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It’s hard to pick a favorite season to experience the Hop River State Park Trail, set amid the dense forests of Eastern Connecticut. Sections of the 20-mile rail-trail dive through steep rock cuts that seep moisture, supplying air-conditioning in summer and freezing into glistening icefalls in winter. Maples and oaks bring fiery autumn hues, and in the spring, trilliums and other wild-flowers speckle the ground with color. Three tunnels and a covered bridge complete the trail’s picturesque backdrop.
Following the former Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad, the rail-trail feels like it’s transporting visitors to the days when rail was the predominant mode of transportation. The telegraph poles from days gone by still jut out of the hillside, and a few miles into the trail from the western side, you can see a turnabout that was used to reverse the direction of the train.
After beginning your ride in Manchester, you’ll have the opportunity to connect to another trail in 2.6 miles. At Church and Phoenix Streets in Vernon, a trail called the Rockville Spur (sometimes known as Vernon Rails-to-Trails) branches north. If you have time, the scenic 4.2-mile pathway is definitely worth exploring.
From that trail intersection continuing east on the Hop River State Park Trail, you’ll climb gradually for a few miles past rock outcrops. Along the way, you’ll pass Valley Falls Park, then Bolton Notch State Park, both of which are accessible via hiking paths that spin off from the rail-trail. Just south of Bolton Notch, you'll also have the opportunity to connect to the Charter Oak Greenway, which heads west to Hartford.
Beyond the Bolton Notch parking lot, the trail passes beneath US 44 and US 6, threading through a narrow rock cut and then descending several miles among thick woodlands. Past Steeles Crossing Road in Bolton, US 6 comes into view on your left, but not so close as to disrupt the tranquil experience. Keep watch for small waterfalls like the one near Burnap Brook Road, and enjoy the covered bridge over CT 316.
In another mile, you pass beneath US 6 through a 100-foot lighted tunnel. The route continues along the river to its end at Columbia Avenue in Willimantic. Here, a bridge over the Willimantic River connects the trail to the Air Line State Park Trail, which spans more than 50 miles, running northeast to the Massachusetts border and southwest to East Hampton.
Vernon: The Church Street trailhead is just 1 mile south of Interstate 84 and located between Phoenix and Washington streets. To reach the Church Street trailhead from I-84 east, take Exit 65 and follow signs to State Route 30 north. Turn right at the first traffic signal on Dobson Road and cross beneath the interstate. Dobson becomes Washington Street. A mile south, turn left on Church Street. Trailhead parking is ahead on the left. To reach the trailhead from Exit 66, bear right on Frontage Road, then turn left on Tunnel Road. After 0.25 mile, turn right on Warren Avenue. Drive 0.5 mile, take a left on Phoenix Street, then an immediate right on Church. Trailhead parking is on the right.
Bolton: Bolton Notch State Park; entrance is just west of where US 44 becomes Route 44/ I-384. Enter the park at the end of the guard rail heading west. Parking is also available at Steele's Crossing Road, about 0.3 mile west of US 6.
Andover: Park at Burnap Brook Road about 0.2 mile west of US 6 and on Wales Road about 0.2 mile west of US 6. From US 6 west, enter Andover, turn left onto Lake Road then right onto Merritt Valley Road. The road will intersect with the trail after about 0.2 mile.
Columbia: Take I-384 to US 6, and continue east on US 6 for 9.3 miles. Turn left onto Hop River Road. The parking lot will appear on your left in 0.4 mile.
Manchester: From I-84, take Exit 63 for CT 30/Windsor. Head southeast (left if you took I-84 E and right if you took I-84 W) on CT 30 N. In 0.2 mile (0.4 mile if you took I-84 W), turn right onto Parker St. Follow Parker 0.9 mile, then turn left onto Colonial Road. Look for the trailhead parking lot immediately to your left.
Starts off a little rough! Then it is one of the best trails around!!!
Beautiful for a bike ride in the fall. The trail is well kept, the views are beautiful and is moderately trafficked. I started at the Manchester trailhead and just kept going straight, passing parking lots in Vernon and Bolton. Didn’t notice much options for restrooms or pit stops for food so plan accordingly.
Hands down one of the better rail trails. Smooth packed white limestone trail. Trail was in great shape. I’d say 95% of the trail is shaded-great on a hot summer day. I only found one place to get water and snacks. It was near Andover as the trail crossed a road you could see the highway very close by and a gas station and Dunkin’ Donuts right there only 200 yards off the trail. Overall a great, smooth and very pretty ride!
My wife & I have ridden this trail a number of times in the last month. It is scenic, well shaded, uncrowded, relatively smooth for any bike with easy road crossings. There's ample parking at Mackey's in Willimantic if you start at the eastern end. The first mile or so from Mackey's is a bit rough and there's a small road section but then the entire rest of the trail is excellent. One of my wife's favorites. Note: we have been riding this on our E Bikes.
