Letterbox Planted: August 16, 2003

Last Updated:          October 09, 2022

Length:                    Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; 7.3 miles to the Southampton town line (current end)

                                  Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur Loop; 1.3 mile Loop

                                   Manhan Rail Trail; 2.3 miles

Difficulty:                Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; Easy. Flat, paved rail trail.

                                  Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur Loop; Moderate. Steep hill.

                                   Manhan Rail Trail; Easy. Flat, paved rail trail.

Directions:              For the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail (Northern End): From I-91:

Northbound: Take exit 25 and continue to the Route 9 traffic circle. Take the Damon Rd exit. Continuing along Damon Rd, you travel under I-91 and come to Routes 5 & 10 (King St) at the light. Turn left on King St and follow until you come to the Kingsgate Plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch near where it crosses King St. You need to head left across King St to reach the "Spoke".

Southbound: Take exit 26 to Routes 5 & 10 ( King St) and continue straight on King St until you come to the Kingsgate Plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch near where it crosses King St. You need to head left across King St to reach the "Spoke"

To start from Route 5  for the Manhan Rail Trail (Eastern End): Take exit 23 off of I-91 to Route 5 south. You cross a bridge after a mile and pass by a boat launch. The trail begins next to the sub-station. There is parking here for several cars. If the area is full, you can also park at the boat launch.

You can rent bikes in Northampton. See; VALLEY BIKE SHARE for locations.

Until the 1930s, there were two parallel railroads that ran north through Northampton. The Boston & Maine's (B&M) Connecticut River Division, which runs to this day on the east side of Route 5, and the New Haven & Northampton RR, which basically ran on the west side of Route 5. The RR bed was originally constructed in 1868 as part of the New Haven & Northampton Railroad which later was acquired by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad—most commonly known as the New Haven Railroad (NH). The New Haven & Northampton RR then branched off to Williamsburg. Remains of the footings for the overpass over Route 5 are still visible where the line once headed toward what is now Super Stop & Shop. This commercial development, and the others just north of here, sit atop what was once the New Haven's classification yard and engine service facilities, complete with turntable and coaling tower. This is where the Williamsburg Branch began and what is now referred to as the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch, even though it was never part of the Mass Central RR. See; HISTORY OF WILLIAMSBURG BRANCH .

The Mass Central Rail Trail is a planned 104 mile trail from Northampton Massachusetts to Boston. It will follow the old Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR that ran between the two cities. The railroad split into two after the1938 hurricane shattered the line. The trail today exists in many unconnected sections and with differing surfaces. Starting from Northampton heading east the sections that are complete include the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch, Mass Central Rail Trail: Belchertown , Mass Central Rail Trail; Ware-Hardwick- New Braintree , Mass Central Rail Trail; Barre-Clinton , Mass Central Rail Trail; Wayland-Weston & Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge . For more information check out;  MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL , NORTHAMPTON TRAILS & EAST COAST GREENWAY .

In Northampton the Mass Central Rail Trail is a "Spoke" for 3 Trails.

  In Cambridge at Alewife T- Station, a stop on the commuter rail line into Boston is a Hub for 5 Trails (plus interconnecting Trails). 

The New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail is a planned 84 mile multi-use trail from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. In Connecticut the trail is referred to as the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and in Massachusetts as the New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail, although each town currently has there own name for the trail. Hence the name Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton. Heading south from Easthampton, future plans call for a trail to be developed in Southampton which will one day connect into the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield, the Southwick Rail Trail in Southwick and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail Northern Section in Connecticut. For more information visit; MANHAN RAIL TRAIL .

In 1828, the Farmington Canal opened for excursion boats to take passengers from New Haven to as far as Northampton, Massachusetts. In Northampton the Canal was known as the Hampshire & Hampden Canal. The canal was 86 miles long, 4 feet deep and 36 feet wide. Twenty-eight locks were built in Connecticut to accommodate a 292 foot total drop in elevation along the canal. The canal was never profitable and so by 1848 railroad tracks were being laid along the old canal route. The New Haven & Northampton RR/Canal Line was born, changing ownership over the years until the Boston & Maine Railroad discontinued service along this line. See; NH & NH RR .

Easthampton’s industrial base was so extensive that it was served by two competing railroads; The New Haven Railroad’s Canal Division and the Mt. Tom Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad. The Manhan Rail Trail follows the rail bed of the old Mt. Tom Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad.

Starting from the "Spoke" off King Street; Three rail trails "Spoke" out from here. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch travels northwest across King St. The Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail travels south through Northampton. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch starts out north to a tunnel underneath the active RR tracks, before heading east. A granite RR Mileage Marker here reads New Haven 97 miles/Boston 109 miles.

Note; Straight takes you out and across King St to the Kingsgate Plaza parking lot, where you can also access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch.

Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail:

Starting from the "Spoke" off King Street in Northampton; Travel south along the paved Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail. Map Boards/mileage charts are located all along the route. The trail travels south alongside the active RR tracks, traveling over a wooden bridge over North St. Next you cross a bridge over Main/Bridge Street (Route 9) alongside the B&M Line trestle bridge. This section is referred to as the William Nagle SR. Walkway. The trail then passes by the old Union Station after 0.5 miles. An Amtrak Station is also located here. Here you'll also find a granite O Mile Mileage Marker that Northampton installed. You then travel down to Pleasant St (Route 5) at 0.8 miles. On your right is a VALLEY BIKE SHARE Station. A red brick cross-walk takes you over to the trail as it turns westward. Map Board and BIKE STATION located here.

