I rode my bike from Belchertown, MA, to Northampton, MA, on the Norwottuck Rail Trail (NRL). The ride was 11 miles, and took about 60 minutes. It was about 70 F (21 C). It was a very nice day for a ride.
In the post I will show some photos from my ride and take you on my ride from Belchertown, MA, to Norhampton, MA. Along the way I went through Amherst and Hadley.
Norwottuck Rail Trail
Norwottuck Rail Trail, is a 11-mile (18 km) combination bicycle/pedestrian paved right-of-way running from Belchertown, Massachusetts, through Amherst and Hadley, to Northampton, Massachusetts. It opened in 1992, and is now part of the longer Mass Central Rail Trail.
The trail was originally a train line which opened in 1887 under the control of the Central Massachusetts Railroad. It was later leased by the Boston and Maine Railroad and referred to as the Central Massachusetts Branch. Three round trip passenger trains were run in the 1920s, as well as numerous freight trains. Competition from cars and trucks caused a decline on the line, as passenger service was discontinued in 1932 and freight service managed to hang on for another forty-two years, primarily to deliver goods to a farmer’s supply warehouse in Amherst.
The rail bed was acquired by the state in 1985 and developed into the trail in 1993, as its current name.
A map of the NRL is shown below.
Eastern, Middle and Western Parts of the Norwottuck Rail Trail
I would divide the NRL into three parts:
- Eastern NRL – From Amherst, MA to the and at Warren Wright Road in Belchertown, MA
- Middle NRL – Amherst, MA
- Western NRL – Amherst, MA to Northampton, MA
Since NRL follows the old Central Massachusetts Railroad it is either very level or only has very mild grades. The Eastern NRL is a very mild upgrade from the start at Warren Wright Road in Belchertown. Middle NRL pass through Amherst and is the highest portion of the trail. Western NRL is a very mild downgrade from Amherst to Northampton. There should not be any health issues for people with normal health on any portion of the trail. When I mention upgrade and downgrade, I traveled NRL from east to west. If you are starting from Northampton, NRL would be on level ground most of the way to Amherst with a very mild upgrade on the last portion. Likewise, the NRL would have a very mild downgrade from Amherst to Warren Wright Road in Belchertown.
Easter NRL Part of the Trail
A Nature Walk would be the best way to the Eastern NRL. The entire way is through a wooded area where you pass many ponds and creeks. Some of the ponds have beavers. There are no services (bathroom, water, places to etc.) on the Eastern NRL. There are a few places to sit and view the sites. This portion of the trail would a great place to take your kids or grandkids to teach them about nature. If you start at Warren Wright Road, there is a parking area for your car. You should have good cell phone service on this portion of the NRL. I saw cyclists, rollerbladers, and hikers of all ages. From my experience, this portion of the trail is not as well traveled as the Western NRL and Middle NRL. If you are on a bicycle, I would think that you could complete this portion in about 30 minutes is you are not stopping. I would allow 90 to 120 minutes of you are hiking this portions of the trail. Rollerbladers should expect the time to be about 45 minutes to cover this portion of the trail.
Middle NRL Part of the Trail
NRL passes through Amherst on this portion of the trail. Most of the trail passes through wooded area, but there are both entries and exits from the trail to Amherst. I would expect users of this portion of the trail are either traveling through Amherst, or traveling to or from Amherst from either the Eastern or Western parts of the NRL.
Western NRL Part of the Trail
A nice walk, bike ride, or rollerblade trip can be had on the Western NRL starting at the corner of Bride Road and Damon Road in Northampton. There is a parking are when you can leave your car. The trail starts are you cross the Connecticut River on a wonderful old rail bridge. Many eating places can be found off the NRL as you pass through Hadley, MA. Of course you have to exit to trail to find of the eating places. Mountain Farms Mall and Hampshire Mall are and easy exit and entry at South Maple Street in Hadley. A cyclist should allow 30 to 45 minutes to cover the Western NRL, and a hiker should allow 90 to 120 minutes to cover the Western NRL. I am not sure how much time an individual on a rollerblade would need to transit the Western NRL.
Eastern NRL Photos
Several photos I took on this portion of the NRL can be seen below.
Belchertown to Northampton Bike Ride
Come along with me as I ride the beautiful Norwottuck Rail Trail from Belchertown to Northampton.
Photography Equipment Used For this posting
A Sony Action Cam was used for the video, and an iPhone 6 Plus was used for the pictures.