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The local riding club enjoyed this former rail line, which was purchased in 1944 for a dollar from the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, as a bridle trail for many years. It changed management over the years, and currently has no official manager. While this problem is expected to be remedied soon, the trail currently reflects the lack of oversight; there are no signs to the trail nor signs guiding users through unclear road crossings. However, this pretty trail is fun to explore if you are game, whether by mountain bike, on horseback or on foot.
Starting in Montrose, the first couple of miles are rough and tumble, with sharp turns, exposed tree roots, large rocks, mud puddles, low-hanging branches and the occasional ATV user coming round the bend. The trail is narrow along much of this segment—shrinking to a two-foot path in places—which adds to the challenge, but also the fun.
At the second road crossing (State Route 167) the trail continuation is obscured; look for it between two houses across the road, a little to the right. At the next road crossing, the trail continuation again is not obvious, but you should be able to find it if you cross the road and go to the left slightly, and down a gravel road about 500 yards.
The trail is then flanked by tall trees and widens to two tracks, making more room for passing equestrians, cyclists or ATVs. A meager waterfall spills over the high bank on the right side, but most of the water has been diverted to another course since the last flood.
For the last few miles of the trail courses gradually toward lower ground and eventually ends at a working railroad nearly a mile from Alford. Since you cannot cross the railroad, you will need to head back up the trail to the starting point.
To reach the access point in Montrose from Interstate 81, take Exit 223 west onto US 11 toward New Milford. Follow it about 2 miles through New Milford until State Route 706 West splits off to the right (north) and heads toward Montrose. Follow State Route 706 to the east side of town. Just past the golf course, turn left into the Pump & Pantry Convenience Store parking lot. The unmarked trailhead is behind the store on the left. The store staff are helpful if you have questions.
At 64 and with my first bike (Trek 820), I began this trail at Heart Lake. Dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and wintertime snowmobiles, have reduced much of the trail to bedrock and loose stone. Japanese knotweed narrows the trail in spots, and lengthy mud puddles make the ride a little dirty, but as long as you pay attention, it's completely do-able. Most of the ride is in the shade so that it's comfortable even in 80 degrees.
My ride terminated at Pump and Pantry in Montrose where I purchased a 20 ounce bottle of water for the ride back to Heart Lake. Overall, I found this section of the trail a lot of fun.
This trail could be top notch if the surface was significanly improved to be crushed limestone AND signage was installed; especially at those areas where one could easily miss the trail because of road crossings or where one is forced to ride adjacent roads due to property right-of-way disputes.
There are a FEW places where one can move at a pretty good pace because the trail surface is either on grass or smooth dirt surfaces.
However, much of the trail is pretty rough; either dirt with surface tree roots or stones (not ballast) similar to what one would find at the bottom of a stream bed. There were even a couple of places where I had to dismount my bike and skirt around puddles that covered the entire width of the trail.
For the majority of the ride, the trail has a nice tree canopy with a couple of open areas along Route 706 and through an open grass covered field. As one nears the town of Alford, you are riding on a shelf cut out of the hillside and are at least a hundred feet above the live railroad tracks which one is able to catch an occassional glimpse through the trees.
Some Directions / Hints that may prove to be useful:
It should be noted that this trail is under 10 miles (NOT 14 as currently listed as of 9/7/2014) and I have confirmed this via 3 sources; my bike odometer, Google Maps using the Bike Mode, and a 7.5' USGS Topographical map.
As mentioned in the Trail description. The trail is a continuous descent from the Pump & Pantry Montrose trailhead to the town of Alford. As you know, what goes down must come back up. In other words, you will have your work cut out for you on the return trip!
The UNMARKED trailhead is behind the Montrose Pump & Pantry off of Route 706. As you are facing the store from the street, the trailhead is behind the store and all the way to the left. The trail is to the left of a resident's driveway. The driveway is gravel and ascends a steep hill while the trail is dirt, level, and narrow.
As soon as you start riding, you will experience what the majority of the trail will be like; surface tree routes and bumpy under a nice canopy of trees. You will soon be passing a golf course on your left followed by a shopping plazza.
At 1.2 miles (according to Google and all mileage specified later in this commentary is from Google Maps), you will encounter your 1st road crossing (Old Country Road)
At 1.8 miles, you will come out to an open area next to Route 706. You will see a Tractor Supply Company (TSC) store ahead of you. Do NOT make the mistake that I made- Do NOT go across Rt 706. Stay on the same side of the road as the TSC store. The trail essentially passes through the front lawn of the TSC store, parallelling Route 706. It isn't initially obvious, but after 75', one will see tire tracks in the grass where ATV's have travelled.
At 2.1 miles, you will come to another road crossing - McCollum Road. The trail is easily seen across the road.
At 2.3 miles, you will encounter your 1st diversion from the original ROW (Right-of-Way) due to property owners and you are forced to bike along Route 706 for about 60' where you then can get back onto the original ROW.
At 2.4 miles, just a short distance from where one got back onto the trail after the property owners detour, one will cross over Rout 167 at a VERY sharp angle - NOT a 90 degree angle. If you were to stand along side Rt 167 looking directly across the road (90 degrees or 12 oclock), you would have to turn your head to the right; looking at 1:30 or 2:00 oclock positions to see the trail.
Once on the other side of Rt 167, this is where I encountered 3 large puddles that covered the entire width of the trail. I had to dismount my bike and walk on the vegetation on the outside edge of the original ROW.
Around 3.2 miles, I came to an open field where it was very difficult to discern the trajectory of the bike trail where an old barn could be spotted off to the left. If the grass had been fuller or ATVs hadn't been riding this path on a regular basis, I would have been completly lost.
At 3.6 miles, you encounter another angled road crossing (Singer Rd). This one is a bit easier to discern than the previous angled crossing over Rt 167
At 4.5 miles, you will encounter Heartlake Road. The original ROW (Right-of-Way) continued across the road and into the woods. However, this is another area where one is diverted off of the ROW because of property owner blockage. At the time of this writing, the property owner had blocked the ROW with a split-rail fence and posted "No Trespassing" signs. So, make a left onto Heartlake rd and then make a quick right onto Rt 706 and go for a short distance; maybe 200' until you observe a very rocky, dirt path descending from the road into the woods.
Approximately at 6+ miles, I had to dismount my bike and gingerly walk through what seemed like a creek bed. Due to the previous day's rain, the trail was like a stream for about 100' with a very rocky surface (NOT ballast). Even if there hadn't been about 1" of water flowing over the stones, I would have had to dismount for fear of serious injury.
Approximately at 8 miles, I came to what I thought was one of the prettiest sections of the trail built on a shelf cut out of the hillside with a very thick canopy of trees. We were at least 100' above the surface below. One could catch glimpses of the live Railroad tracks below.
It didn't take long as the trail continued to descend sharply before it dumped out onto the active right of way. Google has this at 9.2 miles where my bike odometer was around 9.6 miles.
I am not telling anyone to do the following, but because the trail conditions were terrible along most areas of the trail and due to pending darkness (very dark in the woods in the evening with the thick tree canopy), I elected to ride the access road adjacent to the active railroad line for .4 miles to Depot Street and then biked the roads back to the Montrose Trailhead. This in itself is quite a work out because 95% of the journey back to the Pump & Pantry is up hill!
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Update: Please also note that the trail head at Simpson is closed owing to gas pipe line digging and construction until the beginning of 2018....
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