The Hop River Trail
Hop River State Park Trail
Columbia to Vernon, CT
On a converted railroad bed, this gravel trail is a wide, level path suitable for bikes and hikes. It begins at the Willimantic River near the Route 66 bridge in Columbia and extends west for 18 miles through Coventry, Andover and Bolton to the Vernon line. The railroad bed has been improved for biking for part of its length. In the future, this trail will link to the Air Line Trail in Willimantic as part of the Charter Oak Greenway, which will extend for 40 miles from Putnam to Manchester. It will also become part of the emerging East Coast Greenway's path from Maine to Florida. A connection for this trail across the Willimantic River is under development.
After the 1955 flood destroyed some of the railroad bridges, this line was abandoned. The railroad bed is now a state park managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, with assistance from towns and volunteers in projects to upgrade the surface.
There are several access points at road crossings along the trail. To start a trip from the Willimantic River in Columbia, park by the west side of the Route 66 bridge in a pull-off parking area at a former highway rest area.See Windham/Willimantic map
For a two-mile-long trip round, you can walk or bike from the Willimantic River to a former railroad trestle across the Hop River, which is a major tributary of the Willimantic River. From the Route 66 parking area, follow the path to the back of the former highway rest area to reach the trail in 100 feet. The trestle to the right across the Willimantic River is not safe, so turn left to travel west along the trail. This section has not been improved, but the gravel and cinder surface is in fair condition for walking and mountain bikes. At first, the trail passes behind businesses on Route 66. In a half-mile, the trail goes under Flanders Road in Coventry. Beyond this point, the trail follows the Hop River through a wooded area. At four-tenths mile beyond Flanders Road, the trail meets a trestle over the Hop River that has not been improved for walking or biking access. It is not safe to cross this bridge, but you can enjoy resting here by the river before returning to the Willimantic River.
To continue west to Andover and Bolton, you will need start at Kings Road in Coventry. Drive west for a half-mile from the Willimantic River bridge on Route 66. Turn right onto Flanders Road in Coventry and travel two-tenths mile to a left turn onto Kings Road (just before the Route 6 underpass). The trail crossing is in three-tenths mile. Park along the road and enter the trail to go west through Andover and Bolton, where the trail and bridges are all passable. Along the way, the trail passes by woods, meadows, and scenic stretches of the Hop River. After passing through Bolton Notch, the Hop River State Park Trail ends, but your walk or ride can continue on the improved railroad bed into Vernon's Valley Falls Park. For more information on the Hop River State Park Trail and additional access points, visit Pathways of Connecticut.
Thanks to John Hankins for his assistance.
Photo: M. Paquette.
This Willimantic River Greenway Parks and Trails Guide was produced by the Willimantic River Alliance and WINCOG. Information in this guide reflects conditions and features as of Spring, 2008. Since conditions change over time, the Alliance is not responsible for changes at this site. This guide was funded with support from the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc.