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The Charter Oak Greenway offers more than 16 miles of paved pathway through Hartford and its eastern suburbs. At first glance, the trail looks as if it is simply a highway side path, but the journey from east to west takes trail users through a variety of experiences, including college campuses, community parks, forests, commercial areas, a peaceful riverfront, and a vibrant city center.
On its eastern end in Bolton, the greenway connects to the Hop River State Park Trail, which spans 20 miles largely through dense woodlands. Both trails are part of the expansive East Coast Greenway, which will one day connect multiuse trails from Maine to Florida.
From that trail junction, the Charter Oak Greenway heads west through Manchester. A short distance into your ride, you'll descend into the Birch Mountain Brook stream valley. Here along a tree-lined path, with the bubbling brook flowing beside you, you may forget that I-384 is just over the ridge.
Less than 2 miles from the Porter Street trailhead, you arrive at Charter Oak Park, a lovely community park in Manchester providing access to restrooms, water, ball fields, tennis courts, a pavilion, and gardens. This intersection with the town provides an opportunity to find trailside amenities and a bite to eat. Proceeding west from Charter Oak Park, the trail passes through handsomely appointed residential and commercial communities. You’ll need to navigate a 0.5-mile on-road portion of trail along Hartford Road and Bidwell Street before leaving the road to enter the campus of Manchester Community College.
Now off road once again, the trail traverses the college campus through sports fields and pine forest before leaving campus to head toward Hartford. Although I-384 is nearby, the trail shares the right-of-way with a utility corridor, and the emergence of tall grasses within it provides a meadowlike atmosphere as the trail approaches downtown. Prior to reaching Hartford, the path takes you past the University of Connecticut football stadium in East Hartford. The route will travel on-road again for the approximately 1-mile gap to the Hockanum River. The trail becomes off-road again at the intersection of Willow Street and Main Street in East Hartford.
As the path approaches the east bank of the Connecticut River, it has a decidedly more parklike feel. As you continue, the Connecticut River will be on your left and mature trees abound. Park users may be seen all around you, enjoying the amenities, sights, and sounds of Great River Park, with its expansive views of the Hartford skyline across the river.
Heading north along the river, trail users may appreciate the many sculptures and other artwork located along the riverfront before the route ascends a flood-control levy to reach Founders Bridge. The trail crosses the Connecticut River and arrives in downtown Hartford.
Once downtown, continue on the River Walk, a series of raised plazas and pedestrian areas hovering two stories above the city streets. On these busy plazas and public gathering spaces, cyclists are advised to walk their bikes, but it’s a good place to slow down and savor the views; look up at the skyscrapers surrounding you, or glimpse down at the Connecticut River. Trail users remain elevated for several blocks from the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza to Prospect Street. Be sure to peruse the prominently displayed art and near-by attractions, such as the Connecticut Science Center.
From Prospect Street to Bushnell Park, the trail meanders a half dozen well-marked blocks before terminating in the expansive urban oasis of Bushnell Park near the impressive State Capitol Building, ending your journey from verdant rolling hills to vibrant urban center.
To reach the parking lot of the eastern trailhead from Hartford, take I-384 to Exit 4. Turn left onto Wyllys St., then take an immediate right onto Highland St./CT 534. Proceed on Highland St. 0.3 mile; the parking lot will be on your left. From the east, take Exit 4 off of I-384 and turn right directly onto Highland St. The trailhead will be on your left in 0.6 mile.
To reach the western trailhead in Bushnell Park (15 Trinity St., Hartford), take I-91 to Exit 29A and continue on Whitehead Hwy. In 0.2 mile, at the traffic circle (Pulaski Cir.), take the second exit (straight) to Elm St. and continue 0.3 mile to Trinity St. Turn right to reach Bushnell Park.
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