We parked by the pet store mentioned in a previous review and biked to just passed the covered bridge, maybe 6 miles out? Beginning of trail is rough but that ends quickly . Nice ride in the woods. Not much to see. It was a slight incline on the way out which made the return better. I wish there some benches along the way to take a break.
I rode the entire Hop River Trail beginning in Manchester and ending in Willimantic on a wonderful Fall day. The trail is tightly packed gravel and was in very good condition. The trail is mostly shaded and offers a nice views of woods, streams and rock formations throughout the trail. I didn't notice many opportunities to easily exit the trail for food or supplies so plan your trip accordingly.
My biggest complaint about the Hop River Trail is that every road crossing has very narrow gates on each side that only have one opening. It wasn't very busy when I rode but I can see that these gates would cause congestion on a busy day. Also they almost require you to carefully walk your bike through as riding in those narrow openings can be very difficult. I enjoyed the tunnels along the trail but I could see how the lack of lighting in one of the tunnels could be uncomfortable for some riders.
This is an awesome trail, has a variety of everything, from bridges over rivers and a covered bridge. To tunnels and rock cutouts where they blasted through ledge. Then the trail runs along side the river for a awhile.
Rode this trail on 7/25/20 from the Vernon stop to Parker Bridge Road and back. Ideal for a hot day – shade virtually the entire length, especially beautiful stretches along a raised ridge. The section about 3 miles in is cut out of the side of an incline, and there are a few spots with a bit rougher surface…easily negotiated with trail or mountain bikes, and I think you could do it even with a road bike (excluding the skinniest tires) if you took your time. Mostly well packed dirt/gravel/stone dust. Slight grade uphill until Bolton, then slight downhill to the turnaround point at Parker Bridge. This was our second ride in a month on this beautiful trail, so appreciate the well maintained starting point/parking lot in Vernon complete with picnic table and a tool stand. A real gem- those local to this are lucky!
Simply one of my favorite trails. The first two or three miles in Manchester and Vernon are nothing too special but the rest of the trail is great - scenic, hard pack dirt, not too crowded (especially the closer you get to Willimantic) and there’s a tree canopy almost the whole way so you can stay cooler on hot days. They’re still working on completing the last mile or so in Columbia/Willimantic - I think it’s supposed to be done in 2021 or 2022. But there’s an easy bike-around on roads where you can connect up with the Airline Trail, which is also a great trail.
We rode the Hop River trail on 6/13/20 from Willimantic (parking lot adjacent to Mackey’s Pet Store) to the Bolton Notch State Park and back, about 28 miles. If you’re looking for a packed dirt/cinder trail through the woods, this is just about perfect. Trail is in very good shape, almost all shaded, really takes you away. The trail from Willimantic to Bolton Notch features a long, gradual uphill – but really once you start pedaling it’s not difficult at all, and the route is so picturesque that you don’t really notice. Long sections run high along the river. Really a nice trail, highly recommended. Please also note that from this parking lot you can connect to the Air Line Trail…you’ll ride a path under Rt 66 and follow the paved trail along the river back towards Willimantic. The Air Line is also highly recommended!
The bridge over the Willimantic River is now done and looking great. The Hop River Trail from the bridge has been bushed back and is easily passible to Flanders Road. Follow Flanders St to the 1st left and get back on the Hop River Trail. Last 1/2 mile connection project starts next year and will take 1 1/2 years to finish.
On July 1st I walked over the new Willimantic River Bridge from the current end at Mackie's Ag. store into Columbia. The new decking is in place and railings are underway. Looks like a late summer or early fall completion is possible.
Once they open the bridge it will be possible to ride from the rail road museum to Flanders Road without getting on to Rte. 66. The .5 miles to Flanders Road will remain unimproved but is do-able with wider tires.
Contact with the Hop River design team has developed some news on the last remaining undeveloped area on the Hop River Trail. The section on the Windham side of the Willimantic River is under construction. A late summer opening is anticipated. This work will allow traffic over the Willimantic River from the current end at Mackey's Ag. store. A parking area is also part of the work.
The Trail from the Columbia town line to Kings Road (the current end of the developed trial) will be under design late this year. Bids, construction and all that stuff pushes the completion into 2021.
So late this summer, with a MT bike, you will be able to cross the river from Windham and follow the unimproved rail bed to Flanders Road, turn right to Kings Road and get back on the improved trail, That's less than a mile of off trail and local road.
