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Open in several disconnected segments, the Billings Trail is a dirt path that traverses a lovely scenic and wooded landscape outside Norfolk in northern Connecticut. Built on the abandoned railbed of the former Connecticut and Western Railroad, which ended service in 1939, the trail offers plenty of opportunities to explore the natural beauty of the area as it connects to a variety of other trails, all managed by the Norfolk Land Trust.
The first part of the trail, known as the Stoney Lonesome section, begins off of a small road on the outskirts of North Canaan. The trail takes users through a tranquil hardwood forest and past a small pond that has become a popular place for frogs to lay their eggs. Railroad buffs may also be interested in this section, as it was the site of a train wreck in May of 1882. This part of the Billings Trail ends at a metal gate off of Ashpotag Road, where limited parking is also available.
There is a small rail-trail segment located in Barbour Woods, just north of Norfolk off of Route 272, that offers connections to a larger system of trails within the woods. A third segment of the Billings Trail, known as the Tait section, lies south of Norfolk off of Grantville Road. This part of the trail runs alongside Smith Pond and the Mad River, offering up more chances for trail users to encounter local wildlife, from bullfrogs and salamanders to a variety of warblers. The trail comes to an end at Winchester Road, beyond which is private property.
Parking is available for the Stoney Lonesome section via a small area next to the eastern trailhead off of Ashpotag Road. Parking is available for the Barbour Woods trails via a small lot off of Rte 272. Parking is available for the Tait section in front of the trail entrance off of Grantville Road.
To reach the first section of the trail from the direction of Hartford, take US-44 west out of Hartford and continue northwest through Canton and Winchester. Stay on US-44 into Norfolk, and stay left to continue on US-44. About two miles out of Norfolk, take a right onto Ashpotag Road - the trailhead will be on the left about a half-mile down the road.
Because this is close and I'd never been to it, I finally did and what I found was something that was a very old rail path that had never had any work done to be "bikeable". The Western Section is owned and managed by a Land Trust who has not even done the work to make it walkable. Trail is covered by fallen trees and clearly, zero tail maintenance is going on. At times the only passable place to walk and carry your bike are narrow trails that leave the "path" and then return where there is a dry spot. Worse trail I've even been on in my 70 plus years of biking. It's an embarrassment and should be listed in your book or on-line stuff.
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