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Note: Per the State of Connecticut's website, the trail is open from dawn to dusk April 1–November 14. Eagle nesting activities can delay the opening of the southern trail head in Windsor Locks.
The Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail occupies a narrow strip of land between the Connecticut River and the eponymous canal. Also known as the Enfield Falls Canal, the waterway opened in 1829, allowing boats to avoid shallow water along this stretch of the adjacent river. Now operated as a state park, the paved trail replaced the towpath once used by mules and their human drivers to tow freight along the canal until the system was rendered obsolete by railroads in the mid- to late 19th century.
The trail’s isolation between two waterways, as well as its abundant vegetation, makes it the perfect place to spot wildlife. The natural beauty and tranquility, coupled with its convenience to large population centers in both Connecticut and Massachusetts, make the trail a popular destination, and you’ll likely run into scores of happy trail users no matter the day. Families, many with leashed dogs, are particularly abundant. A short segment of the route built more recently extends the trail over the CT 190 bridge to the east, providing nonmotorized access to residents of Enfield and no doubt increasing the trail’s use even more.
Begin your journey in the north at a large parking lot at the end of Canal Road in Suffield. Shortly after you start heading south, you’re forced to navigate a narrow footbridge over the canal. Carefully avoid the fishermen who are almost guaranteed to be plying their craft—indeed, you’ll often see cyclists riding down the trail with rods slung over their shoulders en route to their favorite fishing spot—and you’ll enter the comfortable shade of the official towpath.
The scenic, well-used path is a straight shot south, giving you ample opportunities to take in expansive views of the Connecticut River to your left. Do keep your eyes on the pavement, though: aggressive tree roots pushing up the asphalt can make for a bumpy ride, while the many geese who lay claim to the trail don’t like to clean up after themselves. Occasionally, you’ll spot old stonework that will remind you of the canal’s rich history.
Closer to the trail’s southern end, you’ll pass under Amtrak’s active New Haven–Springfield Line, which crosses the Connecticut River here—making the trail an ideal vantage point for railfans. Shortly thereafter, you’ll end at a nondescript parking lot and traversable gate intended to prevent cars from accessing the trail. The lot is located behind a vacant factory, one of many that once used water from the canal to power its mills after the waterway’s transportation use ceased. Continue down the paved access road behind the building to reach CT 140 and nearby civic facilities in Windsor Locks, or head back the way you came to return to your car.
To reach the northern trailhead in Suffield from I-91, take Exit 47W, then head west (right) on CT 190 toward Suffield. Shortly after you cross the Connecticut River (1.4 miles in all), turn left onto CT 159/East St. N. Next, take the first left onto Canal Road. Go 0.4 mile on Canal Road to its end at the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the southern trailhead in Windsor Locks from I-91, take Exit 42 for CT 159 toward Windsor Locks, then turn left onto S. Main St. After a little more than a mile, turn right onto CT 140/Bridge St. Take a left behind the vacant factory building, immediately after you cross the canal but before you cross the Connecticut River. The access road ends shortly thereafter at the trailhead parking lot.
I do my run here a few times a month, It is so beautiful I really like it. It is so green and right next to the CT River the air is so clean. It's good for a long run where you can get up to 10 miles and it's a well maintained trail.
My wife and I rode our recumbent trikes on the entirety of this trail on a Saturday evening. For the most part, we encountered only walkers. And based on the surface condition of the trail, I understand why. The pavement has deteriorated and is full of root-bumps and small dips. It was a very rough ride.
I would recommend this trail for walkers, joggers, or cyclists if you've got a bike/trike with a suspension. The bulk of the trail is on the old towpath between the river and the canal, so other than the north and south ends, you are separated by water from the rest of the world. This makes for a quiet, relaxing, and scenic trek. The northern terminus near the parking lot, which also forms a "T" with the CT 190 bridge, and the southern terminus by the renovated mill building are new and in great shape. All we need now is for Connecticut to resurface the original portion... even stone dust would be better than the broken pavement.