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CT: Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

Old 03-06-18, 02:48 PM
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davlafont
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CT: Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

I have family in Hartford and recently discovered (via a pamphlet) the existence of the FCHT. So my first instinct is to come to the forum and ask more about it. Fun? Not fun? Convenient access to water?

I would consider heading north out of New Haven and going to the Mass. border. The pamphlet says the route continues to Northhampton, MA, but doesn't provide mapping beyond the state border. I've been to the website so what I'm really interested in is rider feedback.

Thanks!
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Old 03-06-18, 06:15 PM
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Nice trail but do not know how far into MA it goes, if at all.
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Old 03-07-18, 07:42 AM
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The FCHT joins the Southwick Rail Trail in Massachusetts and goes for about 7 miles ending at Shaker Road in Westfield, MA
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Old 03-08-18, 11:53 AM
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IIRC, the Manhan Trail goes from just SW of Easthampton to Northampton. if you decide to connect the two.
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Old 03-09-18, 01:54 PM
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Any feedback on rolling surface, scenic value, multi-use traffic? I assume that it's either crushed stone rail trail and paved roadway sections but some rail trails can be more like dirt/off-road paths. I'm also interested in water re-fill options. Does the trail "see" civilization continuously, periodically, rarely?
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Old 03-10-18, 06:18 AM
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when I'm investigating a potential new trail I use google street view. I know the Google cam-car won't be driving down the trail, but I look for paved road intersections that the Google car has gone down. then I zoom in on the intersections & turn around to look down the trail. do it as much as you can at as many intersections as you can & you can learn a lot

you said you went to their website. did you also check out traillink?

https://www.traillink.com/trailsearc...Heritage+Trail

they usually have lots of first hand reviews, pictures & info on parking, restrooms, riding surface & maps!

it looks really nice, maybe Wifey & I can try some of it when we visit her Mom in the spring

https://www.traillink.com/trail-gall...eritage-trail/

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Old 03-10-18, 04:53 PM
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I have rode this trail twice. Both times from New Haven and headed north. The very most southern part goes ride through the university and is urban for the first couple of miles with at least a dozen or so street crossings in that distance. Then it gets to be more suburban/woods mix with the street crossings a few miles apart. Covered about 20 miles on that southern leg
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Old 03-11-18, 08:13 AM
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The section I've ridden quite a bit is the 7 or 8 miles from the parking area in Farmington, CT up to Collinsville, CT. The latter part of that section is quite pretty as it goes along the Farmington River. On the weekend, it can get busy with cyclists and walkers. Collinsville has a nice, quaint Main Street with a deli/coffee shop that is a popular stopping place for cyclists. While I've ridden the bike path a few miles north of Collinsville, I generally use that 7-8 miles as a warm-up, then go off on the back roads of New Hartford, Barkhamsted, Riverton, etc. I did meet riders who were putting together their own century ride by going up to Northampton, MA. It's definitely possible although I don't think the bike path is completed all the way through. I think you'll have to get off-path for sections. I've not ridden the trail below Farmington (i.e. New Haven up to Farmington).
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Old 03-18-18, 12:50 PM
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Anybody know if their is a clean, bike friendly motel anywhere near the southern end of the trail? Looks like a nice weekend trip.
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Old 03-18-18, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by cycleheimer View Post
Anybody know if their is a clean, bike friendly motel anywhere near the southern end of the trail? Looks like a nice weekend trip.
just enter that city & state into Expedia
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Old 03-19-18, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by dennis336 View Post
The section I've ridden quite a bit is the 7 or 8 miles from the parking area in Farmington, CT up to Collinsville, CT.
To my understanding, the Collinsville part is actually a branch off the main New Haven to Massachusetts route rather than on it. Which is too bad - I grew up at the other end of Canton from the (tiny) downtown village of Collinsville, and since hearing about the trail have been thinking of taking the train to New Haven and then riding north towards family in western MA.

Though, hmm, I guess one way to deal with the Southington/Plainville gap would be to get to Collinsville (somehow?) and ride south to pick up the main trail north of the gap, then take that north to MA.
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Old 03-20-18, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
To my understanding, the Collinsville part is actually a branch off the main New Haven to Massachusetts route rather than on it. Which is too bad - I grew up at the other end of Canton from the (tiny) downtown village of Collinsville, and since hearing about the trail have been thinking of taking the train to New Haven and then riding north towards family in western MA.

