mostly under the trees all the way,some swamps on both sides. After Kingsly Road the trail will end at the river and you cannot cross. Turned around & headed back to gate, rode uphill (per a locals directon) and followed to Package Store). Bear LEFT to take you into Williamantic. Food nearby. There are some sections where you can coast donwnhill for some time. Overall this was a pretty boring ride. I found the rail head for the Northern section and will do just to say I made the trip, but wouldn't do the Souther Section again, though IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE THESE TRAILS FOR EVERYONES USE
My favorite place to start bike riding for this section of the trail is where it crosses CT Rte 203, N. Windham Road, about a quarter mile south of where Rte 203 crosses US Rte 6 in North Windham. There is space for a few cars, but usually I’m the only one there. I then ride a short section, about a mile long, to the west, towards the Rt 6 interchange and Tuckie Road, then turn around and ride back, then across rte 203 and east toward Goodwin Conservation Center, about 6 miles away.
The short section between Rte 203 and the Rte 6 interchange is nicely finished with stone dust, and is easily negotiable with a cyclocross or mountain bike. With no road crossings, and great scenery including the Windham White Pine Bog, it is a good for families for a short outing in a wooded setting. At the end there is a short section of pavement which follows Tuckie Road out to the US Rte 6 crossing where the paved trail continues in a more developed setting to the center of Willimantic.
Heading east from the rte 203 crossing, the trail is finished with stone dust for the first quarter mile or so a little past the Boulevard Road bridge. Just past this bridge, eastbound on the left is a big open area where the North Windham train station used to be, I think. The trail conditions deteriorate to a mixture of dirt, “crusher run” gravel, and larger stones, and stays that way all the way to Potter Road in the Goodwin Conservation Center, in Hampton, CT. This is easily passable and pleasant on a mountain bike, slightly more work on a cyclocross bike. I do not recommend a road bike. My preference is to ride this on my Salsa Mukluk fat bike, which makes the ride most pleasant and keeps me smiling the whole way. The trail is uphill to the east - a 250 foot climb in 5.5 miles, graded for a railroad, of course. Expect to see equestrians also, this seems to be great trail for horses!
Along the way there are some very small washouts, and in some of the rock cuts 3-5 miles in, the trail can get very wet and it doesn't ever really dry out. For the last mile between Clarks Crossing, under US 44 and out to Potter Road, prepare for wet and gloppy conditions - for that reason, do this section only in dry conditions where the standing water and mud is at a minimum. It never really dries out on this section. In hot humid conditions, be prepared for a serious bug fest here.
I love to ride the various sections of the Airline not only for the tremendous woodland scenery but also to imagine the historical aspects - thinking, while I’m riding, about who worked on the tremendous cuts and fills and the beautiful stone arches that are seen in the middle of the woods. What was it like in Connecticut when this railroad was the prime means of transportation for the local farmers and citizens in the late 1800’s early 1900’s? This is another piece of one of Connecticut's finest gems, rough cut.
On a late November 2013 weekend I road MT bike on the most northerly section of the AT-North from Route 193 in Thompson to East Thompson to the MA state line, about 6 miles. The DEEP has an improvement project underway. A final grade is cut but no top dressing or ware surface has been put down on the northerly 5 miles of the trail. Plans are to push the brushing and rough grading through to RT 193 this spring. What is missing is a bridge about 3/4 miles north of RT 193.
Once at RT 193 the grade needs to be cut down to allow an at grade crossing. This will allow the AT-North to go to the junction with RT 12 in Mechanicsville where there will be a parking area.
I rode the easterly section of this trail from Route 207 on 4/13/14 to the Willimantic town line where the bridge is still out over the Willimantic River (8 miles). I found the trail was finally finished from Cook Hill Road to Cards Mill Road. It now has the stone dust surface as is found on the remainder of the trail. Except for a mistake in not putting in drainage 300 feet East of Cook Hill Road the ride was just fine.
Local rumor has it that the missing bridge over the Willy River will be installed in 2014 by the consortium of DEEP, Windham Regional Planning Agency and Town of Lebanon. If this turns out to be true, then there will finally be a connection with the airline Trail-North. Let's hope the trail gods make this happen.
The north end of this trail approaches Massachusetts through East Thompson, CT. There are no tracks there today, but it was once the junction between the mainline going from Putnam, CT east to Blackstone, MA and Boston with a branchline running to Southbridge, MA. In the early morning of Dec. 4, 1891, the only US train wreck involving 4 trains occurred here. Two were freight trains and two express passenger trains. Only three people were killed. For a more detailed account go to Wikipedia "East Thompson Train Wreck".
Last weekend I road a nice section of the trail with my wife who has a hybrid bike and I was very pleasantly surprised at the very nice trail surface.
We road out and back from cook hill rd to Lake Aniston and really enjoyed the fall foliage.
I haven't been on this trail for many years and it was definitely mt bike riding then but I could have brought my road bike and been fine at least on this section.
This section has a gradual rise to one of the road crossings and then a bit of a decent to the area of the lake.
I started at The Pomfret "Train Station" which is actually a very nice little picnic area and kiosk built by the the state as part of the Airline Trail State Park. It's where the railroad used to cross US Route 44 and CT Route 169, a couple miles south of the Pomfret Green. I rode east and found the trail firm, mostly dry and easily rideable on a mountain bike until passing Holmes Road, where the trail has literally not been touched since the rails were removed - trees down, overgrown, wet. I'm hearing faint word that development is planned for this section pending acquisition of a short section just west of Putnam, CT. Anyway, from Holmes Road to Putnam is basically not passable. Walking would be a chore.
