My little crew has a new obsession — All they want to do, every single day, is ride their bikes.
Each afternoon, on the way home from school, the question begins as soon as they get in the car. “Can we ride our bikes when we get home?”
Now they are even asking to ride bikes before school each morning! They are seriously addicted to this little past time.
I am not complaining, though. Riding bikes gets them nice and tired and I have something to use for motivation to get their daily chores completed. (And they always need a LOT of motivation to get those done.)
So in an attempt to keep encouraging their love of bike riding, I wanted to find a nice paved pathway where they could pedal to their heart’s content without me worrying about cars or other busy neighborhood challenges.
I actually noticed on one of the West Hartford Facebook pages I follow that a mom had asked if there was a trail nearby that would be a good spot for a bike ride. Perfect! There were a lot of great suggestions made by this Facebook group and I decided to try out a location that was mentioned quite a few times in that discussion thread.
There was a paved trail called the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail that ran through several towns in Connecticut including my neighboring towns of Avon and Simsbury. People suggested a few parking locations in the Avon/Simsbury area and I decided to try out the starting point located at Sperry Park in Avon.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, we loaded up the car with bike adventure equipment: a stroller for Sweetheart (she actually loves bike riding, but this was happening right in the middle of her nap time) and bikes for Bruiser and Sparkles. The kids were excited and my husband and I were ready for an outing that hopefully would end with our three little kids taking a nice, long afternoon nap!
We made our way to Sperry Park in Avon from our home in West Hartford by taking Route 44 over the mountain and then turning right on Route 10/Simsbury Road. Just a little ways down, we could see some baseball fields and the sign for Sperry Park & Trails on our right.
There were a handful of parking spaces located at the trail entrance and we were fortunate to find a spot right there. We got the kiddos loaded up in their various transportation vehicles and were on our way.
Now if you are interested in a little information on the history of this trail, I have a few details for you.
The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (FCHT) runs from New Haven, Connecticut into Massachusetts. It covers over 56 miles of paved pathways in Connecticut and over 20 miles of pathways in Massachusetts.
The FCHT is even part of the East Coast Greenway which is 2,900 miles of trail running from Maine (at the Canadian border) to Key West, Florida.
The history of this trail actually begins with a real canal. In the 1820’s, businessmen in the area developed a canal to use for the transportation of goods for trade. By the 1850’s, though, rail was the preferred method of transportation and the canal was taken over by tracks for a railroad. The railroad operated for over 130 years but by the 1980’s, the rail line was no longer in use and the Connecticut Department of Transportation purchased the land. In the 1990’s, states were allowed to use federal funds to convert old railroad lines into trails and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail came into existence. One of the neat things about this particular trail is that they preserved some of its canal history. Old parts and sections of the canal still remain and some can be found along the pathway.
But enough with history, let’s get to bike riding.
The trail began right next to the parking lot with a kiosk and trail map.
Then there was a paved pathway that we took to connect onto the main trail.
There was a little hill from the pathway up to the main trail and then we made a left to continue on the FCHT. (Pssst. There is a pathway that leads to the right, but that is a dead end.)
I asked Sparkles to point her bike in the direction where people were supposed to go, but she decided to just point her finger instead. I guess that will work 🙂
The pathway was paved and plenty wide. I kept encouraging my kiddos to “keep to the right” so that other bikers could make their way around them.
Sparkles even tried to keep up with some of the other bikers on the path.
We didn’t go far, the kids got tired about a 1/2 mile into our trip so we eventually had to turn around and make our way back.
We did make it over the Avon border into Simsbury.
And we also made it past the Nod Brook Management Area, which is a place where we like to take our dog to play. At Nod Brook, dogs are allowed to be off leash which is so nice. Because the trail runs right along this off-leash area, we saw several signs reminding people on the trail that dogs there were required to be on a leash when using the FCHT.
And that was it!
This, obviously, was a quick outing for us, but boy did it tire my little ones. (Yay!)
I would love to check out other sections of this trail in the future and think our next trip might be to explore the section off of Iron Horse Boulevard so that we could combine it with a visit to the great Rotary Park playground in that area.
So whether you have little ones looking for a place to ride their bikes or you just want to put your munchkin in a stroller and get some exercise for yourself, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is a great destination. Check out the section I mentioned in Avon and Simsbury or take a look at one of the many other sections across our state.
There are 56 miles in our state to explore. Time to get moving!
What is your favorite rails-to-trails destination? Tell us in the comments section below.
Part of Connecticut’s rails-to-trails system
Sperry Park parking area – 100 Simsbury Road, Avon, Connecticut
Sunrise to Sunset
Trail and parking are FREE
- Stroller Friendly: YES. The trail is paved.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES.
- Restroom: NO. Well there may be restrooms in Sperry Park but I didn’t notice any on the section of trail we took.
- Baby Changing Station: NO.
- Parking: YES.
- Food for Sale: NO.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES.
- Cash Required: NO.
- Dress Code: Comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. Open daily.
Tips & Things to Bring
- During the heat of the summer, bring sunblock and bug spray for your outing.
- During the fall and winter, make sure you are dressed in layers.
- Throughout the year, make sure you have water (and snacks if you need them) for your outing.
- Dogs must be on a leash at all times. Bring your own waste disposal materials for picking up after your dog as I did not see any available there.
- You can find detailed information for the trail, along with a map on the Farmington Valley Trails Council website.
- There is also a list of all the official Connecticut Greenways (including other Rails-to-Trails locations).
- There is even a national site with rails-to-trails information.
- 4D Vision Gym – A vision training center located in Cromwell, CT where Dr. Juanita Collier, MS, OD and her staff show members how to utilize Vision Therapy to correct visual issues and make learning and playing easier and more fun.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT this private pre-school, elementary and middle school serves families from over 20 communities.
- Mandell JCC – The Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT., welcomes and serves families and individuals of all ages, stages, backgrounds and faiths. Our fitness, wellness and recreation, arts and culture, camp, early childhood education programs, classes, clubs and services are open to all. You Belong Here!
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