A rail trail or bike path in general is a fantastic way to experience a new town.
From here, at a slower pace, you can admire the scenery you pass, much more thoroughly than via automobile.
And the Northeast is full of defunct railways that are converting to bike paths.
A personal favorite is the Norwalk River Valley Trail. It’s one of the best attractions in Norwalk, Connecticut.
And the final plan for the NRVT is truly ambitious and avant-garde.
What is the Norwalk River Valley Trail?
When completed, the Norwalk River Valley Trail will be the longest trail in Fairfield County. The NRVT will travel thirty miles from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Connecticut, to Rogers Park in Danbury, passing through:
- And Redding
This ambitious endeavor that crosses and unites several communities is on track to be a major pathway, on par with:
- The Cape Cod Rail Trail in Massachusetts
- The North County Trailway in Westchester County, NY
- And even the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail in Park City, Utah
The NRVT is the perfect place to:
- Walk your dog
- Go for a jog
- Ride a bicycle
- Or just take a relaxed meander through the woods, enjoy the local flora and fauna
Like hiking trails in Europe, the Norwalk River Valley Trail is convenient to local towns. So you’ll see local business workers walking the trail on lunch breaks or after work. It’s also convenient to pop off the trail for a meal or to visit a nearby site before, during, or after a walk.
Background of the Norwalk River Valley Trail
The Connecticut Highway Department purchased the right-of-way of a large chunk of property in the Norwalk River Valley. The state spent $33 million in 1960s dollars. The final result would have been a planned four-lane highway stretching from Norwalk to Danbury.
While Norwalk and Danbury put up no opposition to the plan (and completed their sections), the remaining towns did. Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding feared their towns would be split in two by the highway. As such, “Super 7” was put on hold indefinitely.
Today, much of the land remains available, including Farm Ridge Court, a planned community off Picketts Ridge Road.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail follows the planned Super 7 route. Approximately 8 miles of the trail have already been completed, with sections in Norwalk and Wilton. Construction on the Redding Mile finished recently. And the community continues to pull together grants for stretches in Ridgefield and beyond.
Sections of the Norwalk River Valley Trail
While this river valley trail system is a work in progress, sizeable portions are complete.
The Norwalk section took more than a day for this writer to walk, for example.
Norwalk has the longest completed section of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
From Calf Pasture Beach to the Maritime Aquarium, the trail travels on-road via bike lanes and a shared roadway from East Norwalk. A 10-foot-wide off-road trail connects the Aquarium in South Norwalk to Oyster Shell Park. It then continues onwards to the next cluster of Norwalk attractions:
- Stepping Stones Museum
Before continuing on to, and past, Union Park.
A brand-new off-road trail departs from Union Park and travels nearly two miles to Deering Pond at Broad St. before returning to the riverbank.
There, it currently just peters out in an anticlimactic way at Broad Street.
Map design by Stanton House Inn
At the trail’s current northern end, a section of the trail runs parallel to Danbury Road from Wilton High School to Ridgefield Road in Wilton. This section’s route takes you through the wooded, close-to-the-Norwalk River parks of:
- Lovers Lane Open Space
- And Merwin Meadows Park
The trail takes a brief detour down River Road to Horseshoe Park, centered around a large pond. But the trail resumes further south at the Wilton River Park Shopping Center.
A different section of the trail begins on the south side of Sharp Hill Road, east of those sections. It travels through a densely forested corridor before ending at Danbury Road.
Wilton is home to the Weir Farm National Historic Site, one of the most unique attractions in all Connecticut, by the way.
In May 2022, the first section of the Redding Trail, connecting Pickett’s Ridge Road in Redding to Fire Hill Road on the Ridgefield border, officially opened. It will eventually join the upcoming Ridgefield Ramble. Here, the Trail follows an ancient wood road that leads deep into the forest.
The Ridgefield Ramble is aptly named for rambling through Ridgefield. This stretch will extend north from Route 7 and the Simpaug Turnpike to the Redding border, near Bobby’s Court.
The Ridgefield Ramble will start with a designated parking area and pond near the Norwalk River at Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike. The path will then follow the river before ascending into the Berkshire foothills. You’ll find plenty of beautiful old trees and rocky outcroppings here.
The upper section of the trail will pass through two stone-walled sheepfolds built in the early 1900s. It’s sure to be the perfect spot for photos.
The completed Ridgefield Ramble is sure to add to the charming nature of Ridgefield, one of the cutest towns in Connecticut.
The stunning 722-acre Tarrywile Park will serve as the first section of the trail in Danbury. A sizeable portion of that trail is complete and welcoming hikers. Tarrywhile Park and Hearthstone Castle are some of the most unique attractions in Danbury, CT. This section of the trail is rather hilly, though, so bikers beware.
From there, it will travel south before joining the Ridgefield trail.
Other Norwalk trails to explore
The Norwalk Harbor Loop follows the eastern side of the river. It eventually reconnects with the Norwalk River Valley Trail close to the Wall Street Theater.
Like the main NRVT, the Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail, or Norwalk River Esplanade, is not yet complete.
That said, it’s still open for walking.
Just take alternate routes along city sidewalks and through parking lots in some spots. The route has been planned for years but hasn’t yet been completed, despite being part of many city master plans for development.
But it brings you close to:
- The Norwalk Green
Be sure to read the full guide to attractions, activities, and things to do in Norwalk, CT, for these spots and more!