Bike tourists riding on the East Coast Greenway often contact us through Warmshowers to request to stay overnight at our home in West Hartford, located less than a mile from the route in Hartford. We enjoy hosting cyclists and sharing stories about travel on two wheels. But the current official ECG trail heading north from New Haven to Hartford sends riders on a long 54-mile route through Farmington, Avon, Simsbury, and Bloomfield, with a 1,915 foot total elevation gain. The most unpleasant portion of ECG section is Simsbury Road (aka Route 185), a busy road during rush hour with a narrow shoulder up a long hill, with a 350 foot gain over 1 mile. It’s not the best way to make cycling tourists feel welcome! Although there are future plans to re-route this portion of the ECG onto a bike trail, it’s still years away from completion.
Instead, I recommend this 39-mile alternate bike route from New Haven to West Hartford, as shown on Google Maps and the similar-but-not-identical CycleTravel route with downloadable GPS. It follows about half of the official ECG route, then diverts through New Britain CT, for a much more pleasant and shorter ride, with total elevation gain of 1,100 feet, much less than the 54-mile route above. Here’s a brief summary of this 39-mile alternate route heading north, with suggested stops along the way:
- From New Haven, follow the East Coast Greenway / Farmington Canal Trail north for about 23 miles. Look for food trucks on the left outside New Haven, and very nice outdoor bathrooms and water fountains in Cheshire and Southington.
- When the current ECG / Farmington Canal Bike Trail ends in Southington, follow the on-road directions (from ECG, Google Maps, CycleTravel) for about 2.5 miles: right on Curtiss St, left on Main St (Route 10), right on Flanders St, left on Flanders Rd. (Was the person who lived at this intersection named Flanders?)
- Instead of following ECG directions to continue straight on Flanders Rd, turn right onto Mine Hollow Road. This is a steep uphill climb (about 200 feet over 0.7 miles), but it’s a quiet farm road, and better than the Simsbury Road - Route 185 option on the official ECG route above. At the top of the hill, turn left onto Long Bottom Road and check out the Rogers Orchards apple farmstand and bakery on the left, a nice rest stop when it’s open during the season.
- Take a right on Reservoir Road / North Shuttle Road for a beautiful ride around the reservoir and into the City of New Britain. Follow your preferred map route for several turns that will take you through or near Walnut Hill Park and the New Britain Museum of Modern American Art.
- In downtown New Britain, turn right into the CT fastrak bus station and follow the protected Multi-Use Trail that generally runs alongside the dedicated bus route. Beware that when you cross East Street - Route 175, the protected trail looks like a sidewalk for a half mile, then turn right into the next CT Fastrak bus station to pick up the Trail again. Excluding this half-mile interruption, the protected Multi-Use Trail runs for almost 8 miles from New Britain to Newington.
- When the Multi-Use Trail ends near the Newington Junction Station, take a right onto West Hill Road, then a quick left onto Willard Road, which continues and becomes Newington Road. While this road is busy during rush hour, it has a wide shoulder and is flat.
- After you enter West Hartford, turn left at New Britain Ave, then a quick right onto Quaker Lane and continue straight into my neighborhood. Once again, this section can be busy during rush hour, but has a wide shoulder and is relatively flat.