Norwottock Rail Trail is a popular trail over the Boston & Main Railroad right of way. Hadley Historical Commission named the trail after Norwottuck local Native American Indians, believed to mean ‘in the midst of the river’.
The paved trail is mainly level, easy to travel, perfect for hikers, joggers, roller skaters, skateboarders, bicyclers, and wheelchairs. During winter cross-country skiers use the tail. Motorized vehicles and horses are not permitted on the trail.
The trail passes through Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst connecting with Manhan Road Trail in Easthampton, within Connecticut River Greenway State Park. While traversing 11 miles east to west it crosses aging Boston and Maine Railroad Bridge. Some trail sections will be closed during a 14-month renovation to widen the trail from 8 feet to 10 feet. The project is scheduled to be complete next year.
Parking is available at the trail ends, in Elwell State Park at Damon Road of Northampton and Station Road in South Amherst. Additional parking is available behind Whole Foods Market in Hadley on route 9. Elwell Recreation Area is equipped with restrooms.
Norwottock Rail Trail crosses over the Connecticut River using 1400-foot Connecticut River Bridge its western end near US 91. At King Street the western trail end connects with Northampton Bike Path. Northampton Bike Path continues westward on the same abandoned rail bed as Norwottock Rail Trail. Northampton Bike Path is only 1.75 miles in length extending through Florence to State Street in Northampton behind Stop and Go.
The Central Massachusetts Branch railroad was built in 1887 connecting the cities of Boston and Northampton. The railroad added three daily train trips for additional passenger travel needed until the growth of automobiles and trucking in 1932. Freight service continued until closing in 1979. It was converted into a recreational trail in 1993.
Amherst is a town of 37,819 population, 93 miles west of Boston. Its first permanent English settlement was established in 1727. The town name is pronounced without the h, “AM-erst”. There are five colleges within the area. Amherst is an established destination for shopping in the area.
Hadley, a town of 5,250 inhabitants is near the midpoint of Norwottock Rail Trail. Puritan colonists from Hartford Connecticut first settled Hadley in 1659. The Mount Holyoke Range runs east to west in Hadley.
The city of Northampton is the county seat with a population of 28,549. It has a reputation as an artistic, musical and countercultural center. The original Pocumtuc Indians originally occupied the area until settler’s arrival in 1629.
Norwottock Rail Trail is a 5 hour drive of 325 miles from Rochester NY. Drive I-90 east past Albany into Massachusetts past Westfield exiting to US 91. Drive north on US 91, at Northampton route 9 north to Amherst.
Here is a visitors comment on the trail
“The rail trail takes you through the best towns and cities in western MA. There are great places to stop along the way.”