This Borders on Being Triply Awesome
CT-MA-RI Tri-point, Thompson
June 3, 2011
I revisited this tri-point with my sons in 2016. Very different report and better pictures!
On the hike out to the CT-MA-NY tri-point, the trail hits the highest point in Connecticut (CTMQ Visit here). On the way out to the CT-NY-RI tri-point – oh, you didn’t know about that one? Here it is. (And notice that if you take the ferry to Block Island from New London, you just about hit it! Next time we do that, I’m going to request the ferryman makes my day and nudges the boat a little to the right for me.)
And if you hike to the CT-MA-RI tri-point, you’ll walk along the rail bed of one of the more infamous events in the history of the US. Not that I have to tell you, but the main trail to the tri-point is the rail bed on which the Great East Thompson Train Wreck occurred in 1891! The only time in US railroading history that FOUR trains crashed into each other! And by seeking out the tri-point, you’ll stand at the area by default. (CTMQ report here).
Someone really should put up a plaque about the train wreck.
There are other routes to this tri-point from other starting points, but I’ll present the easiest and most straight-forward. Believe it or not, there are books and websites out there for people who seek out all the tri-points around the country. The problem with these books (and probably this page on CTMQ in a few years) is that these things change. Not the points themselves, but the trails/routes to get there.
However, I’m pretty confident about the route I took and its durability. First, find your way to Thompson, CT. Use whatever means you use to get to the intersection of East Thompson Road and New Road. There, you can park in the sandy shoulder/lot thing across from the sandy trail with the yellow gate. This is what that looks like:
Exciting, right? I know I was darn excited. And if you think I’m kidding, you don’t know CTMQ.
There are other descriptions of how to get to the tri-point and you’ll immediately find them outdated once in the woods. There are more trails crossing the trail I’m describing than in any book or website I saw. The CT DOT site from 1997’s perambulation suggests a route that is now a private drive, so that won’t work (though it does get you right up to the bottom of the hill the tri-point stands on). So here’s what you do:
Walk across the road, past the yellow gate and you’ll find yourself on a pin straight former rail bed. Walk straight. (Or jog if you just can’t wait like me.)
After about a quarter mile, you’ll pass underneath an old railroad trestle bridge. Scurry up to check out the view from the top. How could you not? Bumble back down to your perfectly flat and straight trail.
Except you’ll notice the trail surface is not at all flat as somehow the entire way is like a little rollercoaster. I don’t know if this is natural or not, but it gets pretty annoying after a while. It’s like walking a nice wave function all the way to Massachusetts. You can’t really jog or run over them and after walking on these undulations for 15 minutes, it reminded me of just bobbing in the surf at the beach. It was apparent ATV’s ride these trails fairly often – and I can’t imagine how annoying that is. (Perhaps they are purposeful to ward off motorized traffic?)
2015 Update: According to my friend Linda Orlomski, the trail has been flattened and no longer will give you motion sickness.
You’ll pass a couple crossing trails along the way. As of this writing the second crossing trail after the bridge will get you to the tri-point if you follow the correct forks. But skip it. Trust me. Just keep walking along the old rail bed.
Maybe two-thirds of a mile from the beginning, you’ll see a familiar CT-MA border monument on the right hand side of the old rail bed trail! Now we’re in business!
Gaze upon the boundary marker and revel in its glory. In official perambulation speak, this is boundary marker 2. (Markers start at A down at the CT-RI border in Stonington, run through O which is the tri-point, then the border with MA starts with 1 – at this same tri-point north, then west to the CT-MA-NY tri-point which is 199. Then, you guessed it, they start at 1 again at the NY-MA-CT tri-point down south to 170 at Long Island Sound on the NY border. I love how I just got you to read that.)
At marker 2, right on the rail bed, you’ll notice a blue-blazed trail heading due south. Follow that. The blue blazes – most of them anyway – mark Massachusetts state forest land. But the trail is a real trail that follows the border south. There are also MA Forest boundary signs tacked into a few trees along the way.
As I walked the trail, I began wondering how far it goes. That is, can I follow this unofficial trail all the way around the state? Knowing, of course, that the border crosses through much private property and doesn’t stick to nice trails through woods… but I still think it’s doable. The DOT is tasked with checking on the health of every single boundary marker – all 384 of them – every 10 years or so. Where can I sign up for that job? That’s like 374 little mini treasure hunts! Oh man, that would be awesome.