This is a really nice trail, most of it is under a canopy of trees, nice scenic spots on the river if you want to stop for lunch. I took my hybrid the full 40 miles out and back. Except for maybe a half mile of stones and gravel in Bolton Notch where a mountain bike would be better, the rest was nice hard pack dirt and pulverized stone. I saw thin tire street bikes on this trail as well. There are very long stretches on this trail where you don't cross any roads, and except for maybe one exception, most of the crossings have little traffic and are side roads. I also like the width of the trail. Two thirds of the trail is very wide. After Andover it gets a bit more narrow but there were also fewer people on the trail towards Willimantic. The only down side is that the trail terminus in Willimantic is pretty anticlimactic. You come to a road that that's it. No parking lot or grassy area, just a road and you know its over unless you want to continue on-road biking to Willimantic.
This trail is beautiful in the fall. Well maintained and mostly paved. Its a smooth ride but gets a bit rocky crossing between bolton and vernon. Other than that this trail is amazing. Can be a bit crowded on weekends though
The previous reviewer indicated there was standing water on the trail in Andover. This is due to frost-thaw cycle that starts in November. The stone dust trails become very mucky once this starts and makes cycling a bit harder and messier. Paving would solve the problem.
This trail is great; what a gem. I can see why the locals refer to it as a favorite. The two reasons we didn't rate it a 5 is the standing water on a couple sections near Andover, CT (there's been no rain in days) and secondly, for a 3-wheeled recumbent trike -- the un-passable automobile barriers at the road crossings (had to carry our trike over the stones adjacent to the barrier). The trail has a few areas with small grades but for the most-part is really flat. The trail surface is hard packed, we saw numerous skinny wheeled street bikes experiencing no difficulties once so ever. The trail is heavily used but everyone we encountered was respectful of other users right-of-way. My wife rode the trail on a recumbent trike and I on a Mt bike.
The last 1/2 mile of final surfacing from the Route 6 bridges to King Road is done, and a nice job too!
Windham hopes to have the bridge over the Willimantic River and that section out to bid in the spring of 2018.
The west end of the Hop River Trail in Williamatic ends at the Connecticut Eastern Rail Road Museum at the bridge where the Hop River Trail joins the Airline trail and both go east to join Rt 32. Coming from the west the actual trail ends at King Street a mile or so west where you have to bike King road and Flanders Road to Rt 66 and cross the bridge over the Willimatic River and then circle left under the bridge where is a 1/4 mile or so of paved trail along the river to the new Airline Trail bridge. The old RR bridge is washed out and old trail faint. All of these aspects show on the Traillink map as a faint line if you maximize it. The map for the Airline trail shows this new connection with a dark red line for the Hop River Trail. Youker
I rode this trail 7 miles from Bolton Notch to the west end at Colonial Road with my wife driving shuttle. It is very difficult to find the entrance road to the parking lot for the trail at Bolton Notch. If you magnify the trail map at Bolton Notch the thin short dirt road shows on the map. It is just off I-384 just after Rt. 6/44 joins the super highway. Stay to right, go slow and look for the road and hard to see sign. It is a lovely trail, very level, good surface and shaded all the way. The maps on the State site, referenced from the Traillink site are good but slightly out of date for new construction. They are easy to print and show mileage. Youker
It has been reported that a large bear was seen on the trail section between Hop River Rd. and Parker Bridge Rd. in Columbia.
We had two cars, and wanted to ride one way so we left one car behind the First Congregational Church 359 US 6, Andover, CT. The second car we parked at the trailhead 175 Colonial Rd, Manchester, CT where there is a dedicated parking lot. By car it was 15 minutes driving time one way between locations. From our start point we crossed RT 6 in front of the church to pick up the trail and then rode to the right heading west. The first 5 miles were a definite uphill grade, around mile 6 it became a downhill grade all the way to Manchester. Total distance between the two locations approximately 12 miles. Considering the trail is mostly hard packed dirt it was very well maintained, wider in some areas than others with a few road crossings. The scenery was mostly rocks that had been blasted through back when the railroad was built with a lot of ferns and greenery, but never saw the Hop River. There were mostly bikers on the trail, and everyone was very friendly. Other than the uphill grade for 5 miles it was a very pleasant ride. If you're looking for a nearby place to stay I highly recommended the Daniel Rust House in Coventry which was only 12 minutes from the church by car.
I love riding this trail, but the Andover section does not appear to be maintained. In some sections brush is covering the trail and there are expanding sand traps at some of the entrance gates. These sand traps are dangerous to cyclists and have caused accidents. Be careful in this section.
A regular outdoor "fun day" for the family, ride bikes or walk, excellent for relaxation and exercise, the kids love it! Well maintained dirt or gravel, some steep side drop offs, so watch the little ones, overall an excellent experience.
