HOP RIVER STATE PARK TRAIL:

VALLEY FALLS LETTERBOX; 

HOP RIVER RAIL TRAIL WEST LETTERBOX;

MANCHESTER-WILLIMANTIC, CONNECTICUT

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Planted:             Hop River Rail Trail Letterbox West; September 26, 2001

                            Valley Falls Letterbox; October 13, 2000 [My first Letterbox]

Last Updated:   July 10, 2016

Length:             Hop River Rail Trail; 20.8 miles

Difficulty:         From Manchester to Coventry; Easy. Flat rail trail with a stone-dust surface (except for the Manchester section).

                           Willimantic section; Easy. Flat paved trail.

Directions:

To start from the Colonial Road parking lot in Manchester; From I-84 take exit 63 to Route 30. Head east to Route 83 (Oakland St) and head right. Turn left on Sheldon Rd into the industrial park. Turn right on Colonial Rd and the parking lot will be immediately on your left.

To start from the Church Street parking lot in Vernon; Take exit 65 off of I-84 in Vernon to Route 30. From the westbound exit take Route 30 west and from the eastbound exit take Route 30 east. Cross over the interstate via the Dobson Bridge which turns into Washington Street. Immediately after crossing the bike path, turn left onto Church Street. The parking lot will be a little ways down on your left.

To start from the Bolton Notch parking Lot in Bolton; There is a parking lot located off of I-384 westbound only. It's tricky to reach though. From Routes 6 & 44 in Bolton Notch, enter I-384 westbound. Just past the "Middle Turnpike" highway sign, look for a brown "Boat Launch" sign on the right. Take this sharp right turn off the highway down a narrow road. This brings you to the parking lot that is located next to the trail as it passes underneath I-384. 

To start from Bailey Road in Andover; Take Route 6 past Andover Center towards Bolton and make a left onto Bailey Rd. This road is located directly across from the road to the Channel 3 Country Camp. Where the road turns from paved to gravel is where the trail crosses over.

To start from Kings Road in Coventry; Take Route 66 to Flanders Road (located between Route 6/66 junction and Willimantic, near the U-haul rental business). Take a Left down Kings Rd and park by the yellow gate at the start of the trail. 

In 1846, the Providence & Plainfield Railroad was formed to build a railroad from Rhode Island into eastern Connecticut. Before construction had even begun, the western terminus had been expanded to Willimantic, then to Hartford, then to Waterbury with the intent of eventually going to the Hudson River in New York. The Connecticut portion of the route was chartered to the Hartford & Providence Railroad in 1847. Construction began in Hartford that year, building both eastward towards Providence and westward towards Waterbury. In 1849, the New York & Hartford Railroad merged with the Hartford & Providence Railroad to become the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad. On December 1, 1849 the initial segment of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad between Hartford and Willimantic was opened for business. The Hop River State Park Trail follows this former rail bed from Manchester to Coventry and soon into Willimantic where it will connect to the Airline State Park Trail. See; Airline State Park Trail North & Airline State Park Trail South . In February, 1856, a group of Rockville businessmen began planning the best route for a railroad to connect Rockville, which was already quite industrialized, to the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad at the Vernon Depot. The four and a half mile Rockville Railroad was chartered in 1857, but a national depression prevented its construction until 1862. Once the line was completed, the Rockville Railroad went into operation in August 1863. See; Rockville Spur Trail . In Vernon the trail the Hop River Rail Trail passes through VALLEY FALLS . Along the trail you will see plenty of reminders of its RR history, such as old telephone poles, old railroad ties and an occasional old granite whistle stop marker (big W carved into the stone). In the future you'll also be able to connect to the Charter Oak Greenway from Bolton Notch. This trail has slowly been making its way east from Manchester towards Bolton. Both of these trails are part of the  EAST COAST GREENWAY . For more information visit; HOP RIVER SP TRAIL and CT RAIL TRAIL EXPLORER .