For now, I was only interested in finding one more marker after # 2. That would be #1 or O depending on your direction. The trail was easy to follow and again, maybe only another quarter mile. Another huge advantage to this border trail route is that the final push up the hill to the tri-point is about a tenth of the effort as it is coming up from Connecticut.
There it is! Gleaming in the sunlight on top of the little hill in the woods! The CT-MA-RI tri-point marker! What you’ll notice is that this granite marker has a little pyramid on top, denoting its vast importance. In official-speak:
Bound is located on the southwestern slope of a wooded hill, 45 feet north along the crest from the south end of a sharp break, and about halfway up the steep hillside.
A granite monument, showing 3.9 feet above the ground, marks the bound. It is 14 inches square with a pyramidal top and is lettered “MASS 1883” on the north face, “RI 1883” on the south face and “CONN” on the west face. The lettered sides are dressed. The east side rock is faced. It is 9 feet long to the base from the 6 inch pyramidal top. Monument was set in October, or November, of 1883 by a Massachusetts-Rhode Island commission.
The 1941 commissioners accepted the monument as correctly marking the northerly end of the line established in 1840.
I’m swooning. You can return to your car the way you came or make a small loop of things and head down the steep hill in front of you then go due north and stay on the trail that continues north, eventually hitting the rail bed trail after a few minutes. (If you venture west, you’ll get all messed up with a swamp and a creek like I did. Don’t try to get cute.)
DOT Perambulation, the greatest thing ever.
Twelve Mile Circle saysJune 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm
I’m pretty excited about this too — wish I could visit there someday.
Joseph Getter saysJune 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm
Thanks for this write-up, sounds like a good day-trip someday! Here’s a link to the Connecticut state government website mentioned with all of the border stones. “State Line Perambulation”:
Chris saysJuly 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm
Thanks for all you’ve written about the extreme points of CT. I live in New Britain and got interested highpointing and the directional extreme points of in the summer of 2010. (I’ve been to 11 state highpoints so far and I’ve also been to the easternmost point of the US in Lubec, Maine.) I’ve also been to the westernmost point of CT and the “southernmost point” of CT on Great Captain’s Island. I didn’t see any marker but I went out as far as I could see land above water. I tried to get to the southernmost point on the CT mainland but was unable to because it seems to be a private beach. I hope to visit the two Tri-State points and the highest point soon. But I haven’t seen anything written about the northernmost point (it looks to be near Joyceville, CT – not to far from Mt. Frissell) or the easternmost point (it looks to be somewhere near Sterling or Voluntown). Do you have any idea if there are markers at those points and/or how to get there?
S saysJuly 17, 2011 at 11:41 pm
Thanks for this page. I visited the tripoint today, and have a couple hints — as you are driving there, East Thompson road forks several times, so make sure to pick the correct fork each time. The linear trail part is very easy, but when you turn off to the right, it becomes narrow and a bit overgrown. It’s not too hard to follow, though. However, I’d say it’s a bit more than a quarter of a mile after you turn — we spent half the walk time on the flat easy trail, and half on the harder trail. I’ve now been to 5 tripoints (this one, VA-KY-TN, AR-TX-LA, IA-SD-MN, and the Four Corners)
Steve saysJuly 18, 2011 at 9:54 am
Yes, after much frustration, I am happy to report that I now know how to get to the N-most and E-most points. Just check out that link to the DOT Perambulation docutments and you’ll figure it out. The easiest way to both requires entering some commercial private property, but I think we can sort that out. I’ve been very close to both in the past but have never “made the move” to actually nab them.
As for the S-most, I don’t even consider the Greenwich private beach anything. As you did, you must get out to Great Captain Island to achieve the ultimate CT-southerness.