Returning to the Pomfret train station, I rode east and found that some improvement had taken place there from my last outing - overgrowth had been removed, and I think more stone dust had been put down - I found the conditions quite enjoyable on a mountain bike for the 2 miles to the eastern Rte 44 overpass at the Pomfret Town Hall. There is a little access trail built as an Eagle Scout project here at the town hall, and parking is available - this is an excellent access spot also. South of this Rte 44 crossing, the trail is passable, but conditions are variable all the way to Hampton's Goodwin Conservation Center.
In summary - From Holmes road to the WEST - good riding on a mountain bike. The trail is mostly wooded with occasional glimpses of fields and distant tree lines. Fantastic to ride this in October, of course. Another trail with great potential slowly being realized as it is being continuously developed.
I did the 10 miles from East Hampton to Route 85. Trail surface was good most of the way with just a few eroded spot with soft sand. One of the interesting things about this trail is the excellent surveying, engineering and construction almost a 150 years ago of a totally level, straight railroad right of way in the very hilly landscape of eastern Connecticut. The engineers had to match the amount of stone they took out of the cuts to build the very high embankments. The trail was well mowed. Some of the space at the gates was narrow but you are supposed to get off your bike and walk at the road so you do not damage a passing car when it hits you! There are mile markers but some of the numbers were missing. It would be nice if the maps included the miles so you could plan your trips. I passed one rider who was walking the horse off the trail on the side grass and I thanked her. I have heard that the eastern end of the trail has been extended a bit to the center of the town of East Hampton past the parking lot at Smith Street. The turnoff for the spur to Colchester is not marked.
Beautiful trial in the spring time; trail is open. In the Summer the trial gets closed in by all the brush. Makes it hard for two way traffic; especially with a side by side trike.
Wouldn't take that much effort to mow it back at least once a year. Other than these issues the trail is very shady with some rough spots. Space to get by the gates would be appreciated too.
I followed the directions and parked in the state park. Road down Potter Road a few hundred yards and found the trail. This is a mountain bike trail and being on a hybrid I turned back after about 1 mile, fearing a flat tire.
The trail is again boring with nothing but trees and shade from horizon to horizon.
I like trails that have plenty of scenery, interesting sites, bridges, tunnels, etc. Also it would be nice to know if riding the trail from the state park should one go north or south. From the road it looked the same and I choose north. Maybe I am missing something here. Next time I will bring the mountain bike and give it more distance.
First - The part of the trail is only 7 miles from parking lot to parking lot.
How it is stated that this trail is 22 miles long is a mystery. I met another couple that had just finished in one direction and they were asking me where the trail continued. Between the 3 of us we couldn't find it.
Second, the trail is NOT for road bikes, OK for hybrids and best for mountain bikes. Some soft sand and lots of gravel.
Third: I found the trail to be BORING. Little or no scenery. Just cut through the woods, completely shaded and it was a little cool and I wanted sun.
As I understand it from a recent public meeting, resurfacing of part of the trail with aggregate and stone dust is supposed to start this fall (2013) under a federal/state project. The improvements will run from the Hampton line through Pomfret and eventually into Putnam to Town Line Rd., with some parts north of Wrights Crossing Rd. possibly being done later than the rest. Work will also be done on the trail section in Thompson up to the state line. The work is supposed to start at Wrights Crossing Rd. in Pomfret and proceed south. Putnam is apparently in negotiations with a land owner to acquire a right of way through from Town Farm Rd.to the bridge over the Quinebaug.
We are trailrider transplants from the Western US, and were so fortunate to find a farm to rent that lies adjacent to the trail. We ride the Lebanon to Colchester route frequently, as well as bike on it. 99% of the bike riders are gracious and abide by trail etiquette when approaching a horse and rider. So, be reminded that when approaching a horse from front or back, the "rule of the road" is to slow down or stop, and SAY SOMETHING! We can all co-exist and work together to maintain and improve upon the limited recreational opportunities that exist. (PS - paving the trail is a bad idea, not sustainable, costly to someone to maintain, and would degrade the natural beauty of the trail, "urbanizing" it, taking away the rural/country feel that we so badly need to preserve here in NE.)
I rode my hybrid bike from Cook Hill Rd. to the Willimantc River. The new section through the Andrews Farm is rideable, but needs stone dust. It is not any worse than the Hop River Trail through Columbia and Andover. The worse part of the trail was from Village Hill to the Willimantic River. The horses have really wrecked it for bikes. It was so jarring, I though I would lose my teeth fillings! If only they would ride single file to one side, so that the whole trail wasn't ripped upped.
The nests that the previous reviewer noted are heron nests. When I rode by, there was a heron standing on a nest.
This spring the surface of the trail from Cook Hill Rd to Rt 85 is becoming very bumpy due to horse traffic (they must be trotting and cantering to dig it up this much). I used to enjoy riding this section, but it is becoming a very jarring experience-not fun. Once you get pass Rt 85 the trail smooths out. It would be nice if it were ever paved.
I took a walk on the link between Cook Hill Road to Village Hill Road to assess the state of the construction that is undeway. The length of the missing link will be just over 1 mile. The Cook Hill Road detour that has been used is about 1.4 miles. A number of hills will be eliminated once the new trail is in place.
It is easily rideable now but, some consturection is underway, delayed by the weather. Once your on the trail there is a wetland on the right with a group of very unusual bird(?) nests in the trees. Maybe someone can tell me what kind of bird made them. There are about 6 nest grouped together.
Rumor has it that the bridge over the Willimantic River is the next section to be built in late 2013. Allowing for delays into 2014, that could open up the trail between Airline State Park North and South. With a little more work and a few years the Hop River Trail section could easily be connected to the Airline Trail. Wow we can only dream!!
Today, I rode the trail starting at Cook Hill Rd. in Lebanon. It appears that the state is now filling and grading the missing trail section that runs through the Andrews farm from Cook Hill Rd. to Village Hill Rd. Hopefully, by spring we will be able to bike straight through from East Hampton to the Willimantic River!