The good news is that the trail has been stone dusted between Hop River Rd and Kings Rd. The bad news is that the local equestrians have ripped it up. It is particularly bad from Pucker St. to Kings Rd. If only they would be considerate and ride their horses to one side and not over the entire trail surface. It is too bad that so much work and money has gone into this trail just to have it ruined by a few individuals.
Funding in the amount of $500,000 has been obtained to complete the trail from Columbia to Willimantic. The work will include clearing, resurfacing and upgrades to the two bridges over the Hop and Willimantic Rivers. This will finish the connection to the Airline trail.
Long slight grade in both direction. Crushed stone trail good to ride on. Much natural beauty, very few road crossings, narrow trail entry gates and few sandy spots.
Definitely, it is worth the trip.
Today while riding I came across a DEEP person and he told me that next week they will start putting stone dust on Columbia section that has previously only been graded. He also said that the connector to the Airline Trail that they have been working on in Willimantic is almost finished.
This is a beautiful trail, long and uninterrupted, through shady forest. Great for hybrid bikes, runners, and walkers. It is especially good if you're a runner prone to or recovering from injury; it's a softer surface than roads, and much more even. Plus it is so very pleasant to run (or bike) without having to worry about traffic. For bicycling, I so much prefer this than riding trails on which you have to stop every half mile or so to cross a busy road, even though I like riding my road bike better. From Church Street in Vernon, this trail crosses no roads until mile 6.5 at Steele's Crossing. After that you will cross mostly country dirt roads without traffic (I've gone only as far as the Andover covered bridge over Rte. 316, so can't speak for the section from there to Willimantic.) And Henry was spot on about people's friendliness--although not all, many people, me included, are smiling just from the sheer joy of being able to use this trail. One caveat: From Steele's Crossing Road to Rte. 316 in Andover has become mosquito heaven (May 26, 2015).
This trail is beautiful. It cuts through green forest and passes serene river scenery. At about mile 14.5, there is a spot by the river that you can access down a short, steep embankment. It's a nice spot for a snack and to dip your feet. We rode it on a warm May day. Surprisingly, there were not a lot of people. The trail is primarily shady so the temperature was comfortable. There are some really cool tunnels (cool, temperature-wise) to pass under too. It takes about 2 hours to get to the Church Street parking lot in Vernon from NYC. It's well worth the drive!
Wife and I walked the dog on the trail from Bolton park to next large crossing. Not much traffic in winter but trail was icy. Some good short trails off to the side.
My wife and I rode our hybrid bikes from the Church Street parking lot to the east end of the trail (just prior to the broken-down rail bridge) and back again on Labor Day.
Simply put, this is a marvelous trail. The mature forest through which most of it flows is truly striking. It's an outstanding example of Southern New England woodlands. The cuts through the rocks and the high embankments that were engineered and built with 1800's-era technology compel you to pause, examine, and marvel. An added benefit of both the forest canopy and those cuts is the cooling effect they provide on a hot, humid day. Tunnels and bridges add to the visual appeal of the trail, and well-placed benches are a very nice touch.
The trail is well maintained, and as others have said, the easternmost mile or so is narrower and markedly rougher than the rest of the trail. That section is nonetheless easily traversed on hybrids.
Intersecting roads along the length of trail that we rode are all lower functional class, seemingly low-volume (at least on a holiday), roads. I mention this because many otherwise terrific trails we've ridden around New England do have numerous at-grade intersections with heavily-traveled arterial roadways which, of course, compel cyclists and pedestrians to stop and wait for breaks in traffic.
One last thing of note. Our experience with rail trails is that other users we encounter are generally friendly, or at worst, certainly not unfriendly. I noticed on this trail that other users were remarkably friendly. People routinely thanked us for announcing our presence while passing. Many people called out for us to enjoy our ride. Most people passing in the opposite direction gave us a friendly greeting. Almost everyone smiled at us. Perhaps it was the sunshine or the fact that it was a holiday. I theorize, though, that users of this trail are just so darned thrilled to have this wonderful resource available to them that it simply brings out the best in them.
This is one that's worth going out of your way to experience.
I do interval training on trails - Hop Brook is one of my favorites. Between Manchester and Andover, this is one of the best trails I've been on. However, the eastern end of the trail is a different story. The part heading west from Flanders Road in Willimantic is hard to find - and then it leads to a broken down railroad bridge. From Kings Road west is better, but still not as nice as the western part of the trail.
I rode on the portion of the trail that included the new covered bridge over rt. 316 two years ago and the trail was really rocky, bumpy, grassy, not fun at all! So now in June 2014 I am so pleased with the condition of the trail! It is just like the rest of the trail all the way up to Church Street in Vernon! Nice and smooth, the only problem was that the group of horses and riders we passed left divots and poop on the trail.
