MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL; WILLIAMSBURG BRANCH
MANHAN/NEW HAVEN & NORTHAMPTON CANAL RAIL TRAIL NORTH
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: July 22, 2018
Length: Mass Central Rail Trail: Williamsburg Branch; 5.5 miles
Look Park Loop Trail; 1.5 miles
Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; 4.3 miles to Manhan Rail Trail intersection; 7 miles to the Southampton town line (current end)
Difficulty: Mass Central Rail Trail: Williamsburg Branch; Easy. Paved rail trail with slight grade one direction.
Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail; Easy. Paved rail trail.
Directions: (Northern End) From I-91:
Northbound; Take exit 19 and continue straight off the ramp across Route 9 onto Damon Rd. On your right is the Elwell State Park parking lot, providing access to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch. You may also park here to connect to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch. To start from King Street; 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. Here if you follow this trail across King St it will take you past the RR tunnel to the "Spoke" and the start of the trail.
Southbound: Take exit 20 to Routes 5 & 10 (N King St) south. To start from King Street; Continue straight 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. Here if you follow this trail across King St it will take you past the RR tunnel to the "Spoke" and the start of the trail.
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 Railroadómost 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).
Heading West the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge (also known as the Fitchburg Cutoff) will eventually extend to Northampton.
Heading East the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge (also known as the Red Line Linear Path which becomes the Somerville Community Path) will eventually bring you to North Point Park in Cambridge (where you may connect to the Boston Harborwalk; Charlestown and Charles River Bikeway ).
Heading Northwest the Minuteman Bikeway brings you to Bedford (where you may connect to the Bedford Narrow Gauge Spur and future Reformatory Branch Rail Trail.
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. 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 .
Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch:
Starting from the
Note; Look Park is a great park for kids. Open year round during daylight hours with reasonable entrance fees and picnic site fees. Visit; LOOK PARK for more information on fees and amenities such as pedal boats, bumper boats, miniature golf, water spray park and even a mini train that runs inside the park. A mile and a half paved trail loops through the park connecting all areas together. At the entrance to Look Park is a parking area you may start from, unless you plan on visiting the park, in which case the loop trail within the park will bring you back to this parking lot.
The trail enters the park, traveling past the gatehouse and passing by the miniature golf course. When you reach the park road, the trail turns right. Straight takes you along the parks trails. The trail skirts the park before turning right and heading back out of the park and back to the paved rail trail at 3.4 miles.
Note; If you head right, the trail brings you back out to N Main St and the entrance for Look Park.
Head left along the trail as it travels above N Main St on your right and the park on your left. You'll cross over two wooden bridges, the second over Arch St and head back into the woods. You'll spot the Mill River below on your left. Come to Mulberry St at 4.3 miles. Down to your left is a nice old brick mill building along the river in Leeds Village. Crosswalk over Mulberry St. This section is referred to as the Mill River Greenway. The trail travels only a short distance before the pavement ends at 4.5 miles. On your left is an old stone dam across the river. Waterfall created by the spillway. Be sure to check it out. The river is a popular swimming spot in the summer. Clear water. The trail continues along the river, but consists of a stone-dust base. Come to a spur trail at 4.8 miles.
Note; This paved spur trail heads right uphill to Grove Ave, a residential dead end road.
The trail becomes paved as it continues north alongside the river crossing a wooden bridge over Beaver Brook. Left is a nice sandy swimming hole. The trail then turns off the rail bed taking you down to S Main St after 5.5 miles as you enter Haydenville. The plan is to continue north on-road along S Main St to Main St (Route 9) in Haydenville. A paved trail will then be built alongside Route 9 heading northwest to Williamsburg. This will occur when the state rebuilds Route 9 possibly in 2025.
Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North:
Starting from the "Spoke" (King Street); From the intersection of the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch, Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch head south along the paved Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North.
Note; To access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch, head north to a tunnel underneath an active rail line. To access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch head northwest across King St.
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 RR Mileage Marker that Northampton installed. It reads N0/B104 (Northampton 0 miles/Boston 104 miles). You come to Pleasant St (Route 5) where a cross-walk takes you over to the trail as it turns westward. Bike Station located here.
Note; You can detour right out to Main St and downtown Northampton. Lots of shops and places to eat.
Note; On your right before crossing Pleasant St are bikes you can rent. See; VALLEY BIKE SHARE .
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 trail past the Roundhouse parking lot at 0.9 miles. 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 a skateboard park and alongside West St (Route 66). Smith College is just to the north. A parking lot is located just before you pass by the Felt building at 1.2 miles. Next you'll cross a wooden bridge over the Mill River. Check out the scenic red horse stables on your right. You come to the intersection of Earle & Grove Streets after 1.7 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 2.5 miles via an iron enclosed bridge. The open trail now follows the transmission lines alongside Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Cross Lovefield St at 3.4 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 4.3 miles. Here you have two options:
1. Head left (east) along the Manhan Rail Trail out to Route 5. A distance of 2.3 miles. See; Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South for directions and information for starting from Route 5.
2. Continue straight along the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail to the Southampton town line. Another 2.7 miles. See; Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South for directions and information for continuing from here.
CLICK HERE FOR REGIONAL AREA MAP
CLICK HERE FOR MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL MAP
CLICK HERE FOR OLD MASS CENTRAL RR MAP
BEFORE YOU SET OUT BE SURE TO READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER
BIKE IT OR HIKE IT