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Riding the Norwottuck Rail Trail

Riding the Norwottuck Rail Trail

There is something otherworldly about riding your bike on the Norwottuck Rail Trail; it’s paved, there are no cars, and it’s pretty straight, so you can see far into the distance. The (few) bumps in the road are outlined in white or yellow, a feature I appreciate. While I’m riding, sometimes I feel as though I’m in a scene of a movie that I’d actually like to watch. I’m normally a 12 mile an hour type of rider, and although I don’t go any faster on this trail, it feels as if I’m going 20 because it’s downhill in both directions.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but it feels true.

Starting in Northampton, MA, the route runs northeast, crossing the Connecticut River on a quarter mile of wooden bridge.  And let me tell you, zipping over the river at 100 feet above the water on a converted railroad bridge is a real hoot.  The trail is 11 miles in one direction cutting through lush marshland, pine forests, and cornfields; you are surrounded by birdcalls, the wet scent of flowers, and if you pay attention, you will spot the occasional beaver lodge (they’re called hummocks, I hear).

There are several cafe stops along the way if your caffeine or sugar levels need managing; and if you bring your own supplies, there are myriad places to rest with artful benches and peaceful lookouts.

Friendly trail-side seating
Manhan trail chickens

If you want the trail to yourself, mid week is the best time to go, with only the occasional dogwalker or roller blader or biker to wave to.  Watch out for suicidal frogs.

Balcony view from Hotel Northampton

For an overnight, we recommend the Hotel Northampton, an stately, elegant hotel that sits across the street from the beginning of the trail.  Some of the rooms feature a balcony overlooking the town where you can enjoy, after dining downstairs (I recommend the scallops and the creme brulee) the rest of the bottle of wine.

Norwottuck is only one of three rail trails that begin in Northampton.  The Manhan rail trail runs southwest for ten and a half miles and the Northampton bikeway runs north for six miles on packed gravel.  Rising at 2-3% grade on the way out of town means that you can coast all the way back. (We love to coast).

Post ride the food options are truly global:  Pizza joints, Tibetan, Mediterranean, Japanese, Vegan, Seafood, Tea shops, Bakeries and about a thousand coffee shops.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

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