Hop River State Park Trail
The trail is approximately 19 miles (31 km) long and runs along a former railroad line from Colonial Drive in Manchester to the Willimantic River at the Columbia/Windham town line, just west to Willimantic, Connecticut. The eastern half of the trail at Bolton Notch State Park will connect to the Charter Oak Greenway going towards Manchester and Hartford. The eastern terminus of the trail is planned to eventually connect to the Airline State Park trail. The Charter Oak Greenway, Airline State Park Trail, and the Hop River State Park trail will be pieces of the East Coast Greenway, (ECG) a trail linking major cities from Maine to Florida. The ECG in CT runs from Rhode Island across to Hartford, down to New Haven and over to New York. There is an interesting stream restoration project with good signage, about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the Vernon trailhead. It is just north of where the trail goes under U.S. Route 44 at Bolton Notch, in Bolton Notch State Park.
The Hop River State Park Trail is owned and operated by the CT Department of Environmental Protection. Upgrades and basic maintenance are done by local town forces in coordination with the DEP and community volunteer groups.
Though open to the public for its entire length, different sections of the trail are in different stages of development. Some sections are complete and have a finished, stone-dust surface and signage. Other sections have been cleared and had drainage work done, but still have a somewhat rough, unfinished surface that is not suitable for road bikes.
Until recently there had been many obstructions along the trail in the form of missing or unsafe bridges, especially on the eastern end of the trail in Coventry and Columbia. Most of these bridges have been repaired or replaced in the last couple of years by the state, towns, and local volunteers. There is now only one crossing (the Hop River bridge in Columbia, CT ) that is incomplete and requires a short detour.
The following is a section by section description of the trail's current conditions, as of May 2012.
Colonial Road, Manchester to Manchester/Vernon town line: A new parking lot and trailhead has been constructed at Colonial Road. The trail has been cleared but the surface has not yet been finished. The surface is hard pack dirt, which is smooth and suitable for all bikes and horses.
Manchester/Vernon town line to Burnap Brook Road, Andover: This long section of the trail, including the entire section of trail in the towns of Vernon and Bolton, has been completed. Drainage has been improved, signage installed, bridges built, parking lots built, and solid stone-dust surface installed. This is the best section of the trail to be completed so far and has long sections through parklands with no crossroads. The ECG section is from Bolton Notch East.
Burnap Brook Road, Andover to Kings Road, Coventry: (all ECG) This section has been cleared and had drainage improvements, but has not had the finished surface installed yet. It is suitable for mountain bikes and horses, but not for street bikes. The centerpiece of this section is the new covered bridge that carries the trail over Route 316 is Andover. Several bridges along this section are brand new and constructed by trail crews in the last two years.
Kings Road, Coventry to Flanders River Road, Columbia: (all ECG)This section of trail is not passable due to a bridge over the Hop River that has not been renovated for trail use. The existing rail bridge is not safe to cross. Trail traffic can follow a short detour around this by following Kings Road to Flanders River Road and rejoining the trail after crossing the river on the road bridge.
Flanders River Road, Columbia to Willimantic River: (all ECG)This section is open, but has not yet been developed or improved. It is passable by hikers and mountain bikes, but not street bikes. This is a very short section, as the Willimantic River bridge is not passable due to a deteriorated deck and is blocked off. Trail traffic must leave the rail bed at the former roadside picnic area and come out on parallel Route 66. The other side of the bridge is an active railroad line, preventing a rail trail from extending into Willimantic. It is still unknown if the bridge will be surfaced for trail use, or if the trail to Willimantic will be routed on-road along Route 66 across the river to downtown Willimantic.
The trail crosses the following roads, providing access:
- Colonial Drive, Manchester - parking area
- Taylor Street, Vernon
- Elm Hill Road, Vernon
- Dobson Road, Vernon
- Church Street / Phoenix Street, Vernon - parking area
- Tunnel Road, Vernon - parking area
- Bolton Notch State Park (off US Route 44), Bolton - parking area
- Steeles Crossing Road, Bolton - parking area
- Bailey Road, Andover
- Burnap Brook Road, Andover - parking area
- Monument Lane, Andover - parking at Andover History Museum
- Wales Road, Andover - parking area
- Shoddy Mill Road, Andover - parking area
- Center Street, Andover
- Lake Road, Andover- parking area
- Parker Bridge Road, Columbia
- Hop River Road, Columbia - parking area
- Kings Road, Coventry - parking area
- Flanders River Road, Columbia
- Old Route 66 rest area, Columbia - limited parking
The following roads cross the trail via over- or under-passes and do not provide access:
- Notch Road, Bolton
- Route 316, Andover (access via Monument Lane adjacent to trail, 300 feet up, instead)
- US Route 6, Andover
- Merritt Valley Road, Andover
- Pucker Street, Coventry (Bike/walk in access)
The trail safely crosses the US Route 6 expressway in Coventry via an underpass.
- Map of trail from CTXGuide.com