Though, hmm, I guess one way to deal with the Southington/Plainville gap would be to get to Collinsville (somehow?) and ride south to pick up the main trail north of the gap, then take that north to MA.
My bad, you're right, that section I referred to is a branch-off ride that, if I'm reading the maps right (just checked) provides a nice detour from the main trail.

I did a little searching and it looks like the MA part of the trail can use different names depending on the town. But, from what I could tell, there are gaps. I saw a link to a book on the New Haven and Northampton Canal Greenway which looks interesting in that it contains overviews of the history of the towns the trail goes through. It may be helpful in connecting the dots from New Haven to Northampton.

https://www.amazon.com/New-Haven-Nor.../dp/0997950811
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Old 03-25-18, 09:03 AM
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Anyone know if this trail is paved?
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Old 03-27-18, 07:16 AM
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On the Traillink website there are some comments about safety issues in the downtown New Haven section of the trail. I don't know if this is still the case, but it's something you may want to research further.
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Old 03-27-18, 01:30 PM
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I have ridden most of this trail as far north as Simsbury and can give my comments. The Farmington Canal Heritage trail is the main North-South route which follows the former Farmington Canal, later converted to rail, then abandoned. Good maps are available at the Connecticut Statewide Bicycle Map Website and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail website (sorry, I can not post URL's). It is completely paved and also used by pedestrians and pet walkers, so use caution. There are also many street crossings, where you should be very careful (speaking from experience!). On the southern end, the trail has not been completed down to the Long Island Sound, but can be picked up on the campus of Yale University. I personally have never had any safety issues on this part of the trail, though I have read about some incidents in the local paper. FWIW, I know a number of people who regularly ride this section to work in New Haven without a problem. Proceeding north through Hamden and Cheshire, the trail is more rural and suburban. You will be traveling along the former canal path where there are many restored locks and historic buildings. In Cheshire, there is a short section connecting Cornwall Ave. and W. Main Street which is currently under construction. An easy road detour on Willow St. of less than a mile will reconnect you with the main trail. Continuing north into Southington, make sure to stop at Kinsman Brewery about a mile north of the I-691 crossing. In Southington, there is a lengthy uncompleted section followed by an on-road section in Plainville. I generally avoid this and drive up to the intersection with the Farmington River Trail, parking at the designated area at Red Oak Hill Rd and New Britain Ave. Here you can make a great 28 mile loop ride, going north on the Heritage Trail over the Farmington River to Simsbury. The Simsbury.bike website has lots of great maps for this part of Connecticut.

The return from that point is via the Farmington River trail, but that initially involves a 4-mile ride on packed stone dust and some paved path starting at Bushy Hill Road and West St. That is followed by 2 miles of easy riding on back roads with little traffic. There is a short climb on this section, the only one on the entire route. The Farmington River Trail connects at Lawton Road and Route 202 and goes south through Collinsville. The best part of the loop is here along the Farmington River. I have not gone very far north of Simsbury yet, but am looking forward to completing the trail up into Massachusetts. On both trails, there are lots of parking areas, water sources, and off-trail food stops.
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Old 03-29-18, 09:27 AM
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Thanks a million for this great trail report! Bonus points for this being your first post; I'm honored that you chose this thread

Originally Posted by hdkct View Post
...Southington, make sure to stop at Kinsman Brewery about a mile north of the I-691 crossing.
NOW you're adding real value to the discussion!!! With any luck, I'll follow you advice this spring/summer (/fall).

Welcome aboard!
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Old 04-02-18, 07:01 PM
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I can comment on the section from Simsbury into Westfield Mass. It is paved all the way up and is a popular route for runners, biking, and walkers with dogs. "On your left" is a popular phrase! I have found the people very friendly if given some warning you are coming up on them. I've had no issues on this rail trail (did about 1000 miles worth of riding last summer on this trail and the sections from Southampton Ma through Northampton and across the Connecticut river on over to Belchertown). The trail goes through farmland and wooded areas. Overall it is an enjoyable, safe, and reasonably free of potholes, etc. Highly recommended if you want to go this far north.

Enjoy,
Marc
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Old 04-03-18, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by W1MBT View Post
I can comment on the section from Simsbury into Westfield Mass.
Great to hear that - I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to check this out sometime this summer. In a way, I'm now tempted to start in Westfield, ride down to Farmington, up the spur to Collinsville and then reverse that back to MA.

