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The Manhan Rail Trail wends its way between Easthampton and Northampton, with a spur trail leading out The Oxbow near Mt. Tom. Easthampton is a typical New England factory town brimming with commerce and community, as well as historical and natural sites galore. Located in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, the 9.6-mile trail follows two former railroad corridors: New Haven Railroad's Canal Division and Boston & Maine Railroad's Mt. Tom Branch. These lines used to compete for business from the thriving textile mills, but by the 1970s, changes in environmental laws and relocation of the industry to southern states led to a decline in manufacturing and subsequently the rail.
Starting from South Street, the trail is characterized by a forested landscape, which makes for a cool, shady journey. (There are plans to extend the trail south from here to Coleman Road in Southampton.) About 0.5 mile from the trailhead an underpass provides student commuters access to the private Northampton Williston School. This part of the Manhan trail passes behind residential areas; entrances to the trail from neighborhood streets will give you a sense of the rail-trail's popularity.
At 0.9 mile, you'll find trailhead parking and a water fountain on your right, followed soon after by the colorful Manhan Rail Trail Millennium Mural. The colorful example of public art stands opposite an old train depot.
Crossing Ferry Street in Easthampton's business district, the trail splits; the right spur heads due east on the old Boston & Maine corridor, soon opening up to a spectacular view of a Connecticut River tributary. Old mill buildings flank the trail to the left. On the right you'll find a skateboard and basketball park with picnic tables. Just past the park, you'll find additional trail parking and access. The trail passes more old mill buildings before reaching a scenic overlook of The Oxbow in the Connecticut River. This stretch keeps birders busy. Off to the right is the E. Florence Smith Nature Trail. Managed by the Pascommuck Conservation Trust, this short spur leads to the site of a 1704 conflict between settlers and Native Americans.
Nearing trail's end, you'll pass a residential area with parking and trail access on the right, and lovely open meadows on each side. You'll soon emerge at the small trailhead parking area on North Street/US 5.
If you take the left spur from north of Ferry Street, you'll carry on into Northampton, paralleling Lovefield Street for ways before heading into the heavily wooded Arcadia Sanctuary. The trail then passes through a few outlying neighborhoods before entering a more commercial area of Northampton. After crossing King Street (US 5/SR 10), the trail ends at the junction with the Norwottuck Rail-Trail (Francis P. Ryan Section), taking you another 2.6 miles to Bridge Road.
To reach trailhead parking on Ferry Street from the Massachusetts Turnpike/Interstate 91, take I-91 north to Exit 18 and head south on US Hwy. 5 to Easthampton. Turn right on East Street, then right again on Ferry Street. The trail crosses Ferry Street near the Pleasant Street intersection. Look for the parking lot on your left. Limited parking is also available at the Route 5 trailhead, a.k.a. Mt. Tom Junction.
Parking is also available at Veterans Field park off West Street south of Northampton.
Great trail, easy ride. Best part is... It's paved the whole way into center of Northampton. If you end in Northampton make your way to Mimmos. Biggest slice of pizza you'll ever eat for a good price. Enjoy and happy riding!
If you are looking for a paved road and by itself (not on the shoulder of a road), check this place out. I've had a hard time finding a paved trail that is good for my road bike without the stress of worrying about cars flying by. This was my first ride here and will definitely be back. There is little to no elevation changes so depending on your skill level, you can basically be a beginner and do just fine. I liked that for the majority of the trail, it's shaded. I parked in the Flaherty Memorial Parking lot which was in the center of all 3 legs of this trail. And, if you want a beer - there is a brewery across the street!
I coordinate this ride with my bike meetup group In Oct. It's a great scenic, flat smooth trail with mountain views. I enjoy riding at this time because of the fall foliage. We will be riding this trail again the second weekend of Oct if it doesn't rain. It's a drive from Boston but it's worth it every year. I ride from Leeds Park to the end (Southampton- Coleman Rd), it's a little over 10 miles one way. We get a bite to eat at the Tandem Bagel company right on the trail in Easthampton.
Have fun on the trails, wear your helmet, and hydrate!
I thought this trail was pretty nice. Goes into downtown easthampton. A little off the trail theres an ice cream store. They had great ice cream. The trail goes over many bridges. They were really fun
With my wife shuttling I started at the south end at Coleman Road and biked all the way into Northampton and connected to the Northampton Bikeway at Stop and Shop in the north end of town and did that to the end above Leeds. Easthampton is very proud of their trail and keeps it in great shape. Northampton needs to mow the 4 foot high weeds along their part of the trail. In town you have to be careful to stay on the trail. Some of the signs are confusing. Bob
With the extension south to Coleman Rd. which adds about 3/4 mile to the Manhan and the bridge over the Manhan river near Ferry St. almost done this completes the rail trail in Easthampton. It is now about 14 miles from the south end to the Southwick rail trail and there are two routes a biker can use to connect via roads.