I did this trail on the last day of summer and had a great ride on a very good trail. I did it up to Cook Hill Rd and found an on road detour of a mile and a half so I just turned around. There is a small sign at Cook Rd but I just did not want to deal with it. I also did the spur into Colchester. The trail surface is good except about five miles up from East Hampton there is a mile or so of less then good surface. This trail was an engineering marvel when it was built and still is today. The whole trail you are ether in a cut, on an embankment or running though a bog. In some places the forest is so thick it is like being in a tunnel. I did this on my very old Mt Bike with a town and country tire and it worked for me. I saw a lot of people on bikes and most where Mt Bikes but a Cross Bike would get the job done. East Hampton has done a great job of embarrassing this trail, there are signs to the parking lots and they have extended the trail to there Down Town including a parking lot. I hope to get back to do the Airline Trail North some day.
I rode on a Sunday in early September and covered about 30 miles. It's a beautiful ride with great scenery all the way. The trail bed is in excellent condition and is mostly packed stone dust. Along the ride I encountered great vistas, passed about 4 bogs and miles of woods. Definitely worth repeating especially when the leaves change colors. Bring a lunch as there are very few places to stop for food along the way - the center of Easthampton is good but that's about it for the portion I covered (Easthampton up to route 207 in Hebron).
Live nearby and use this every chance I get. Bring a mtb, city, hybrid or cross with non-slick tires. Sketchy on a touring bike, a true adventure on a road bike. The western terminus of the improved trail is now in the East Hampton Village Center with a parking lot at Main Street Pizza.
I found the Airline South Trail to be a very scenic bike trail. Although the trail is mainly crushed stone, they are very small crushed stones so it never got too bumpy and it wasn't all that different from riding on asphalt. Once the trail got to Lebanon, most of the trail seemed to be more of a dirt trail and it started to get a tad too bumpy for road bikes. Other than that, a very nice trail indeed.
Rode this trail from Cobb Hill Road to the East Hampton terminus. Beautiful trail through wooded areas and wetlands. If you start at the the northeastern end, start at Cobb Hill Rd. A section to the northeast of Cobb Hill and the northern terminus is not developed. Surface is hard packed and suitable for mountain and hybrid tires. Some soft spots might make it difficult for road tires. The yellow gates at intersections can be a challenge for tandem cyclist, or bikes with trailers to get through, but single bikes should have little to no problem.
I have been hiking 5-7 mile segments for the past three weekends. You need good sturdy water proof hiking boots in order to navigate through the numerous wet spots in the trail, and as mentioned by another trail user the northern portion of the trail where it enters Putnam has a lot of places where one is not sure where to go or how to climb up hill to cross certain roads. A lot of trees are down from Hurricane Irene in the late summer of 2011. That said, a companion of mine enjoyed the trail with me and sighted an abundance of birds, some of which we hadn't seen for a long time. There seems to be some drainage improvements being made close to the Pomfret / Hampton town lines. All in all, a great experience!
Rode the Airline southwest from Kingsley Rd., Windham, to Colchester via the spur trail on October 15. The trail is in excellent condition, with stone dust and cinder the whole way, and was completely dry even the day after a hard rain. Kudos to those maintaining this trail -- an excellent job grading. A detour via Cook Hill Rd. is necessary as mentioned in a previous post , even though it appears you can continue across Village Hill Rd. -- the trail dead ends at a fence near Spinning Mill Brook about halfway across this section and you have to backtrack. Colchester is a fun place for lunch before turning around. Our trip was 14 miles each way.
The brush has been cleared from the trail at Potter Rd. by Goodwin Forest in Chaplin to Route 203 North Windham, CT. This trail is in my opinion a Mountain bike trail. I have a Comfort bike and I was able to ride it OK. A hybrid might be OK but a road bike wound not make it.
This review is written (August 1, 2011) so that persons contemplating experiencing the Air Line Trail South as new trail will have good basic knowledge of where to park, and what to expect.
We ride this trail section often, and all agree it is a truly great ride. The changing seasons offer a constantly morphing view of water, foliage, flowers, and wildlife. We park at the commuter lot at CT Rte 2 exit 16 (you can't miss it). From there we can ride ~6-7 miles in either direction (note that one section starts right at the commuter lot, and the other section is a few hundred feet up the hill under the Rte 2 overpass on the right. You can actually ride quite a bit longer than the 6-7 miles, the trails have been extended but we typically do the ~6-7 mile run (~12-to 14 miles as an out & back ride, which takes us approx. 1hour and 30 mins).
The hard packed with loose granular stone surface trail is well maintained in either direction and both sides offer some great natural features. It seems no matter which direction you pick from the commuter lot, the trail has a slight climb, and the return ride is quicker than the ride out. The trail itself is not very challenging, it is kid friendly, and can be ridden by almost any one (the real skinny road tires are not advised but I have seen people using them). We take friends/family who are bike novices, and born again cyclists out on the trail with us because it is easy for them to get [back] into cycling and seems a lot safer than riding on a public road. Thus far all have been "return customers" so we have a constant supply of new riding partners.
*There are some amenities scattered along the trail which include signs, trail markers, maps, picnic tables,
*Sorry no toilets or potable water anywhere on the trail.
*The commuter lot offers plenty of hassle-free parking
*This is a nature trail and there aren't any consumer services such as restaurants or markets except at the
East Hampton (trail head) new section continue past the pond & parking lot.
*The trail is open sunrise to sunset.
*The 6-7 mile run is all trail and no on-road passages to get to a connecting section. Though you do have
to cross intersecting roads.
I hope you find this review helpful, some of the other info and reviews are dated, misleading, or assume you already know what they are referring to. So if you have trail info to share please be plain spoken, and tell us exactly where to park and what to expect.