Starting from the Colonial Rd parking lot in Manchester; A map board is located here. The Manchester section is less developed then the rest of the trail with a hard packed dirt, grass and some stone-dust surface. It is also narrower. As you start out along the trail you'll spot some of the old RR tracks still in place along your left as you head into the woods. Mile marker posts are located every 1/4 mile along the Manchester section. You cross the town line into Vernon at almost 0.7 miles. Here the trail widens with a smooth stone-dust surface. Another set of mile markers are located on your right and originate from the Church St parking lot, the main point of origin for the mile markers along this trail. This is a forested residential corridor, but still fairly isolated. After crossing Taylor St look right to spot the old telephone poles left over from the RR days. Cross Elm Hill Rd at 1.4 miles and you'll come to the first of numerous informational signs located along the trail. This was the site of the old Talcottville Depot Station. The next section is more isolated as you travel through several rock cuts and over a high berm before crossing Dobson Rd at 2.1 miles. You'll pass by several informational signs along with an old RR signal before coming to the Church Street parking lot at 2.4 miles. This was the site of the old Vernon Depot. Picnic tables, a Porto-potty and a pavilion are all located here. This is where the (0 Mile Post) originates from heading both east & west every 1/4 mile along the Hop River State Park Trail. The (0 Mile Post) also begins here for the Rockville Spur Trail which splits off when you reach Phoenix St at 2.5 miles. See; Rockville Spur Trail . Continue straight across Phoenix St and up a to a high berm with steep drops on either side. Imagine the labor that went into building this for the railroad so as to keep the grade fairly level. You pass over Tunnel Rd which, as you can see, passes through a narrow stone tunnel below the trail. At the (2 Mile Post), 4.4 miles, you'll encounter a bike rack and trail markers. 

Note; This is part of Valley Falls Park. The trail on your left originates from the park, crosses the rail trail and heads right up the hill through a grove of Mountain Laurel to a scenic overlook. Nice side hike. If you head left down this trail just a short ways you'll come to a scenic overlook of the pond at Valley Falls, along with some benches. See; VALLEY FALLS PARK  for more information and the map below. For the history of Valley Falls See; VALLEY FALLS .

Continuing along the trail you'll pass an old cement mileage marker once used by the railroad. The trail is now built into the hill with steep drops to your left and A high rock wall to your right. At 4.9 miles you come to the first of two stone culverts that pass underneath the trail. In the springtime, the streams are quite a site as they run down from the hill above. You’ll discover some old railroad ties still lined up on your left, just waiting for some new track. This was the site of the Clubhouse Siding You pass the Bolton town line and then the last of the wooden mile posts (3.5 Mile Post) at 5.9 miles. Railroad Brook flows just below the trail to your and soon right alongside the trail. Signboards describe the brook restoration project that took place here. The trail is a bit rough here, as gravel is used, because of the occasional flooding of the trail. You come to a  wooden footbridge crossing the brook at 6.4 miles and a sign that tells about the Railroad Brook Fish Habitat Restoration Project. Hike across this bridge and veer right along the trail. There should be a sign that says "Freja Park-Town of Bolton". Just past this sign, a blue marked trail heads right, up towards a large face of trap rock. The green arrow trail heads left. Follow the blue trail to the base of this trap rock and then bear right, walking 5 or 6 paces (2 steps = 1 pace) along the ledge. You should see a large vein of quartz in the rock. On a ledge just above this, covered by rocks, is the Valley Falls Letterbox. Please be careful of loose rocks as you walk along this ledge. Cross the dirt road and travel through a long deep rock cut (check this out in the winter when it's full of huge icicles). This brings you to the Bolton Notch parking lot at 6.7 miles. A sign board and informational sign are located here. This was the location of the Bolton Station.  

Note; In the future you'll be able to connect to the Charter Oak Greenway from this parking area. Currently, if you travel up the entrance road, a short gravel connector trail runs alongside Bolton Notch Pond and out to the commuter lot off of Route 44. Plans call for connecting to the Charter Oak Greenway in the west, which has been slowly expanding east over the years.

Next, you’ll be passing through a long tunnel underneath I-384. You emerge and travel through a long rock cut. Spot the old stone bridge abutments as you exit this rock cut. The trail now travels through a forested corridor along a berm with lots of brooks passing underneath. Very scenic. You'll cross Steel Crossing Rd at about 8.8 miles where you'll find another parking lot and map board. You briefly cross the Coventry town line where you'll pass through a massive rock cut before traveling along a high berm with steep drop offs. This takes you past a new set of mile markers (9.5 Mile Post) [9.7 miles on my odometer?] as you cross the Andover town line. You'll pass Bailey Rd at about the 10.1 mile mark. You briefly pass through a section of Bolton before entering Andover again. After passing by the (10 Mile Post) look left to spot an old RR Whistle marker. After about 10.5 miles the trail crosses over a  small wooden bridge. After crossing the bridge, turn left and walk down the granite steps of the embankment. At the bottom, turn around and find the Hop River Rail Trail West Letterbox hidden behind some rocks, underneath the last granite step. Back on the trail, you'll quickly pass what could be an old granite RR Mileage marker on your right. You'll find another leftover from the RR days located just before the (10.5 Mile Post) and a bench. Look right for two old iron rails bent like an upside down L. The RR would have two of these side by side to hold extra rails along the tracks. After 10.9 miles you'll pass by the Andover Fin, Fur & Feather Club so don't be alarmed if you hear gunshots coming from the woods. You then come to the Burnap Brook Road parking lot at 11.3 miles. 