Lin saysSeptember 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm
I livd in e thompson right across from the infamous train wreck for 20 or so odd years, rode the trails with my friends and horses- too bad the area has been ruined from greedy people spoiling that quiet part of town. FYI you can or used to be able to walk from the train accident site TO the lake in webster. but greed probably killed that too
Leon Renaud saysOctober 29, 2011 at 12:50 am
actually if you look on the ground on the big rock surface near this marker you will find a bronze disc that says this is the actual border junction!the bronze marker and not the post!I guess that big rock ledge got in the way of planting the marker at the exact spot!IF you wre to turn left when you reached that overhead bridge and walk a bout 1/4 mile you would be at East Thompson road again.The road with the yellow gate is now entrance to privately leased hunting lands and yes all those humps on the rail road bed are to discourage off road vehicles.There was a time when we could ride all over there and not bother anyone.that road with the bridge is private property but unless things have changed a great deal since I left there asking permission to use it was possible and usually given.there is an underground rock chamber on this road IF you know where to look often connected to stories of “Americas Stone Henge” in N.H.and Barry Fells book America Before Columbus who claims they were built by Vikings
Leon Renaud saysOctober 29, 2011 at 12:57 am
Hey Lin I know who you are and Tonka and Sugar sure did cover a bunch of this ground didn’t they ?We were all over here with your ponies and later our trail bikes!East Thompson will always be “Home” I never left Thompson just moved a few miles into North Grosvenordale.
peg saysMay 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm
Thanks for the directions! It was extremely easy to find – up and back in about an hour. We would’ve never found it otherwise.
larry saysSeptember 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm
Thanks for the blog. CTMQ has to be one of my favorite sites. Took my wife and 2 month old son today, for his first tri-point. Had a good time. More tri-points to come in his future.
Tom saysOctober 2, 2012 at 11:59 am
My girlfriend and I found this one, one week after I went to the New York,Mass, Ct one. This one was much easier to get too. The abandoned train trail is up and down as written here. When you take the right at the Mass Marker that hike is a little more challenging as you climb up and over rocks. We also encountered a few small snakes. When said and done the the hike from your car to the tri-point should take no more then 30 minutes. The ones on the shoreline bottom west and bottom east look like they are a challenge too as you have to cross private property. I found them at ct.portal.com. This is fun!!!!
G. saysOctober 10, 2012 at 8:38 am
What a gem! We visited this past weekend. Read about the tri-point in a local article, then stumbled upon your site after doing a search. Thanks for the detail! I am finding your site thoroughly enjoyable. As hiking/museums/curiosities are right up our alley, I am sure to be a repeat visitor. Your posts about your family have been an added bonus, especially as the parent of a special needs child. I was struck by your citing of another parent’s blog describing their diagnosis as being the defining moment of losing their adult son. I suppose a certain degree of loss is experienced by all. However, I like to think of the positives. My son also has been known as the mayor in our parts, and I have faith that the impressions he has left will serve him well throughout his life. (As a side note, “our parts” is northeastern CT. As I continue to read your posts, I hope I will find that over the years you have been able to find a greater appreciation for all that the Quiet Corner has to offer! Although I will concede that, even today, Rte 44 in NE CT is not a road you want to be traveling on in a snow storm!) Back to my point… I think of the stresses and pains that my son won’t have to deal with. It brings a smile to my face to think that his primary “job” in life will be to spread the joy and smile that he so well possesses, and I know he will be highly successful however he chooses to do this! I hope this finds you and your family are well.
Thom saysNovember 19, 2013 at 10:44 am
Thanks for the info. We’ll be hiking there soon. We live across the line in Pascoag, RI, and I’ve always wanted to find the tri-point. We love “The Quiet Corner” but let’s not tell too many folks.
A note on those “those humps on the rail road bed…to discourage off road vehicles”: Dirt bikers love those humps. They’re more fun than flat road. Somebody should have been able to figure this out. When I was a kid we’d gravitate toward such “obstacles.” I’m more mature – and careful – now, but just sayin.
Twelve Mile Circle saysMay 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm
The route described on this page now seems to be a “preferred” route. There is a wooden post at the junction of the Air Line Trail and boundary marker 2 (where you have your right-hand turn on your map) that says, Tri-State Marker 0.3 miles. It includes a little arrow that points hikers to the trail that runs along the CT/MA border. I took a photo of it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/96225726@N08/26496980794/
Jay Smelkinson saysAugust 22, 2016 at 12:29 pm
Can anybody tell the total distance from the spot you park your car and begin your hike? I am hoping to do this towards the end of the week. Thank you!!