Dudley Quinebaug Rail Trail Where the crowds are not

Quinebaug River, Dudley

While it was difficult to tell from the maps we studied and the trail reports we read, it looked as though the Quinebaug Rail Trail in Dudley, MA might offer a bikeable path for us to explore. If we found this not to be true, we had Plan B at the ready, to travel just a short ways north to join up the Grand Trunk Rail Trail in Southbridge.

Trail Kiosk offers a map of the trail system, along with information on standard trails markings (at the bottom of the photo)

It was a gorgeous weekend summer morning when we headed out. The Covid-19 virus is still a reality in our area, and we continue to use all precautions necessary to keep some distance between ourselves and others. We arrived mid-day in Dudley, and found just a few cars in the parking lot off Mill Road, and only one other person was getting ready to head onto the trail.

South of Mill road is the Connecticut Line, where we found railroad ties still on the trail.

We headed south first, but quickly came to the Connecticut state line, and a section of trail with wooden railroad ties still in place along the path. The other direction looked much more promising so we headed north.

Much of the trail was wide open, with packed dirt that was easy to ride (or walk) on

The other side of Mill Road looked narrow, with lots of shrubs growing in, but before long the trail opened up and was much easier to get through. Throughout the ride we kept a close eye out for poison ivy, which seems quite determined to grow in from the sides of the trail.

Virginia Creeper, commonly mistaken for poison ivy

At least when we on the trail we saw few other visitors. One or two walkers, a couple of bikes, and that was it. We had the trail to ourselves for almost the entire ride.

Sharp stones on the trail north of the hydropower dam, and encroaching poison ivy make this portion of the trail much less inviting
Signs explaining the natural history of the area are posted all along the trail

All along the trail were signs offering information about the natural history to be found along the trail. A nice touch, even if the plants noted were not always readily apparent. Clearly someone cared enough to post these signs in hopes of challenging fellow travelers to look more closely at the surroundings.

Old railroad ties stacked alongside the trail offer homes to many small animals

I tend to notice signs that the trail was once an active rail line. Piles of old railroad ties were stacked carefully in some sections, in other areas the ties were tossed carelessly to the side. The local wildlife seemed to appreciate the added hiding places. We spotted a large black snake slither inside a pile of ties as we pedaled by.

Railroad ties still in place, next to the now established trail

As we approached West Dudley road the trail narrowed and seemed to exist only because of dirt bikes keeping it open.

Dirt bike path helps visitors access W. Dudley Road from the south

When we headed back later we realized the the original trail out to W. Dudley Road has been blocked by a huge fallen tree. Unless maintenance is done to remove the tree, the only track farther north is the steep dirt bike path up to the road.

This large tree blocks what appears to have been the trail leading to W. Dudley Road

At W. Dudley Road we came upon great views of the Quinebaug River. A hydropower station with a dam was next to the road, creating a larger reservoir, and just beyond the dam was a canoe put in.

Hydropower station dams the Quinebaug River at W. Dudley Road

We saw a number of kayakers heading out as we traveled alongside the waterway. Parking for trail access is available at this road junction. Picnic tables are set out, but do watch for poison ivy. It is everywhere!

Kayakers paddle just upstream from the hydropower dam

We crossed the bridge by the dam and found the rest of the trail on the west side of the river. It was great to see plenty of milkweed growing along the trail in the sunshine next to the water.

Young milkweed plants getting ready to bloom

Just north of West Dudley Road the trail continues and is in pretty good shape until shortly after we passed another small bridge, where the trail surface quickly became unmanageable.

Large, sharp stones had been laid down as a trail surface, but difficulty maintaining control of our bike, and worrying about popping a tire soon persuaded us to turn around before we reached the next road crossing at Rt. 131 in Southbridge.

Summer flowers add color to our outings

When we got back to West Dudley Road we crossed the bridge again and checked out what looked like another trail following the river north, along the east side of the river.

path north of W. Dudley road, on the east side of the river, is pretty rough, with lots of rocks, making biking not so much fun (for us!)

It turned out to be much more a fisherman’s path, with lots of large rocks sticking up and jouncing us around. Not a great place to ride. Walking would have been fine, but again, look out for poison ivy!

As if you needed a refresher–very healthy poison ivy climbing a tree next to the river

We are grateful to the town of Dudley for the work put into this trail. While it is not in perfect condition, this lack of perfection perhaps kept crowds away, which is what we were hoping for. A peaceful ride, no crowds, and a beautiful day to enjoy the sunshine. And best of all, neither of us got any poison ivy, despite having some close calls. A pretty ride all together. Happy trails!

Marjorie

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.

13 Comments

Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

13 responses to “Dudley Quinebaug Rail Trail Where the crowds are not

  1. looks like some very green trails to go and explore.

  2. MAY I REBLOG THIS ONTO MY BLOG…ENTITLED, “BY THE MIGHTY MUMFORD”-? 😀

  3. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    I WANNA TRAVEL THIS ! ANYBODY WILLING TO GO WITH ME???? 🙂

  4. The magic of old railway lines, as well as paths and trails. You never know what you are going to find until you get there!

  5. Philip Howard Brewer

    LOVE WAKING UPBAND FINDING THESE GEMS KNOW THE QUINEBAUG RT AND LOVE THE SOLITUDE AND THE PROSPECT OF CT DEVELOPING THE DIP DOWN THERE REAL NICE ALSO HAD PLANNED A DRIVE TO FRANKLIN TO CHECK ON TUNNEL PROGRSS NOW WONT HAVE TO DID THE UNDEVELOPED VTRAIL FROM FARM STREETVTO BELLINGHAM A CHALLENGE BUT REWARDIND JUST TO GO THROUGH TUNNEL HAPPY TRAILS MARJORIE

    • marjorie561

      Thanks for commenting–yes, the tunnel along the SNETT in Franklin is nearly finished. We await eagerly its opening. Will certainly let folks know when that happens.

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