To the east by taking a left off Coleman Rd. you can get to the route with the least traffic and use Line Rd. and follow this via East Mt. Road to rt. 20. where you can take a right and cross the river and make a left on little river road to a right on Shaker road. This brings you to the North end of the Southwick RT just after Shaker farms gulf course.
To the west and taking a right off Coleman rd. you get to Rt.10 and head south. (Rt.10 joins Rt.202) This is a highly traveled road and with much traffic and the city of Westfield gets you about the same miles to the end off the southwick RT.
The Manhan is in great shape. Few road crossings. Well marked. Safe. Flat. Smooth. Scenic. Mount Tom in the background and farm land around. Small nice scenic town of Easthampton on the route. Route goes past a park and ponds. And past Williston School. Good eateries in Easthampton. Definitely worth the drive up here to ride it. Small dirt parking on the north end by Mount Tom. About 10 or so cars can fit there. Keep your eyes wide open and drive slowly on route 5 looking for the parking. Its easy to miss. Landmark is the power lines and a state boat launch nearby. Overflow parking at the state boat launch. The boat launch can get a bit crowded on summer weekends with overflow into the rail trail parking. So be prepared.
The best part is the new connection to Northampton. A great smooth ride. The previous reviewers covered it well. Only one small part is on road and appears that it will be connected to the trail soon.
In my view, the best feature of this trail is true town-to-town connections between Easthampton and Northampton and serious trail-to-trail hookups creating many miles of off-road options.
The original Manhan is a relatively straight east-west shot from the Oxbow, a loop of the Connecticut River through Easthampton and on to an apparently temporary end point at South Street on the edge of town beyond Williston Academy. An extension further west or south seems to be in progress, with a dug-up corridor continuing from there. It's mostly shaded and fairly flat, rising slightly from east to west. There is a boat ramp down to Mill Pond at the Ferry Street parking lot about midway. The pond and surrounding derelict mills are interesting and, to my eye, beautiful.
But just east of Ferry Street, there is a fork in the path. I love junctions, exits, forks and trail connections of all kinds. Bear right (to the east), and, after a shaded ride of a few miles, you come to the Oxbow and eastern terminus on Rt. 10 as mentioned above. The overlook view of the Oxbow is brief and the terminal at an electrical substation on the Rt. 10 state highway is functional. I didn't see any options for further riding from there except for the busy highway.
But if you bear left at the fork, to the north you ride about five miles north to downtown Northampton. I've known this town for decades, but I've never crossed it or seen it from these angles before. You enter town from the south, behind the Smith College power plant, skirt the edge of downtown, cross busy Pleasant Street with it's many shops and restaurants, then loop up to the former train station (more recently a restaurant, which appears, unfortunately, to be closed at the moment). From the top of the railroad embankment, you cross Route 9 next to the old railroad bridge and follow the track north through scrub brush behind the strip malls and abandoned parking lots along King Street.
About a mile north of the town center, the paved path bends sharply left, back toward King Street and a connection to the Northampton Bikeway. We didn't go that way, but we've ridden it before - it takes you to Florence, a small village center with restaurants and other retail and on to Look Park, a classic family-oriented park with a duck pond, picnic areas, miniature train rides and other sedate amusements.
Instead, we bushwacked our way to the Norwottuck Trail, which only needs a safe railroad crossing to connect to the Bikeway. From the bend, we followed a dusty footpath a couple hundred feet through the brush until we saw an opening to the train tracks. We carried our bikes over the tracks and down a steep embankment to a street (Woodmont Rd). Turning left on that street, we soon spotted a paved bike path on the right. This took us through woods to an underpass beneath the Rt. 91 interstate and on to a traffic light on Damon Road. On the other side of Damon, you enter the main parking lot for the Norwottuck Trail on the western side of the Connecticut. The trail immediately crosses the Connecticut on a series of long trestle bridges and takes you on to Hadley, Amherst and, eventually Belchertown.
Ignoring the short ride on dirt and jumping of train tracks, the Manhan spur now links up something like 45 miles of trail connecting five or six communities and offering a number of options. I gather that the southern/western end of Manhan will be connected to Southampton and then on to other trails along the Connecticut, eventually linking to New Haven, CT.
The extension of the Manhan Rail Trail from Ferry St to Earle St in Northampton opened up with the completion of a bridge over Rte. 10, in the fall of 2010. It is now possible to ride/walk/skate/run on a safe path from downtown Easthampton to downtown Northampton.
I am a frequent user of the whole length of the trail. I use it for recreation on the weekends, and I also use to to commute to work on the weekdays.
