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The paved Charter Oak Greenway rolls more than 13 miles through the tree-covered hills and eastern suburbs of Hartford before crossing the Connecticut River and ending in the capital’s downtown. 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.
Beginning at the eastern trailhead at Porter Street and Camp Meeting Road in Manchester, you will find ample parking, well-maintained gardens, and an information kiosk. Development on an extension heading east from this trailhead is already in progress. Near its east end is the Hop River State Park Trail, which spans 20 miles largely through dense woodlands. Less than 2 miles separate the two trails, and plans are in the works to connect them. Both are part of the expansive East Coast Greenway, which will one day connect multiuse trails from Maine to Florida.
From the eastern trailhead of the Charter Oak Greenway, the well-signed, paved trail parallels Highland Street before descending 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.
As of September 8th 2018 there is only one thing holding back the expansion of the Charter Oak Trail from Porter Street to the Hop River Trail in Bolton, the bridge over Camp Meeting Road. It should be the completion of just a few details that will allow this section to be open to the public: accepting the last bridges and some land scaping work. Once the bureaucracy is done, riders will be able to connect from East Hartford to Bolton and beyond. That's about 15 miles of the Charter Oak Trail and 20 miles of the Hop River Trail that will be connected, finally. Of note, there are two more bridges in Windham and Columbia at the eastern end of the Hop River Trail that are going to bid this fall. Once done, it will open a trail from the Hartford area to Pomfret CT. Be patient. What's another year or so to get all these trails linked.
The Trail Section approaching the MCC Road called "Great Path" has some extremely large cracks, 4-5 inches. If you're unaware as you approach they are very dangerous.....The Trail from Tolland Turnpike to Burnside Avenue aka Rt 44 is barely ridable because of all the many cracks and bumps. They have gotten worse in the last year....Lastly the trail between Burnside Avenue and Silver Lane, specifically , the first 360 degree curve under the highway has an extremely severe washout. Orange cones have been placed along the edge of the washout, but it is so extreme that someone coming around the blind corner, riding wide in the curve could be severely hurt should they loose control trying to avoid.
These sections of trail needs some serious work, but have not seen any work in years.
Looks like the bridge over Rt 6 in Bolton is finally going in. Connection to the Hop River Trail this Summer?
I am fairly new at skating, so I am always on the lookout for nice trails to try. Near the park itself, the skating is great. It is fairly smooth, has nice wide paths, and only a little bit of hill. As I went further from the main park however, it was almost entirely up hill, and there were several bridges that may not be too bad normally, but they are rougher and have lips that prevent just coasting onto them. On this particular day it had snowed recently so while the paths were dry, the bridges were covered in slush and very hard to do anything but carefully walk on while holding the railings. It took me a long time just to go half a mile because of the slope and bridges, and then when I decided to turn around, the hill was so steep, I frequently had to go into the grass to avoid going too fast. Normally I would just ride hills like that out, but the path was rather curvy, and there always seemed to be a rough bridge at the bottom. My brakes were useless. If you are an advanced skater, this may be a fun challenge, but for me, it was more trouble that it was worth. Nice park/trail for other purposes though.
I would like to let everyone know that the construction to extend this trail from Porter Street in Manchester to the Hop River Trail in Bolton is started, Hooray!
It may take over a year but we will soon be able to start in East Hartford and go east and then north to Manchester and Vernon. Or, east to the Columbia/Willimantic town line. From that point it is only about 3/4 miles to the under construction link to the Airline Trails(to be finish spring 2016).
The path is well kept, but I found it a bit confusing when connecting via streets. Also, all the turns make it a bit difficult to keep up fast speeds. It was dangerous for the first time through when reaching unexpected turns. I found the hills challenging and refreshing.
It's true that this is not a peaceful trail as most of it runs along I-384. Therefore, it's not the best place for a leisurely walk, but for running or cycling, it's really not disruptive. I ran this to get in some miles and hills for an upcoming race and with headphones in the road noise really didn't bother me. The trail is clearly marked and well- maintained.
We parked at the Park & Ride near Porter Street.My husband and I and our three dogs (1 hooked to each our bikes and 1 in the front basket), headed out. We were only able to do a bout a 1/3 of the trail today due to conditioning the dogs, and then headed back. I have to say we loved it. Yes, there was traffic noise, but the path itself is beautiful. It was easy to follow and I loved the challenge of the hills. We will definitely be going back to do more of it and starting where we left off.
