This section of the East Coast Greenway has changed considerably since the Week-A-Year ride came through in 2012 and even when we visited the area four years later. Two trails — the Hop River Trail and Charter Oak Greenway — are now linked with both fresh asphalt and new bridges, attracting more users than ever. I know groups that would be envious of the sign on that red bridge!
I’m on a quest to bike the entire 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway, and this section marked the start of my final piece. To do it, we biked 18 miles from Hartford to Bolton Notch State Park (the end point of a 2016 ride on the crushed-stone Hop River Trail) and then 18 miles back.
If you have a choice, east to west is easier.
While much of the route was on traffic-free paved trails, the section through East Hartford uses roads to skirt the giant Pratt & Whitney site. (Maybe its museum will be open when you bike through.) The trail parallels the interstate for a while and even goes over it a few times. Expect a couple of bike-trail cloverleafs, at least one of which is tucked inside an off-on ramp for cars. That means you get some fun descents … or a climb.
In fact, you go uphill for the last few miles to Bolton Notch … and those westward bound get a swooping descent. (See a map here.)
Here’s an unexpected presidential sighting, on the East Hartford side of the Connecticut River. It’s part of the Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk that honors Honest Abe. This one depicts Abe the loquacious postmaster. Had I realized there were 16 — for our 16th president — I’d have found them all!
And if you have time for some off-the-bike tourism, the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe homes are next to each other in the western part of Hartford.
Oh — how did we get to Hartford? The once-a-day Amtrak train to St. Albans, Vermont, is a month away from resuming service after COVID, so we took Metro North from New York City’s Grand Central Station to New Haven (a long ride, even with express service to Stamford) and then switched to CT Rail, where we had a delightful conversation with a fellow cyclist for much of the way to Hartford.
Here’s how Metro North transports bikes. No one asked to see the $5 lifetime bike passes we had to buy … but do be aware of rush-hour restrictions.