The trail is very well maintained, very smooth, and well marked (directional signs, mile markers, line paintings). There are no large hills, making it very ideal for families with young children. There are plenty of places to stop and rest to take in the beautiful scenery. Parking is adequate. There are even (seasonal) restrooms at the Ferry St parking (Millside Park) The trail serves both as a great place for anyone of any age to enjoy the outdoors, but also provides a vital, safe transportation link between two vibrant cities.
You can now turn north just after Ferry St. and follow along side Lovefield St. under the power lines build on the old RR to Northampton and a very nice bridge over Rt.10 and connect with the system of trails here.
It is still a little disconnected from the Norwottuck Rail Trail but by using some back streets and an underpass to cross under the active RR you can get there. You can also connect with the spur line and head west for almost 5 miles to Leeds.
The washout on the northern end of the Manhan Rail Trail has been repaired and the trail was officially re-opened in November. In other news, the brand new connector to Northampton is under construction. This piece of trail will connect the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton at Ferry Street to the trail at Earle Street in Northampton. Both of these picturesque New England cities have vibrant arts communities and incredible restaurants. Throw in the many miles of bike trails and you have a terrific mini-vacation destination!
The culvert has been replaced and filled back to level. they tared the surface and layed burlap on the banks. It looks like all they have to do now is to replace the railings and you will be able to bike to the Oxbow and rt. 5.
There has been a wash out about 1/4 mile from the Rt. 5 parking lot. work continues on the link to Northampton and a short section is open and rideable in northhampton. the ROW has been aquired to complet this link.
Took this last week while biking from VT to CT. I was visiting a friend in Northampton and took this in the early morning and it was being heavily used by cyclists and pedestrians of all ages.
The trail starts right before the turn on East Street with an info kiosk and dotted lines on the paved trail. The first mile or so is uphill and very nature like, then passes by old factory buildings that are in limbo due to lack of money (thanx to Chamber of Commerce info in town). After the crossing on Ferry, it takes you into town and there's surprisingly no bike store in town, (they've tried but it hasn't worked yet).
Then comes the amazing Manhan mural across from the old depot. I've seen pics before, but in person, it's great! Lots of local scenes from town. After, it goes into the woods and is pretty shady and cool until the end, as it abruptly ends at South Street. Across the street, of course, it still continues, albeit as the lumber and some rail are still in the ground.
So many different environs!
"Great surface, great condition, safe and friendly. My most relaxing times of summer were spent there. "
This is one of my favorite places to go for a relaxing ride. I start at the Route 5 end where there is plenty of parking - either at the trail head or a few yards to the north at the boat launch. It is a great ride for beginners or children. It is a great study in RR history as well as Connecticut River flora. Take your time and enjoy the pace!
"I agree with the previous reviewer who mentioned that this trail is hard to find unless you have a map of the area. Route 141 goes right through the middle of Easthampton and intersects the trail at one end. Just keep your eyes out for the ""Bike Path"" signs.
I've never done the ride from the Route 5 end, so I can't speak to that.
I have brought my 4- and 6-year-olds to this trail a couple of times and found it pretty stress free. I say ""pretty"" because there are several street crossings, and the kids tend to be selective in remembering how to brake (at the crossings, I ride ahead). Other than that, and worrying about them taking out a rollerblader or pedestrian, this trail is excellent for kids.
At the Easthampton end, there is a 7-11 right next to the trail, and heading out of town (141 South?) there is a barbeque restaurant that keeps catching my eye (Smokin Lil's BBQ). So far, I've either been there early in the day, or have to be somewhere else, so have not been able to partake.
If EH doesn't do it for you, entertainment-wise, Northampton is right up the road. There are great restaurants, shops and people watching.
There are also at least a couple of other rail-trails in the area in Northampton and Norwottuck.
I previously mentioned that there were several street crossings. Everytime we've come to them, the traffic stops. It's one of the most beautiful things about the Massachusetts trails that I have used. Stopping for pedestrains and cyclists seems to be ingrained in Massachusetts drivers."
"I really enjoyed the trail, and I was very impressed by the volunteers working to keep it clean and safe. The Web site needs a map for us out-a-towners, but the local bike shop has them and is open for repairs if you need them.
The downtown is delightful. There are several non-chain restaurants for refreshment. The use on the trail was mixed today with roller-bladers, skate boards, and bikes. "
"This trail has more bits of railroad archeology (signage, old sidings, old mills, whisleposts, flanger signs, etc.) than any other trail within 100 miles. It even has an old coal trestle next to the trail.
If your trail experience includes searching for old history along with a fun and scenic ride, then don't put off visiting Easthampton's beautiful Manhan Rail Trail."
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