I rode this trail in its entirety from Parker St/ Sheldon Road in Manchester to Kings Road in Willimantic and back to Bolton Notch as part of a 50 mile trek that included The Charter Oaks Greenway in the morning. It was a beautiful spring day. The surface from Manchester to Andover was perfect. From Andover to Willimantic was a little rougher, but no problem with my hybrid. The high rock walls and rushing water were great highlights. Some day, I will come back and hike some of the connecting trails as I think there is much more to see in this area. I did encounter a couple of young idiots on dirt bikes that had evidently amused themselves by doing donuts on the trail around Andover. I'm not sure if motorized vehicles are prohibited in this section because I didn't see any signs that indicated that. Perhaps those responsible for the maintainence of the trail will remedy that in the future. Overall, I'm very impressed with this trail and I will return.
Stumbled across this elevated gem, when waiting for cars to pass through the tunnel, on Tunnel Road, in Vernon. Walked up the steps, which are nicely cut into the hill side. At the top is trail that will tranfer you to a different place. The tree canopy, along with the elevated path make this a very special run. Went back to work that day, and returned at the end of the day, for a nice run, and saw three fawns down in one of the sides. If you continue, you will hit an area where the path is cut out of rocks.
We love this trail for its diversity... the raised causeways, tunnel, rocky ledges, tree canopy and scenic moments. It is well-maintained, easy to follow and can be combined with the Rockville Spur for different options. Signs here and there explain the history of the railroad in the area. We've been back three times so far and it ranks #1 on our list of rails-to-trails rides.
My 1st time on this train proved to be fantastic, I started me trek at the Manchester trail head and went 10 miles before turning back. It was a great time with beautiful waterfalls and rock outcrops all along my ride. There are rest areas all along this system with park bench's or picnic tables. Placards, signage and mile markers are abundant to inform you as to where you are on the system. I must say this is now my favorite rail trail so far and I will deff. be back soon.
A great day of biking.
Although not paved, I thought this was a great trail with a relatively smooth ride the entire way. I was riding my road bike the entire time and had no problem. Towards the end in the Andover, Columbia, Willimantic area it started to become a bit bumpy. A mountain bike would have been more appropriate for this section. My favorite section was the Vernon portion of the trail which featured several remnants of the old railroad as well as historical plaques with interesting facts about the railroad. The nearby Rockville spur trail was also a very nice ride. Highly recommended!
It was my first time visiting this trail, and I had a wonderful time. I was surprised at how quiet and well-maintained it was. While we were only walking along the trail and not running or biking, this trail would be excellent for those as well. It is not an asphalt path, so road bikes would not be suitable, however. It's definitely worth a little bit of a drive to check out this trail.
On Saturday March 31, the long-awaited covered trail bridge over Rte. 316 was put into place. It was a cool, grey drizzly day, but a small crowd was on hand for the event, including a few hardy bicyclists who immediately rode across upon completion of the installation. The new bridge is extremely sturdy and attractive, and a welcome addition to the Hop River Trail.
As we enjoy this great trail, we must be aware and remember that this trail is railbanked with the state. At some time in the future it may be put back into service as an active rail line and a vital link to the economy and growth of the area.
Rode the trail from Manchester to Andover today, and found a large section of a bridge sitting near the Rt 316 crossover point. The town was also clearing access from the trail to the old bridge abutment. Hopefully this trail will finally be complete sometime this year!
The section I rode on July 31, 2011 (~13 miles out & back) started on Lake Road in Andover, CT (next to Benjamin Franklin Plumbing) and ended about 6.5 miles West. The trail is mostly wooded, and for the most part, except for a 1 mile stretch, not well maintained. It starts off looking like a farm road with weeds growing in the center line of the trail. There are some good sized rocks, ruts, and debris for the first 2 miles, then the trail becomes beautifully groomed for a mile or so, then turns back to farm-like access road. The trail continues to get narrower until it becomes a single track. Downed trees, rocks, and low hanging branches, coupled with sections where the rail ties were still embedded were a challenge. I made the ride on my cross bike, but a mountain bike with better suspension would have been preferable.
The path is scenic with rivers, bridges, hay fields, and wildlife. This trail section is not for the, little ones, handicapped, or road bikes. Local equestrians seem to use the trail frequently and there is a good deal of droppings to watch for.
The really well groomed section is encouraging and I hope those responsible will continue in this endeavor.
I did this trail today July 20th, it was going to be a very hot day so I got an early strat. I did 13 and a half miles or 27 miles round trip. The first third of the trail is well marked but the rest is hit or miss. I did this on my Mt bike with a street tire and it worked great. By and large it is well groomed except for a couple of short sections on the north end. This is a beautiful trail and very family friendly, lots of shade. Out of Vernon there was a lot of traffic for the first few miles and then very little once you got to Bolton. There were lot of historic Markers and a number of benches and a few picnic tables along the way.
