The Air Line Trail State Park: A recreation resource to be explored


The Air Line Trail State Park: A recreation resource to be explored

Last year my wife and I purchased new bicycles. We purchased multi-use bikes with wider tires than the narrow tires for biking on roads. Our plan was to explore the rail trails throughout New England and The Last Green Valley. Our first stop was the Air Line Trail located just a few miles from our home in Putnam. We started at the trailhead in Pomfret and rode our bikes southwest toward Hampton. We discovered a beautiful woodsy trail perfect for people looking for outdoor recreation, whether hiking, biking, walking, running, pushing strollers, cross country skiing or horseback riding.
The Air Line Railroad was a rail line designed to follow a straight line from New York to Boston. The most direct route took it through eastern Connecticut. It opened in the 1870s and lasted until the mid-1950s.
Today it is a new kind of state park, The Air Line Trail State Park, stretching 50 miles with numerous access locations for non-motorized recreation. The trail is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP).
The Air Line Trail runs from East Hampton to Putnam and Thompson, all the way to the Massachusetts border. There are several excellent trail sections within the towns in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.
The best way to find more information about the Air Line Trail State Park is to look it up on the CT DEEP website and then download the trail maps for each individual section. You can simply search CT DEEP Air Line State Park Trail to find the website, or go to the following link:

The CT DEEP website provides information on the trail section in 10 towns with street addresses for parking locations. The CT DEEP website also provides links to specific trail section maps for easy download and print out.

I spoke with Laurie Giannotti, of the CT DEEP Trails and Greenways Program, for updated information about the Air Line State Park Trail, and she reported several new improvements to the trail system.

“The section through Pomfret and Putnam has a sewer extension project wrapping up and that will bring greatly improved surface to the trail. CT DOT is also sending out bids for road crossing construction that will likely begin in the spring,” Laurie said. Laurie also reported that a newly-refurbished bridge over the Willimantic River in Windham should be opening this fall for bike and foot traffic. This bridge extends the connection from the Air Line Trail north onto the Hop River State Park Trail.

This year’s TLGV Walktober program offers several opportunities to explore The Air Line Trail State Park. You can download the Walktober brochure from the TLGV website at or call TLGV at 860-744-3300 to receive the brochure in the mail. The opportunities to get on the Air Line Trail during Walktober include:

  • Sept. 22 from 10- 11 a.m. you can enjoy Railroad Lore Along the Columbia/Lebanon Air Line Trail with the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. Call 860-617-3308. (This walk repeats Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.)
  • Sept. 23 from 2- 3:30 p.m. on Chaplin’s Air Line Trail enjoy a beautiful walk while learning about the “Ghost Train” and the role of railroads in eastern Connecticut with the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. Call 860-617-3308 for more information. (This walk repeats on Oct. 15 and Oct. 23.)
  • Oct. 9 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Rolltober gives you the opportunity to enjoy the Air Line Trail while learning about TLGV’s Trail Assessment Team and their work to inventory information about trail conditions and accessibility. The team has focused on the Air Line Trail and has compiled an extensive amount of information that will be posted on the TLGV website later this fall. Come take a stroll, enjoy the scenery and learn whether a trail is right for you. Call 860-774-3300 for more information.
  • Oct. 13 1- 2:30 p.m. take a stroll to learn about The Great Thompson Train Wreck. One of the worst train wrecks in U.S. history took place in East Thompson. Learn what happened and how the tragedy set itself up. Call 860-617-3308 for more information. (This walk repeats Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.)

The Air Line Trail is a wonderful resource for us to enjoy. The Quinebaug Valley Community College Foundation has discovered a great way to introduce it to hundreds of people with their annual race Tackle the Trail, held this year on Oct. 19. This is a timed race for both experienced runners and weekend warriors. The race starts at 9 a.m. with bib pick-up starting at 6:30 a.m. The race is on a 20-mile section from Pomfret to Willimantic and is open to individuals or up to 5-person relay teams. For more information check out their website

If you’re interested in not only the Air Line Trail State Park, but other issues and opportunities related to our region’s exceptional trails, you may want to consider attending the Connecticut Greenways Council Annual Trail Symposium, “Shout it Out! Trails, Tourism and Marketing,” Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is presented by the CT Greenways Council in partnership with and held on the East Hartford Campus of Goodwin College. For information about the symposium contact Laurie Giannotti at (860) 424-3578 or via e-mail at

Fall begins Monday and offers the perfect time of year to walk, hike, ride or run the Air Line Trail State Park and experience all it has to offer. We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. I hope you’ll join me and many others as we care for, enjoy and pass it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at


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