Shortly after passing the Arlington Reservoir, the Minuteman Bikeway borders Great Meadows, which at 183 acres is one of the largest publicly owned open spaces in the area. Because Great Meadows has limited access from area roads, the bikeway functions as the best way to get to this beautiful park and its acres of wildflowers and wetlands. Great Meadows also offers miles of off-road hiking trails for trail users interested in stepping off the pavement of the Minuteman Bikeway.
Vermont: Missisquoi Valley Rail-Trail
The Missisquoi Valley Rail-Trail (MVRT) provides trail users — many of whom take to the crushed-limestone trail on snowmobiles, cross-country skis, or snowshoes in the winter — with direct access to the heart of northern Vermont’s dairy country. As the MVRT winds its way northeast from St. Albans to Richford, just south of the Quebec border, trail users enjoy picturesque views of Franklin County’s farms, forests, fields, and wetlands. The trail’s original railroad right-of-way, the Central Vermont Railway’s Richford Branch, never exceeds a grade of 3 percent, making it the perfect venue to spend a relaxing time enjoying the postcard images the trail offers.
In addition to the many scenic vistas found along the trail, the MVRT also provides trail users with numerous opportunities to experience some of the quaint villages and towns of northwestern Vermont. St. Albans, at the trail’s western end, offers restaurants, bicycle rentals, and a historical museum. Housed in a renovated 1863 brick schoolhouse, the St. Albans Historical Museum features railroad memorabilia, antique maps, and photographs of the area. About 11 miles farther east, after taking in some gorgeous views of the nearby mountains, trail users come upon the Abbey Restaurant, which offers home-cooked meals. The Abbey also provides trailside benches and a bike rack for trail users. A few miles later, the charming village of Enosburg Falls comes into view, often surprising trail users with its vibrant downtown. The final 10 miles of the MVRT take trail users past a snack bar in East Berkshire before leading to the MVRT’s eastern end in Richford near the Jay Peak Ski Resort, which offers summertime road and mountain biking opportunities.
Bicyclists looking for a more extensive trip than simply riding the MVRT can hook up with a 1,187-mile network of bicycle routes known as Lake Champlain Bikeways, including a 350-mile loop around Lake Champlain that can be accessed in St. Albans. The route takes bicyclists both on and off road around beautiful Lake Champlain.
Connecticut: Air Line State Park Trail
Eastern Connecticut’s Air Line State Park Trail follows the right-of-way of the former Air Line Railroad, which was built to connect Boston and New York City in the latter half of the 19th century. The corridor was known as the Air Line because it traced the most direct route possible — as if by a line drawn through the air — and for 86 years, from 1873 to 1959, the Air Line provided a high-speed passenger rail connection between these prominent Northeast cities.
In 1975, the Air Line rail corridor was deeded to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and in 1996 the DEP proposed rehabilitating the rail bed as a linear state park. Today, the long abandoned rail right-of-way is being developed as a multi-use rail-trail in two segments: the Air Line South and the Air Line North State Park Trails. With the reuse of this corridor for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, equestrians, and the disabled, residents and visitors to the area can now experience the panoramic views of the surrounding Connecticut hills and valleys directly from the old rail bed.
In the north, the Air Line Trail spans 27 miles from Putnam, in the northeast corner of the state, and passes through Pomfret, Hampton, and Chaplin before reaching Windham, a quaint New England town first settled in 1686. The southern section of the Air Line runs from Windham to the southwest, passing through Lebanon, Hebron, and Colchester before ending in East Hampton. When completed, the Air Line Trail will be one of eight trail segments in Connecticut that will be part of the East Coast Greenway, a 2,500-mile trail network being developed to link cities, suburbs, and towns from the Canadian border to Key West, Florida.
The trail’s most dramatic features are its two viaducts, including the Lyman Viaduct, a spectacular 1,100-foot iron trestle that passes over a deep and wide gorge. There are also new bridges that cross over the Blackledge and Jeremy Rivers, offering hikers and bikers the opportunity to gaze at the expansive views of the rugged, natural scene playing out far below the trail. Trail users can also experience natural scenery in a variety of other locations as the trail passes through or nearby Goodwin State Forest, Beaver Brook State Park, the Hampton reservoir, the Salmon River State Forest, and Grayville Falls Park.
Rhode Island: Blackstone River Bikeway and East Bay Bicycle Path
The East Bay Bicycle Path, which runs south from India Point Park in Providence to Independence Park in Bristol, is Rhode Island’s oldest and longest rail-trail at 14.5 miles. Completed in 1992, the path hugs the shore of Narragansett Bay and other waterways, offering up stunning water views.