This is a great trail. If you have never ridden this trail I suggest you start in East Hampton, started our trip at the Willimantic river, the ride was slightly uphill the whole way. Don't know how they came up with 22 miles, unless this is both ways. One way my bike showed just over 10 miles. Great ride with plenty of places to stop and get your feet wet or just enjoy the scenery. Amston is another great place to start. Bet this trail is extra nice in the fall.
Starting from north end of trail in Willimantic, about 1.5 miles down the trail, after crossing Village Hill Road, the trail dead ends. You have to take a right onto Village Hill Road(identified by small wooden bridge on south side of road) for .25 miles, then left onto Cook's Hill Road for 1.1 miles, where a right turn rejoins trail. Detour is marked in the north direction, but it is not marked in the south direction.
I rode this trail on May 8, 2011. It was very easy to find the trailhead at East Hampton. The trail was a little washed out at the beginning of the East Hampton end, but not impassable. When going under Route 2 at Rt 149, keep a sharp eye for the trail on the right. It's just past the overpass. I rode to the Willamantic River on the trail after a detour onto local roads at Cook Hill Rd to Village Hill Rd and back onto the trail.
I also rode the side spur to Colchester. It was narrower than the main line, but very passable. I had to chuckle to myself at the sign that the Colchester Park and Recreation Department put up warning of hunting on abutting properties.
Just after starting down the Colchester Spur, you'll come upon a brick chimney rising over 100 feet into the sky. That and a run down manufacturing building are all that remain of an old factory complex. The chimney is pretty impressive and looks to be in excellent condition. The double depots in Colchester are also pretty impressive. Be sure to check out the views from the 2 viaducts.
Since it was a very nice Sunday when I rode this trail, I encountered a lot of people, especially near the East Hampton end. The closer I got to Willamantic, the fewer people there, but the trail was also rougher. I'll have to try this trail on a weekday.
You need to do this trail if you're not into the asphalt covered trails. An excellent ride! 8^)
A bit beat-up or flooded in places (old railroad cuts or places where the ballast didn't last or nothing new's been put down. Not much money available in the local towns for upkeep, although a couple of them try., One big problem I noticed on it last spring were the ATVs, which have gouged out sections of the trail and left swampy ruts.
I made it from Willimantic all the way to Putnam on this trail recently. It takes quite a lot of perseverance on some of the segments. As mentioned below, there are sandy, rocky, and wet spots through parts of Chaplin and Hampton. There's also a nice new pavilion on the site of the old station in Pomfret, but after that the trail degrades markedly. It is completely unpassable at Wright King Rd, requiring a detour to Modock Rd where it becomes slightly more passable again. Parts of the trail are more like a winding path up and down hills through the woods. Thank goodness for some trail markers! If this is to become part of the East Coast Greenway, it's going to need lots of work.
Good news! This is an excellent trail from E. Hampton all the way to Cook Hill Road in Windham (16.5 miles). Several road crossings at the eastern end have been improved in the last year or so. When I rode it yesterday, there was a DEP surveying crew at Cook Hill surveying the railroad right of way through the farm that now blocks access to the Village Hill Rd section. At least this is a start at getting the trail completed all the way to Willimantic. Maybe next year...
By the way, my favorite part of the Colchester Spur is stopping at Frank's Place for lunch. It's quite well known in the area and has great burgers and ice cream. Just head up the hill and turn right at the light.
My sister and I have been biking for a while now and we have done the Hop River and Airline South trail which we loved. Both of these trails are so much fun to ride. So we figured we will give the third trail, Airline North, a try. Boy it was a nightmare. The path from Willimantic to the beginning of the trail at North Windham was okay...after that it was stones, sands, stones, sands, puddles...it was hard to ride. We were constantly riding in spider webs, stones...the path was causing us to be quite stressful and it was strenuos. i mean we are not fast bikers but we did about 9.8 miles in an hour due to the terrain. After that, we gave up. We went off the path and took back roads home. Oh and there were a couple of big branches that were down and in the middle of the paths. So needless to say, we will never go to this trail again until they decide to "renovate" it. It would be nice if they fix it up because it is 27 miles and that is a good haul for a nice weekend ride.
The Airline Trail from Smith Street in East Hampton to Cook Hill Road in Lebanon, including the Colchester Spur, is a generally excellent trail to ride. One disadvantage of starting from East Hampton is that your last couple of miles will be mostly an uphill push. Use a hybrid or mountain bike since the trail surface can vary tremendously in quality from solid stone dust to softer dirt and rocks. When I rode the trail in June 2010, there were some trenches across the road cut by water overflowing the drainage ditches. With regard to the comments about "why would anyone ride this trail?" those comments apply to the trail NORTH of Willimantic, not this section of trail. I agree that the trail north of Willimantic (at least the portion I rode) had some very difficult sections to ride.
I was interested in exploring the Airline Trail North, starting from downtown Windham (Willimantic). The trail is called the Veteran's Greenway for the first two miles where it is paved. The trail in this location has lots of grafitti. As I rode up the trail, four teens on pocket rockets buzzed by me and turned off about 1 mile into the trail. At about the 2 mile mark, the trail crosses Rt. 66 and changes to stone dust, which was bumpy due to erosion. After 2 miles of stone dust, the trail abruptly changes to a sandpit. I rode for another mile through an average depth of 3 to 4 inches of sand and it took much effort just to maintain forward motion and not fall off. Since the trail is not maintained, I could not even find a firmer side on which to ride. I finally gave up my plan to ride to Goodwin State Forest and turned off onto the road and headed back. Until the trail is upgraded, I certainly would not attempt to bike it again. On the way home, I drove by the Airline Trail South on Kingsley Road in Lebanon near the Windham border and saw grading equipment and a freshly graded trail that looked like it was waiting for stone dust as the final step. The Airline Trail South starting from Smith Street in East Hampton to Cook Hill Road in Lebanon is a recommended destination and trail, as is the Hop River State Rail Trail from Manchester to Willimantic, although the best portion of the Hop River Trail is from Manchester to Rt. 6 in Andover/Columbia.