Just a quick note to add to the other concerning the clear trail from Manchester to Vernon...yes, it IS a clear trail for the most part..a little rougher, but doable with even a child bike trailer. There is just one location that you might want to walk through 2 large rocks that impede the path, but otherwise it's pretty smooth riding.
Since my previous posting, I have finished exploring the trail and highly recommend it as a place to ride. On a hot July day, the temperature was very cool under the canopy of trees along the trail. If you like, you could lock your bike at the rack by Valley Falls Park in Vernon, and walk down the hiking trail to the pond and pay $1 to swim.
From the Colonial Road trailhead in Manchester to Kings Road in Columbia, the trail is 19.3 miles. I measured 900 ft. of climbing with my GPS. The last seven miles back to Manchester is almost entirely downhill. The most polished sections start from the Manchester-Vernon town line extending to Burnap Brook Road in Andover.
If you want a 30 mile ride on a stone dust surface that you could do on a road bike, go from Manchester and loop up and back on the Rockville spur and turn around at Burnap Brook. This loop will give you 850 ft. of climbing. From Burnap Brook to Kings Road is a hard packed surface with some loose stone that is best negotiated with a mountain bike. The 1.2 mile stretch from Parker Bridge Road to a wooden bridge over the Hop River is the only stone dust surface east of Burnap Brook Road. The last mile into Willimantic from Kings Road is a mess involving a bypass around the bridge over the Hop River that is tilting sideways. Past the bypass is loose sand, trap rock, and even railroad tracks. The bridge across the Willimantic River has rotting timbers and across the bridge the tracks are active. Turn around at Kings Road. Even better, turn around at the Hop River wooden bridge at 16.4 miles.
With regard to my previous posting and the crossing at Rt. 316, there is a safer and easier way than walking down the steep embankment next to the bridge abutment. Just past the traffic light in Andover (when heading east), look for a narrow path on the right out to Center Street. Follow Center Street to Rt. 316. Left on Rt. 316, then right on Monument Lane. Turn right into the museum driveway, and left to resume the trail.
The trail is hard packed stone dust from the Manchester-Vernon line to Burnap Brook Road in Andover, and could be ridden with a road bike. East of this point, the trail is hard packed dirt with loose stones that is best ridden with a mountain bike with suspension, although a hybrid without suspension (as I was riding) could make it though, but with a bumpy ride. With regard to the crossing of Rt. 316, there is a two-foot wide path on the left side of the abutment that users presumably created. Walk your bike down to Rt. 316 (Hebron Rd.) Turn left on Rt. 316, then immediate right on Monument Lane. Right into the Museum of Andover History driveway, then left onto the trail. The tunnel under Rt. 6 had only one working light and some broken glass, so ride with care. I brought this to the state's attention to fix the problem. This is a fabulous rail trail through wooded areas and is not heavily used. I plan to ride the easternmost part of the trail in the near future.
There is now a parking area for this trail at the corner of Parker St. & Colonial Road in Manchester. The trail is accessible all the way to this parking lot, which is south of where the current trail map shows the trail ends. The area below Taylor Street in Vernon south to the Manchester parking lot is not as cleared or as wide as the rest of this rail but it easily traversed by any type of bicycle and completely free of any obstructions. This Manchester trail head is more convenient to cyclists who are heading to this trail from west of the Connecticut River as it is easier to get to than the Church Street parking lot in Vernon. Also because there is no parking lots between the Manchester Trail Head and the Church Street lot, this part of the trail is virtually unused. In fact I started in Manchester at 5:30 on a Friday night and did not encounter another person until I reached the Church Street lot. To get to this new trail head in Manchester from Hartford & points west, take I-84 East to Exit 63. Stay in the left lane as you exit, and make a left turn on Tolland Tpke. Make a right at the first traffic light, Parker Street, and follow Parker for about a mile to the intersection of Colonial Road which hits Parker Street from the left. You will see the parking lot and trail head at this intersection.
As many of us are disappointed with the lack of progress in Andover, CT concerning the planned covered bridge over Rt. 316, I suggest that everyone who uses this wonderful trail e-mail governor Rell at "Governor.Rell@ct.gov" and push for resolution to this impass between the DOT and Echo Bridge, Inc. (contractor).
From this directon running west it is a slight down hill grade. Most of the tail is fairley wide of packed stone dust . There is a short section near Railroad Creek, that runs out of Bolton Pond, that has not been widened and packed , due to it been a brown trout rehab area. the road base it this area is broken ballist stone and can be quite a ruff ride for small kids. continuing down hill there is a steep drop of on the left all the way. I ride a tadpole trike and being close to the ground leads to a different view, that you wouldn't have on an upright bike. Coming back is of course up hill.
