Air Line Bridge
Air Line State Park Trail
East Hampton to Putnam, CT
On a converted railroad bed, this gravel trail is a wide, level path suitable for bikes and hikes. It extends 50 miles from East Hampton to Putnam, except for a gap in Willimantic. Plans to extend this trail across Willimantic are progressing. The former railroad trestle across the Willimantic River (see photo) will be converted to a walking/biking crossing, which is currently under development. Meanwhile the trail can be accessed in Lebanon (westbound) or on Jackson Street in Willimantic (eastbound). The railroad bed has been improved for biking for part of its length.
The Air Line railway was built in 1872 as the shortest route between Boston and New York. After the 1955 flood destroyed some of the bridges, it was abandoned. The railroad bed is now a state park managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, with assistance from towns and volunteers in projects to upgrade the surface.
West of Willimantic: From Route 66 in Columbia, turn south onto Cards Mill Road. In one mile, turn left onto Baker Hill Road (which becomes Kingsley Road in Lebanon). In six-tenths of a mile the Air Line Trail crosses the road. Park along the right side of the road. Alternative directions: From Bridge Street in Willimantic, travel west one and two-tenths miles on Pleasant Street, which becomes Kingsley Road in Lebanon.
East of Willimantic: At the northeast corner of Jackson and Union Streets in Willimantic, the Air Line Trail begins as the Veterans' Memorial Greenway Trail, which has a parking lot.See Windham/Willimantic map
West of Willimantic: If you walk or bike west from Kingsley Road in Lebanon, the trail extends west for 20 miles through Columbia, Colchester and Hebron to East Hampton. The surface of the railroad bed is improved west of Leonard's Bridge Road in Lebanon. There is a break in the trail between Village Hill Road and Cook's Hill Road. The Ten Mile River (tributary to the Willimantic River) meanders on the right, then on the left, through woods and meadows. There is a spectacular view of the Dickinson Creek valley from a high viaduct in Colchester.
You can walk east from Kingsley Road to the Willimantic River. This seven-tenths-mile section of the roadbed is unimproved, but passable. Note that the bridge over the Willimantic River is closed to the public until it is converted to a pedestrian bridge. For more information on the Air Line State Park Trail and additional access points, visit Pathways of Connecticut.
East from Willimantic: From the corner of Jackson and Union Streets in Willimantic follow the paved surface of Veterans’ Memorial Greenway Trail, which extends one mile east to Route 66 near Tuckie Road in Windham. A short distance along Tuckie Road, the trail resumes and continues to Putnam through Chaplin, Hampton, and Pomfret. The railroad bed has been improved for biking for part of its length.
Thanks to John Hankins for his assistance.
Photo: J. Hill
This Willimantic River Greenway Parks and Trails Guide was produced by the Willimantic River Alliance and WINCOG. Information in this guide reflects conditions and features as of Spring, 2008. Since conditions change over time, the Alliance is not responsible for changes at this site. This guide was funded with support from the The Last Green Valley (formerly known as the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc.).