AIRLINE STATE PARK TRAIL SOUTH;
EAST HAMPTON-LEBANON, CONNECTICUT
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Planted: South Letterbox; April 29, 2003
Last Updated: August 21, 2016
Length: East Hampton to Willimantic River in Lebanon; 19.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy. Flat rail trail with stone dust surface.
To start in East Hampton: Follow Route 66 to the junction of Route 196 in East Hampton. To start from the Smith Road parking lot; Travel south on Route 196 for almost half a mile. Take a left onto Flanders Rd, go a quarter of a mile. Turn right on Smith Rd. On your left will be a small pond with a parking area. To start from Main Street; Follow Route 196 south to Main St and turn left. The trailhead parking lot will be on your left.
To start at Route 2 commuter lot in Colchester: Take Route 2 to exit 16 to Route 149 and park in commuter lot below the highway. More parking located north up Route 149, then a right down Old Hartford Rd to the Old Hartford Rd parking lot.
To start in Amston: Take Route 85 between Hebron and Colchester to the Amston section, this is about a half mile south of Route 207. There is a parking area located on the western side of Route 85, next to the "Route 85 Lumber" store.
To start from Cook Hill Road in Lebanon; From the junction of Routes 66 & 87, take Route 87 south. Just past where the trail crosses the road turn left on Cook Hill Rd. Keep an eye to your left for a small gravel parking area where the trail ends.
This developed section of the Airline State Park Trail travels northeast from East Hampton to the Willimantic River in Lebanon. Another developed section continues in Willimantic/Windham and travels northeast to the Chaplin town line. The trail continues northeast, but is undeveloped until Pomfret. From Pomfret it continues undeveloped to Putnam where it will connect to the Putnam River Trail . See; Airline State Park Trail North .
The Airline State Park Trail follows the rail bed of the former Air Line Railroad which was built to connect Boston and New York City in the shortest distance possible - as if by a "line" drawn through the "air" via the city of New Haven. The railroad climbed from Middletown to East Hampton, and then went over the Lyman Viaduct, a spectacular 1,100 foot long iron trestle over a deep and wide gorge. The railroad then continued on through North Westchester and Amston in the southern part of Hebron. The line passed along the boundary of Lebanon and Columbia before dropping steadily down the Ten Mile River valley to Willimantic. The final portion of this section was completed in 1873. The Air Line is remembered for its fast express trains. There was a succession of these beginning with the New England Limited in 1884. This was succeeded in1891 by the White Train, popularly known as the Ghost Train. It was made up of gleaming white coaches trimmed with gold. The parlor cars' interiors were finished in mahogany and furnished with velvet rugs, silk curtains and upholstered plush chairs. The train's schedule was so well advertised that people came from miles around to wait at stations or crossing to see it go by. The fast express was replaced in 1895 by the Air Line Limited. The decline of the Air Line Route came about when passengers and shippers began to prefer the Shore Line Route. For more information visit; AIRLINE TRAIL and CT RAIL TRAIL EXPLORER .
Starting in East Hampton;
Note; Future plans call for extending the trail west through Portland. Plans are being finalized, however, no work has begun as of August 2016.
The stone-dust trail starts off Main St by heading up a ramp and across a bridge utilizing the old RR abutments, then back down and across Watrous St. It then heads up into the woods. After passing through a rock cut you cross Smith Rd and pass through the Smith Road parking lot after 0.7 miles. Here you'll find a map board and picnic tables next to Cranberry Bog. This area was once a natural cranberry producing bog. Heading east, the trail heads back into the woods, traveling over many berms and through many rock cuts (created by the RR) along its route. Cattle Lot Brook shadows the trail along your left. Pass the 1 mile post on your right after 1.7 miles. Mileage markers are located every mile along the trail (From the Smith Road parking lot). After 2 miles you値l come to the Rapallo Viaduct. This was originally a railroad bridge built in 1873 and spanning 1,380 feet, 60 feet above Flat Brook. However, in 1913, the span was filled in because the bridge could no longer carry the weight of the new freight trains. After crossing the open viaduct the trail then heads back into the woods. At 3.2 miles you値l come to the Lyman Viaduct. This was once a 1,108 foot railroad bridge crossing 137 feet high over Dickinson痴 Brook. This was also filled in around 1913. A couple of blue picnic tables are located here. Spot the iron buried in the trail. That is part of the old RR bridge that was buried long ago. Better views of the surrounding hills from this viaduct. Again, the trail heads back into the woods and at 3.7 miles, you値l come to the Bull Hill Road parking lot. A better map board here, which also highlights points along the trail.