I've been walking and photographing the Air Line Trail daily for over 8 years. I never tire of it and am still regularly surprised to see some new plant or animal, a new aspect of animal behavior, or a superb sunrise. The trail is restored well into Lebanon now as far as Chesbro Bridge Road with plans underway for further extensions towards Willimantic. The railroad attempted the shortest route from New Haven to Boston "as if by a line drawn through the air", thus the name which is two words, not one. The penalty for the short route was the need to traverse north-south trending hills and valleys. The result for trail users is a series of rock cuts and viaducts, bridges and marshes in addition to woodlands and nearby waterfalls (e.g. at Grayville in Hebron). My favorite portion is Raymond Brook Marsh in Hebron. Lots of migrating waterfowl and songbirds spring and fall, plus nesting birds on the marsh borders through the summer. Waterlilies and other aquatic plants as well as diverse wildflowers including at least 3 species of orchids. At my web site, you'll find over 4,000 photos of the trail, accessible through seasonal galleries. You'll also find a printable PDF version of the color trail brochure (I'm proud to say illustrated with my photos). See: http://www.performance-vision.com/airline/index.htm
I road from where the tar section ends headed east out of Wilmington to just beyond Goodwin SF today. The trail starts as well packed stone and changes back a froth from sand to gravel and stone chips. As said before it is a challenging ride and seems up hill as the ride back was all top gear. I parked where the trail crosses Rt.203. but you could park on Rt. 6 just around the corner at the park and lock at the end of the airport. Another biker says the loop around the pond here is good riding also. There has been a mix of equestrian and ATV traffic in several sections.
"For a trail I had low expectations of, I was thrilled! After reading some of the reviews over the last few years, I expected something pretty crummy, but what a pleasant surprise! I took the trail from the parking lot in East Hampton up to about where the Towns of Lebanon, Columbia and Windham all join. I also took the Colchester Branch on the way back to get some food. Net is, it's well worth doing, very quite, filled with great views and surrounded by nature, but be prepared and don't take your road bike, (I didn't)!
The trail is stonedust where improved and soft in most places & my skinny tire road bike would have been a big mistake. The unimproved section was OK except for about a one mile section that I'll tell you how to skip. If you've got knobby's on you'll be OK for it if you like riding on old railroad ballast, (I didn't have my knobby's on my AT Bike that day). You'd probably be OK on a Cross bike with tires wider than most road bikes - may just sink in a few times.
Take plenty of water if it's a hot day. There are no services, water, portapotties, etc.
To get around the one ""bad"" part as you come from East Hampton do the following:
1. After you cross CT 207( this is almost in Lebanon), get off at the next road, Pine Street in Lebanon and go about 1/2 mile to the right and take a left on Tobacco St.
2. Follow Tobacco Street about 1 1/4 miles and turn left at the next intersection.
3. About 150 yards down the hill, you can pick up the trail again after going down a short but steep trail on the right.
It's worth it & I'm ready to try the North next.
FYI, the Colchester Spur is a ""ho-hum"", but a short shot to get some food. Good pizza place and a good bakery close to end of the trail to the right, up a short hill.
"Today I road west from the pedestrian bridge in Putnam to where I had stopped a few days ago. You can find the start across the river if you look where the abutment was. It seems to be posted to the left and the right but once you are on the ROW it is bike able. the surface varies from trap rock to sand and until you get to Pomfret is a challenge. Make sure you turn right off the power line. An abutter has dumped some brush at one road crossing, but it is easy to go to the left and pick the Rail Trail up about 1/2 mile further. I could see the ATVs had used this section so there must be a way around. As you approach the half way point I again found more Equestrian use with the chopped up surface and piles of you know what. I found the challenge made the ride more than just a flat run at high speed. You will find some short sections have rock ballast and I assume this is to fill in wet sections. If you ride after a rain a few places are muddy but easy to get around. On the return I took a left on rt. 44 and returned via the road. It seems they are building a new parking area here and you could see more improvements soon. "
It is not a matter of the center of the universe. It really is a simple matter.
Motorized vehicles are not ALLOWED! What is so hard to get about that.
I have seen to many places for hikers, bikers, horse back riders and walkers completely ruined by ATVs and motorcycles. Very few are respectful to any of the above users."
"A friend and I had a grand plan to ride from Pomfret to the SW end of the trail and then ride on to Middlebury for the night, returning the next day. Note that the section from Putnam to Pomfret is supposedly much worse than the others.
We tried this in July, 2006, with her on a hybrid having 1.5 tires and I had my mountain bike with 2"" tires. After a bit of an adventure in finding the start of the trail (there are zero signs anywhere), we started riding. After a couple of miles (or less) we were considering riding the trail to Willimantic, then taking roads to Middlebury and riding the other section of trail in the morning. The surface ranges from dirt (both packed and not), to gravel to old RR ballast, with rocks and mud thrown in. Much of the adjoining flora is very overgrown so that a lot of your time is spent avoiding being whipped by branches. After perhaps four miles (if that), we both decided that this was definitely not fun and took roads back to her car. Our speed on the trail ranged from 5-8 mph, so doing the entire 50 miles as originally planned would have meant an exceedingly long, tiring and frustrating day.
Besides the usual tunnel vision effect of rail trails that go through woods, we found that we were so busy navigating our track that we didn't have time to look at anything on the side of the trail, as unattractive as it was. I have heard that the southern section, beyond Willimantic, is more scenic and the trail is in better condition. In fact, I had heard it is very nice in the fall and part of the reason I was there was to scope it out for a possible group trip. Needless to say, I quickly abandoned the idea of bringing anyone else into this morass.
