CHARTER OAK GREENWAY:
EAST HARTFORD-MANCHESTER, CONNECTICUT
CAPT. JOHN BISSELL TRAIL:
MANCHESTER-SOUTH WINDSOR, CONNECTICUT
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: July 15, 2018
Length: Charter Oak Greenway; 15.4 miles (with on-road detour)
Capt. John Bissell Trail; 4.5 miles paved, 2.9 miles on-road
Difficulty: Charter Oak Greenway; Moderate. Paved path, but very hilly.
Capt. John Bissell Trail; Moderate. Paved path with an on-road section. Hilly.
To start from the Bolton Notch parking lot in Bolton [Eastern End]; 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 short paved road. This brings you to the parking lot for both the Charter Oak Greenway & Hop River State Park Trail .
To start from the Highland Street/Camp Meeting Road parking lot in Manchester [Central Section]; Take exit 4 off of I-384 in Manchester. Westbound; Turn right on Highland St and follow to the parking lot on your right. Eastbound; Turn left at the end of the ramp onto Wyllys St, cross over the highway and take a right on Highland St. The parking lot will be 0.3 miles on the right.
To start from Charter Oak Park in Manchester [Central Section]: Take exit 3 off of I-384 in Manchester and go north on Route 83 (Main Street). Take a right onto Charter Oak Street and then another right into the Park.
To start from Great River Park in East Hartford (Riverfront Trail) [Western End]: 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. Note; Travel south along the trail for 0.5 miles to intersect the Charter Oak Greenway.
The Charter Oak Greenway travels west from the Hop River State Park Trail in Bolton to the Riverfront Trail in East Hartford. A gap exists through the Pratt & Whitney site and requires an on-road detour to connect back to the path at Willow St. A spur trail near the intersection of I-84 and I-384 follows the Capt. John Bissell Trail out to Tolland Turnpike, where you'll follow an on-road section through South Windsor before rejoining the paved trail alongside I-291. This takes you over the Connecticut River and down to Windsor Meadows State Park, in Windsor where you connect to the Windsor River Trail .This trail will eventually continue south alongside the Connecticut River and connect with the Riverfront Trail in Hartford.
The Charter Oak Greenway is part of the EAST COAST GREENWAY , a planned biking & hiking route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. When complete it will traverse 15 states with a mostly off-road path.
Charter Oak Greenway:
Starting from the Bolton Notch parking lot in Bolton [Eastern End]; An informational signboard located here. This was the location of the Bolton Station.
Note; The Hop River State Park Trail is located here. Southeast runs to Willimantic, northwest to Manchester.
Head up the entrance road where you'll pick up the paved Charter Oak Greenway as it travels alongside Bolton Notch Pond and out past the Route 44 Commuter Lot. An iron red bridge takes you over busy Route 44 after 0.4 miles, then alongside the westbound side of I-384. This trail contains hilly sections. Travel up to Route 85, where you cross over the highway at 1.3 miles, then travel down alongside the eastbound side of I-384. The trail then turns off the highway bringing you out to and across Finley St. The trail parallels Camp Meeting Rd. You cross a small red bridge before crossing Camp Meeting Rd via another iron red bridge. You then travel underneath I-384 and up to the Highland Street/Camp Meeting Rd Parking lot at 2.9 miles. A large sign board is located next to the parking lot that has information concerning the East Coast Greenway. The trail travels west above I-384 to your left and next to Highland St along your right. A cross-light over Wyllys St brings you to some picnic tables across from the Highland Park Market where you can grab some refreshments. Slight hill down to another crosswalk. Utilize caution as this is an on/off ramp for the highway. The trail then continues downhill away from Highland St where you'll cross two bridges over Birch Mountain Brook before traveling underneath Gardner St. This brings you to an intersection at 4.1 miles.
Note; Right is a short spur trail up to Gardner Street West.
Continue straight through the woods alongside the brook until you come to another intersection at 4.6 miles.
Note; The paved trail that heads left underneath I-384 takes you up to Spring St and over to Globe Hollow Field & Reservoir.
Head right over the bridge and your now traveling alongside Hop Brook in Charter Oak Park. You'll come to a brick building and access for the Charter Oak parking lot after 4.8 miles. Look down to spot a cement marker. This gives you the miles to Maine and Florida, the endpoints of the East Coast Greenway. A large sign board is located next to the parking lot that has information concerning the East Coast Greenway. Continue west alongside the brook and park to Charter Oak St. Turn left to Main St (Route 83).
Note; From here you may connect to the Cheney Rail Trail via a 0.8 mile on-road detour. Head right up Main St (sidewalk available) and take your first left along Forest St (residential). Turn right when you reach Elm St. This will bring you to the stone-dust Cheney Rail Trail after 0.8 miles.