Note; Here, you can take a quick side trip down to Burnap Brook. A beautiful brook, flowing through a scenic gorge, which then flows through an old stone tunnel underneath the rail trail. Just take the trail to the right, after you cross over the road. 

Cross Wales Rd followed by Shoddy Mill Rd where the trail then runs parallel to Route 6 in Andover Center before traveling a berm over Staddle Brook and coming to a covered bridge over Route 316 at 13 miles. This bridge was installed in April 2012 to replace the original RR bridge that was removed many moons ago. After crossing Route 316 the trail passes behind the old Andover Town Hall, which is now the Andover Historical Society and through a rock cut. Cross a small bridge over Merritt Valley Rd followed by Lake Rd and another bridge over a stream before the trail travels through a tunnel underneath Route 6 at 14.1 miles. The trail travels through the woods along a berm where you'll will finally see the Hop River along your left. Pass by another old cement Whistle marker on your right at 15 miles and you'll soon cross Parker Bridge Rd at 15.3 miles. Your now in Columbia and only one last mile marker (15 Mile Post was the last marker along the trail). This next section has been developed with a wide hard packed smooth brown base. This is a very scenic section with views of the Hop River on your left and a scenic pond on your right. The trail then crosses the Hop River along a wooden RR bridge and enters Coventry after about 16.5 miles. Cross Hop River Road which has a small parking area. Travel through a narrow tunnel underneath Pucker St at 17.7 miles and enter Coventry. You travel underneath the Route 6 expressway where the stone-dust currently ends at 18.7 miles.

Note; The remaining 0.5 mile section of trail out to Kings Road consists of a hard packed dirt surface as of Sept 2016.

You travel underneath two sets of power transmission lines before heading through a long rock cut and coming to Kings Road after 19.2 miles. The rail bed continues straight, where an old RR trestle crosses the Hop River, but, as of Sept 2016 it is not passable.  

Note; In order to bypass the closed bridge turn left on-road along Kings Rd (low volume traffic), then right along Flanders River Rd. "East Coast Greenway" signs are posted along this route. Immediately after crossing over the Hop River look left to spot a short paved path heading down into the woods (signs point to this path) at 19.7 miles. Follow this path down and turn right at the end of the pavement. Follow a hard packed dirt and gravel trail to an intersection and continue straight to a sharp turn in the trail. You are now back on the old rail trail. 

Note; Right leads to a tunnel underneath Flanders River Rd along the old rail bed.

Continue left along the old rail trail. Just past a yellow gate on your right spot some old RR Tie holders.

Note; The old rail trail continues straight, however, the old RR trestle bridge across the Willimantic River has not been rehabbed, as of Sept 2016, so you'll need to detour on-road. Head past the yellow gate out to Route 66 and head left on-road (wide shoulder) for a short distance. Just after crossing over the Willimantic River turn left next to the entrance to Mackey's where you'll pick up the trail at 20.3 miles. Trail parking lot located here. The paved trail winds down and underneath Route 66 where it travels alongside the Willimantic River. After 20.8 miles the trail ends at the junction of the Airline State Park Trail North and Airline State Park Trail South .

HH

CLICK HERE FOR HOP RIVER STATE PARK MAP; VERNON

CLICK HERE FOR HOP RIVER STATE PARK TRAIL MAP; BOLTON

CLICK HERE FOR HOP RIVER STATE PARK TRAIL MAP; ANDOVER

CLICK HERE FOR HOP RIVER STATE PARK TRAIL MAP; COLUMBIA/COVENTRY

CLICK HERE FOR VALLEY FALLS PARK MAP

CLICK HERE FOR MANCHESTER SECTION MAP

 

VALLEY FALLS LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

JULY 15, 2016

HOP RIVER RAIL TRAIL WEST LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

JULY 15, 2016

TO EMAIL A VERIFICATION

letterbox@snet.net 

 

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WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER

 

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