I'm somewhat amazed at the postings from people who apparently actually enjoyed riding this section, especially the fellow on the touring bike. YMMV."
"The Fall 2006 Rails to Trails magazine article (print version only) on the Air Line trail includes a map which shows a parking area off Pleasant St. which is non-existent. However, there is a new, small, paved parking area off Village Hill Rd. at an easier to find trailhead. "
"The very rough and large ""gravel"" covering this section of the Air Line for about 400 yards makes even mountain biking unenjoyable. A good bypass is to take Tobacco St which is smooth gravel and much more picturesuqe. "
"My name is Barukh and I'm only twelve years old. I live in New York City and my grandmother lives in Southbourough (Outside of Framingham, MA.) We took the Metro-North to New Haven and biked the rest. On the first day, we went from New Haven, CT to Middletown on the Connecticut River. We took 1 left on State St. Straight onto Route 5 to Wallingford left on E Center St. Left on N Airline left on William right on Durham straight onto 68 left on 17 straight onto Pleasant left on Main. Stay at Inn at Middletown, 70 Main St. Day 2: Main bear right onto bike path for Arrigoni Bridge straight onto 66 left on N Main straight onto 196 left on Walnut left on Smith right onto Airline Trail (crushed stone and dirt trail-fine for riding.) In Hebron trail turned to rock so: Left on 85 right on 66 left on Jackson straight onto 195 Stay at Best Western, 123 Storrs Rd Mansfield Center, CT. Day 3: South on 195 left on 66 trail still rocky so: straight onto 6 left on W Old Rt 6 left on 97 right on 44 right on 12 left on Heritage Stay at Kings Inn, 5 Heritage Rd. Putnam, CT. Day 4: left on Heritage right on 12 right on 16 left on 85 right on Mt Vickery (My grandmother lives at 10 Mt Vickery) left on Breakneck Hill 9 will take you straight into Boston. Or take T from Southborough Station on 85 straight into South Station, Boston. I, a twelve-year old, did this route with my dad on a Hybrid bike and my dad on a touring bike. My point is, if anyone says that they can't bike for no good reason, tell them that a twelve-year old did 120 miles on a bike. I did this route, and you can too. Anyone who knows anything about the trail or any part of the route or planning to bike it should email me at email@example.com or call me at (212)-787-3161. If anyone knows the people that take care of the trail, tell them to email me and that I, along with a lot of other people, want the rocky section of the trail to be paved or perhaps turned into crushed stone and dirt like the beginning of the trail from East Hampton to Hebron."
I found the trail on a Connecticut trail guide and after 3 times there now we are hooked. Its a short ride from the Hartford area to the trail access in Colchester where we have started off Rt.149.The first time was with our dog and the 2 times after were with out bikes.Beautiful scenery and relatively flat terrain make this a great place for all ages and abilities. We will see you out there.
I live in Boston and am thinking of doing a 2-day out and back ride on the entire Airline. I was wondering if anyone knows of / can suggest lodging near the end of the trail? I would also want sources for dinner and breakfast. thanks
Drove down to Conn. today and road East from Rt.2 to Farm that blocks trail. Trail is great to Rt. 207 at Hebron and gets more unfinished after with some sections of really large trap rock. a couple of places where the grade was filled in by the highway dept. and you have to climb up to the road. I also rode down the Coldchester Spur. It is for about 1/2 the way a very wide gravel road. Would be nice if it was a little narrower. I met a local that says by June another mile will be improved east of Rt.207.
"Since my last posting, one of the switchbacks behind the ""RTE 85 LUMBER"" has been opened up to the main road, across Crouch Rd., to Colchester. A nice ride. Thanx to all involved."
"How nice it was to be able to take a walk on this trail sharing it with bikes.A bike is easy to move aside for but when you have a group of people coming at you arms flying and taking up the whole trail it takes the enjoyment out of it.Try taking a walk on the paved trail in cheshire,ct.It is so congested and dangerous it is like trying to cross the highway"
"Rode this trail from the Rt. 2 Commuter Parking lot up to Rt 85 and then back to the Lyman Viaduct before returning to the car. Trail's in great shape - a few extra leaves and branches in a few spots, and some erosion along the viaduct (marked with fences and red flags) but otherwise a super trail. Love shade, the nice spot by the pond, and the section through the marsh. Would be an exceptional Fall colors ride."
"I rode down from Mass. about 2 weeks ago to explore the west end from Rt.2 to East Hampton. Parked at commuter parking on Rt. and headed west toward East Hampton. It is about 6.5 miles one way and after a short grade down it was about 3% up hill to East Hampton. the improved trail ends here at a small pond, but you could continue if you wanted. The trip back over the Lyman viaduct and thru the stone cuts was great and I cant believe that such a remote undeveloped piece of land in Ct. still exist."
"Well a previous poster noted that when you arrive at the commuter parking lot in Hebron, there is no sign directing you to where the trail goes next. Thanks to a new section of trail which includes a short bridge, that is no longer a problem! You head up the road for short time and then take a right onto the new section of trail, which makes an ""L"" turn, bringing you to the top of the hill, across the street from the trail's continuance.
Nice job by all! "
"I rode from south to north on this pretty trail on a summer morning and had a blast. I would recommmend mountain bikes or some suspension and knobbier tires - I rode on a touring bike and it wasn't the smoothest thing (but I love a challenge!) You're going to get dirty, but you'll see lots of wildlife and vegetation, and the trail is easy to follow once you're on it.
Tricky to find trailhead start and end - in North Windham, find the intersection of Routes 6 and 66, headsouth on 66 for about a block and look for Tuckie Road. Tiny paved portion of trail is opposite Windam Professional Park. After crossing about 8 unnamed roads, you'll reach Pomfret in 24 miles. When you come to cross a paved road and there's no clear continuation of the path on the opposite side, turn left on the road - Route 169 and the Audubon Center are straight ahead."