Note; The trail continues across Bull Hill Rd, however, you may wish to take a side trip to see the Comstock Covered Bridge that crosses the Salmon River. Go right down Bull Hill Rd which becomes Comstock Bridge Rd for approximately 1 ｽ miles. The bridge will be on your left.
Continuing along the trail, which now travels along a ridgeline, the Salmon River parallels the trail far below. When you cross a culvert under the trail at 4.9 miles, look right and you should have a good view of the river. You値l cross the River Road Bridge which was built in 1887. This 22 foot long brownstone arch bridge crosses over River Rd. A trail leads down to the road. Next, you come to a wooden bridge that crosses high above the Blackledge River at 5.3 miles. Before crossing the bridge, there is a dirt path on the left, next to the bridge railing and wood retaining wall, that heads down to the river. Take this path about halfway down where you will see a large rock on your left, just before another rock near where the path turns. Under the backside of this large rock, under some stones, is the Airline State Park Trail South Letterbox. After crossing the bridge the landscape levels out, traveling through forest and wetlands. Still plenty of berms and rock cuts however. Cross River Rd again at about 6.1 miles and pass by a nice marsh on the left full of lily pads. Cross a causeway through Day Meadow Brook. Travel past the Route 149 parking lot and across Route 179 at 6.5 miles. The Jeremy River parallels the trail down along your right. You come to the Route 2 commuter lot at 7 miles. Pass through and exit the commuter lot, heading right for a short jaunt along Route 149 (wide shoulder). After traveling underneath Route 2 the trail picks up again on your right and returns you to the rail trail. Come to the Old Hartford Road parking lot at 7.2 miles where you'll find another map board. At 8.1 miles you値l cross over an old iron RR bridge which traverses high over Jeremy River. A hop, skip and a jump brings you to a wooden bridge over the Judd Brook. At 9.2 miles look to your right to spot part of an old RR track holder. Cross Grayville Rd followed by Old Colchester Rd at 10 miles. Now you値l travel along a causeway through Raymond Brook Marsh. Full of lily pads, beaver huts and wildlife. Beautiful. Just before the 10 mile post (10.7 miles) is where the Colchester Spur Trail begins on the right.
Note; The Colchester Spur Trail takes you south to Colchester and the old Colchester RR Station.
After traveling behind the Route 85 Lumber you'll reach the Route 85 parking lot in Amston at 11.1 miles. A map board is located here.
Follow the trail northeast across Route 85. Use caution as there is a crosswalk, but no cross-light. The stone-dust trail starts out a bit narrow until you cross the next road. Here, the trail widens as it goes along a small berm. Next, you come to Route 207 and a map board. Again, use caution crossing over this road to a dirt parking lot at 11.8 miles. The trail passes by a large swamp to your left where I spotted a Blue Heron. At 12.3 miles a small stream is down to your left. You pass beneath some power lines and come to a rock outcrop at 13 miles. A dirt trail network used by ATV's is too your left. You'll cross over a high berm with steep drop offs and a view of Lake Williams below on your right. Continuing along the trail, you come to Leonard Bridge Road after 13.8 miles. Cross the road and bear right. The trail continues down past the yellow gate. You'll cross over a couple of wooden bridges before reaching Chesbro Bridge Rd at 14.7 miles. This next section travels through deep woods with many berms. You come to Route 87 at 16.1 miles. Use the cross-walk over the road and follow a short paved road and past a yellow gate to return to the trail. A lot of old junked cars and a bus here. You'll cross a culvert diverting Ten mile River under the trail and come to Cook Hill Road at 16.9 miles. A small parking lot is located here. Cross the road and travel down a berm where you'll travel past a farm and fields before reentering the woods. Cross Village Hill Rd at 18 miles where you'll find a parking area. The stone-dust trail continues north past the yellow gate where you'll travel through the woods over a small berm and across a bridge. After passing underneath some transmission lines and traveling over a high berm you'll cross Kingsley Rd after 18.9 miles. After traveling underneath more transmission lines a berm takes you to an old RR trestle across the Willimantic River at 19.4 miles. After crossing over the Willimantic River you come to the intersection of both the Airline State Park Trail North and Hop River State Park Trails.
Note; Heading left is the start of the paved Hop River State Park Trail which travels alongside the Willimantic River out to Route 66.
Note; Heading straight is the start of the paved Airline State Park Trail North which travels alongside the Willimantic River, passing by the CT EASTERN RAILROAD MUSEUM and bringing you out to Bridge St where it will connect to the future WILLIMANTIC WHITEWATER SITE .
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SOUTH LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON
AUGUST 21, 2016
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