Note; You can detour right out to Main St and downtown Northampton. Lots of shops and places to eat.

After traveling over a small bench lined berm you'll encounter a large parking area as you come to Old South St. Cross this road and follow the BIKE LANE past the old Gas Works building on your right. Map Boards are located all along the trail.

Note; Over on your right is the old Gas Works building (the Roundhouse), which was used as a gas holder when it was constructed in 1856.

Continue straight and travel underneath South St (Route 10) along the paved trail, passing by the Northampton Skatepark and alongside West St (Route 66). Smith College is just to the north. The West Street parking lot is located just before you pass by the Felt building at 1.4 miles. Next you'll cross a wooden bridge over the Mill River and pass by fencing on your right, behind which are red horse stables. Just past this fence is a paved trail on your right at 1.9 miles.

Note; This is the Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur Loop. SEE BELOW

You come to the intersection of Earle & Grove Streets after 2.1 miles. Follow the crosswalks over to where the trail travels up a slight hill. The trail heads into the woods and travels along a small berm. You cross over Route 10 at 2.9 miles via an iron enclosed bridge. The open trail now follows the transmission lines alongside Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Cross Lovefield St in Easthampton at 3.7 miles and parallel this street to the junction of Lovefield & O'Neil streets. An iron bridge takes you over the Manhan River. Look left to spot the stone embankments from the old RR bridge that used to cross here. The trail then comes to an intersection after 4.6 miles

Note; Left the Manhan Rail Trail travels east out to Route 5. SEE BELOW.

Continuing straight you'll cross Ferry St and travel past Mill Side Park, on your left, which contains restrooms. Along your right are converted old mill buildings. The trail travels alongside Mill Pond, where a couple of stone-dust trails lead to overlooks of the pond and through an industrial area before coming to Route 141 at 5.6 miles. A cross walk is here, but no cross light, so USE CAUTION. Right up Route 141 takes you to downtown Easthampton and Route 10. There are places to eat or grab some snacks. A Map Board is located here next to a small sculpture park. Along the side wall of the plaza is a giant mural that was created just for the bike trail, showing the towns buildings and people. Opposite is the old RR Depot. The trail then heads into a more shaded section after passing between Rubber Thread Pond and Wilton Brook Pond, with the Williston Northampton School along your right. You pass through an old stone tunnel underneath Park St. The trail then crosses South St after 6.6 miles. Another Map Board located here. Nice wood fencing located along this section which is wooded along the left and residential right. The trail currently ends after 7.3 miles at Coleman Rd just past the Southampton town line. Here you'll find a Map Board and bench area. Future plans call for extending the trail south through Southampton to connect into Westfield's Columbia Greenway Rail Trail

Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur:

This trail leads to Earle St where you cross over to a wide sidewalk. Head right to West St and cross street. Turn left uphill and quickly come to the narrow paved Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur Loop on your right after 0.2 miles. This path heads uphill past the Hospital Sledding Hill on your right. Come to an intersection. Great views of the valley from here. Head right along the paved trail as it travels through the woods. Bear left at the intersection and come to a large Beach tree with a swing and an intersection at 0.5 miles.

Note; Left leads up to the Northampton State Hospital Memorial Park, which has an the old Hospital fountain and informational signs. Northampton State Hospital was a historic psychiatric hospital on top of Hospital Hill. The hospital building was constructed in 1856 and operated until 1993. The hospital was originally known as the Northampton Lunatic Asylum.

Continuing straight you'll cross Olander Drive where the trail heads into the forest at 0.6 miles. Hiking trails past here. Return to Olander Drive and travel right up to the former Northampton State Hospital site which is now a residential development. Continue straight along Olander Dr (residential) passing by the Northampton State Hospital Memorial Park. As the road turns right, look left for the Hospital Hill Rail Trail Spur Loop. This will Loop you back to the Hospital Sledding Hill intersection. Turn right and head back down to West St where you can return to the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail after about a 1.3 mile Loop.

Manhan Rail Trail:

Starting from Route 5; A Map Board is located here. The paved Manhan Rail Trail passes by the power sub station and then passes beneath I-91. You can see the part of the Connecticut River known as the "Hook" because it breaks off from the main river and forms a hook back towards Route 5. The trail also follows along the Manhan River, for which the trail is named. After crossing over a small bridge, you will see an opening on your left in the split rail fencing and a green bike rack at 0.8 miles. There will also be a sign that reads "Old Pascommuck Conservation Area/Florence Smith Nature Trail". A set of wooden steps head up to your right, but you head left down the path to the stone base of the bridge. Standing next to the bottom of the stone stair abutment, take a compass reading of 150 degrees. Walk up a small hill past the tree your compass pointed too and spot an old log on the ground. Go to the right end of the log where it's piled up and you will see 2 old railroad ties. Under the front railroad tie is the Manhan Rail Trail Letterbox. Continuing along the trail, you'll pass a small green sign to your right on the fence. This is the 1 mile marker. These mileage markers are placed every mile along the right side of the trail (very low to the ground). At 1 ¼ miles is the first of many old cement Whistle Stop posts that you will pass by, remaining from the days when this was a railroad line. After passing by an old factory to your left, that still has a railroad siding and tracks running alongside it, a sharp left turn brings you to the end of the trail at 2.3 miles. This is where the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail intersects the Manhan Rail Trail, traveling north to Northampton and south towards CT. Map Board located here. 






OCTOBER 8, 2018