The state of Connecticut is home to more than 5,500 square miles. The southern most state in New England, there are many bike paths throughout the state for riders of every skill level. Some paths wind through metropolitan areas, while others meander through the picturesque back roads of the nutmeg state. Here's a look at the 10 exceptional bike paths that you should check out on your next ride.


1. Farmington Canal Trail

In the 1820's a group of New York businessmen decided to create a canal to facilitate the trade of goods. However, just a few decades later, citing the expense to upkeep the canal and some emerging technology called locomotives, a railway was laid over the canal. After the railroad became defunct and tracks were removed in the 1980's, it became a bike path. The paved trail can be accessed from Connolly Parkway in Hamden at one end or by Cornwall Rd at the other end. The ride is approximately 20 miles. There are other sections of the trail, however, they may or may not be passable at this point. The Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association has detailed trail information on their site.


2. Hop River State Park Trail

This 3.5 mile trail is for the mountain biker who wants a short rider through a fairly rugged trail. It begins at the Vernon town line and ends at the Coventry town line with the majority of the ride occurring in Bolton. Access for the trail can be gained by traveling on Rte. 44 West and taking a right on a dirt road which is located about 1/2 mile past Quarry. Rd. At the end of the dirt road, you'll have access to the parking area.


3. Larkin State Park Trail

This 10.3 mile trail stretches across four towns and is located along old railway lines. Definitely a mountain bikers ride, this trail begins in Middlebury and ends in Southbury. You'll pass small horse farms, ponds, quiet wetlands and small streams. This ride is particularly special in the fall as at times you'll be surrounded by a beautiful canopy of foliage. Access to the trail can be gained where Smith Rd. crosses Rte. 67 in Southbury or at the entrance of Whittemore State Park in Naugatuck.


4. Moosup Valley State Park Trail 

This 5 mile trail is part of the East Coast Greenway. In case you're unfamiliar, E.C.G is a collection of trails that span 2500 miles from Maine to Florida. While you probably aren't looking for a ride quite that long, this section of the trail is definitely worth a few hours of your time. The trail begins at the Plainfield town line and runs all the way to the Rhode Island state line. (The trail does continue into R.I. if you wish to continue your journey.) Riders will be treated to densely populated woods and a gander at picturesque Sterling Pond. Access can be gained on Rte. 117 just over the line in Coventry, R.I. Additionally, there is a parking lot on Main St. in Sterling.


5.  Air Line State Park Trail

If an imaginary line was drawn through the "air" from New York to Boston showing the shortest possible route, you'd be following a path through the Air Line State Park. In fact, this 50 mile stretch once served as a railway from New York to Boston. Construction began in the 1860's and the rail line was in use until the 1950's when a disastrous flood washed out sections of the railway. Today, the trail exists in two sections. The southern section is 21 miles long and travels from East Hampton to Windham. The northern section is 22 miles and travels from Windham to Putnam, with an additional 6.6 miles in Thompson. Those looking to ride the southern section of the trail should start on Smith St. in East Hampton. Those looking to ride the northern section can find a great starting point on Union St. in Willimantic.


6. Mianus River Park Trail

Located in Stamford and Greenwich, this 2.6 mile trail is perfect for the rider who wants to ride past rock outcroppings, wooded ledges and small knolls. Dubbed the "Nature Trail," you'll pass 12 stations that offer educational material about the nature and ecology of the trail. These make for great stopping points along the way. The trail can be accessed at Cognewaugh Rd. in Greenwich or Merriebrook Lane in Stanford. The trail does make a complete loop.


7. Quniebaug River Trail

This 4 mile trail begins in downtown Danielson and ends in Plainfield. The entire ride takes place along the Quinebaug River giving you access you scenic views almost the entire way. There is even a canoe launch for those who want to add even more adventure to their day. The trail can be accessed by parking in the lot across from St. James School on Route 12.


8. Westlake Area Bikeway 

Located in Middletown, this 2.2 mile trail is ideal for a family bike ride. Along the way, you'll pass through Cucia park which has a small pond, picnic tables and playground equipment. The trail begins at Middle St. where there is parking for 25 cars and ends at the intersection of Westlake and Grandview Drive.


9. Riverfront Recapture Trail

Located in East Hartford, this trail is for the rider who wants to people-watch. This trail along the Connecticut River, which spans a few miles depending on which turns you take, passes the amphitheatre, large picnic area and public boat launch. Access can be gained by heading to the end of East River Drive along the Riverfront.


10. Housatonic Railbed Trail 

Located in Monroe along the old Housatonic railway line, this trail is about 4.25 miles long. Partly paved and partly packed dirt, riders will pass a beach, playgrounds, tennis courts and picnic areas. Stop along the way for a swim or quick set. Access can be gained along Purdy Hill Rd. in Monroe. The trail continues all the way to the Newton town line where it narrows and is overgrown with vegetation.


As you can see there are many wonderful rides to be had in the state of Connecticut. Get out and explore the beauty of the nutmeg state!