Moosup Valley State Park Trail is a Challenging Hike with Railroad History

There are 28 railroad tracks covering a total of 221 miles across Connecticut. Most, like the Air Line or Hop River or Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, are a mix of cobblestone gravel and bluestone, making a hike or bike ride along the train tracks an easy and enjoyable getaway.

Moosup Valley State Park Trail is not one of them. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Moosup Valley Trail takes hikers from Main Street to Moosup, a village in Plainfield, 5.8 miles through Sterling to the Rhode Island border, where the trail continues as the Trestle Trail in the state of the ocean.

The trail begins its journey east off Main Street in Moosup, where hikers walk a paved portion across a truss bridge crossing Warren built by the American Bridge Co. for trains along the New York Line. , New Haven and Hartford. The line was built in the late 1800s and discontinued in 1968.

A bridge that once took the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad over the Moosup River in Connecticut.

Peter Marteka / Connecticut Magazine

The Moosup River passes below and hikers have a view of the old Cranska Thread Mill and its imposing chimney. The factory, built at the end of the 19th century for the manufacture of nets, had more than 4,000 spindles and employed 35 workers. The view of the mill, with its red clapboard siding mixed with granite and brick, is awe-inspiring as the railway bed rises above with the complex sitting along the banks of the river .

Much of the first mile of the trail passes along a paved bed through the forest before reaching the first road junction. Across the road, the unimproved section of the old railway bed begins. It can be muddy and uneven with damage from off-road vehicles and track bikes. As one reviewer wrote, “the trail starts out well then goes down quickly.”

And this is not negative. I like the rustic. I like unimproved trails where you have to use your hiking and direction skills to navigate. Unless you’re wearing a sturdy pair of boots, you’ll want to avoid some of the wetter, muddier parts of the tracks. And it has certainly been one of the wettest summers on record, but the trail seems to be pretty wet regardless of the season.

The Moosup River is your constant companion along a 3 mile stretch from Main Street in Moosup to Main Street in Sterling. There are trails that will take hikers to the banks of the river and bypass the more muddy stretches. The trails are rocky and rugged so some hikers may want to stay on the railroad bed.

One of the most fascinating stretches is at the second road junction where hikers can find an abandoned mill complex and scenic dam as well as the abandoned Glen Falls Bridge. The bridge was built in 1886 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The span is one of only three through-lenticular trusses remaining in Connecticut, according to Brunswick Worsted Mills Inc., a textile mill that burned down in 2000, used the dam to power its spindles.

The next mile of the rail trail – beware of the dirt bumps created by the use of all-terrain vehicles – is the most scenic with the path approaching the river through a side trail off the path bed. iron. The trail crosses deep rock trenches and towering ledges, and passes over a pair of trestles that are worth exploring. A side trail takes hikers to the banks of the river for a better view of 19th century railroad ghosts.

A swimming pool along the Moosup River in Connecticut.

A swimming pool along the Moosup River in Connecticut.

Peter Marteka / Connecticut Magazine

The path continues through Sterling, a town named after Dr John Sterling, who has promised to build a library in exchange for his name. According to the history of the city, he never kept his promise, but the city managed to secure its library through private donations.

The trail passes through scenic Sterling Pond (guy is everywhere) and through deep forests, crossing several bridges before reaching the Rhode Island border. Some parts of the railroad are paved in this section before entering Rhode Island and its paved part of the trail.

“Trail conditions vary widely over its nearly six miles,” notes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website. “Surfaces range from common dirt to grassy, ​​sandy and gravelly areas. Some sections are still dominated by the old railway ballast. This is part of the state Department of Transportation’s plan to resurface the entire surface in calendar year 2017. ”

So we wait for the resurfacing and navigate the mud and puddles and bumps. It’s not for everyone, but for that visitor who enjoys the abandoned railroad world, it only adds to the atmosphere along the old New York, New Haven and Hartford line.

The bottom line: The Moosup Valley State Park Trail is an out-and-back path along the abandoned New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad bed. The trail passes over and near historic bridges with side trails along the scenic Moosup River.

Difficulty level: Easy along the paved and flat sections of the trail. The rocky side paths to avoid wet areas are moderately difficult. The bumpy area can be tricky so stay along the trails to avoid the bumps and make this part of the hike easier.

Vanilla bean coffee: The cafe opened in 1989 in a restored barn from the early 19th century with the philosophy: “to create a place where we would feel comfortable and serve food we would like to eat.” If we didn’t eat it, we would definitely “not serve it.” The menu includes homemade soups, sandwiches and light dinners with daily specials made with “creativity, imagination and ingredients from the world over. season. ”There is also a selection of fresh produce such as muffins, bagels, croissants and cookies. 450 Deerfield Road, Pomfret, 860-928-1562,

Antiques in downtown Putnam: Over the years, Putnam has become the Mecca for those looking for ancient treasures. Destinations around Main Street include Antiques Marketplace, central New England’s largest antiques and collectables mall with 350 retail space over 22,000 square feet and a former Montgomery Ward building filled with antiques. Other destinations include Brighton Antiques and Jeremiah’s Antique and Collectable Shoppes. Restaurants include 85 Main and Victoria Station Café.

Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm: A family farm owned and operated by the Hermonot family has an on-farm store selling pasture meat and poultry, homemade ice cream, apple cider fritters and local produce. In 1998, the family raised 15 turkeys for family and friends. Today, the farm has 3,000 numbers and is known as the largest breeder of pasture-raised turkeys in Connecticut. 227 Ekonk Hill Road, Moosup, 860-564-0248,

Total mileage: The round trip between the Moosup West Terminal parking lot and the Rhode Island border is nearly 12 miles. Round trip distance between Main Street in Moosup and Main Street in Sterling is approximately 6 miles.

Instructions: Interstate 395 to the exit for Route 14 towards Moosup. Follow Route 14 into town to the junction with Main Street. Continue on Main Street and park in the parking lot next to Dunkin ‘Donuts. Go to for a trail map.

Accepted animals ? Dogs on a leash are allowed and must be cleaned up afterwards with the waste removed if placed in a plastic bag.

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