By Dean Farrell

Last year, I wrote a two-part essay about the various bike paths I’ve explored in our state. I’ve since ridden more and thought I would bring them to your attention.

Larkin State Park Trail. This 10.8-mile path runs through Naugatuck, Middlebury, Oxford, and Southbury. To get to the Route 63 trailhead in Naugatuck from the parking area, I had to walk my bike up a steep, rocky incline. I was huffing and puffing and sweating before my ride even began. 

The path itself is made of dirt and is loaded with stones. It also features many dips and slopes as you cross the various roads. And it’s not all that scenic! As such, I can only recommend this trail to those looking for an intense workout.

Southwick Rail Trail/Columbia Greenway. This paved path is a continuation of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which I covered in “Bicycling in Connecticut, Part 2” (May 2023 Neighbors).You’ll pick it up on Phelps Road in West Suffield and take it about nine miles into Massachusetts, through Southwick and Westfield. At the state line, you’ll see the remnants of the old New Haven to Northampton Canal.

The Massachusetts end goes from the Southwick Rail Trail (due south of Shaker Road) to the Westfield River Esplanade. You’ll go through downtown Westfield and pass farm fields and the Little River. Much of the trail is elevated, following the old New York/New Haven/Hartford Railroad. The section between Main Street and the Westfield River offers exceptional views of the town and its surrounding landscape. This is one of America’s only elevated urban rail trails!

Vernon Rails-to-Trails (Hop River State Park Rockville Spur). This four-mile stone-dust trail begins on Warren Avenue in Vernon. However, you’ll want to park 0.2 miles away at the Rails-to-Trails lot on Church Street. It was once a railroad depot but is now a trailhead, which dedicated volunteers maintain scrupulously. It’s also an outdoor museum with numerous plaques that tell of local railroad history. (Among the facts I learned: the Rockville Spur was built in 1863 to serve the area’s lucrative textile industry.) You also will see the remnants of a roundhouse, and other railroad-based artifacts.

The spur begins at the intersection of Church and Phoenix Streets. A signpost marks the start of the path, and there are quarter-mile markers the rest of the way. Before long, you’ll be in a scenic wooded area. Your first crossing, about .25 miles down, is at Maple Avenue. As there is a crosswalk but no signals, I recommend walking your bike across it.

Soon, you’ll cross the bridge over the Tankerhoosen River. Look upriver (through the ubiquitous trees) and you’ll see Tankerhoosen Lake, one of the river’s seven ponds. It’s worth getting off your bike and taking in this fine example of nature’s beauty. 

After that, you’ll be at the Interstate 84 underpass. In the space between tunnels, you’ll feast your eyes on a colorful, dazzling mural painted by local artists and schoolkids.

The next intersection crosses Route 30 (Hartford Turnpike). Depending on traffic, it may take some time before you’re able to cross. Again, you’ll want to dismount and walk across this very busy stretch of road. The path continues through the woods, and has unmarked side paths leading to it from nearby houses. Clearly, the spur is popular with the locals!

When you’re 3.25 miles in (at West Street), the path narrows into little more than a swath in the grass as you enter a residential neighborhood. One half-mile later, you’re back in the woods and the path becomes wide again. It ends suddenly at an earthen mound on an old bridge abutment. There, you have the option of descending the path to Vernon Avenue, though you’ll need to watch out for loose soil. Or you can just turn back.

Windsor Locks Canal Trail. This 5.4-mile paved path begins at the Windsor Locks Canal & State Park, located behind the Montgomery Mill apartments on Bridge Street (Route 140). The asphalt is badly in need of repaving, which makes for a bumpy ride. You also have to look out for the ubiquitous, and sometimes belligerent, geese—not to mention their, um, droppings. However, the scenery atones for these obstacles.

As you proceed north along the path, the canal lays to your west while the Connecticut River is east of you. The trail’s isolated location between the two bodies of water, coupled with its copious vegetation, makes it ideal for spotting wildlife. There is also a bald eagle’s aerie, which I had never seen along a bike path before.

As you approach the Suffield towpath, you likely will encounter fishermen doing their thing. Just remember, it’s a multi-use trail that we all need to share. It once ended on Canal Road in Suffield, but now extends another mile or so over the CT 190 bridge to Enfield.

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