This is a good trail if you know it really well and are training hills for a race or it's a leg day for strength training. For someone who's out for a leisurely ride it is less than a fun time.
I rode ALMOST the entirety of it this week. I'm pretty fit and almost never walk my bike, but I found my heart rate was jacked up so high after the 19 millionth hill that I had to walk up a few of the steep slopes. I finally gave up around the Bolton border after riding a huge uphill stretch and seeing an even steeper hill. I just turned around and rode back (riding downhill is pretty fun). I'm kicking myself because I was like a tenth of a mile from reaching the terminus, but I'm marking it as done.
Not only that, but I got lost multiple times. There are several dead-end spurs that aren't marked at all and there are no good signs. You'll find yourself at more than one "Y" intersection scratching your head. Enjoy the Death Hill to Nowhere in Charter Oak Park!
Also be sure to enjoy the smells and sounds of the highway, because you'll be riding alongside it for a total of several miles. If hearing and seeing fast traffic isn't enough for you, don't worry, you'll have to ride in (and cross) busy roads because the trail gets fragmented in parts.
The only pretty part of the trail is Charter Oak Park. And parts of that are STILL near busy roads and highways!
There is also a random spur that goes from one entrance of Wickham Park to the other on the Manchester border. It's not even maintained and you get to ride over railroad tracks.
The highlight of my trip was parking in a Dairy Queen parking lot to access the trail. When I finished riding ten hellish miles in the heat, I got a dipped cone and it tasted like manna from heaven.
Use this trail to commute or train your legs; for a fun family ride, skip this one.
Random piles of tree scraps line this trail for much of the western part. Signage is sketchy through the Community College land (there are several spurs and loops) and on road interfaces. In general the trail markings seem placed by planners in cars rather than as actual users of the trail.
As other reviewers pointed out, the trail is a little noisy at times due to close vicinity to I-84 and I-384. It's also a little hilly at times, and I know that like other road bikers I do not like riding on hills. Other than that, it is a pretty nice, developed trail. I would love to see it again once they extend it all the way to Bolton.
As a resident of Manchester, I have found it pretty difficult to find a biking route that does not involve at least one of the major highways that run through the area. The Charter Oak Greenway does have it's issues (mainly traffic noise) but it's much safer than trying to ride on Middle Turnpike, Buckland Hills Rd, Tolland Turnpike, Highway 502, or any number of other extremely busy streets. It's not really the sort of bike path worth traveling across the state to check out, but but if you live in the area, it's worth trying.
I was on Rt. 384 and noticed there is some construction on the east end of this headed toward Bolton.
I don't know when it will be finished, but think it will add about a mile. It is still a ride along the highway for the most part but can be interesting in places and will be nice to see it connect with the Hop River Trail.
A note is that while there is parking at charter oaks park for most of the time the restrooms here are locked.
Much of this trail is along I-384 and I-84 and the roar of traffic can become pretty unbearable. Parts of the trail behind the noise barriers and under the bridges feel a bit too isolated from a security standpoint. Several miles of this trail were being freshly repaved in August 2010. The best part of this was off the trail when I did a loop through Wickham Park in Manchester. The stretch through Manchester Community College is confusing as there are no signs indicating where you are going.
I am a fairly new bike enthusiast and have been enjoying flat trails that reach up to 20 miles in length round-trip. I was excited to read about the Charter Oak Greenway because of it's paved surfaces and distance of 9.8 miles. Arriving at the Charter Oak Field lot, I found the bike trail to be poorly marked. Twice I rode off the trail and onto nearby streets thinking they were a part of the route. Also, the public toilet facilities were all locked and I ended up going to the Manchester Library before starting the trail, as I had driven over an hour to get to the trail.
For those who are new bike enthusiasts, be warned, there are a few decent hills to ascend. Some of the areas are scenic, especially going through a pine forest near Manchester Community College, but overall, it seems to run alongside I-384 and the traffic sounds and smells can be overwhelming, especially if you are climbing one of those gradual but long ascents. The smell of oil-burning vehicles and diesel is not attractive to one who is breathing deeply trying to climb a hill.