"The west end of the trail in East Hampton is hard to find if you are not familiar with the area. You enter off of Smith Street in East Hampton, but the trailhead is not marked on the street. It appears to be just a driveway or street. It turns out to be a rather large parking lot with a tall sign (see the pictures) over the trail at the other end of the lot. The sign is about 50 yards from the street and hard to see from the Smith Street. The search is worth it. This is a very well maintained trail to Hebron.
Where the trail crosses Highway 2 can also be confusing. It ends at a large parking area. You must get on the street, go up and down a hill to where the trail resumes on the other side. There are no signs telling you where to go.
The only recommendation I can make for this trail is that they add a few more signs. The trail itself is great."
"After getting my map from the DOT (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the title: ""2002 Bicycle Map Request"" and your address in the body and you'll get your free map), I decided to tackle the Airline Trail.
First, the trail head can not be found easily from the Route 6. My suggestion is to take Cards Mill Road to Village Hill Road to Cook Hill road and hop on the trail from there. Part of the trail is blocked off by junk, debris and an electric fence by some farmer. It’s best to take the road versus buck-shot to the back of the head.
Most of the trail up Rte. 207 is pretty raw and will bounce you around a bit and it's uphill. It's best traveled with some good knobby tires and some stamina. It's also a good ride if you like solitude and taking in the ""scenery"".
Once on the trail past Rte.85 (near the lumber yard) the trail is very well maintained. Smooth paths with compacted pea-gravel. On those warm, blue and sunny Saturdays around noon pay close attention to the other riders, especially those traveling with ""wobbly"" kids. In an split instance one of those 50 pound bike missles can do a 90 degree turn when you least expect (or want) it. Parts of the path near the marsh are kind of narrow and don't accomodate 2 way travel very nicely.
Another suggestion, bring a camera. If you see some paths shooting off the trail, carefully venture onto them. There's usually a hidden treasure to be seen.
The trail between East Hampton and Hebron is a well traveled trail that's very easy to walk, run or bike on.
I'll be back to the Lyman Viaduct later with some ""climbing"" gear to take some photos of the river below."
"""Give the people on ATV's a hard time. They shouldn't be using the trails -- especially when they are tearing them up.""
Typical remark from somebody who thinks they are the center of the universe. In fact, the only reason the Airline is open after all the years of neglect is because the dirt bikers and atv's rode through and kept it clear. Now the few want to take it away from the many. And according to the reviewer in the rudest way possible.
What if all the dirt bikers too the ""We were here first"" attitude and started running bicycles off the trail? Wouldn't it be better to share? Maybe some areas for one, some for the other, and some for both?
Better than ""give them a hard time"" which could end up with somebody getting hurt. "
"I took advantage of the great weather last weekend to explore this section of the trail. It was about 8-9 miles one way and took about an hour and a half. We had one mountain biker, one hybrid, and one comfort bike.
All sections were passable to all riders. The trail is in decent shape with the occaisional ruts from ATV's. It's mostly hard packed dirt and small gravel. Some sections were double track, others were single. The trail approaching route 97 had some puddles. Proceed around them or slowly through them. They actually added to the adventure.
We passed only three bikers the entire time out. I would highly recommend the trail to someone looking for a bit more adventure and more of a workout then the Airline South trail.
Give the people on ATV's a hard time. They shouldn't be using the trails -- especially when they are tearing them up.
"I rode this trail 6/11/03 from East Hampton to the parking area near Rt 207 in Hebron. This is a great trail - mainly shaded, moves through little canyons cut through rock, past several nice ponds, across two beautiful viaducts (careful with smaller children) and then finally through a beautiful nature preserve/marsh which the trail bisects.
Conditions were excellent for this entire section - stone dust cover is well maintained. Loved the rural character of the entire trail - even the road crossings give you a feel of the country. There's one small off trail section where you have to leave the path to cross Route 2.
This would make for a spectacular fall colors trip. I would love to check out the spurs off this main trail as well as the Airline North trail too.
Note that there was mainly a downgrade from East Hampton for about 3 miles, an upgrade as you approach the 207 parking lot coming Eastbound. This isn't a big downgrade in either case but if either comes at the end of your day (and you're traveling with an 8 year old as I was) you should anticipate that last stretch taking a little longer."
"April 2003: Heading south from the Massachusetts border the trail is heavily used by ATVs and not really suitable for biking due to loose sand and whoop de doops.
I tried the trail again at Town Farm Road in Putnam and found loose mud.
I finally found good biking south of Pomfret off of Rt 169/44. The trail is used by ATVs here, but it is still in decent shape (there is some mud and about 1/2 mile of loose ballast)."
"Today we headed northeast from Rte 203. The trail is rideable with MB's and horseback. The surface for the most part is loose. Pretty country and fewer people. Average comfort speed is 5-8 mph. We turned around at 11th Station Rd.,headed back. Round trip was about 13 miles. I will fill you in our continued ride as we slowly make our way up and into Mass., in the future.
Enjoy this trail, it is a beauty!"
"Recently, we rode the rail from route 85 Hebron, to the Willimantic river. The trail is unimproved and is broken at the area of the farm just as you come onto Cook Hill Rd. An entry point from here cannot be found without trespassing onto the farm (we stopped and asked the farmer for permission to pass)which was denied. To continue on, head north up Cook Hill Rd.,turn right at Village Hill Rd.,the trail crossing is about .5 mile from there. Notice the trail leg coming from the farm has an uncovered culvert at the road, so crossing would have been hazardous anyway. Finish the ride to the Willimantic river with the final hundred or so yards with rotten rail ties still in place. Notice the steel bridge at the river, with the cyclone fence on the other side. It's about 14.5 miles round trip. "
I have ridden the trail from East Hapton to Hebron several times and have found it just wonderful! The surface is quite smooth and the grades very moderate. Trail use at the times I rode was quite light. This trail offers an excellent opportunity for family rides of all ability levels.
