RIVERFRONT TRAIL LETTERBOX:

HARTFORD/EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Planted:                 June 6, 2003

Last Updated:        July 10, 2016                                                       

Length:                  Riverfront Trail Loop; 4.7 miles if biking. 3.6 miles if hiking.

                                Riverside Park Spur; 2 mile round trip.

                               Riverside Park Trail Loop; 2.8 miles.

Difficulty:              Easy. Mostly paved flat trail.

                                Detour sections not recommended for kids on bikes.

Directions:

To start at Great River Park; From I-84 westbound, take exit 54 towards downtown Hartford, then exit 3. At end of ramp turn left onto Darlin St and another left onto East River Drive. Follow for less then a mile to the park entrance on your right. From I-84 east bound, take exit 53 and follow signs for East River Drive. Right off the ramp onto East River Drive and follow for about 3/4 of a mile to the park entrance on your right. There are brown signs indicating the way.

To start at Charter Oak Landing; From I-91 northbound, take exit 27, turn left off the ramp onto Brainard Rd and go 0.8 miles. Turn left onto Reserve Rd and travel 0.5 miles to the park entrance on the right. I-91 southbound, turn left off the ramp onto Airport Rd, then left onto Brainard Rd and go 0.7 miles. Turn left onto Reserve Rd and travel 0.5 miles to the park entrance on the right.

To start at Riverside Park; From I-91, take exit 33 and turn east onto Jennings Rd. Next turn right onto Leibert Rd and go less then 0.5 miles to the park entrance on the left.

Hartford's waterfront along the Connecticut River, has been greatly improved thanks to "Riverfront Recapture", which was started in 1981. Charter Oak Landing was completed in 1989 and East Hartford opened Great River Park in 1990. The Riverside Plaza was opened in 1999 and a new boat house was erected in Riverside Park in 2002. All these parks are now interconnected through a mostly paved Riverfront Trail system along the banks of the Connecticut River and the Founders and Charter Oak Bridges. The Charter Oak Greenway connects into the Riverfront Trail just below the Charter Oak Bridge. You can follow the Charter Oak Greenway through East Hartford, past Rentschler Field, through Manchester and out to Bolton Notch where it will soon connect into the Hop River State Park Trail . For more information visit EAST COAST GREENWAY or RIVERFRONT .

Note: During times of flooding, parts of the trail may be submerged, especially along the eastern shoreline.

Starting from the Great River Park; Head south or downstream from the parking lot along the paved trail. You'll immediately come to a fork in the trail. Left brings you to the outdoor amphitheater, so head right. At this point, start counting the lamp posts, starting with the first one just past the fork, next to the two stone benches. The trail runs alongside the Connecticut River and this section especially, is prone to spring flooding. Just before you reach the 9th lamp post, look to your left for a small path. This is less then a ¼ mile from the park. Part of it contains asphalt. Walk up this short path and cross over an oblong red boulder and chunk of cement blocking the path. From these rocks, walk 14 paces (1 pace = 2 steps) further along the path. Look to your right for a multi-trunked, small diameter tree about 10 feet off the path. Behind this tree, lift up the cinder block to find the Riverfront Trail Letterbox under a small piece of cement. Continuing south along the trail you'll pass by an overlook after which the trail turns inland alongside the Hockanum River. You come to an intersection at 0.5 miles just before a very ornamental bridge that crosses over the Hockanum River.

Note; If you’re hiking, cross over the bridge and head for the stairway that leads up to the Charter Oak Bridge at 0.6 miles. Just before this stairway on your left is the Charter Oak Greenway .

If biking you'll need to take a 1.2 mile detour to avoid having to carry your bike up the stairway. 

Note; Straight ahead is the Meadow Hill Trail which is part of the Hockanum River Linear Park (sign board straight ahead), however, while this trails heads in the right direction for the detour you would have to push your bike up a steep, weed covered embankment and lift it over a guardrail.