Another positive aspect was that there was a functional water fountain along the trail near the college and the trail runs near Wickham Park, which is beautiful and absolutely worth visiting. It was a nice mid-way stop where one can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, including an outdoor aviary, before returning to the greenway that runs along a major highway.
All in all, I enjoyed the adventure of a new trail with some moderately difficult hills, but I don't plan to visit again because of the proximity to the highway. If I lived in the area, though, this trail could be very beneficial as a means of commuting to work or college.
"I started my ride at Manchester Community College parking in a lot of Hillstown Rd. I rode West toward East Hartford. After crossing at Spencer St there is a nice down hill to coast. As the trail climbs, about half way up there is a trail to the right. This is not listed as part of the Greenway. It does follow and pass under I84 to bring you to Wickham Park on Burnside Ave. You can go into the park or continue on the trail next to the exit ramp. If you continue the trail follows I84 to I291 and ends on Tolland St. I went left on Tolland St. to the back side of Wickham Park, where I hoped the wooden guard rail into the park. There is a gate there but it is always locked. Watch the one-way streets in the park. I rode through the park and picked up the trail again on Burnside Ave and rode back the way I came to get back to the Greenway. I turned Right continuing on the Greenway where I had turned off. This will bring to the Veterans' Memorial Club House, which is an alternative parking spot (Park here and you start at the top of a hill). If you go straight you continue down Sun Set Ridge to Forbes St in East Hartford which will leave you with a nice long hill climb to get back."
"I didn't have time to cycle to Bolton last week, but I'll report on my short trip.
From Hartford, you can bike to Main Street and take the Founders Bridge over the Connecticut River. Take a right at what looks like an Art Deco diner/strip club on Main Street and the next left onto Silver Lane. Take it past Rentschler Field and you will find Forbes Street on your left. There is no signage from this direction, but the other end of the bridge has it. Strange. This section is extremely hilly and quite annoying. Hehe. Great signage and small sidetrails to other parks. The bonus of this section is when you come to Manchester Community College. There's a small loop trail on the right that is across from the Student Center (water stop) that goes through an old pine tree grove, not bigger than 1 acre. It's a nice oasis of breezy trees and it takes 30 seconds to go through it and it's quite relaxing. The trail continues at many street crossings and takes you next into the Cheney Historical District. You'll see a large informational kiosk/park in place of an old gas station that was demolished to make room for it. This district is a great sightseeing trip and there are several signed bike route signs. If you take the road route, you'll wind up in downtown Manchester, which has a bike shop and a great mini-bike lane on both sides. There's diagonal parking on both sides and the lanes are on the outside of them with more than enough room.
As annoying as the hills are, it's easier and flatter to ride back on the road and it's twice as fast."
"From the East Coast Greenway Newsletter
Town of Bolton, CT Receives Grant for East Coast Greenway Gap
The Town of Bolton, CT has received a $5,000 grant from The SBM Charitable Foundation to help close a gap in the ECG between Bolton Notch and the Manchester town line. The funds will be used for fencing that is required along this section.
The new section of the trail will connect the existing Hop River State Park Linear Trail, built on a former railroad line, with the Charter Oak Greenway in Manchester, and will link Bolton Notch State Park, Freja Park and Valley Falls Park in Vernon."
The trail near exit 2 and 3 of I384 is really noisy and i will not recommend it especially if you want to come here on daily bases. Also you have get on the main road and cross big roads which makes it very less attractive to me. I have not discovered the rest of the trail. This trail also has some steep slopes. The big turn off is the noise and crossing the roads though which makes it less attractive and dangerous.
I finally bit the bullet and came down to do this section of the East Coast Greenway today. started at Charter Oak park and headed west along Rt.384. The tar bike path jumps from one side of rt. 384 to the other following a brook part of the way. You can go east from the park for about 3/4 of a mile and then it ends and you have to return. I found that an extension to the north almost at the end goes about 2 miles to Wickham park. It is kind of interesting to wind up and down along the highway off ramps and the Rt.84 and Rt. 384 intersections. There is a nice view of Hartford just before the west end after the turn off for the Vet. Memorial park. the turns on the trail are well marked and road cross walks have buttons for light change.
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