June 27, 2008
I met a friend today at the Church St trailhead, in Vernon and had a nice walk with our toddlers. They are 5yrs, 4 yrs, 2 1/2 years and 10 mo. old and are all active kids who regularly walk and run around outside. We walked northwest for about 1/2 hour, crossing one (busy) road and then turned around and went back. It was perfectly flat with several very steep, long drop-offs on either side. Fine for our kids, but not good if you have a little one who runs aways or won't stop on command. We brought an off road double jogging stroller and at one time, all three of the older kids were in it on the way back. The 10 mo. old was carried by Mama in a sling. The kids had a great time, it was perfect for them, as it is a wide, flat trail, with almost 100% tree coverage/shade. We passed a handful of friendly bikers and walkers. When we got back to the the parking area, we ate used the picnic table and portopotty, both clean. I would highly recommend this section to anyone with toddlers.
I was traveling down Rt. 6 today and was disappointed to see that the bridge abutments are finished but in two years they have not built the bridge.
"Today we parked at the Sacred Heart Church (N41.49.928 W72.28.453) and rode for about 3.75 miles. Along the say we stopped and did some geocaching and then headed back.
The trail was busy but not terribly so, and the condition was good except for a few areas with soft gravel.
Be careful near the edges because in parts the drop offs are very steep."
I started at church st. today and road almost to Willimantic with only one detoure. (Rt.316) he workers at Rt.316 say it will be done in 2 months. After a steady climb to Bolton notch It was down hill to Willimantic. After Steel crossing road each section gets progressively more difficult and should be tried by only more adventuresome bikers. I found the bridge just before Flanders river rd. is sill not safe and you have to make a left on the road before it.
The trail was in great shape for about the first half and
when finished will make a great one way day trip.
"Yesterday I road from Burnap Brook Rd, right off of Rte 6 (there is parking for about 5 cars adjacent to the trail) to Columbia to the first bridge crossing before the longer Hop River bridge. I was pleased to see that there was a backhoe on the western side of the trail (where there was a barracade and you had to scramble down the hill - now there's a backhoe there and netting so no one can get that far). The other side has been cleared and is netted off as well. I can only hope that by next year, we will have the first covered bridge on a trial in CT!"
"The best way to do this with the kids is to start at church street and go 5 miles to Bolton Notch. Go through the tunnel, and then turn around to return. This gives you a great 5 mile return with a slight downhill grade. The kids barely have to pedal to get back.
The trail is very scenic and diverse. Just be careful with new riders since there are a few steep drop-offs on the sides of the trail.
"Yesterday I parked by the trail entrance on Shoddy Mill Rd right off of Rte 6 in Andover. I rode 5 miles upgrade (which brings you to the pinnacle of the trail, Bolton Notch) and then turned around (the way back was a downgrade). I was thrilled to see that once you get to Burnap Brook Rd, the trail has been stonedusted with a drainage ditch. Just last year I tried riding this part of the track and was hindered by trap rock. It was truly a joy - so pretty - and a very smooth ride. Can't wait until the entire trail is finished with stone dust. At least all of the old railroad bridges have been repaired.
We're getting there!"
"Not noted in any literature is that the trail ends at Andover at Rte 316 in a large mess of construction debries. There is no bridge crossing Rte 316 and there is a steep down hill portage to reach the other side of the trail, which by the way is more like a single track then a trail.
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"Between the rock cuts just south of Steeles Crossing Road to Burknap Brook Road, the trail has now been graded, rolled and stonedusted. Thanks to the crews from the towns of Bolton and Andover. "
"I work in Vernon, so typically after work I go to the Church St trailhead parking lot and the farthest I had ridden was to Bailey Rd. Labor Day weekend I talked my brother, who lives in Coventry, into taking the trail from Bailey Rd to the end (Windham!)
The good news is, the railroad bridges are now decked, and the one over the Hop River is great! The bad news is, there are many sections with railroad track rock which is very difficult to bike on (my brother had a hybrid - definitely a mountain bike trail!).
When that part of the trail is regraded with stone dust some day, it will be awesome = right now, I'm sticking to the Western section of the trai - thus, ""West is Best""!"
"Currently there is work being done between the Steel Crossing Road area and Route 316. The trail has been ""churned up"" and a water drainage ditch has been added on the west side, by machinery. The ride is a little rough in those areas, but it's still do-able. "
"The lights in the tunnel running under Rte 6 in Andover are on. This is a welcome sight, making for safer passage through the tunnel. Thanks to those who help keep this trail clean."