Instead head left underneath the power lines to a dirt trail that heads into the woods. Hang a left when you come to the backside of Two Rivers Magnet Middle School. Bear right and you' emerge on Riverview Square. Head right to a crosswalk and left following a sidewalk out to East River Drive. Head right on-road. Use Caution crossing the on-ramp for Route 2. Here you'll pick up a sidewalk as you travel underneath Route 2 along East River Drive Extension. Use Caution crossing the off-ramp for Route 2. After crossing the Hockanum River you'll come to an on-ramp for the Charter Oak Bridge. Turn right at the I-91/Routes 5 & 15 on-ramp and follow the trail over the Charter Oak Bridge. After a 1.2 mile detour you'll come to the top of the pedestrian stairway (Mile 0.6 if hiking). Continue across the bridge and enjoy the great views of the Connecticut River and the Hartford skyline. Another ¼ mile brings you to a second set of stairs leading down to Charter Oak Landing. If biking, continue down the ramp to Reserve Rd. Here you will see a remaining support from the old Charter Oak Bridge, which is now used as an entrance sign for Charter Oak Landing. Cross the road and railroad tracks and follow the sidewalk into Charter Oak Landing, passing by a path that leads to the stairway up to the bridge, before coming to an intersection at 2.4 miles (Mile 1.3 if hiking) where you pick up the paved trail.

Note; A narrow paved trail heads right alongside the Connecticut River, travels underneath the Charter Oak Bridge and ends at a boat launch after 0.2 miles.

Continuing straight along the paved trail you come to a pavilion and ferry dock. Here the trail splits. Right a narrow trail follows the river, head straight along either parallel paved trails past the parking lot to a playscape. Head left across the road to gravel trail that starts between two orange poles. Take the gravel trail and continue north. The trail becomes paved as it heads up and over a hump just below the highway. This brings you down to the paved service road at 2.9 miles. Follow the service road to the right. 

Note; Left will take you underneath I-91 to COLTSVILLE NATIONAL PARK

You will soon be traveling alongside the Connecticut River again. You reach Riverfront Plaza at 3.4 miles (Mile 2.3 if hiking) , where a ramp takes you up to the elevator. If biking, this elevator is the only way to get your bike up to the top of the plaza to cross the Founders Bridge.

Note; Before heading up the elevator you may continue north past the plaza seating and ferry dock along the Riverside Park Spur. This also brings you to the Riverside Park Trails. See below.

Continuing from the Riverfront Plaza, take the elevator up to the top of the plaza. 

Note; After reaching the top of Riverfront Plaza, you may wish to explore Constitution Plaza by heading straight past Adriaen's Landing and the CT SCIENCE CENTER over the Phoenix Gateway Pedestrian Bridge. Or you can check out the CONNECTICUT CONVENTION CENTER by heading left along the pedestrian bridge. 

When you’re ready, cross over the Founders Bridge Promenade back to the East Hartford side of the river. Just after crossing over, look to your right for a ramp that will take you down to East River Drive. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left and travel under the Founders Bridge. A paved trail on your left will then lead you up to the top of the flood wall and over to the Bulkeley Bridge. From here you can travel left back down to the Riverfront Trail. The trail heads south alongside the Connecticut River, passes underneath the Founders Bridge and returns you to the Great River Park after a 4.7 mile loop (Mile 3.6 if hiking) not counting any detours to Riverside Park or Constitution Plaza.

Riverside Park Spur & Trails:

From the Riverfront Plaza; Continue north past the plaza seating and ferry dock along the Riverside Park Spur. This section of trail winds through a nicely landscaped park with stone benches, lamp posts and sculptures. This takes you underneath the Bulkeley Bridge where you can check out the high water marks for all the big floods. The trail then continues alongside the river all the way to Riverside Park, which contains a playground, picnic tables, Porto-potty's, boat launch and a boathouse. There is also a bike/pedestrian bridge that takes you over I-91 to Hartford's north end. The Spur Trail is about 1 mile from the Riverfront Plaza to the boathouse. 

Note; Behind the boathouse are a series of mountain bike trails called the Riverside Park Trails. A map board is located here. Head straight along the "blue trail", although I couldn't find any trail markings in blue, on a flat, dirt trail. You pass underneath a railroad trestle and come alongside the dike. A gravel trail continues straight and is very rough for biking. Instead, take the trail up to the top of the dike (trap rock only until you reach the top) at a ½ mile. The top of the dike is a hard packed grass lined trail. Take a quick detour by heading right along the dike, passing by the Hartford Police Station and Fire Training School to your left until you come alongside the landfill at 1 ¼ miles. Here, the trail turns to trap rock and is not worth riding. Good views of the river however. Head back along the dike and continue past where you accessed the dike. You'll come to the railroad tracks, where you'll need to push your bike over the tracks and back up the dike. Caution; This is an active freight line. Follow the dike around to Leibert Rd, where you head left down to Riverside Park. You'll reach the boathouse after a 2.8 mile loop.

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

JULY 10, 2016

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