I assume much of Westfield to Northampton is back roads rather than trail? I've seen pieces of a rail trail crossing the river and going through Northampton while visiting family there, but am under the impression it doesn't actually connect to Westfield?
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Old 04-03-18, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
Great to hear that - I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to check this out sometime this summer. In a way, I'm now tempted to start in Westfield, ride down to Farmington, up the spur to Collinsville and then reverse that back to MA.

I assume much of Westfield to Northampton is back roads rather than trail? I've seen pieces of a rail trail crossing the river and going through Northampton while visiting family there, but am under the impression it doesn't actually connect to Westfield?
I've traveled from Westfield down to Farmington - it is a nice ride.

The trail from Southampton to Northampton (and on to Belchertown) is a rail trail, not back roads.

You are correct about the connection from Westfield to the Northampton line. The trail north picks up again in Southampton and through Northampton, across the CT river, through Hadley/Amherst and into Belchertown. No direct connection from Westfield to Southampton lines (unless you consider normal streets of course!).

Hope this helps,
Marc
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Old 04-03-18, 11:27 PM
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Scanned a lot of it on Google Maps, including street view at some crossing and it does look nice.

Unfortunately it seems that at Westfield it meets Albany-Springfield tracks, and several miles of trackage north of there look still in use for industrial sidings and perhaps railcar storage.

At least the right-of-way is still there.

Wish there were a way to keep the rails and have a trail on the same right-of-way beside.

There's much the same issue with still-active rail between Brewster NY and Danbury CT, and also northwest from Brewster most of the way up to where trail resumes at the Walkway over the Hudson.
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Old 07-27-18, 11:03 AM
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I really love this trail. I'd love to complete it, but its difficult with young kids. eventually!
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Old 07-28-18, 01:12 PM
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I've done the whole trail south from Simsbury to New Haven too. Paved, with a couple of road sections which are fine-- it can get a little crowded on weekends, but keep yelling "on your left" when you need to and everyone clears out for you. The further north you go the more rural and less crowded it gets. I'd eventually like to do the whole route from New Haven to Northhampton (past Westfield it's roads, but I find drivers in New England are generally courteous with bicyclists) and then take the train back with my bike.

Simsbury has hotels right on the trail I know... not sure about south of there. But there are plenty of restaurants scattered along the trail, even a microbrewery in Southington, CT!

A great loop ride combines the Farmington Canal and Farmington River trails, about 38 miles (and the Farmington River part is flat out beautiful). If you start at the south end, Simsbury is a perfect lunch stop with tons of options for food.
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Old 07-28-18, 03:17 PM
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I keep hoping to ride from MA down into CT and back, might manage to get up there for that mid-August for that but have to see.

Originally Posted by PeterCT View Post
I'd eventually like to do the whole route from New Haven to Northhampton (past Westfield it's roads, but I find drivers in New England are generally courteous with bicyclists) and then take the train back with my bike.
Unfortunately I think the only option there is the Vermonter which has only one early afternoon schedule. Even if you get over to Springfield I don't think the NE regional shuttle or the new New Haven - Hartford - Springfield service have bike accommodation (apart from folders) though the later at least is considering adding it in the future. Some of the bus lines might conceivably.

CORRECTION: Hartford line revised its rules and now permits bikes, Amtrak on the same New Haven to Springfield route does not. Metro North does most of the time with a pass.

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Old 07-28-18, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
I keep hoping to ride from MA down into CT and back, might manage to get up there for that mid-August for that but have to see.



Unfortunately I think the only option there is the Vermonter which has only one early afternoon schedule. Even if you get over to Springfield I don't think the NE regional shuttle or the new New Haven - Hartford - Springfield service have bike accommodation (apart from folders) though the later at least is considering adding it in the future. Some of the bus lines might conceivably.
Yeah I know about the Vermonter. I was thinking I'd bike from New Haven to Westfield or so (60ish miles), spend the night then get to Northhampton in time for the train the next day. Nice weekend.

They really need to change the new New Haven-Hartford-Springfield service to at least accept bikes in non-peak hours, like Metro North does.
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Old 07-30-18, 02:27 PM
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One cool thing to do is ride from downtown southbury parking lot near witch doctor brewing... south to hamden and eat at Mikro. It is right on the trail.... good food and beer. You will run into a "path closure" in cheshire... ignore the signs (lol) and ride through the small construction site. There and back is total 32 miles or so.
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