"Four of us road round trip from the Rte 6 tunnel in Bolton, headed south to the jersey barriers at Flanders Rd in Columbia, and back. The round trip measured 25 miles on my indicator. No improvements down there. We kinda like it that way. Adds flavor. It was a good day to ride. "
"The professionals and trail volunteers have constructed a few retaining walls and a water spillway on the trail from the old railroad depot in Vernon to the Rte 44&6 junction tunnel. Also, they have smoothed the trail at the Phoenix Street area. Much thanks to all involved is in order. I will keep you posted."
"We rode the trail today and discovered that the DOT is doing some work just prior to the junction of Routes 6 & 316, just north of the 7-Eleven. Be careful, the path is rough due to ""cat tracks"" and the metal sheds are now gone. Continue on to the right of the white delivery truck, as usual, to carry on.
We stopped at the 7-Eleven today and then turned around and headed back to Sacred Heart Church in Vernon. This is a 22.6 mile round trip. I'll keep you posted."
"I've ridden this trail many times from Rockville to Valley Falls and to Bolton. On Saturday, May 10, 2003, we rode the trail from Church Street in Vernon to Columbia and back. The trail was less traveled once we got past the Bolton/Andover area.
The trail was a little rough in spots. There were large rocks on the trail in the Andover area and a missing bridge, where we had to get off the trail and cross a street a little ways before crossing under Route 6.
All and all it was a great ride. Thanks to those who keep making these trails better."
"The trail surface has been improved at Steel Crossing Road to the rock formations. The trail, however, is still unimproved past the rocks heading towards Bailey Road. Thanks to those who've worked hard to make it all possible."
"See the ""new footbridge"" note in the Rockville spur area."
"The run from West St., Vernon to colonial Dr., Manchester is a nice run of about 12 miles round trip. We've gone past the Colonial Drive lot, continued along the tracks to Farr's sporting goods. We'd hoped to continue down the de-railed portion from Hilliard Street,to the trestle on Center street. However, had to turn around at Hilliard, since the trackbed is overgrown with high weeds. Maybe someday it'll be useable."
"Whether you are a road or hard core MTB rider this trail is a great cross trainer! Do not let anyone fool you, you pedal as fast and as far as you would like. They say it is only 20 miles but that is one way. Not to mention all the other MTB trails that connect to it!
A 3% grade for 5 miles a clip at an average 14 mph will do wonders for your stamina. The scenery is spectacular. Depending on the time of year there are natural waterfalls and wildlife galore. My wife and I have seen several deer, turkey, hawks, owls and even a giant Turkey Buzzard! Take your time and enjoy what nature has to offer with out the fear of road rage! Hope to see you out there. "
Here's an updated link to the Courant article on the new covered bridge coming to the Andover section of the Hop River trail:
"Sunday, June 16, 2002 was a great day to ride on the Hop River Trail. The Mountain Laurel were in bloom just west of Bolton Notch. In addtion, the new gravel surface and drainage work from Trout Brook in Bolton Notch toward Andover made the riding very enjoyable!"
"State and local officials have secured a $283,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the State Bond Commission. The grant will be used to place a prefabricated covered bridge across Route 316 that will allow hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders to follow the trail safely. This portion of the Hop River Trail that runs from Bolton to Willimantic is part of the state's 177-mile section of the East Coast Greenway. See Hartford Courant article at http://www.ctnow.com/news/local/ec/hc-4col0604.artjun04.story"
The trail is now complete with a great bluestone surface to about 2 miles past Bolton Notch. Town workers say the next couple of miles will be finished by fall. Railroad Brook has been restored to pristine beauty. This is an incredibly under used resource.
"Rode the trail from Church St trailhead about 9 miles to Andover or so on 10/13. Great ride! Would have loved to keep going, but need to head back for food."
The town of Bolton has begun to grade and pave with rock dust the section of the trail between the Vernon town line and the Andover town line. All sections are currently passable. This is a great ride through the woods.
"I've enjoyed riding this trail end-to-end on several occasions over the past 8 years. Major re-grading and clearing by the National Guard a few years back has greatly improved the condition of the trail from what it was five years ago. The Towns of Vernon and Bolton have also endeavored to make improvements and some bridges have been added in the past year. The best section of the trail is in Vernon through Valley Falls State Park. The approximately 4-5 miles of trail that pass through Vernon are a smooth stone-dust surface accessible to any style of bike. The trail passes along the edge of the valley with a towering cliff on one side and a precipitous drop to the bottom of the valley on the other. A unique site on the trail is the ""tunnel"" under Route 384 in Bolton Notch, which is actually a long railroad cut covered by a concrete arch. There are many good access points in the towns of Bolton and Andover. In general, any of the roads that head up the hill to the west from Route 6 will cross the trail. Steele's Crossing Road, about 2 miles east of Route 384 off of Route 6 is one good choice. Please e-mail me if you'd like further info."
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