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Hop River State Park Trail

This former railroad line is now a trail that winds 20.2 miles through the towns of Manchester, Vernon, Bolton, Coventry, Andover, and Columbia.  Like a pathway through time, this serpentine path passes among modern subdivisions and crosses roads, but mostly takes the trail user along a remote, quiet and long unused path through the eastern Connecticut countryside.
Trail Activity
Walking Bicycling Cross-country skiing Mountain biking Horseback riding
Length
20.2 miles, One Way
Difficulty
Easy
Towns
Andover, Bolton, Columbia, Coventry, Manchester, Vernon
Surface
Packed Earth/Dirt, Gravel/Crushed Stone
Pets
Permitted on leash
Fees
No

Description

The 20 plus miles of the Hop River Trail, like many trails of this length, passes through or abuts many preserved open areas. This is especially true for the western sections of the trail where development has put more pressure on the land and preservation efforts have maintained precious open space. Thus, in Vernon for a mile and a half the trail abuts the Belding Wildlife Area and passes through Valley Falls Park, and in Bolton the trail passes through both Bolton Notch and Hop River state parks along with some municipal open space for an additional mile and a half.

East of these towns, in Andover and Columbia, the trail is more remote passing through woodlands, along the edges of fields and crossing and abutting the Hop River. Add to these attributes the workmanship of the stone cuts, the low land “fills” and the remaining stone work of water crossings, and for a quiet, scenic and historic outing, the Hop River State Park Trail is hard to beat.

As the railroad that once connected Hartford to Manchester, Vernon, Bolton, Andover and Willimantic became abandoned, weedy growth took over from lack of use. And as with so many rail lines, the war efforts demanded the steel of the rails and they were removed for scrap value. Fortunately for today’s trail users the rail beds are much more difficult to erase from the landscape than the rails and ties, and conservation efforts through the years have yielded the many rail-trail systems we have today.

Other Information

Park Use:

Hours: The park is open from 8 am to sunset.

Pets: Pets on a maximum seven foot leash are permitted.

Overview/History:

Connecticut enjoyed a great railroad building era from the 1840s to the turn of the 20th century. This trail which began as the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill line from Hartford to Willimantic via Manchester was completed in 1849. Six years later in 1855 it was the longest the east-west line in the state. By 1884 the line had become the Eastern Division of the New York and New Haven Railroad and a ticket would get you from Hartford to Willimantic in 65 minutes.

Hand labor, big time initiative, and bigger dreams led to the statewide pattern of rail beds that all but crisscrossed Connecticut. But with the increased proliferation of the automobile in the early 1910s and the increased personal mobility and growing road infrastructure that it brought, rails soon peaked with passenger flow, maintained themselves for a while with the freight trade and by the 1960s saw the end of what had been a vast rail based transportation era.

Trail Manager

For more information, visit the CTDEEP State Parks website or contact:

CT DEEP: Hop River State Park

CT DEEP: Hop River State Park
Hop River State Park Trail
c/o DEEP Eastern District
209 Hebron Road
Marlborough, CT 06447
(860) 295-9523
deep.stateparks@ct.gov
View website

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Trailhead Information

Park Location

Hop River State Park Trail
20 mile linear trail passing through six towns in Eastern Connecticut

Directions

Many parking areas serve this trail. 

Manchester

  • At the western terminus where the trail meets Colonial Road 

Vernon

  • Church Street has parking for several cars
  • Roadside parking south of the tunnel on Tunnel Road leads to a path up to the trail.
  • Valley Falls Park on Valley Falls Road; follow blue blazes to the south

Bolton

  • At Bolton Notch State Park. At the junction of Route 44 and Route 6 in Bolton.  Heading west on I-384 from Bolton Notch, turn right at end of guardrail and go downhill to parking lot.
  • Steeles Crossing Road has parking for several cars

Andover

  • Burnap Brook Road, Andover – small parking area
  • Wales Road, Andover – small pull off parking area
  • Shoddy Mill Road – small pulloff
  • Lake Road – road side parking

Columbia/Coventry

  • Parker Bridge Road, Columbia - small pulloff
  • Hop River Road, Coventry - small pulloff
  • Kings Road, Coventry - small pulloff
Click on a parking icon to get custom directions
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