Head left along Main St (Route 83) and proceed over I-384. The trail then turns left to circle back underneath the overpass and travels west alongside I-384. You ascend up to Prospect St and cross over. Here, at 6 miles, a Map Board describes the East Coast Greenway. The trail descends back down alongside the highway and brings you to your second hill climb up to Keeney St. Here you have to head right and cross back over the highway. When you come to Hartford Rd, turn left and use the cross-light to cross Keeney St and you'll pick up the paved trail again at mile 6.8. The bike trail parallels Hartford Road for 0.4 miles and then ends. Cross Hartford Rd and head left. This section is on-road for 0.6 miles, utilizing a narrow sidewalk or a fairly wide bike lane along Hartford Rd, before turning left onto Bidwell St and traveling underneath the highway where the paved trail picks up again on your right at mile 7.8. This is one of the entrances to Manchester Community College. Keep to the right when the trail splits and head up a steep hill. You’ll travel alongside the highway for a bit before coming to the athletic fields and a parking lot. A water fountain is located here. After you pass by the baseball field you'll spot a trail on your right at 8 miles. This trail serves as a shortcut over to the Charter Oak Trail that loops back this way. However, I prefer continuing straight, as this takes you through a White Pine tree forest that is very cool in the summer. After you exit the White Pine forest you'll need to turn left and cross the road via a cross-walk. After passing by the other end of the short cut you'll come back alongside I-384. At 9.5 miles a cross-light takes you over Silver Lane. A slight hill brings you up to an intersection at 10.1 miles.
Note; The Capt. John Bissell Trail (See below) heads right through the tunnel.
The Charter Oak Trail continues straight coming alongside I-84. Come to a spur trail on your left at 10.4 miles.
Note; This 0.2 mile spur trail takes you up to Veterans Memorial Park.
Continuing straight the trail heads downhill. Just before Forbes St in East Hartford, the trail turns right at 11.1 miles. Straight dead ends at Forbes St. The trail continues west alongside I-84. Come to Simmons Rd at 12.1 miles and head left out to Cumberland Dr. A short on-road section along Simmons Rd (low volume/sidewalk available) brings you out to Silver Lane. Cross-light takes you over to Rentschler Field where you'll pick up the paved trail again. The trail travels right past the Rentschler Field Stadium parking lots and out to E Hartford Blvd where the trail continues right. Come to a cross-walk at 12.9 miles.
Note; The trail was supposed to head left across E Hartford Blvd to Pratt & Whitney West Connector Lane-Founders Rd-Willow St and out to Main St where the paved Charter Oak Greenway continues alongside Willow St. However, I guess Pratt & Whitney have restricted access so you'll need to take a 1.6 mile Detour.
Continue straight out to Silver Lane. Head left on-road (sidewalk available) [Not recommended for kids on bikes] and you'll come to Mercer Ave on your left after 0.5 miles. Travel down Mercer Ave (residential/sidewalk available) then turn right on Pratt St (use Sisson St if coming from the west). Follow Pratt St to Smart St and turn left. A quick right along Lilac St will bring you to Main St after 1.4 miles where you'll find a cross-light. Travel south (left) along Main St (sidewalk available) and you'll come to Willow St after 1.6 miles [14.5 miles].
Picking up the Charter Oak Greenway again at the intersection of Main and Willow Streets; [Continuing mileage with the detour added; 14.5 miles]. The paved trail follows Willow St west underneath Route 2 and across Riverside Dr. To your left is the CT River Academy at Goodwin College.
Note; In the future you will be able to head left through Goodwin College to connect to the South Meadows Greenway in E Hartford.
Head right into the woods crossing a culvert for Willow Brook which travels along your left. Route 2 follows above along your right. Travel underneath Route 15 and you'll come to the Riverfront Trail after 15.4 miles.
Capt. John Bissell Trail:
From the Charter Oak Greenway/Capt. John Bissell Trail junction; Head through the tunnel and underneath I-84 along the paved trail, which is also in poor condition. A long descent brings you alongside the Hockanum River at 0.4 miles and then the trail loops back up alongside an off-ramp and crosses over the river. A gradual climb brings you up to Route 44 where you utilize a cross-light to the other side at 1.1 miles.
Note; Heading left for 0.1 miles, the trail brings you to the entrance for WICKHAM PARK (a nice side trip).
Continue right up a steep grade, where the paved trail widens and improves. You crest alongside I-291 and after 2 miles you'll come to a pair of granite benches with a granite marker in between. Your legs will appreciate the twin benches at this point. The trail now descends, crossing over some RR tracks before coming to a cross-light at Tolland Turnpike after 2.3 miles.
Note; Straight takes you towards East Hartford where the paved trail ends after only 0.1 miles.
Cross over Tolland Turnpike and follow the paved trail alongside Chapel Road. After you've passed by a distribution plant the trail surface degrades badly. Your better off utilizing the roads shoulder. The paved trail ends after 3 miles at Burnam St Ext. You can continue On-Road along Chapel Rd which has a narrow shoulder, but is low volume traffic wise. The route is hilly. You’ll cross Route 30 via a cross-light after 4.3 miles and come to Route 5 after 4.8 miles. There is a cross-walk, but no cross-light, so USE CAUTION. Chapel Rd now has no shoulder, but very little traffic. You cross over the Podunk River and come to Main St where you'll then turn left. Just before you travel underneath I-291 at 5.9 miles, the paved trail picks up again on your right. Follow the trail up alongside I-291 and cross over the Connecticut River on the Bissell Bridge. You then travel down and underneath the highway to the banks of the Connecticut River at Windsor Meadows State Park, in Windsor after 7.4 miles. Across from the parking lot is the entrance to the Windsor River Trail . This trail travels south alongside the Connecticut River a short ways. Future plans call for continuing this trail south towards Hartford to Riverside Park where it will hook up with the Riverfront Trail .
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