One caution to parents: When crossing the two viaducts make sure your kids stay on the trail in full control. The dropoffs on either side are steep and long. A good portion of the trail is shady and makes a great hot day ride.
Please see the Clarke Cycles Website at www.clarkecycles.com.
"Yesterday, i rode the spur from Amston to Colchester (rte 16). You have to pick up the trail at Crouch Road since the ""split"" that once existed behind the lumber yard, across rte 85, no longer exists and is not accessible. The ride through the ""unimproved"" trail was a little bumpy and featured some large puddles and a small brook running along and through it. The ""Old Amston Rd"" link was better and has been improved for most of that leg, until about the last 300-500 yards to the old station. Watch out for snakes in the unimproved areas. I chose to return to my vehicle via rte 85. "
We rode the Amston to E. Hampton leg for about eight miles. Now we plan on going north to link up in Windham and finish riding to Rockville. The trail is rough in spots but overall it's a nice trail.
"I followed the directions posted and started out from mile marker 3 to 1 (Cranberry Bog), then the opposite direction. I found the hard way that the trail ends at a parking lot where I had to carry my bike over the railing and then find my way to rts 2/149 to get back to the trail. I ended up at the end at rt 85 where there was no further information on where the trial continues. From people parked at RT85 lot, I found that this trail does not continue further. The state map I have shows the trail going all the way to Willimantic. What is the story? I found that after mile 3 someone took the numbers off the mile markers. The trail was a very nice ride and the way the construction of the bridges was well planned. the ride from mm3 to mm1 (Bog) needs a little more grading as it can be pretty bumpy. Any help on further directions would be appreciated. I hear a part of the trial can be reached from Depot rd at rt66/151. is this part any good? Please reply to me when u can. Had a great time."
Rode this trail last week from Lebanon to E. Hampton. Great Trail! Most of it is well surfaced. Can ride with street or mountain tires. Easy uphill grades. Three bridges in excellent shape. Beautiful and varied surroundings. Picnic tables at viaduct. ONE CAUTION. There is limited hunting on state lands Monday through Saturday from Oct. through Dec. Only ride on Sunday during this time. Well worth the ride.
"Numerous friends and myself have used this trail as a warm up for our hard rides at Gay City State Park. It's an easy, casual ride with MANY scenic views and nature side activities such as bird watching & stream hopping. A wonderful walk or ride in our own back yard that I am eternally grateful I found, I hope you and your family can enjoy it's simple pleasures too!"
"A great trail, a couple of the previous reviews mentioned that the bridge was out. The bridge has been completed, courtesy of the Connecticut National Guard and the Coast Guard. The trail from Cranberry Bog in East Hampton to Amston (RT 85 north of Colchester) is about 11 miles of great scenery."
I used this trail a year and a half ago (mountainbiking)and it was really nice...I was on it again this year a few times...They have done a lot of work to it like building bridges over the roads and leveling the ground in places..It's really nice to have something like this here..
"Navigating this trail involves skill and wings. Outside of the first three miles in East Hampton, I do not recommend this trail for family rides. From route 66, turn south on route 196, left on Flanders Road and right on Smith Street. There is plenty of parking at beginning of the trail. The first three miles of the trail are terrific--the trail is graded well, and it allows a biker to avoid the hilly and dangerous route 16 (see note below). However, once you get to the Salmon River in Colchester problems begin. There is no bridge over the Salmon River, but it is possible to navigate around it by taking River Road and riding into the park once you cross the river. Unless you are very ambitious stay on River Road. Attempting to rejoin the trail involves a very steep climb up a rocky embankment.
If you stay on River Road, the trail will intersect with it again anyway, but less than one mile later after you cross route 149, the trail will terminate at the Jeremy River. Here is where having wings will help because the trail is too high above the river and with a 90% pitch too steep as well. In other words, you're stuck.
The trail on the other side of the Jeremy River gets too rocky (original railroad ballast) after a short time to the point where it is unridable. From route 87 the next four miles of the trail toward Willimantic are passable.
The scenery is great. Good luck and have fun . . . it's a challenging trail.
PS: When the trail first intersects with River Road in Colchester, if you turn right on River Road and go to the end, you will be at the historic Comstock Covered Bridge. Warning: River Road to the covered bridge is a very steep descent that you will have to make up either by retreating or taking route 16."
"This trail is one of Northeast Connecticut's best-kept secrets. It runs unbroken from Windham, Connecticut to Putnam. All of the river crossings on this stretch are over stone or concrete culverts so there are none of those difficult iron truss bridges that complicate matters on other rail trails in the area such as the Airline South and the Hop River Trail. Extensive re-grading by the National Guard a few years back has largely taken care of the poorly drained areas, washouts and overgrown areas that formerly existed. The surface is gravel of varying degrees of compaction. Excellent going on a mountain bike. Some sections are also appropriate for a hybrid. A good access point in Windham is at the intersection of Tuckie Road and Route 66. To get there, follow the Route 6 expressway to its eastern terminus in North Windham. As you come off the ramp, bear left on Route 66 and take an immediate left on Tuckie Road. Park in the commercial parking lot just after you turn onto Tuckie Road. The start of the Airline North is the paved trail on the north side of Tuckie Road. The trail winds up and around the end of the Route 6 interchange. Then you are back onto gravel on your way to Putnam, 27 miles away. Please e-mail me if you've got any specific questions. "
"We just biked the airline trail from East Hampton to the Salmon River bridge, which is out, and back. Excellent trip, good for beginners and kids. Just remember, there is a slight down grade out of East Hampton, so on the way back you will have to work a little bit."
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